Network Literacy: Learning with Blogging and Web 2.0

My keynote in Hawaii this evening (I can’t help say that, I mean, really it’s online, but the server’s in Hawaii and I’d love to be there too…) is about learning, blogging and web 2.0. I’m going to start by showing a powerpoint sketching a line from the memex onwards, and talking about how these developments in hypertext all focused on the individual user, and then I’m going to shift over to web pages to talk about what’s different today and how we should be using the social aspects of the web in our teaching – our students already are.

57% of online 12-19 year olds in the US have published their own creative work online, according to a recent survey by Pew Internet. 19% of online teens remixed other people’s content and published their remix online. They remixed stuff. This is how the world works today. And we worry about plagiarism. How then, do we meet these teens when they show up at universities and colleges?

I’ll point out some of the traditional arguments for blogging (mental workout and increased productivity; discover own interests and develop voice; on the other hand, some find it incompatible with traditional writing and of course some can’t write in company at all)

What is Web 2.0 anyway? A move from the solitary to the social, from finished products to processes and ongoing, many-to-many communication. Here’s an excerpt from O’Reilly’s comparison of old to new:

Web 1.0 Web 2.0
Ofoto –> Flickr
Britannica Online –> Wikipedia
personal websites –> blogging
publishing –> participation
content management systems –> wikis
directories (taxonomy) –> tagging (“folksonomy”)
stickiness –> syndication

How, though, does one foster social writing?

First: understand this space. Some students will be experts but most still lack overview, critical reflection and an analytical approach. Many have a thin surface knowledge. Understand the Wikipedia, Flickr and so on. What is the incentive for people to participate in such social spaces?

Here are some of my experiences with what works with students and what doesn’t:

  • concrete tasks, in classroom
  • set up tasks where students have to link to each other
  • insist on feedback to other students
  • teacher must model good blogging: link good or interesting posts from main course weblog
  • encourage feedback and editing of posts
  • set tasks that require reading and linking to other weblogs.

Ethical issues do need to be thought through – what happens if we make students participate in the public sphere? What are the consquences to them and what are our responsibilities to other people they might (no, will) offend? Probably we should insist students blog psuedonymously.

Finally, though, these are issues we simply must deal with in our teaching. If 57% of teens are already publishing their content online and actively engaging in social writing spaces, then we as teachers should be aware of this, encouraging and augmenting skills they already have, fostering critical awareness around their practice and helping those who are not as skilled to participate in this new public sphere.

20. April 2006 by Jill
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