The New Nature Of Information

One of the major things confronting the education sector is the new ways that digital information can be redirected, reused and reshaped via the format of RSS. I use the word confronting with purpose because it's a word that came through strongly in a comment left by Christine Haynes, an experienced ICT educator following my post reflecting on the Web2Showcase. As an educator myself who has chosen to immerse himself in these technologies, reading educational revolutionaries like Will Richardson, Stephen Downes and Leigh Blackall on a daily basis and conversing with other grassroots peers like Jo McLeay, Doug Noon and Mark Ahlness, it's easy to forget that this network of people is only a tiny fraction of the global teaching force. It explains the comfort level of my fellow presenters, all in tune to the ongoing FNLW unconference unrolling in New Zealand as I write. They're part of the ''Global Conversation" but if you're not involved, it's hard to grasp what is going on. It explains the cross-referencing that went on throughout the entire presentation - how Vonnie could be bookmarking an Alexander Hayes resource based on a conversation I had with him via Skype last week, how Mike could be re-using a Stephen Downes podcast from last week in Africa that even if I hadn't heard it, I was certainly aware of. But what of the audience? Those who've heard about these new technologies and want to work out what the fuss is all about? And those who weren't there (at the venue or connected via the online tentacles of Centra) who are either oblivious or couldn't care less? Is it important to reach out to the wider educator community to make them aware or can our slow moving education system carry the technophobes for a while yet? Maybe there are pockets of expertise that don't require technological impact but I doubt it. And when teachers realise that it's inevitable and they face irrelevancy, will they be able to "catch up" to the teachers making the effort now?

I suppose that's why the Web2Showcase group originally got together - a desire to spread the word, to "educate the educators" about the changing nature of information. It's why I asked for feedback on my last blog post - I wanted to know what impact a small group of Web 2.0 enthused people could have on those who made the time to attend or tune in. I know that 15 months ago I was just as oblivious as some of those serious faces in front of me as I stumbled through the finer points of wikis and StartPages but my entry to the world of Web 2.0 was one of excitement and discovery. Why do I get the feeling that starting out now seems to be more about fear and trepidation? I hope I'm wrong. I hope that "confronting" can be a good thing.

One of the things I was keen on was some feedback from the Showcase. Keen until I read Artichoke's latest post on that very topic where I foolishly attempted to articulate what I was after....

...being on the receiving end of feedback could fall into a few categories:- (a) feedback about the actual performance. Did I speak clearly? Were my demonstrations easy to view? Could people view my web resources adequately? (b) feedback about what the content/concepts/ideas did to people's thinking/perceptions. What are the implications of my topic? What were your immediate reactions to the material? What will it prompt you to do now (or not do)? and then (c) feedback that inflates the ego. Why were we great? Was I wearing a nice shirt? Was it the best presentation of its type you've ever seen?

Arti kindly offered that the shirt indeed might be the key factor and recommended some key reading (which I will follow up) but the deep thinking Bill Kerr added in his observations and then expanded them on his blog. In the end, I have come to the conclusion the only meaningful feedback I will get might well come from good old fashioned chat and conversation with others. As Artichoke pointed then in the comments to Bill:

...even feedback has texture, nuance and poetry - perhaps it is also the case that feedback when offered in f2f encounters makes it easier to determine meaning than feedback offered through text alone. [finding meaning in text can be a treacherous experience]

After all, when you are reading text, it takes a lot of skill to express opinion clearly and coherently in the Web 2.0 world.

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5 thoughts on “The New Nature Of Information

  1. Doug Noon

    The global conversation that you mentioned has been going on since mass media (newspapers, radio, TV….) have been around. One of the reasons many of my students don’t know about big-picture things is that they don’t read or listen to the news, and neither do their parents. So it seems like they don’t know “what’s going on.” They appear to understand almost nothing of their world. It’s mind boggling to me that some of my students in fourth grade don’t know what country they live in! Being in Alaska, this may be understandable on some level, but it’s no excuse.

    But then, playing the devil’s advocate, I wonder. Is there some-thing going on? There’s many things, it seems, with some people telling the rest that they’re missing the main event. It’s getting complicated now with the internet letting everyone have a voice. But still, some voices are louder than others. If this new media is democratizing information, where do we draw the line on what people need to know?

  2. Graham

    Post author

    Thanks for your thoughts here Doug. I guess I’ve been using the term “Global Conversation” somewhat liberally when I am mainly referring to the way educators are connecting and exchanging ideas and building on their own learning via the web. I guess I just feel that teachers do need to come to grips with and have a working knowledge of the new flatter media and information landscape – if students don’t gain some big picture skills from school, how else will they gain them? I guess it is our grounding (you, me, other teachers of “digital immigrant” status) in traditional ways of media that allows us to adapt and look for big picture issues to discuss and muse about – can our students pick these or are they all in danger of being stranded in a me-centred world? More questions than answers, Doug!

  3. Alexander Hayes

    Hmmmm….something up with my way of feeding back into this architecture.

    Beautifully put Graham. You have summed up for me why we are so bent on using differing forms of media to speak those thousand words.

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