So, yes, this is yet another post on the thinking of Clay Shirky, who what with all of the videos and interviews available out there on the Web has been pushing my own thinking on almost a daily basis. (I’m also happy to report that I’ll be doing a live streaming interview with him on July 10 at 11 am for those that might be interested in how this all translates down to K-12 education. Stay tuned as I’m going to be asking for some audience participation…)
In a presentation to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), a site that is getting a Ted Talks feel to it, btw, Shirky talks about these shifts in terms of how our use of media is changing. Whereas we used to use media to know things, we can now use media to do things. In this world, to speak is to publish, and to publish is to gather. At one point he says that “every URL is a latent community now,” and that community can not only consume the information there but can build platforms to act together. He discusses a number of examples that he used in his book, but he adds a great story about how the businesses in Palermo, Italy are using these new abilities to fight back against the mafia in some creative ways.
This idea of using media to act has been borne out in some interesting ways in our community in the last few days as well. Doug Belshaw found himself in the midst of some controversy recently when he posted his negative feelings about TALMOS, a Virtual Learning Environment that he had found difficult to use. Seems TALMOS contacted his school and asked that they get Doug to take the “offending” material down, which he did. Doug noted on the post:
***I had criticized TALMOS in this section, but they contacted my school to ask me remove my â€˜potentially commercially damagingâ€™ comments. Itâ€™s a shame to be effectively silenced through legal threats when all I did was compare their offering unfavourably against anotherâ€¦***
Love it. Of course, when people found out about this, they started writing and Tweeting about it, and it now appears that the company has backed down, saying according to Doug’s comments, that they wanted to “start a dialogue.”
And the other example was the networks reaction to ISTE‘s announcement of its seemingly restrictive policy about videotaping and streaming at next week’s NECC conference. After a number of bloggers wrote about it and attempted to frame a coordinated plan of action, ISTE re-evaluated it’s stance and has now made it much more accommodating to sharing.
But while that is all well and good, there is a part of another Shirky video interview that resonates here. He talks about groups’ abilities to use these tools for action, but he differentiates between using them reactively and using the proactively.
We’re not seeing a lot of real world collective action where people are coming together to build things and not just complain about things.
Now certainly, there are some examples in our network of that kind of work. But to me, that’s the real challenge for us as educators, teaching kids to use the tools for connecting and learning and acting, but also teaching them to do it not just as response but as creation, as inspired construction. That’s the real creative, potentially transformative piece to this. That’s what I want my own kids to be able to do.
Bill Fitzgerald says
RE: “Now certainly, there are some examples in our network of that kind of work. But to me, thatâ€™s the real challenge for us as educators, teaching kids to use the tools for connecting and learning and acting, but also teaching them to do it not just as response but as creation, as inspired construction.”
This is one thing that Open Source has to offer education. In my work, virtually every single day involves me interacting with people in open source communities — these people are talented, caring, and passionate, and actively engaged in “creation” and “inspired construction.”
Will Richardson says
@Bill Absolutely great example. The challenge becomes to convince everyone of the potential of open source/open content and to transfer the ideas that make it work in software design into other types of constructive projects.
Thanks, as always, for the comment.
Elizabeth Helfant says
Your posts really resonates with me. I too am findng Shriky to be pushing my thoughts, showing up in my blogposts (http://tinyurl.com/6afecj and http://tinyurl.com/5t9tkg)and forcing me to refine some goals with curriculum we are designing. In creating an interdisciplinary week long unit for each grade (refered to in the post), we have decided that we want a community service/service learning project to come out of the units. Your point about using the tools proactively certainly fits here, especially since the units originated with a primary goal of teaching students to use their new tablets as a tool as we jump into the 1:1 world for the first time. Our students use lots of these tools to organize things but have not, to my knowledge, used them to organize service things. They organize lacrosse teams or dances, social things.
Thanks for pointing me to the RSA site as well. I am looking forward to our participation in plp next fall.
Doug Belshaw says
Thanks for publicising this to a wider audience, Will. Although at first I felt threatened as they went through my employers, it actually ended up being quite amusing seeing them trying to squirm and wriggle their way out of the issue. Classic case of a 1.0 company (despite – or perhaps because of – their product) reacting to something in a 2.0 world.
It was great to see the power of the network in action. As you say, lots of tweets and blog posts of support. Some actually got in touch with TALMOS. They got responses, effectively saying that they didn’t realise my reputation (*ahem*) and that they just wanted to defend themselves.
The storm seems to have passed now, but it’s more of a lesson to companies than to individuals, I feel. 🙂
Gary S. Stager says
There is a retired academic who reads any article I write about reading or literacy. If I question phonics instruction or whole language, his head explodes. He has even contacted the senior administration of my university (employer) demanding that I be fired.
