Web 2.0 and U

Yesterday I attended a Secondary Teacher Librarians Forum hosted by the Libraries for Learning Partnerships – North Adelaide. The focus was Web 2.0 and U, and so I rocked up to an interesting but also frustrating afternoon.

Good, because the keynote speaker was Michael Coghlan, whose enthusiasm is always good to listen to. He went through his How Web2 is Revolutionising Education presentation which, though I’ve heard before has posed some new questions for me. One was a twitter question (posed to demonstrate the ability of twitter to provide quick answers) on the role of libraries in a web 2.0 environment. Apart from the traditional print resources (which will still have a place for a while) we can provide access to useful data that you can’t get from search engines from databases, which is effectively free for the the person accessing it because the library or institution is paying for it.

Is that really valued though? While it’s not true that everything is on the web, the web is also the default starting point for research today. As a librarian, I can hardly bemoan this fact because this is also my practice. What is the web though? It isn’t html or xml pages, or tweets, or java (well, not just that). It’s people connected and engaged, creating as well as absorbing. It’s a giant network from which we can learn, and that we can also teach.

Michael made the point that increasing numbers of educators argue that learning is becoming student-centered, but that in fact it still tends to be instructor-centric. There is the inevitable inertia of institutions that have been geared for sage-centric, board-and-talk learning models that have been in place for many decades (or indeed centuries) at play. But perhaps also the fact that, when asked who has a personal learning network, only a small number of hands shot up is just as important. Karl Fisch notes that these are really not new things, but they now have a global reach. But they can also now be much more personal in nature. One of my interests is warfare in ancient history. I have traditionally had to read books by experts to gain information (and I still do this). An example would be this title by Professor Phil Sabin. But I can also interact with him directly through his yahoo group. The PLN can also be much more personal.

It often isn’t though. This video by Mike Wesch illustrates the point better than me:

Daniel Tobin lists 4 stages of learning: data, information, knowledge and wisdom. We can get all (or most) of stage 1 ourselves, but people help get to the other stages. That person can still be the sage, but it can, and should also be colleagues, peers, friends.

I think that this is where the library comes into the question posed earlier. How does the library get into a person’s PLN? By helping to personalise the experience, by being available for questions, requests for advice, and by networking. In an education institution, this means networking with with teaching staff. We need to be able to do it face-to-face, but we also need to be able to do it in a Web 2 environment. My PLN includes books, my work colleagues and also people on twitter, people who bookmark in del.icio.us, people who share photos in flickr.

One of the things that Michael helped me think about was the question of how exactly does one do this? I think one of the keys is using content that people have created, rather than creating your own. It saves you time, and the use (and attribution) helps the creator. Doing that I think also helps begin the path of content creation. Web 2.0 is all about network and content creation. Seeing what exists also helps to see what doesn’t exist, and what ought to, and therefore what ought to be created. And it’s this interaction that gets you into someone’s PLN.

This also tells me that the tension between collective wisdom versus authority is not insurmountable.¬† That there is a lot of rubbish on the web is true. But collective wisdom can promote the good, the innovative and the insightful. It’s not an either/or equation anymore.

The frustration in the afternoon was simply the amount crammed into an afternoon agenda. Sue Spence also gave a SACE update, after which we broke for various tempting treats. Pru Mitchell from Edna gave us an experiential look at web 2.0 technologies  and Mark Richardson showed us some of the stuff Salisbury Public library have done with 23 Things. It was an interesting afternoon, and I was glad to have been able to attend.

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