In a wonderfully written rebuttal of Web 2.0 in education, Gary Stager makes a variety of assertions. The blog entry is a refreshing view of the Read/Write Web from a different point of view that most of us are accustomed to–you know, the worshipful view that the Read/Write Web will change the world if only we make a few changes in our own teaching, learning and leading practice.

His insights aren’t off target. In fact, he is so convincing to a failed technology integration instructional technologist like me that I am almost persuaded. Yet, the Read/Write Web has never been about the tools that emerge daily to challenge what Stager writes…

Most schools have demonstrated an inability to trust teachers and kids online and as a result create insane barriers to teachers using the Web in an educational fashion.

Again and again, Stager makes the point that there is no research base for the Read/Write Web, no unifying theory, except an unending parade of tools that, at their best, “merely enhance the curriculum.” Furthermore, there is a wide appeal to reform and social justice without a clear knowledge or understanding of what constitutes social activism, what it means to engage in “justice talking,” to use the title of one of my favorite NPR programs. Stager writes:

…the educational Web 2.0 community has little first-hand experience in social activism and scant knowledge of existing school reform literature. Like the discovery of new tools, one gets the sense that proponents of Web 2.0 in education are discovering educational theories here and there and then applying these ideas to the new tools.

While education reform efforts are often mixed in with the use of the Read/Write Web, it’s obvious that digital storytelling, Skype, Google Earth, Second Life are NOT powerful in themselves to transform teaching, learning and leadership. It’s obvious that blogging as a tool for reflecting on teaching, learning and leadership is insufficient, and that podcasts are simply audio files with an RSS feed. Who would have thought that?

No, what the Read/Write Web offers us–like those folks at have discovered–is the opportunity to tell our story to a wider audience, an audience that because of the Internet (the Long Tail applies), is listening in greater numbers to the sad, but true stories of our lives. Blogs, podcasts, digital stories, Skype, are all part of negotiating meaning on a global basis among groups who would never have connected with each other before. Is this significant? Yes. Is the use of the tools that accomplish that as important? Yes, for without the tools, you would have the same, tired, commercially moderated media, the armchair pundits who wield the power of the published word.

We but to ask journalists and newspapers about the change Web 2.0 has brought about. We have but to read The ClueTrain Manifesto to realize that our social fabric IS undergoing change, even if it is only a vigorous conversation about what it means to be human in a connected, global world.

James Baldwin wrote about books, as cited in Atwell’s The Reading Zone, that…

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.

That Baldwin wrote about books doesn’t change the fact that Web 2.0 connects us to people who are alive right now, allow us to discuss the ideas of all who have been alive in the past, and to sift what the “authorities” have judged valuable and re-evaluate it, then remix it into what is considered valuable to us. Yes, it is the wisdom of crowds, but I do not claim to seek the wisdom of the ages, only activities and approaches that…

  • Engage/Excite students – How can students be introduced to a concept in ways that they become mentally, emotionally engaged in a new learning experience?
  • Explore – How can students explore/experiment by making observations, collecting and recording data? How can they “play” with new ideas?
  • Explain – How can students verbalize their understandings, discover patterns and describe what they have observed in small or whole groups, or at a distance, as some suggest is required by businesses engaged in peer production?
  • Extend – How can students expand their learning, practice skills and behavior, and make connections or applications to related concepts and in the world around them?
  • Evaluate – How can students answer questions, pose questions, and illustrate their knowledge (understandings) and skill (abilities)?
    Source: 5E Instructional Model

Somewhere in the 5E Instructional Model, I hope there’s room for CREATE. There appears to be in the “explain” area:

Common language enhances the sharing and communication between facilitator and students. The facilitator can determine levels of understanding and possible misconceptions. Created works such as writing, drawing, video, or tape recordings are communications that provide recorded evidence of the learner’s development, progress and growth.

It seems obvious the Read/Write Web needs no overarching new theory of learning…educators are free to mix-n-match the work from the genius of doctors of education. Rather than focus on creating “original ideas,” their job is to play and challenge students in ways that address the 5 Es. Is it any wonder, then, that some bemoan the lack of use of perfect web-based tools that help educators achieve their stated goals?

Why not get excited about using tools? If we stuck with the same tools, we might be like this poor feller…


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