Friday, 22 May 2009

Educate the educators! - Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World - JISC report - Initial thoughts

Some initial thoughts on the new Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World - JISC report This is something I need to study in detail as the summary orders the main points well. I want to get to the meat of the report to see how it thinks we can address all the issues. It's not unusual for a paper of this kind to recommend a host of vague goals without any specific suggestion on how they will get achieved. The result being the waste of money spent on the writing of the paper. Research for research's sake.

My initial observations are on the Immediate and fundamental issues of which there are two. The first is digital divide which includes a whole host of issues.
  • For students - access and practical skills. Fair enough.
  • For staff - technical proficiency, reflection on approaches to learning and teaching and... that when they choose to use technology, they can do so effectively.

For staff, this is too much clubbed together. These are the issues that I don't think fit neatly under the digital divide label. These are the issues that I don't think should be lumped together so briefly. These are the issues would each require different sets of people to support. There are issues that, at the moment, are in no way being addressed. These are the important issues!

What makes this worse is that the only other Immediate and fundamental issue is called Information literacies and is basically a long diatribe on about correct searching and referencing. So making sure we reference things correctly is given far greater weight that the areas within digital divide. This is where we've got things back to front. The needs and concerns of the educators are placed in front of the needs and concerns of the learner. In this case, it's about is the educators feeling threatened by the masses of information now available to learners and seeing it as a negative. It doesn't fit into their heirarchical, substantially introverted, guarded, careful, precise and measured world and they want to control. Surely having more sources/information available is good for learning. And when I say more I mean much, much more. Millions times more. When I went to university it was a race to the library to get the one (yes one) good book on the subject. Of course, there is the odd bad bit of information, the odd wrong fact. But that's life in any scenario. The learner has and will manage this. And the Web 2.0 world is a truly, demoncratic world. The good stuff often finds a way of seeing the light of day and the bad stuff sinks to the bottom.

My mantra now is that we need to educate, educate, educate our staff on the practical application of the different Web 2.0 tools. Once they know what they can do, they can work out what to do with them. I know I've seen it happen. This is vital if higher education is going to be at all ready for situation so brilliantly described later in the summary:

"The world they encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms. Characterised broadly, it is hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured. The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change. They aren’t demanding different approaches; rather they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications. Effectively, they are managing a disjuncture, and the situation is feeding the natural inertia of any established system. It is, however, unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating and some rapprochement will be necessary if higher education is to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant." (p9 - Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World, JISC, March 2009).

To finish the above point. I'm not saying that correct sourcing and referencing isn't important - it is. I'm saying that it consistent receives attention disproportionate to it's place in the grand scheme of thing.

The best excerpt for me is:

"Web 2.0, the Social Web, has had a profound effect on behaviours, particularly those of young people whose medium and metier it is. They inhabit it with ease and it has led them to a strong sense of communities of interest linked in their own web spaces, and to a disposition to share and participate" (p9 - Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World, JISC, March 2009).

This expresses something that I've been saying in other ways and expresses it very well.

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