« The contradiction: Digital learning style and old teaching methodologies | Main | Going Where The Students Are »

August 23, 2008



your web 2.0 vision is obviously provocativly overstated, nevertheless there is of course meat to your criticism.
let me therefore suggest to jump right into a more positive (and IMHO more realistic) vision:

educational institutions and educators around the world realize that their passion is not so much market oriented and that the web offers a great way to share and collaborate (in and around their classrooms and resaerch labs)
Open Educational Resources, social learning platforms (supercool school) and the omniprecense of the transparency of cyberspace combine to allow for a system that is much close to meritocracy than what we have now.

check out this vision for education 3.0
http://tinyurl.com/59d9se (using a really neat slideshare feature of voice over that i hadn't seen before)

I think traditions have developed for a reason and the current system represents the best we have been able to come up with - but we can do better!

more comments to come

.hj barraza

I'll place my bet on Theory Two

From existing evidence with groups i teach/guide/counsel I've noticed that the availability of instant knowledge has taken away the responsibility of memorising everything (that is what computer drives are for). Some schools even let students use iphones during exams.

Yet the most important aspect for education (developing skills i believe) in knowledge societies is being neglected. As you state, not the worlds knowledge will help this 12 year old child gain a greater understanding of the world a the penguins relationship with it.

There is where teachers should focus, helping, coaching children to develop skills and understanding, rather the assuring they memorise knowledge.

We don't need armies of students with the same knowledge we need students who can and will develop individual skills.


dont know what's going on but tiny url doesnt want to do http://www.dkeats.com/index.php?module=blog&action=viewsingle&postid=gen13Srv30Nme10_1414_1218135573&userid=1563080430 sorry gotta copy and paste


Can we do better? Of course. There are many areas in education which can be fundamentally bettered - and some do not relate to technology at all but practice, governance, funding models, etc.

Will Web 2.0 tools and technologies change education and knowledge acquisition? Again, of course - and they already have. However, none of this will matter without a proper framework and an expert-centered dissemination model.

In this sense my criticism of Web 2.0 is not overstated. Indeed, I did not criticize Web 2.0 at all. It is about perspective. Technology is a component of knowledge production and sharing which has grown in relative importance.

But it will always remain one of many components which need to be in place to ensure that education delivers tangible, useful, and verifiable learning experiences.


on your point regardin learnign & understanding:
i couldn't agree more to:
"Hours later, the 12-year old will emerge with an impressive collection of impressions, facts, and observations – but little understanding of larger issues and few structured thoughts."

so what does that mean? it means we need to focus on "learning to learn" -- just as you say later - we need learning frameworks and care (social learning)

i also quite support your last point who needs versioning for a complex emerging rhizome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhizome_(philosophy)) or noosphere (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noosphere)

regarding your third point about knowledge acquisition: IMHO one of the key changes in education that needs to happen is that we have to overcome the Newtonian worldview of thinking of the world as a clockwork (and replace it with the ?REAL? probabilistic worldview of quantum physics and relativity).
Only then will students start to accept that it's up to them to build their reality - that it is the responsibility of everyone to create the life they want

and i believe this might get us much closer to intrinsically motivated learners


Regarding Theory Two

Penguins are a sanguine example. Just experience the typical California mall filled with Californian teenagers (of the iphone / MySpace / Twitter generation).

What you can observe is a tremendous amount of communication noise (they are teenagers after all). Little structure (again, a teenage issue). But also a lack of problem solving skills, any linguistic precision (which impairs the ability to transact), and few coherent trains of thought (arising from operating in mental snippets driven by TV commercials and SMS).

All the while their eyes are glued to their iPhone / whatever. The earth could shake and they would not notice. Their immediate environment, society, insight are all relegated to the backburner.

What is obvious is that many lack a framework to interact with the world in an insightful way. That is a role of parents, teachers, and all falls back to providing these teenagers with a framework to discover the world rather than just produce communication noise.

Max - here's you provocative comment...


hi dan - thanks for your response!

I agree you put web 2.0 in perspective (or wrote a critical review in the best sense).

Nevertheless it is one perspective as true as others like the one of our speaker Jeff Utecht who did just what you asked for. He highlighted best practice examples where good results have been produced (see

I think it is still true that - Technology is neither good nor bad nor neutral - it's the concrete case we need to look at


Hmmm... I have to say that of all the comments I've read anywhere in this event today, paragraph 4 in Max's post above rings the most true for me.

I think some people's ultimate vision for social learning is a world in which the teacher/learner distinction will be gone and we will all merrily 'wiki' our way towards constructing knowledge together. Tech advances will make us all the same when it comes to learning. If this is indeed what's coming, 'old school' teachers should begin seeking other occupations now because we'll soon fade into obscurity just like buggy whips, 8 track tapes, and dial telephones.

I am convinced, however, that although school district administrators may be looking forward to the day when education can take place without teachers, they have a long wait ahead of them. As Max suggested, the young need our guidance in making sense of the world.

Just because young people can access more of it faster than we ever could, does not mean they can process it any better. In fact, I would argue that although my students think they are 'living large' with their circles of friends and their constant 'connectivity', their world is really very small. Although they talk a lot, they don't really have very much to say.

