Saturday, September 10, 2011

On David Warlick, and Web 2.0 Roulette

"We are no longer information consumers, but producers."

David Warlick's 2007 AASB Conference video identified drastic change in the creation, presentation and use of information as marked by Web 2.0. As Warlick points out, today's student do not regard information as previous generations did - to an older generation, information stemmed from an authoritative source and was meant to be consumed; to today's Web 2.0-fed generation, information is "raw material" to be discovered, processed and expressed. Information is not to be consumed, but reproduced in new creative, compelling ways.

Warlick connected the changes of Web 2.0 to the teaching community as well. Instead of researching new teaching methods from authoritative sources, teachers are increasingly sharing information amongst themselves through blogs, podcasts and other online projects. Much like their students, teachers are also "looking to the community" for the uncovering, sharing and repackaging information.

As someone who can still remember an era before the world wide web, I stand at an awkward gap in which I know how to use a card catalog and locate hardback books in a library, but I am also experienced in online research and utilizing the web as both a research and production tool. In many ways, I assumed that much of what I was doing ten years ago during the Dot Com bubble was simply fun. What I found out later as I drew closer to college, then the job market is that I gained invaluable skills that included research, marketing and sales. Just by knowing how to use Google, code CSS and edit YouTube videos!

According to Warlick, there are brand new questions being asked that are currently without experts. Both students and teachers are searching the world wide web void for answers about the future. Where are we going? Will a popular social media outlet such as YouTube or Facebook still be relevant in five years? Internet relevancy and fame are at best fleeting, for example: Chat Roulette, a trial-by-fire webcam chat website that cycled through the 24/7 news outlets like a wildfire to two weeks, then disappeared the moment notoriety (and user vulgarity) waxed and waned. If anything, the web has proven itself rather flippant in its 2.0 trends, and the foundations of 1.0 are nearly forgotten. 

To prepare students for the future means that us as educators - who are also consumers and producers of information on the Internet - are prophets, who can accurately predict where the next web trend will lead. Simply put, we are not, we cannot, and what is left is to discover, evaluate and utilize online tools that will enhance our curriculum and benefit our students. Are we using a tool that better teaches the topic? Is using the online tool going to teach our students valuable skills? Will what they learn later become a marketable skill on their resume, even by accident?

In middle school, myself and fellow students were taught how to code HTML, or hypertext markup language, and create websites. Though HTML is now outdated, it is still the Latin, or backbone, of many website coding languages. To many students, this HTML unit was boring, confusing and not relevant. Had either we the students or the teacher had known just how valuable HTML was going to be from an information producing standpoint, just think of how many more weeks that particular unit would have been stretched. It was a missed opportunity.

Expanding further, let's think of how many other information technology, social media or other courses that are operating in such uncertainty, and accidentally become missed opportunities. Truly, there is no way to ultimately and accurately predict what will be relevant or irrelevant in our classrooms, perhaps then our best defense is to remain vigilant in what tools and fun the web has to offer, experiment in what's available, and identify what we can use in the classroom. It is a teacher's form of roulette - let's see what makes it, what is just right, and hope for the best.


  1. I feel the same way as a twenty-something that can remember a time of only using computer to play lemonade stand. Its amazing how far technology has progressed and I'm not quite sure if I totally buy into this information age we live in.

  2. Nice reflection, Elizabeth. I like playing and experimenting in the classroom. Why can't our classrooms become little Google test labs. Let's see what works and what doesn't and have fun with it all! :)

  3. I agree that we don't know what the future holds with technology. I guess you could say that the sky is the limit. It is exciting and scary to think what could happen. I guess the best way to prepare our students is to teach them to be curious and instill a desire to learn.

  4. Elizabeth, I agree that it's tough to guess what might be useful and useable for our students both now and in the future. Thus it's easy to be wary (or even lazy) in presenting new tools or techniques to our students. Nevertheless, it is through the particulars that we learn the universals; it is through blogs and online databases that we learn the principals of ethical communication and rigorous research. (For now, as we know, you can not only google a topic, but google an author who writes about it, to find out if s/he has any "school cred.") In short, I hope we do not grow discouraged, but enjoy playing in the ever-shifting technological wonderland.