I'm not sure about the whole ghost of w2. There is an awful lot of rubbish out there - in here. I've been offered friendships by people who basically want me to further their web ratings, rather than, what I had hoped for a chance to share ideas about improving the education of my students.

Social networking can be great, I've learned a lot from forums, I've down loaded a lot of excellect free resources and I've had help solving problems.

But I fear if we are not careful we will focus on the medium and lose the message. The posting title is from
Marshall McLuhan who had a lot to say about the problems of mass media

Mud sometimes gives the illusion of depth.
The trouble with a cheap, specialized education is that you never stop paying for it.
The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.

For teachers in the classroom lets focus on the students and how we can improve their education and only use the technology if it help in that task.

I hope this sparks some debate.

Best wishes
Paul Spencer

Tags: Education, Media, Technology, pedagogy

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So you would wish for more time with kids and teachers engaged in learning the new technological tools, and don't see movement in this direction... do I have it right? What is the setup for having kids learn technology--do they have "computer class"? Are teachers required to show evidence of some technological learning? Are the kids using computers on their own outside of school? Is there a time (context) in which kids can share their technology skills? Maybe if students were simply "allowed" to turn in multi-media work, they could become the drivers, pulling in the teachers. Are any of these ideas relevant to your situation? What are the roadblocks?
You sound a little bitter? I hope not. Keep on keeping on. The best way to lead is by example. I too teach in an area where money is tight, technology is sparse, and the teachers don't always get it. However, the board requiring teachers to blog and podcast will only infuriate them and turn a few off to technology. It is easy to forget that, for some, technology really is very scary. (I equate it to how I feel when I take my car to the mechanic, I don't have a clue what they are saying, and I just pray I don't say something stupid) And I think they are right to see it as extra work, because it is extra work. The challenge is showing them it is worthwhile extra work. Keep leading, showing, partner with a non-tech teacher, offer to train others after-school or during in-service days. Others will see what you are doing and catch on. My experiences have only been positive.

I found myself nodding as I read your posting. Since reading McLuhan for the first time last year, his prescience has been a bit of a shadow on the bright light of excitement over Web 2.0. You are right to bring the focus on the learning dynamic - not the tools.

However, for many, it is important to use the energy of excitement to drive their own learning in using these tools. So, while I agree with you, I do not want to dull the thrill that web 2.0 is creating in schools.

In my experience, this is the first time in 20 years that 'normal' teachers are as excited about new technologies as the 'techies' and 'early adopters'.

As McLuhan points out, the medium does say much about the message, in this case about learning.

let it be collaborative
let it be online and easily available
let it be adaptive
let it be fun

I haven't read this book. Perhaps you can provide the Title or link to it on amazon. It sounds good.

Probably one of the most interesting things about the internet is that it allows for long large group discussions. This isn't the case in any other form of communication. Letters have always been one on one, or one to a large group. Here, in this forum we've communicated as a group over several days. What other time in history has this ever been possible. There are huge implications for this in business where the current trend is to break down hierarchies to increase transparency. Multi tasking is also becoming more important. Professionals are no longer expected to focus on one thing for a long period of time, but to slowly develop or work on a large number of projects.

Another important thing to realize is that technology is not created out of thin air. It is used as a tool to fill real needs. In a way you can look at like this: if it exists it has to exist because someone needs it. I should qualify that by saying there are a lot of things out there that do not fit this mold. This is thanks to things like Venture Capital which create companies and products hoping that something will fit and take off. Overall, it's better to look at trends than products; like the fact that our way of communicating here is unique compared to what was going on 10 or 20 years ago.

So, to properly prepare students for the world it's probably best to teach the trends; teach the things that exist because they are needed and for all practical purpose appear as though they will continue to be needed. Reading, writing, and mathematics will always need to be taught. What in technology needs to be taught? Programming will be going on for a long time. Computer infrastructure is important too. These things, however, are very field specific and in a way prepare students for an industry rather than taking up the large burden of creating an informed citizenry. I think there needs to be a lot more discussion about the role of technology in education and the practical implications of that on traditional pedagogy and available resources.
Hi Jared,

I'm not understanding the reference to "rather than taking the burden of creating an informed citizenry". Informing pupils and helping them become thinking active citizens is why I became a teacher rather than a venture capatilist.

I started this discussion because I'm worried that e-learning is missing out the role of the teacher as the prime transmitter of education, not the only one, but the one with a professional interest in getting it right.

I've been doing a lot of research about e-learning and I scared stiff of the writing from universities researchers and politicians they seem to think technology will some how create a better educated population ignoring the content of the courses.

I'd like to see some discussion of how teaching can use the whole array of technology to improve learning. I would like to see more of a focus on e-teaching.

As for venture captial I see too often asset stripping, rationalising the workforce and little to do with anything other than profit but perhaps that is a topic for a different forum.

Best wishes
I think that the problems we are mentioning will solve themselves, even such a larger and more fundamental one, such as Paul mentioned, that of disembodying the teaching process and not having the teacher as a "pipeline" of content. There is always a "face" behind all things and even us putting up our icon, reflects this deep human need. It will always be there. I for one, am very happy to have less "gatekeepers' in the teaching profession and do celebrate the fact that technology frees people from the authority and paternalism of "a teacher".

I like what Connie said about focusing less on technology, computer class etc....and just having students use technology/experiment through the traditional areas of study. I think this is the proper way to develop the potential of IT. Slowly, as the newer generation enters the profession, the digital/analogue, the friction teachers feel between those who use and those who don't, will pass.

