Notes from a Laptop

May 10, 2008

the Why 2 of Web 2.0 – Will Richardson at Syba Signs Conference

Filed under: Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 10:27 pm

In Sydney yesterday, Will Richardson spoke at some length about the skills developed at an early age by individual creative students – in spite of their schooling. He gave the example of 14 year old, Andrew Winton, who has recently schooled Will’s children about using Scratch (a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art) via internet conferencing.

He gave other examples of the way in which Web 2.0 tools are, for example, having a notable impact on US elections, via Obama’s blogging ability, while also enabling retirees to earn a prosperous living after work. (and has included lots of these examples at: http://willrichardson.wikispaces.com/)

Web 2.0 is here to stay – and make an impact! The world of work also reflects a web 2.0 impact – employers googling prospective employees, businesses managing  the tools to grow their businesses, and also demanding the ability to collaborate in an online world  from their prosepctive employees.

The online connectivity of students is no longer disputed, and with these other factors impacting, it is vital that schools and educators sit up and listen – and take part! Kids are not waiting for us to work out for them what’s good and what’s bad, so we need to ask these questions for them.

The read/write web (RWW) meets the needs of students today who are continually online and connected to vast social networks outside of school, through mobile phones, MSN, MySpace and Facebook. With guidance, the interest in these social networks can enrich their educational experience and help them make best use of the many networks which engage them.

Examples of Web 2.0 making a difference which were highlighted by Will included:

  • Nata Village Blog – http://natavillage.typepad.com/ connecting with schools in Bostwana
  • Cyclone Nargis – rapid social editing on Wikipedia for current informed knowledge of a recent disaster
  • Nine Inch Nails – modern approach to promoting music – free download of latest album
  • FanFiction – readers writing and contributing chapters to well known fiction
  • Secret life of bees Blog – an early exploration of the use of blogs discussing literature and enabling a response from the author
  • Flat Classroom Project – echoing Thomas Friedman’s book, the World is Flat, this aims to join classrooms around the world into one big classroom.

Thus, Will calls us to “help our students leverage the technologies they are already using instead of have them check them at the door” And he encourages us to see the relevance of Web 2.0 tools for our classrooms and tech savvy students, and to adapt some of these technologies to maintain the links between education and the real world kids live in. View Will’s presentation which was videoed live to the net from:

 http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/401163

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May 1, 2008

Demanding questions – ala Jamie McKenzie

Filed under: General comment — Lindajay @ 6:17 pm

Many educators today, while recognising the technological skills of Generations X and Y, often decry what the Internet is doing to their research and analytical skills. In a recent article on the Questioning.org website, Embracing Complexity, Jamie Mckenzie points to the way in which we as a society also wish to find simple answers to complex problems. Is this simplification a consequence or symptom of our information rich world? And what should educators do about it?

A few answers

Speaking at a workshop in Sydney this week (‘Demanding Questions and Lesson Design’), Jamie discussed the need to orchestrate lessons in which students are guided in the process of piecing their answers together – moving beyond the ‘cut and paste’ mentality often found in many research activities. He challenged those present to give students something that will “keep them thinking for the next 37 years”!

Another key theme of the workshop was to give students authentic activities. This is so that they value what they are doing – as opposed to just collecting facts. Making activities real, purposeful and things to make them wonder should spur them on to be involved, to have their minds switched on and to make  research their own.

Like many others, Jamie believes that ‘many of our students are well-educated but incapable of thought’. We need to assist them to develop a greater capacity for lateral thinking – a skill in great demand in today’s world which calls more and more for creative thinkers. (As Dan Pink promotes in ‘A Whole New Mind’ – “The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind… a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate.”)

Jamie also touched on the hurriedness of schools – where little time is given to wonder, to ponder or to wander, all of which are valuable experiences in the learning process. The ability to wonder is one Jamie has called for us to embrace in education for some time – see Why Wonder?

Another thing highlighted in the workshop was the distortion of reality which occurs so easily today. Consider the ease with which things can be Photoshopped (see Dove Evolution video) or edited before or after adding to the web (many examples of Wikipedia have been noted over time). And a new phrase has been coined of late – wikilobbying – referrring to act of paying others money to edit Wikipedia entries in order to cast the employer’s company, product or point of view in a better light – so how accurate can Wikipedia remain?

With all these issues raised, it is clear that we need to engage students in their own learning. We also need to equip them with the skills to be critical in their thinking, strategic in their investigations and energised as they examine the meaning of reality. Thanks for the inspiration, Jamie!

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