We’ve been waiting a long time for computers to dramatically change education, but for the most part, that promise remains unfulfilled. Unlike in the business world, where the computer quickly became a fixture on every desk and transformed both day-to-day tasks and the business landscape as a whole, computers have not transformed the goals of educators, or even the methods used to achieve those goals.
There are a lot of reasons that this is so – legal, financial, and cultural – but I believe that the bottom line is that there hasn’t been a computer application that so universally changes things that we stop seeing computers as an add-on, and start seeing them as integral to the full educational process. The spreadsheet, the word processor, and email served this seminal role in the business world; it’s hard to imagine doing business without them. But take the computer out of most schools and classrooms, and the instruction wouldn’t change much. Admittedly, traditional software tools on computers can be very helpful in the educational setting – it is easier to correct drafts written in a word processor – but they aren’t at the core of the educational process, transforming the process of teaching and learning.
Intuitively, though, we have felt that the computer would bring real change, and the fact that it hasn’t has puzzled many of us. The advent of the Internet, however, and in particular what we are calling “Web 2.0,” has so significantly changed our relationship to information and our own personal learning opportunities outside of formal education, that we’re beginning to see a set of software tools emerge that are profoundly altering both learning processes and outcomes. These tools allow us to see the start of a radical evolution in education that will bring such dramatic changes that we’ll soon be at a point where we won’t be able
to imagine education without them.
What makes this coming transformation both so fascinating and so compellingly logical is the way in which the Web has changed our personal learning opportunities. I can remember as a child riding my bike to the library or the bookstore so I could read about whatever topic was of interest to me at the time. And while it seemed that there was always more to read than I had the time for, that information landscape now seems amazingly limited in light of the Internet’s ability to bring us so much information, almost without regard for time, place or even cost. By just lowering the barriers to accessing information, however, the Internet did not dramatically change life for most of us. It was not until we began to participate in creating that information that something amazing happened.
A world began emerge in which “we” (or people like us) were creators. We could start a blog; we could upload and share photos and videos; we could even build an encyclopedia.
The technology that took this amazing change and multiplied it ten-fold, and how it’s impacting the world of education, is an underlying theme of this paper, which will range across social networking, Web 2.0, the emergence of educational networking, and what I see as the first real area of significant adoption for educational networking: professional development for educators. We’ll also take a look at Elluminate’s LearnCentral offering, an exciting new platform for professional development in education.
Social – and Educational – Networking