I’ve been giving Web 2.0 lots of thought this week as I become pretty much entrenched in the Twittersphere…and really liking it! I am absolutely amazed at the sharing that I see going on in twitter. It’s pretty incredible to read postings from people I know and technology leaders I’ve been reading about for the past 5 or 6 years.
Creating groups around your career or interests is a wonderful thing. It makes you feel pretty good to be exchanging ideas with people who think like you and have the resources that you have…but I do wonder whose voice is not being heard here? What, if anything, is the danger in developing ideas among like-minded individuals? Is there really a variety of voices and objective participation in most online communities? Are we missing out on some important voices? You’d think that you’d find a diverse group in the Twittersphere, but is the clustering that happens likely to promote a range of opinion, or a similarity that could cloud our view of what other people experience?
Quite frankly, some teachers just don’t have colleagues in their schools that are interested in collaboration around topics of interest in education. Or perhaps they are the only teacher in a particular subject area or with a certain kind of expertise in the school. Our choice used to be taking a course, which would give us a PLN we needed for a period of time. Now, I can take my professional interests online and look for like-minded educators to help me push forward in my learning, possibly in a much more sustaining way than a traditional course offering. This is why I got involved in blogging and wikis…I needed dialogue with teachers who were interested in new technologies and there weren’t individuals at my school who were exploring these ideas. Online communities seemed to be a much more practical and vibrant classroom for me.
In December, David Warlick talked at RCAC about the danger of students without access; he says the real danger is not so much about access to computers anymore, but understanding the power of collaboration, or not. I’m coming to understand, through my own participation online, that these learning networks may meet more of the needs of our learners and teachers than traditional learning spaces (time, choice, just-in-time learning, co-learning), and that teachers really need to be understand the usefulness of these very real and purposeful virtual environments. Now, the challenge of being open to the use of these kinds of tools in our often locked-down school network environments!
I look forward to learning more from my Twitter friends about how these networks work and their experience as participants.