Sunday, 31 May 2009

Why bother with Web 2.0 when you have a VLE

Just read an interesting article - All Learning is Hybrid Learning: The Idea of 'The Organizing Technology' by Steve Eskow with a thought provoking paragraph towards the end:

The struggle is between learning defined and organized by one technology — the “campus” — and another — call it “cyberspace” or “Internet” for now — that wants to exploit the possibilities of a technology that frees instruction and learning from the traditional constraints of space, place, and time.

This takes a while to absorb but what I take from it is the conflict the goes to the heart of the Web 2.0 debate. That is the contrast between the insular, control based "campus technology" as Steve calls it and the open, borderless nature of Web 2.0. One major practical issue with this is the hosting and control of a particular learning environment. Educational institutions take it as a given at the moment to buy-in some product, usually a VLE so that they can set the boundaries. It's incidental that I might disagree with this principle. What is important is that these boundaries can often constraint, or hinder, individual educators with their planning and delivery of learning. Why? These VLEs often have Web 2.0 tools embedded - Blogs, wikis etc. Well, we are forgetting the inherent social nature of these technologies. By placing them within a walled environment you lockout and constraint it's spirit. Ok, you can have isolated success where the educator drives thing well, but overall you can't really demonstrate the essence of, say the blogosphere, to the sceptical. And the sceptical still dominate in my world.

Going back to the article, even within most educational virtual environments there exists enough scope to instruction and learning from the traditional constraints of space, place, and time. By it's nature the world wide web does this. So why do I want to free things up further by incorporating (or try and get other to incorporate) any free Web 2.0 that I come across? Because this is the best way of keeping things fresh and vibrant. It also makes any educational organisation look outwards all the time - not every 10 years when they think they'd better update what they have and when the environment they have is so out of date it's laughable to it's student.

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