Who is the learner in a Web 2.0 world?

We’ve just had a day at the CoSN conference with international educators discussing the challenges for schooling in today’s world….and guess what, they are global!

Every country is asking questions about the nature of schooling in a Web 2.0 world. So far there are a lot of questions being asked in search of some intelligent answers.

Charles House is the Executive Director of Media X at Stanford University. He gave a great intro that set the context of the 2.0 world and its challenges. He observed that learning today happens “…after school, between friends and not in schools.” He also observed that web 2.0 lets people into “the dialogue” and this single fact has yet to be grasped by educators.

 This capacity to dialogue is critical as we meet the challenges ahead. It speaks to how we understand learning today and how students learn. It is also provides a real and dynamic democratising of learning.


Who is the learner in today’s world as we move from a paradigm of schooling as a consumption of information process to the creation /construction of knowledge?

7 thoughts on “Who is the learner in a Web 2.0 world?

  1. Greg, a very pertinent question.The answer it seems to me is that we will all be learners.The educators will be learning to use and embed the Web 2.0 interactive apps and philosophy in their teaching and facilitating of students and the digital natives will be learning what you can actually use all this technology for beyond the social networking domain.To me the key role educators will have in guiding students if schooling is to be about creating and constructing knowledge is what is worth knowing? What is important? How do we discern? Otherwise a Seinfeld curriculum could possibly develop in concert with a valued and instructive one; a curriculum about nothing, superficially seductive and colourful and ultimately transient as the next big thing in technology replaces that before if the focus is on the tools and not how they enable rich and diverse learning.

  2. the learner is whoever is present in that room, teacher/student/principal/parent whoever.
    the hassle I feel we have is that the transition from ICT to web2 is still happening and migrating. “meat and Potatoes web 2learning” needs to be developed and ingrained into the classrooms. but weeding out the gimmics of web 2 and building the teaching infrastructure of PD within teachers will dictate our success. not sure if this makes sence, but we must be sure we dont flock to web 2 without looking for the baby and the bathwater and ensuring we dont trip too heavily on the gimmics.

  3. The technology of web2.0 has put in front of us the practical reality of the transition of worldviews from modern to post-modern. The transition from solid institutional forms to forms that are more liquid.

    The same is happening for ‘school’ institutions. The school no longer really has a monopoly on learning. The school considered to be the sole place of learning for young people. The ‘school of life’ has again become a place of moving relationships – virtual and physical.

    The funny thing is that this shift may just be bringing back a balance that was lost in the last few hundred years when learning became privatised and put into the classroom. Young people were taken out of the broader community – put them into aged classes – effectively taking them away from proximity with potential mentors (older people, parents, siblings, leaders in the community). Like the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child – so too it is with learning. Why don’t we build schools buildings next to retirement villages?

    The issue is what does this mean for schools? It doesn’t mean that we no longer need them. But, we do need to refocus the institution to somehow becoming better connected to the wider social engagement of young people. Apart from the ‘administrative’ use of buildings, the use of the buildings perhaps need to shift so that they become a place in which experiences can be created. When people enter into these spaces the experience it needs to be transformational – creating a liminal experience for the participants that requires reflection and response. In real terms the buildings could become proximity spaces for consilience (bringing the virtual world into the space and out again). The internet has become a virtual proximity space ideas – in a broader community. Creating environments where multiple generations can engage and create together would help this – perhaps schools could effectively become places that look more like art studios or the rooms behind the scenes at museums. I have to ask the question… Why are schools not the same as the ‘public library’, the ‘local museum’, the place in which the community generally gathers for conversation – perhaps a little like Solomon’s Porch?

    What are teachers then in this space? Perhaps they become curators of learning, an intentional community of mentors for young people to enable them to engage with the curriculum.

