I find this glimpse of Web 2.0 frightening rather than liberating as I believe it was intended to be. The issues he raises at the end about needing to rethink privacy, friendship, governance, copyright, etc. are central for me. For example, who owns/controls/has access to what I post? Obviously I don’t control its dissemination or use, and I suspect that it becomes effectively immortal and uncontrollable the moment that it’s posted. Why do folks assume that the only people accessing it have good intentions? Furthermore, the websites we use with Web 2.0 are for-profit companies with agendas different from our own, who can alter the terms of the playing field without our knowledge. Does anybody read and understand all of those privacy agreements that we click past?
This strikes me as a sad portrait of what passes for education in America. My issue is not with the format (chalkboard vs. blog), but with the absence of thoughtful content. Quantity of communication should never be mistaken for quality of communication. Similarly, organizing information should not be confused with knowledge; the focus should be more on synthesis and synergy. Narcissism also seems like a significant pitfall to be avoided.
Hargadon’s assertion that the expert is giving way to the collaborator is a bit disturbing. I keep envisioning ten people in a room, who are all ignorant about a subject. Talking about it together may make them feel good and build their confidence, but it won’t make them knowledgeable. Even more dangerously, it may spread misconceptions more broadly. Now I realize that Hargadon would probably point out that with the web they aren’t limited to what they knew walking into the room, but it is still more efficient to bring in an expert to guide them. With students this is even more critical, because they often struggle to interpret what they find online. Clearly our vision of what teachers should be overlaps, especially regarding the need for critical-thinking skills, but I think that he undervalues “knowledge transmission.”
Who are these teachers that have so much time on their hands? How many students do they teach? How (and why) would you write a blog to such diverse audiences? While I wouldn’t want to teach at the school envisioned in this article, I was able to glean three concrete ideas that I could implement in my teaching:
- Having students create Wiki study guides for exams (This was one of the amorphous goals with which I entered the course.)
- Enabling students to earn points towards a greater access level
- Blogging pro/con to an issue or another student’s post (most easily applicable to my Ethics course)
I’m pleased to discover that blogging is no harder than writing in a word processing program, and I hope that the overall tone of this post isn’t too negative. I really do believe that Web 2.0 has a lot to offer, I’m just concerned that the substance of communication not be diluted or obfiscated by the sheer enormity of information available.