Web 2.0 and UGDSB

It’s pretty exciting to hear the buzz in my Board of Ed. about Will Richardson’s presentation at the Ministry Gains conference this past week. It got me dusting off this blog and writing a bit. Richardson’s blog http://weblogg-ed.com/was one of the first that I read when I started blogging a few years back and I found his teacher-librarian background refreshing and practical!

There is a lot of criticism out there for social constructivist approaches like wikis and blogs, so I’m really glad to hear that Richardson was invited to a Ministry conference. I’m a little skeptical about the motives though, I must admit. Is the Ministry aware of the distinction between instructionist models (like elearning modules), and the participatory constructivist model of connectivism that is the basis of wikis and blogs?

One of the first edubloggers, whom Richardson sites in his work, is actually a Canadian called Stephen Downes. Here’s a talk he gives about the pedagogy of Web 2.0 tools, related to control vs. free learning environments.
It’s pretty academic, but if you stick with it for the first 7 minutes, he distinguishes between instructionist types of online learning (like elearning modules) and the learner centred, participatory experience of wikis and blogs, two quite different approaches. Learning by telling vs. learning by practice. Novice learners participating by immersing themselves in a community of practice; we write by becoming a writer, we learn math by doing the work of a mathematician…that kind of thing.

Maybe when Bill was wondering on Friday how we could use wikis in our board, the first step might be for the Curriculum Department to move our PLC to one! It makes your learning explicit, collective, collaborative and (in my humble opinion) I think it’s something that needs to be experienced first as a learner….before it can be modeled by a teacher.
How good would you be at teaching reading if you had never read a book?
Will Richardson mentions this ownership in the interview that Cathy shared with us here.

The pedagogy behind the Read/Write Web is personal learning.
I think that wikis and blogs (and web participation by youth in general) will really challenge our notions of how kids want to learn. The web is showing us strongly that kids want to participate, and that they can learn by themselves. This Net Day Survey mentions where Net Gen learners are going with technology right now…are we helping?

We are in many ways running to catch up with them…how will we change our role? Who will be doing the instructing? Interestingly, in the interview the ministry posted of Will Richardson, the title slide was called “Understanding Instructional Technologies” however, the description Will gives about the Read/Write Web is far from Instructionist. “Artifacts, publishing, connections, networks, learning spaces and life-long learning” are the words that he uses. I would argue that this is more about “Understanding Constructivist Technologies” than Instruction. This always seems to bring me back to Seymour Papert and his work as a pioneer of educational technology at MIT. Awesome, awesome, awesome!

I’m a little pessimistic about how this will roll out. My guess is that very shortly, educators will be trying to evaluate and mark wikis and blogs….and that this will reflect an ignorance about the process itself. My first experience in a wiki environment was an Knowledge Building course assignment at OISE; it was the strangest thing to overcome my fear of changing the work of others…all of a sudden it wasn’t MY work, or THEIR work, it was OUR knowledge that we were building. This is a real cultural change about school and learning. It was so hard to change what someone else had written, but that’s what wikis are about…building on the work of others. I would totally agree with Will Richardson, we need to ‘own’ it or have a personal understanding of the medium in order to be able to use it effectively.

However…if you find all this occasionally overwhelming…hopefully I won’t push you completely off the edge by sharing this Report: More Blogs than Humans on Earth It’s still important that what we are saying isn’t just blah, blah, blah! 🙂


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