Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Web of Connections: Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything – Will Richardson

Weblogg-ed -

Mr. Richardson related the story of a blogger who challanged himself to trade one red paperclip for a house within a year. The trail of trades was tremendous – from a party keg, to a truck, a recording contract to a year's rent in a house in AZ., to a afternoon with Alice Cooper, and a movie role with Corbin Bernstien. The other trend is Anime of a mash-up – several forms of media (clips from actual anime cartoons and blending with music and audio). What can we do with tools like this?

Imagination is key - and the web is the mode that imagination will be shown. By 2015 over 2 billion people will be connected to the internet. And the fact the web is becoming a read/write vehicle (also known as the Web 2.0). Tim O'Reilly stated that we are at a turning point. When we look back in 20 years, we will see the tremendous growth of content and innovations that are happening right now.

Technorati is a great web site to search and learn about the newest innovations and blogs.

The web is linking ideas. Groups of people can now connect quickly and easily using the web. Even the most unusual groupings are possible like veggiphetti (graphetti on growing things). The web also encourages conversation. Thomas Friedmans, in the World is Flat calls people now the Uploaders – as people are sharing information in droves. Lawrence Lessing, the author of “free Culture” states that we do not realize the impact that the read/write web will have in the future.

So what does this mean for educators?
There are so many possibilities – we just need to recognize it. Right now there are almost 70,000 blogs for education. 25+ million kids are creating content online, of varying qualities. We need to harness that creativity and energy. Mr. Richardson showed an example of a podcast from Matthew Bischoff, and He podcasted about technology when he was 13 and from his bedroom – the enthusiasm in his voice was contagious and showed he has a true sense of audience. Another example shown was Mr. Richardson's daughter's weather recipe book done in flickr. Now that Tess's work in online, over 1,000 people have read her book. It has created an enthusiasm in her to write more – even in a blog. She can publish and create things that teaches other people. Finally, a Scotland school's homepage is written entirely by the students in the school. Again, they have a sense that the audience is world-wide. A Pre-Cal examples shows students being scribes fro the class and adding their own notes, problems and examples on the wiki. Think about how that changes the curriculum, that the audience is not just the teacher at the end of the day, but the world.

The web is also about building connections around the world. Kids know it to! They recognize that the authors, publishers, and creator don't have to be “some rich person in New York” but anyone can do it.

It's all about imagination! How can our own learning be enhanced by these tools. The classroom is no longer the four walls, but the world. So that lead to some big changes, which are being implemented in some areas already.
The classroom is not the four walls – it is the world. Many classrooms continue to look the same as about 100 years ago. Our methods haven't changed – kids in desks, chalkboards/whiteboard etc. However, MIT CourseWare
shows a new way of looking at teaching. There are hundreds of courses available, for free. It is a independent tutorial, that includes video lectures and MP3 files. This expands the classroom to wherever the connection is.
Change is idea of “do your own work” to learning “how to work with others.” With wikis and other interactive sites, it isn't an individual contribution. It is the collaboration of people from many different areas. Wikipedia is one example. We can't just ban it, like so many others are apt to do.

The Web changes texts. Many textbook companies are quite unhappy about this, as sites can be created to take the place of the $60 textbook. This sites also include multimedia capabilities. Wkibooks is an example. There is over 17,000 “books” available which are created by people with knowledge about the topics.
Teachers need to become connectors. Teachers' jobs need to change from the dispenser of knowledge to a guider of resources. Mr. Richardson highlighted his students' blog about The Secret Life of Bees, in which the students were connected to the author in their discussion. become “DJ” - Again, guiding students to resources when they need it. Including the students in the planning.

The Web changes learning. Mr. Richardson stated that through his blog, he has been transformed in his teaching and thinking. We can learn anything, anywhere and at anytime. In Phili – soon, the entire city will become wireless. The Learner decides what, when, where and how he/she learns. Our current schedule forces kids to be learners from Sept to June from 8-3 each day. It will become “Nomadic learning” that travels with the learner. 43 things a site where you can connect with people who what to learn the things that you want to learn. Social networking – you can connect to people who are interested in the same ideas as you. On flickr there are over 200 photos about NECC 2006. There's several blogger updating people on the session. The audience also changes from “hand it in” to “publish it” which changes the audience for the work. Itunes includes hundred of podcasts for K-12 education, that can teach others, just as it is a learning experience for the creator.

The Web Changes Literacy. It is not just “reading” from a text. It is no longer linear. There's hypertext, multimedia etc. Do we teach kids how to read in these new environments. David Weinberger says that the value of a text on the web is now where is points to. In addition, kids need to know how to look beyond the
The web changes computing. Open Source is changing how computers work – the web is becoming the platform. Jumpcut can edit video on the web. Almost any application can be available on the web.
To what extent do these changes demand we rethink our curriculum and the way we teach? How does the student and teacher role change when anyone can publish? How do we redefine literacy?

The challenges:
Fear is the biggest obstacle to the changes that need to be made. MySpace is now the most populace country in the world. As teachers, we need to understand the content and reason students are drawn to this. Compare the commercial available on TV, the movies kids watch and the music to the stuff available on MySpace. Why should we be afraid of MySpace? We need to be teaching kids how to use MySpace, not just blocking it. Show kids how to deal with the predators and advertising.

'Change is inconvenient.” – Al Gore. Public education is becoming less relevant to the students. Students are looking for alternatives other than the brick and mortar classroom. When something new comes in, schools react by taking it away.

Mr. Richardson spoke at a superintendents meeting. In his blog, he asked what people thought superintendents need to know. The responses include the fact that students have changed, technologies have changes, the environment in the classroom must change to engage these new students – and not just small pockets of change, but visionary leadership that makes institutional change.
The final thought – be imaginative. Take your own “red paperclip” back to your school district to start trading for the change that is needed.

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