    The problem of introducing web2.0 technology is that it ought not be introduced in a way that continues strategies that have a tendency to disconnect the virtual from the real. The technology that enables people to share content to the globe also needs to be implemented in a way that the local community can be drawn together. Each school could be a place in which wireless networking can be made available to a whole local community or perhaps as a creative centre of content for broadcast.

  4. I agree John and Luke substantively with your comments. However the issue for me is in how we actually see web 2.0 technologies. Your comments John about tools has always been true of any devise teachers have used. Remember the stencil, the o/h and the like. It is not the tool but the teachers’ conceptual framework on how people learn that has to be addressed. I think this what Luke is pointing us to.
    At the CoSN conference on session focussed on the question “should we allow web 2.0 technologies into the classroom.” For mine this is an irrelevant question. Web 2.0 has rapidly been commoditised by the world at large and at worst has been ignored or tolerated by schools. We’ll get nowhere talking about the tools, we’ll make a difference when we find an appropriate learning framework that matches the reality of the lives of young people. Have a look at Yong Zhao and Daniel Pink’s work on this very question.

  5. It has been said that good learning is actually about the formation of the person – not just putting information into the person. If all learning was about getting information into the heads of the young people then just browsing wikipedia would produced results. It is the same with technology in general.
    To look at any technology as a tool is to be limited by a very utilitarian worldview. I don’t believe that young people even think of technology as technology or even as tools. Web2.0 technology is for them an environment, a place in which they can engage their friends and their to-be-friends (the world).
    Web2.0 just is. Schools environments need to establish infrastructure that enables these environments to be engaged with in the midst of the learning community to enable young people to approach the technology both creatively and wholistically. Instead of a teacher saying “I would like you to use the internet to…”, it simply wouldn’t need to be said… it is just is there among the options.
    In fact teachers who says “turn off your mobile phones in class” seriously need to look at what a kids with a mobile phone is capable of doing… kids don’t need laptops… they need schools to deliver content in a mobile friendly way… and perhaps help negoitiate deals for student 3G access to help alleviate extortionately high prices charged by telcos for 3G services.
    All technology is a commodity.

  6. Seems we are all paddling the same waka here. The interesting thing for me is how we go about web 2 integration to the classroom. At present we have 7 staff dabbling in different applications and using them in the classroom. These teachers are the crash test dummies. We are a school of 5 to 10 year olds so the Web 2 apps are less well meaning in this world of collaboration and flicker. They arent actually that relevant to a 7 year old, whos life exists in home, at school and occasionally at grans on the weekends. We want desperately to think that Web 2 means so much and its a revolution etc but in the reality of a 7 year olds classroom, web 2 doesnt get a mention. But, the weet bix cards are high on the list, yes, they do go online to follow the stars, and as they get older join collaboration groups from there. Perhaps if we teach children how to write, speak, capture, film, edit, they will be the foundation for web 2 and 3 and 4

  7. it’s still about the learning!

    too often we are sidetracked into thinking the one size teaching fits all…clearly it does not.

    the best teacher of your students is you!…the differences between teachers is greater than the differences between schools..so..what to do??

    focus on what works..then gather the tools to best achieve that
    maybe it’s connected..maybe it’s not

    i would suggest it is, but i am not there…the professional needs be trusted to do the job…or at least be confident in knowing what they a re attempting to achieve.

    maybe it’s time to ask teachers, what do you want to do?…then provide the means to do it.
    coaches to assist with the adoption of new/efficient online ways are a small price to re-assure current teachers their expertise is valued…and a bit of re-skilling won’t take long..if it is necessary.

    pride in the profession!?..it’s all a matter of confidence, and knowing what you are doing..or attempting …and why…

    all too often it’s tick box approach to technology

    yep..’did that’ last week..on to the next one…

    maths in the early years is the latest to be featured in the spotlight… plenty of maths going on…but…what are they actually doing..and WHY?…what’s the point!?

    most of the maths would qualify for the expected…but not necessary..category for study

    and according to the ACER data, dropped as soon as possible…

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