Beyond the Web 2.0 Hype Opening by Ryan Bretag

10/21/2011 1:18:16 PM
I recently had the honor of sitting on a panel at TechForum Midwest in Chicago with Lucy Gray and Clarence Fisher addressing topics surrounding web 2.0 in education. Both of these fine educators I hold with the greatest respect and really enjoyed our exchanges and opportunities to work through issues together with the audience.

In the spirit of transparency and the fact that the session was not streamed, I thought I'd share my responses so here is my opening of the panel discussion.


This panel is exciting because it represents something greater than merely the next web 2.0 tool; it represents a discussion about various topics that schools are facing when trying to make the philosophy of web 2.0 a systemic reality. For me, this shift in education towards one that is participatory and connective needs to include a strong understanding of the social phenomenon that is the Internet.

This phenomenon is one in which we are seeing the blurring of spaces: physical and digital spaces, social and working spaces, formal and informal spaces, and so forth. In many ways, it is exhausting to think about a participatory society that is shaped by the ability to navigate and interact with hyper speed information flow, create and maintain networks, embrace the notion of sharing, engage in creation, live in a continuous state of partial attention, and actively socialize in various spaces across multiple identities.

However, it is clear that there is a tremendous gap between this social phenomenon and education, which is both disappointing and nerve-wracking. Society has gravitated towards this "different", blended world yet too many in education have not.

Yes, teachers are using some of the tools or even a lot of the tools. While this is great and provides wonderful new contexts for students, I'm not convinced this will fundamentally shift education if we continue to retrofit these tools instead of embracing the philosophy of participatory and connective learning. In other words, it is time we start seeing these tools as the tip of the iceberg not the identifier of classrooms or schools that have become 21st Century, that have become participatory.

That is why...

  1. We need to understand this social phenomenon and extract from it salient points that can help transform education to an exciting, engaging, and inspirational hubs of learning
  2. We need to focus on teaching, learning, and leading for all NOT focus on tools for teachers
  3. We need to shift our organizational mindsets on teaching and learning: rethink the notion of content as outcome; reallocate classroom time for collaboration, inquiry, and production; shift practices to participatory and connective learning; focus on quality of thought and action for a lifetime; create a multi-dimensional learning space; and revisit the values and methodologies all classroom should exhibit
  4. We need to empower students and teachers in these shifts
  5.  We need to understand that many students are "expert" at social networks but  are not "expert" at learning networks - we need to learn how to leverage both and understand both
  6. We need to triangulate our beliefs and practices with theory, research, and practitioner narratives
  7. We need to embrace change, innovation, and risk-taking as constants in education
  8. We need to begin seeing and shaping all students as scholars with qualities of genius
  9. We need to open the doors of our classrooms and schools
  10. We need to accept passion, play, professional learning, and professionalism as non-negotiable

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