We teachers are still here to create educational experiences that will expand our students' worlds and world views by helping them learn about, question, think, assess and integrate that which is outside their normal lives. In that way the teacher's role hasn't changed much since the first schoolmarm stood in front of the first one room school in the frontier.

So... it's for us to create and, to some extent, control these kinds of learning opportunities in the regular and e-learning class, so that students don't just play, chat, and piggyback on the work of others. They're already experts at that.

My students love it when 'old school' meets 'new school' within the realm of a collaborative project. The kids bring their facility with devices and their adeptness learning how to make new tools work. I find the tools for them to work with and interesting resources for them to learn from.

Once they have acquired the prerequisite skills and knowledge, I set the project task, and its objectives and parameters. I then become the accountability grit in the oyster shell. As a project evolves, all participants become both teachers and learners because we bring different stengths and perspectives to the table.

Where kids in the frontier school understood the importance of hard work and knew little about the world, my students know a lot about the world and need to come to value of perseverence. My kids need to learn that struggle is part of the learning process, that seeing the work through to the end is worth the struggle, and that when they are done they will have produced something of substance that they can be proud of.


Sorry for the incorrect reference in my entry above. Re: line 2 in my post: I think it was Dan's comments not Max's that prompted my response. I guess I got caught up in the thread and didn't look closely enough at the details. Perhaps I should go back to school?

Gabriel Kent

@SueH & Dan,

I think an important point is being missed... the vast majority of society consumes more than it produces... we are consumers.

Most social web statistics state that <10% actually create content, the other 90% consume it. What is interesting is that there is no clear line between consumer and producer there, because at any moment a consumer may become a producer because of the much lower opportunity cost in adding a comment or filming a video post.

Sure, let the child browse penguins for an hour and come away with an unstructured understanding of penguins and then ask her your questions... she will have answers but probably not your answers.

Unstructured knowledge isn't a bad thing, its actually how our brains operate and why things like mind maps seem to be touted over traditional outlines.

The un-structure allows the brain to do what is does best, rather what it has evolved to do: recognize patterns through auto-associative neurophysics. Requiring the brain to 'see through' artificial structure to find the patterns only adds another layer of slight relevance.

There are a lot of studies that show people feel more comfortable with their decision when given a limited set of choices over a broad range of choices, might this not be due to all the structure imposed on people to the point they feel lost with out it?

I agree with structured environments, both physical and digital... setting the stage if you will, such as providing a computer, internet, space and time for that 12 year old to conduct 'unstructured' research on penguins and to answer open-ended questions with citations. There is no structure of interest to penguins here, only structure in which to learn the topic; a structure that is just as applicable to monkeys as it is to penguins.

That said, I am curious to how you would answer the questions you pose to the child... because honestly I don't believe anyone has absolute correct answers to those questions, perhaps only a lot of imperfect data and assumptions.


I believe web 2.0 as the new education medium will start by mimicking existing mediums and eventually will find it's own medium - "supercool" medium changing the world and people in "supercool" way ;)


@ Gabriel

Let me try to respond. My greatest concern here is that 'unstructured' can devolve into 'directionless' unless there is some organizing principle behind it.

Consider the instruction: learn about penguins. For some that would be an invitation to do the minimum; for others it would pose a daunting task that might take weeks to complete. Guidance and clarification of expectations pull more from the former and set some limits on the task for the latter.

Students have different learning styles: some will come away with more faster from an open-ended learning environment; others do better with more structure. Generally, however, both types like to know the expectations up front. Some will use those as a platform from which to follow their interests more deeply; others will struggle just to feel competent and do well just to handle to basic load well.

At this point I am not willing to leave the setting of the main objectives for my students to decide any more than I would trust myself to a doctor who had trained by exploring his/her interests and who had ended up with lots of interesting and useful but unstructured knowledge.

I think the art of teaching is knowing when to inject yourself and when to hang back. One benefit that online tools provide is that we don't have to deliver a 'one size fits all' educational experience to an entire class. We can more easily craft learning experiences that excite the imagination and energy of those who are ready but which also provide a more secure path to follow for others. We want every learner to become self-directed and capable of learning independently, but they don't all come to us that way.

Some educators would say that project-based learning -- completely open-ended with the problems and questions set by the participants and the information/skills acquired growing out of the needs that arise as the project develops -- some would say that is the way to go. I'm just not comfortable with that -- it's too amorphous for me.

I think more interesting questions will be asked and problems discerned by students who are more knowlegable, so I set the agenda for basic content and skills, but at the same time use new tools to open up how students can go about acquiring these.

Projects can be used to accomplish this as long as the expectations are clearly laid out ahead of time. They can also be used as way for students to then progress to the more "unstructured" learning that comes from their posing and trying to answer the sorts of questions Dan asked. You're right -- there are no right answers and that's why they need to be asked, and why most students need guidance in learning how to take on such issues.

There is a place and a need for both unstructured and formal learning experiences. That has always been the case. The problem has been how to get both enterprises going in a class of 35, how to nurture the growth of all learners as learners rather than allow them to remain as simple collectors of content, and how to do that within some sort of manageable time frame.

The comments to this entry are closed.