School today VS Pew Internet advice

Sometimes I feel disconnected from other teachers. I think this happens when you envision a different future, away from pen and paper teaching and exams.

A recent conversation brought this home to me. I was advocating for an eportfolio contributed to by the students themselves, and the argument against me was for paper copies evidencing student achievement. The point being made was that the final exams students will face are pen and paper driven, so these were the examples teachers wanted to use for reference purposes. A comment was made to the effect of, “You come from a different world Jenny”.

Maybe I do. Maybe what I advocate is off the mark. It’s just that I don’t think that it is. I think I’m forward thinking and I think I’m advocating for the kind of world and workforce our graduating students will encounter. Regardless of whether or not they complete a pen and paper end of year exam.

I came across slides from Lee Rainie today, who was supposed to keynote at the VALA conference here in Melbourne, but was detained by inclement weather conditions in the United States. Lee is Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and his presentation was for a public library audience. There is much in the presentation that can be applied to school libraries; it goes someway to addressing the skills we need to be imparting to our students. Lee’s slides and accompanying speech (linked to in this post) discussed the democratization of media and the rise of user-generated content. Take a look at the slides and see if you make the connection.

Big Think – Web 3.0 in action?

Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil wrote an article this week called ‘Revenge of the experts’.  In it, he asks the question ‘Is user generated content out?’ The byline of the article is;

“The individual user has been king on the Internet, but the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward edited information vetted by professionals.”

 The article champions the idea that we are moving into a new phase of the internet – internet 3.0, where the wisdom of crowds (web 2.0) is being supplemented by another layer “of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.” (Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis) The article uses Google’s Knol (still in development), About.com, who employ guides to find relevant results for search terms, and Mahalo, a people powered search engine, as examples of the new direction the web may be heading in.

Another featured new entry into the market is BigThink.com,  “a self-styled “YouTube for ideas” backed by former Harvard president Larry Summers and others (It) debuted its cache of polished video interviews with public intellectuals.” I took a look and I liked what I saw. The videos are arranged into topics including History, Business and Economics, Science and Technology, Media and the Press, Truth and Justice as well as many others. Our Year 10 students have, ‘What makes us human’, as an overarching question for their study of English for a semester. Low and behold, there’s a video on this site dealing with exactly that question. I could see that this site would be an easy sell to the sceptics out there who doubt YouTube. (Personally, I love it!) Most of the videos on BigThink.com are less than seven minutes and offer the hook for stimulating class discussion. You can register into the site and contribute to the discussion surrounding ideas they are talking about. A great classroom activity and one I’d like to try with my students. Definitely worth a look.  

I really like the final quote from the article from Glenn Reynolds, author of ‘An Army of Davids’.

“There’s always a Big New Thing, but the old Big New Thing doesn’t really go away,” says Reynolds. “It becomes just another layer—like we’re building an onion from the inside out.”  

I certainly hope we don’t see the demise of user-generated content. It’s one of the things I love about the web  – its democratic nature allowing all to have input. Appeals to my upbringing.