Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Protecting the System vs Helping the Learning

In Don’t, Don’t, Don’t vs. Do, Do, Do, Will Richardson talks about how he turned around a hefty policy of don't concerning use of the internet to a heft policy of, well, possibilities. It's useful to record here his list of do's:

“Do use our network to connect to other students and adults who share your passions with whom you can learn.”
“Do use our network to help your teachers find experts and other teachers from around the world.”
“Do use our network to publish your best work in text and multimedia for a global audience.”
“Do use our network to explore your own creativity and passions, to ask questions and seek answers from other teachers online.”
“Do use our network to download resources that you can use to remix and republish your own learning online.”
“Do use our network to collaborate with others to change the world in meaningful, positive ways.”

This is a conversation that I am familiar with and I feel a common reaction education has to anything new is "How can we control it!" I remember how one the UK's Quangos was obsessed with codes of practice and rules in their new online communities space before anyone was actually using it. Large amounts of energy were spent honing these rules and all it achieved was putting people off. I am always of the opinion that you should concentrate on building the community/network first. This is hard enough in itself! The rules and regulations should be buried and buried deep. Admittedly, my contexts have involved few instances of conflict online or audiences that you think would be prone to this sort of behaviour but I think we miss the point if we overplay this aspect.

As I said earlier it comes from the instinct within education to control (which I think is also part of the resistence to moving away from the didactic way of life - but that's another story). For an education institution's point of view they often view the internet (and to a certain extent the whole of Web 2.0) as a challenge to the status quo; a potential for trouble; a potential for too much student power. I can't deny this potential, this challenge. But I advocate the use of the internet, and the Web 2.0 world, because of the do's eloquently described above.
Notice that the do's are all to do with learning and the rules and regulations have, at their heart, the purpose of protecting the institution/the system. Which should be more important?

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