Web2 and Web3 in the service of education

“Don’t be cynical, please,” instructed my editor. Harsh I thought, unlike arch Cynic Diogenes I do not live in a wooden tub I and nor particularly do I live a life of ascetic virtue. Diogenes died aged about 80 and had seen a...

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“Don’t be cynical, please,” instructed my editor. Harsh I thought, unlike arch Cynic Diogenes I do not live in a wooden tub I and nor particularly do I live a life of ascetic virtue.

Diogenes died aged about 80 and had seen a lot; famously he even found time to mock Alexander the Great, and live. A working definition of cynicism based on his life seems to be characterised by a mocking of the great.

Why then such a plea for blogging un-cynicism? After all it was merely a request to look at an education web site for “innovators in ICT”... ah I see what he means, I’ve just used inverted commas around the phrase. The site is innovauni.com. It is designed to be a cross between Facebook and Linkedin for those professionals who are leading innovations to integrate ICT into education.

Innovauni is a social networking site founded by Daniel Rongo who is a young man very much of the Facebook generation and completely committed to and excited by new technological possibilities.

The site is very well laid out and looks the part, even though I will never remember the URL, knee-jerk-hate the word “integrate” and have never used Facebook.

His concept is predicated on social networkers who happen also to be ICT in education innovators. Its rationale is the leveraging of mostly emerging web technologies namely Web 2.x and Web 3 in the service of education.

And thus to the point of this post.

Innovation and Integration of ICT into Education

The connection between ICT and education is obvious. ICT changes rapidly as technology is elaborated and thus presents new possibilities. Talented teachers will always scour their environment for fresh and more effective ways to prosecute the process of “learning” their pupils (new word: verb transitive combining teaching and learning in one vernacular concept).

Unfortunately nothing has promised so much and delivered so little in this area than has ICT.

I once saw the Sinclair Spectrum as the last word in teaching kinetics to school children, but that was a while ago. Fast forward a quarter of a century and we have Web 2 (soooo last year) and Web 3 (??). That’s why It’s prudent to ask an older bloggist not to be cynical...It’s just too easy to say that it’ll all come to nowt lad

Here are three truisms:

  • Good teachers use new opportunities to innovate in their practices.
  • ICT provides a seemingly never ending stream of “newness”.
  • Novelty always wears off.

Bearing the above in mind we can look at Innovauni’s offerings.

Virtual Innovations

Web2 and Web 3 offer new opportunities for the ways in which social interactions between peers and mentors can occur.

Archetypal Web1 in education would be the virtual learning environment (VLE) such as, Moodle (yawn). A Web2 offering would be the virtual school room in Second Life or teachers sharing pedagogical thoughts via Twitter (apparently this really happens). A Web3 offering has yet to really emerge as it involves the use of the web in a personalised way (i.e. like iGoogle). This I guess will hybridise the model of the full on graphical Avatar (a 3D personalised web identity) with the more prosaic, but just as virtual, textual Avatar offered by Facebook and iGoogle.

What all of the above have in common is a virtualising, to greater or lesser degree of the relationship between peers and between educators and pupils? Facebook is so successful amongst the young precisely for this reason; it allows the trying out of social images or even multiple personalities without too much effort (unlike dressing as a Goth or suffering jeans that fall down every 20 paces).

Thus what Innovauni is partly about is exploring, via the narrative of the experiments of teachers, how the virtual can find a true home embedded in the everyday practice of education.

It does not judge them it merely acts as a social space for their airing and as such I find it really worth the read.

Conventional Innovations

Alongside the virtual there is the conventional. So for example a Web-based Google app is found displacing (but in no way being different to) a conventional desktop app. Another example would be e-books displacing paper text books. Finally the uses of VIDEO-VOIP technologies for distance learning is conceptually identical to conventional face to face teaching models,

All three of the above are to be found in the submissions on the Innovauni site and they bring with them a potential advertising bonus ;)

Conclusions

Daniel has fascinating experiment is under way. I think it is without contention that the (my) so-called conventional innovations will become fully integrated into teaching and learning environments.

The jury is fully out on the virtual world.

Keep experimenting and reporting folks, just avoid phrases like “students showed increased levels of interest and motivation” or I will know nothing has changed since 1985.

Edutainment is always a stone’s throw away from education.

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