Thursday, May 27, 2010

Participation vs. Web 2.0

I keep learning new ideas from Henry Jenkins. In a recent note about DIY (Do it yourself) Media, Jenkins makes two important points that are critical to how we think about models of learning on the web.

First, he critiques the use of the term "DIY" noting that the emphasis is not on "oneself," but on a group of people, he writes,
"what may be radical about the DIY ethos is that learning relies on these mutual support networks, creativity is understood as a trait of communities, and expression occurs through collaboration. Given these circumstances, phrases like "Do It Ourselves" or "Do It Together" better capture collective enterprises within networked publics."
I think his emphasis is right. I have the same difficulty with "personalized learning environments" that seem to emphasize the idea that each of us is some type of autonomous learner rather than emphasizing platforms and processes that engage people in the pursuit of a common understanding and learning.

Later in this article he comments on ideas from Gee (2007) saying,
"Unlike schools, where everyone is expected to do (and be good at) the same things, these participatory cultures allow each person to set their own goals, learn at their own pace, come and go as they please, and yet they are also motivated by the responses of others, often spending more time engaged with the activities because of a sense of responsibility to their guild or fandom. They enable a balance between self-expression and collaborative learning which may be the sweet spot for DIY learning."
Again this emphasizes the idea of learning communities rather than individual learning.

The last point in this article is his idea about differences between the Web 2.0 model and "participatory" culture. He writes,
"Despite a rhetoric of collaboration and community, they often still conceive of their users as autonomous individuals whose primary relationship is to the company that provides them services and not to each other. There is a real danger in mapping the Web 2.0 business model onto educational practices, thus seeing students as "consumers" rather than "participants" within the educational process."
I have often used terms like "Education 2.0," etc. but Jenkins makes an important distinction that may be missed as we talk about these ideas. He notes a big difference in these models is the extent to which mentoring and scaffolding is emphasized versus service to the business enterprise. Jenkins is reminding us of an important distinction that is critical to the structure of learning communities.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Talking about Science

Scientists are failing in their efforts to communicate with the public. Dennis Meredith in a new book, Explaining Research and an accompanying blog has some good ideas about how scientists can communicate more effectively about science.

His blog includes examples of video, audio, blogs and more that illustrate effective way to talk about scientific ideas. In a recent commentary he writes,
"Many academic scientists might consider themselves expert explainers because a significant part of their job entails explaining research to undergraduates in their teaching. But even the most skillful scientist-teachers aren’t necessarily skilled science explainers. Speaking to “captive” student audiences is very different from communicating with any other lay audience, who often must be actively persuaded to be interested in a scientific topic."
Educating the public about science is critical to our ability to make effective decisions and to understand how to deal with the many complex problems of human society. We have learned much about the world, but until that knowledge is available and understandable to the public it won't make much difference.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If you want to understand the future of education-- consider this!

James Fallows has written a fascinating article in the Atlantic How to Save the News that describes the ways in which Google has been working with news organizations and experimenting with ways to continue to have high quality news reporting.

As I read this, I keep substituting the word "education" or "university" for newspapers and keep asking myself how can be take advantage of these ideas.

Here is a quote about newspapers that has application to education and universities.
"Burdened as they are with these 'legacy' print costs, newspapers typically spend about 15 percent of their revenue on what, to the Internet world, are their only valuable assets: the people who report, analyze, and edit the news."
Fallows goes on to note that most of the cost of newspapers in for paper, printing and distribution, not the core aspect of reporting the news.

Now substitute these legacy costs for education-- classrooms, books and you begin to see where we are going.

Fallows describes the conceptual shift that newspapers are going to have to make. He says,
[in the past] "'publishing' meant printing information on sheets of paper; eventually, it will mean distributing information on a Web site or mobile device."
The conceptual shift is from viewing the work as "distributing information." In a similar way most educators have defined "education" as face-to-face lectures with some form of testing. We are going to need to begin to see our job "engaging people in learning activities" without reference to the form or location of those activities.

Education will also have to think about its business model in the online world. Fallows suggests that the the new business model for the news business is as follows:
"The three pillars of the new online business model, as I heard them invariably described, are distribution, engagement, and monetization. That is: getting news to more people, and more people to news-oriented sites; making the presentation of news more interesting, varied, and involving; and converting these larger and more strongly committed audiences into revenue, through both subscription fees and ads."
This may seem obvious, but Fallows goes on to describe tools that Google has been inventing such as "living stories," "fast flip" and "youtube direct" which seem to have interesting applications to teaching. More importantly, these innovations remind us that teachers need to be asking technologist for the tools that will help us with distribution, engagement and monetization. There are undoubtedly some betters ways to do instruction online that are currently available.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Survey of Parents who use the Internet

Despite all the anecdotal evidence that parents are using the Internet as a part of their role in parenting there is very little solid scientific evidence that tells us much about what they are doing.

Colleagues from the University of Minnesota are trying to fill in this gap with a survey of parents.

The Parenting 2.0 research project, sponsored by the University of Minnesota, is looking for parents who use the Internet to participate in an online research study. The study involves filling out a 20-minute online survey about how and why you use the Internet. If you know parents or work with parents, we would appreciate your sending the message below to them. Attached, we have also included a message that can be posted on websites or Facebook. Please use the message that best meets your needs.

The purpose of the Parenting 2.0 research project is to learn more about the ways that and the reasons why parents use technology. Results from this study will be used to help develop parent education resources.

If you have any questions about the study, please visit our website at:

or contact Dr. Jodi Dworkin at or Dr. Susan Walker at If you are interested in getting information about the results, click here to sign up to be notified about the findings.