I would like to add that in my opinion, people speak in too "gross" a fashion when discussing the split between "content" and "technology" or Product and Process..... Is there really a sharp distinction or is this just our own cultural (educational / social) paradigm, a misplaced one for the coming future? I think this was part of what McCluhan was alluding to. Technology and content will more and more be embedded together, indistinguishable, like the chocolate in the cake. Where is the cake and where is the chocolate?

I like the concept of the paradigm,being a divorce between content and media, infact McLuhan was arguing that the media shaps the content - Hot and Cool but I want to think more about your ideas and see if you are saying something different.

Do you think the new W2 will bring about a paradigm shift?

Best wishes
Both the cake and the chocolate are, of course, under the icing. (Unless everything is icing and the cake and chocolate have both become irrelevant!) However, this is a serious issue. I am concerned that far too much emphasis is on the icing. I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that real learning still constitutes internalised and assimilated information/knowledge/wisdom and that the technological artefacts (whether Web 2, powerpoint, poster on cardboard or handwritten submission) should be expressions of real learning. My concern is that the majority of students manipulate various technological artefacts and produce a new one without any real learning. How do we get content to stay in a mind long enough to make new and meaningful connections? In other words, how can we enable synthesis of different materials above the production of collages?
You're right Paul, "burden" was a poor word choice. I should have used something more along the lines of "challenge."

I think we're thinking along pretty similar lines, albeit from a very different perspective. I'm arguing that the kinds of technology, and how we include them, in pedagogy need to be more seriously considered and studied. An example of the kind of study I am proposing was elaborated on by discussing the unique qualities of an internet forum. I think another good example is how many teachers on this sight are debating if it is better to use a wiki or Google docs for collaboration. The simple answer is that nobody knows and it really depends on the situation. if a proper study were done the question would be asked if these technologies have any real value at all.

I'm very interested in getting a list of the sources you mention you've read, not becuase I disagree but because in all likelihood I probably agree and just haven't had a chance to look over the information.

My reference to venture capital was a qualifier for my statement that all technology that exists must exist for some reason. It relates to my argument that technology fits real needs.

Please get back to me about your sources. I'm very interested in this line of thinking.


I prefer to think of it a "perspective" rather than paradigm. We all have our own perspective and to some, we see valley, deep and long.......others see mountain, very wide and high. Just depends on your own context and point. Not to take the discussion into the highlands of phenomenology but I do think that McCluhan's own notions about technology are exactly along those lines. That technology itself does profoundly effect the social network is beyond arguement but at the same time, the content itself has its own bearing.

I disagree with McLuhan's famous metaphor of the light bulb as being without content and pure medium/technology. The content of the light bulb is light and the thought and culture of knowledge behind its existence. Same with the computer and technology. And for the moment, I think the Web is very, very HOT and await the day when it will develop into something easier to handle and coooooler. That is what we are doing with these discussions, helping to create that shift. But I'm sure McCluhan and yourself too probably would disagree with me and put the Web up there as something Cold.

I do think that web 2.0 would do well to always be observant of McCluhan's own cautions. That the medium can be manipulated as a massage can and then we are .......

Yes, Web 2.0 will create a big paradigm shift. Already has, we just don't know it yet.......that's how it always happens. People were driving cars before there were cars, you know?

I agree with everything you said. I'll occasionally post about the need for rigorous and relevant content, which goes unmentioned in the discussion about the next great tech thing. Carol Ann Tomlinson from the U of Va. said "You can't differentiate FOG" in reference to differentiating in the classroom for gifted learners. . I feel the same way about technology and the Web 2.0 tools---you can make FOG look pretty, you can add audio to it, you post it to a blog or a website, but it's still FOG.
It is a careful balancing art that we have planned each year for our students. Some years we were charged with boosting reading skills, other years the challange was raise math scores. Science made the list one year, and then we went back to spelling just to drop it completely for a while. Now it is all of those, plus integrate technology to prepare our children for the real world.

Technology classes spend more time teaching students the processes with the intentions that classroom teachers integrate the tools learned without spending the time teaching the tools. Technology teachers want to integrate too, and we do - teachng children the content is our heart and our art. Technology is part of our content responsibility. So is the character of our students - we teach children ethics. So we raise the quality of our questions when teaching the functions of new tools so it becomes a lesson in problem solving and reasoning instead of just click-this- now-that.

I experience the extremes in opinions about technology in schools. Example : Those (students and teachers) who want to learn new tools may get impatient when time needs to be taken to discuss, share and practice safe, efficient and mannerly ways to use web tools especially when communicating with others. Those who do not want to learn new tools get impatient- for the same reason- taking time away from what they want. There has to be time taken to learn to use the tools - new tools take time - time in class. Whose class? The technology teacher's class. It is a new world to young children and they need to talk, discuss, compare, wonder, experiment and practice. Children need time to learn the tools without the stress of what the grade is going to be. It takes away from experimenting and discovering and becomes a few steps to follow which in turn becomes learning technology for technology's sake.

I always appreciate it when someone takes time to view or inquire about the bigger picture if they hear me talking to students instead of spending every moment on a computer or SMARTBoard in Technology class. The same goes for those who wonder if we are "going to do something academic" with a tool we are learning. I like to tell my students that learning to use technology as an efficient tool will help get your work done faster to have more time to play outside where you belong!

One peek into a technology class does not give the entire picture. We are just like everyone else- one word can come out at a time before the whole story is revealed.

It seems that some participants in this forum have seen the pendulum in education swing about as many times as I have, and I intend to stick around for more fun with you all.



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