I've been struggling to find a suitable slab of time for thoughtful blogging as the term has started off in a flurry of impending deadlines and planning for near future events. My aggregator is starting to fill with unread posts and even some that I have read were hastily skimmed. But anything that directly or indirectly references some of the ideas I've been working on will catch my attention and start brewing in a less mushy sector of my brain.
Bill Kerr wrote one of those attention grabbing posts recently that attracted responses from either side of the fence. "Don't Be Too Proud of Web 2.0" pointed to some examples that Bill had identified as evidence that Web 2.0 isn't going to be the revolutionary influence on education many edubloggers are predicting. While I could get where Bill is coming from, I disagreed with some of his examples - specifically when his second one that came straight from my CEGSA presentation that featured my interview with Chris Harbeck. Well, it's partly because no-one wants to be highlighted as part of what's wrong and because it felt like an indirect criticism of Chris' methodologies, that I felt defensive and compelled to air my thoughts in Bill's comments section. As usual, though, I carefully constructed a respectful response so that I wasn't just doing a knee-jerk reaction. Bill's point of view is that language based mathematics (where Chris' work with wikis and unprojects comes in) is being held up as "state of the art" while ideas like logo which blends computer science with mathematical concepts have been ignored or forgotten. Now I haven't touched logo since my Year 10 computing classes in 1981 (although I did see and briefly play with a version of Star Logo on a Commodore 64 in my beginning years as a teacher) so I have no way to dispute his view of what constitutes state of the art. But I do see high level of engagement in Chris' blend of web tools and mathematics, I do see his kids considering audience and using language and multimedia to demonstrate their comprehension and mastery of the concepts their teacher is mandated to cover. I see mathematics converging with other elements of the curriculum (sure, language) in their work so that mathematics is not just an isolated discipline, learnt in a manner cut off from connections to the rest of the school timetable. I do view that as a massive step forward from the conventional, middle school approach of ability streamed groups, using a text book to cover proscribed content. So, I am a big fan of the Chris Harbeck approach and I see it as a progression that I personally can aspire to. And I don't see his use of Web 2.0 tools as gratuitous.
I did have a GMail chat with Bill that clarified some of the meaning behind his words and I certainly felt that Bill's idea that it would be better exploring his ideas in more depth in a longer, more in depth post was the way to go. He agreed and wrote that post on Friday. He highlights a number of key points that I need to spend time exploring and thinking about - I am an admitted shallow skimmer of information at the moment - here's a sample of where Bill sees the issue of expertise in relation to education:
However, the notion of using “web2.0″ tools to expand expertise (certainly possible) is different from the notion of bloggers already being experts. The internet has certainly blurred the lines between expert and amateur. But as well as some amateurs displaying expert knowledge there are also lots of amateurs pretending to be experts when they are not. For me the important question is not web 2.0 as such but how do we work out who an expert is? Expertise is special IMO and ought to be valued. I’m critical of theories that just emphasise the importance of connection without saying much else.
What is the value of connection to me? I tried to make that point in a comment:
For me, as a primary school educator, never before have I had the opportunity to look over the virtual shoulder of teachers who I consider to be exceptional and have them explain in words what they were doing and what their intent with their students was. That has helped me to reconsider what I do in my classroom - sometimes, it has been confirming of what I already did or their ideas have given me new paths to follow. If "expertise" is what I bring daily to my job working with kids and teachers in terms of skills, initiatives, directions etc., then yes, Web 2.0 has enhanced and improved that expertise.
I have personally become a better teacher through learning from classroom teachers like Chris - it's exactly why I couldn't let Bill's original dot point slide into unacknowledged oblivion - and I am still disappointed that hardly any unconnected teachers were at my presentation. Bill was at my presentation - he too, is making me a better educator by redirecting me to important developments from the past, present and possible future. I don't think Web 2.0 is a wild goose chase for educators - but yes, the connection has to have purpose.