Monday, September 18, 2006

Web to point.. oh?

Last Thursday and Friday, I was at an IT Integrators Conference in North Sydney. I got to see an interesting cross-section of things being done in Australian schools, as well as hearing from some compelling speakers, particularly Jim Mullaney and Stephen Downes. The common theme was "Web 2.0" (though there was some discussion that maybe that term has now been copyrighted? Oh, please - next someone will try to take out a trademark on "ugg boot"... oh... right).
So now the places where IT and education are coming together are blogs and wikis and newsfeeds and learning management systems. That's fine for me, I'm familiar with all these things, but in a short time I will become responsible for staff who are almost totally unfamiliar with these things and who are still trying to get their heads around how to integrate web browsers and email and word processors and Powerpoint into their classroom practice. "Web 2.0? I'm still at Web 0.2, thanks!"
The challenge is how to bring these staff up to speed on what they can do in the classroom with IT, but on the positive side, Web 2.0 presents far more opportunity for students to be involved in the technology. I always worried (still do) about how Powerpoint is used in classrooms - I've seen too many people (from Principals down) using several thousand dollars worth of equipment to do what could be done with an old-fashioned overhead projector. (The term is "powerpointlessness" - thank you, Jamie MacKenzie - check out From Now On.) Web 2.0 tools - blogging, wikis - allow students to put their own thoughts and ideas online and participate in a dialog that can be larger than the classroom and longer than the lesson.
That's not to say that Powerpoint presentations, email and Excel spreadsheets don't have their place - obviously they still do. But Web 2.0 tools have the potential to redefine pedagogy in a way that "office" software and older web-base software didn't.
I think the key idea is dialog, with students being participants in the processes of uncovering and connecting disparate components of knowledge. If that's a little hard to follow, I suppose it's because I'm not exactly a constructionist, nor a connectivist in how I view knowledge.
How well I get this across to my colleagues remains to be seen.

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