I thought that a strongly worded letter to the editor was the normal response.
We live in an age when people are simultaneously thin-skinned and malicious.
I fail to see what this has to do with 1.0, 2.0 3.1415927 or the World Wide Web.
While it’s cool to use the Web as a form of counter vigilantism, will we regret the escalation?
Dean Shareski says
We definitely need more “Water Buffalo” stories to illustrate and demonstrate proactive movements. Perhaps as organizations as a whole begin to understand concepts like the Cluetrain Manifesto and Shirky’s analysis, it will help shift society to stop simply responding to organizations and issues that are bound by antiquated structures and begin to build and create. Who knows how long that will take?
Will Richardson says
Too long. That’s my brewing frustration again these days. We’re all happy tool using folks these days, but the pedgogy behind the uses of the tools still, still, still haven’t moved significantly. (The next comment is an illustration of that…)
D.C. Hess says
“Weâ€™re not seeing a lot of real world collective action where people are coming together to build things and not just complain about things.”
I follow quite a few edublogs, but I have to say most tend to lean to the latter half of this pendulum rather than the former. I think discussion is important and especially concerning the use of Web 2.0 tools for educators, but what I am really looking for (and trying to create myself) is a curriculum blog. Are there teachers who use blogging and the power of the network to come together and build things (lesson plans, projects, etc.)?
If anyone knows of someone who is doing this already I’d love to know.
Bill Fitzgerald says
@ D.C. Hess —
Please, get in touch. We are working on doing exactly what you describe.
Stephen Downes says
> Weâ€™re not seeing a lot of real world collective action where people are coming together to build things and not just complain about things.
Really? You think that’s true?
Beyond the obvious things like wikipedia and wikieducator and OpenCourseWare and Creative Commons, there are some really innovative and forward-looking things – not just MoveOn and the Obama caampaign, but the various feed-the-world initiatives (like the grain of rice thing), micro-credit initiatives, even a group of people who have collectively bought a British football team. And then there are the thousands of support groups, interest groups, and other community associations.
It is in traditional media – and a certain segment of the political blogosphere – that we see all the whining and complaining. The rest of us are very very busy building things, creating a new world. I’m not sure how Shirkey is missing that…
Wesley Fryer says
D.C.: Projects like Curricki are helping facilitate the collaborative building and sharing of open content curriculum, which is what it sounds like you’re looking for. I agree these types of open content initiatives are VERY important, but I would encourage you and others to not undervalue the benefit of dialog and participation in online learning communities. I agree with your point Will, that we need to be aware of how our learning networks and tools can be used in proactive as well as reactive ways. I do think we’re seeing that in the form of collaborative projects and the sharing of student-created media. For me, the school change enigma can only be addressed through sustained conversations in each of our local communities about the issues we discuss and banter about regularly. I agree that we need to focus more on the ways individual efforts can gain synergy and focus, in proactive ways, in changing our schools, but we shouldn’t underestimate the value of bringing more educators and students into our circles of conversations. Most of the teachers I work with here in Oklahoma have not had any virtual learning experiences. That is frustrating, but also an opportunity.
I’m glad to hear about Doug’s experiences, and most of all glad to hear they have ended well. I do think there are important lessons here which relate to freedom of expression and the responsibilities as well as rights we have as publishers… I would guess we’ll hear more stories like this in the future, as the visibility of edublogger voices continues to increase.
Gary S. Stager says
Do you really believe that the future of learning has anything whatsoever to do with the sharing of lesson plans via the Web? How is this different from the zillions of books full of teaching tricks and bulletin board decorating tips at the local teacher supply store?
Do you like Curricki? If so, do you like it because they use the words, free, open and collaborative or because it’s any good?
D.C. Hess says
I wouldn’t say I am undervaluing the benefit of dialogue. I am not insinuating that the dialogue is not useful, or productive, just that most of the Web 2.0 resources for teachers tend to focus on the education reform discussion or even what new edtech is available. Both VERY important discussions worthy of our attention.
I am eager to engage in such viral learning, however, as an educator in a very tech-disabled school, I am also looking for ways to use edtech to connect with other educators to collaboratively create curriculum and instructional tools that amount to more than teaching students to write blogs and create course wiki pages (both very useful if you have the technology and facilities).
I would love to see more collaborative online projects devoted to creating lesson plans and resources. I think there is plenty of web friendly resources for collaboration, I’d just like to see how its being used to create collaborative curriculum not just PowerPoints about the future of edtech.