Friday, March 02, 2007

Teaching 2.0, Part 2.0

Clearly there is a bit of interest on how to use these new 2.0 tools for academics. I received a number of thoughts in the comments section of the initial post. The following have all been excerpted from the comments section and can be seen there. More than anything else I just wanted to get these on the main page.

Jason Mittell notes

You need to teach about the tool, not just with the tool.

For many faculty, adding the newest technology is a way to make a class seem fresh, new, hip, etc. - you feel like you're meeting students where they live, engaging them on their digital terrain. But I agree that most (certainly not all) students are fairly unreflective media consumers/producers - they may know how to use some software, but they haven't thought about what it means to use it.
Michael Newman points out,
Now maybe this is semantics, but you seem to have in mind only a couple of things that one might call Web 2.0. Asking students to contribute to blogs and wikis is probably asking them to do something they haven't done before (though now some of my students have blogged before for other classes). If the class were to have a social networking site, though (maybe using Ning?), then they would in theory be in their comfort zone. My students Facebook all the time. However, they might see social networking (or IM'ing the prof) as their thing and resent being asked to do it in a class context. Kids are often very much put off by the thought that "old" people like their teachers or parents might be violating what they see as their online space. This suggests that the issue of who has the accent isn't as simple as it might seem. I have an accent when it comes to social networking sites. They seem very foreign to me. I have no idea what to do with MySpace. It just confuses me. But they have the accent when it comes to blogs, wikis, tagging, RSS, even Flickr and YouTube. Indeed, most academics have little or no experience with these things--even young ones like us. An interest in the latest whizbang internet things is still really a niche pursuit. We should no more expect students to know about this stuff than we would expect them to have seen the same movies and TV shows as us. It's not their culture (yet).

Bryan Alexander has a good point which accents the research aspect of this stuff
it's useful to think of the Web 2.0 landscape as a research area for students. Beyond production in that area and self-expression, there's a lot to be considered under the rubrics of "search" or "information fluency." Consider, for example, using Technorati or Google Blogsearch to sample opinions about an event or current object. Try searching Flickr to find photographic evidence of some topic. Yes yes yes, of course, this is where we contribute (or should contribute!) content... but it's a different angle, seeing these as areas for search.
These are all interesting ideas and I will try to address them all not just in the comments page, as I have already, but in an upcoming post. 2.0 for me is less a paradigm shift than an assertion of the Web's promise as an information aggregator and distributor. That's nothing new as far as observations go. Yet as educators and researchers the implications of this will take a while to digest as standards are determined and the tools are better tailored by programmers and users alike. In other words, the future is anything but smooth sailing. Interesting times, interesting times.

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