McLuhan: The Medium is the Message
One essential, basic (jargon-free) definition of Web 2.0 is one in which we talk about the web as a medium, a virtual place where we meet, talk, learn by both consuming and creating knowledge; not just as readers, but as writers (read-write web).
So we can read wikis and write them, watch YouTube videos and create our own, teach lessons and sign up for them.
Web 2.0 is an integral part of the new teaching community, the tribal community that is “with it”, as Marshall McLuhan posited.
I joined the Web 2.0 tribal, "with it" community of Teachmeet is a somewhat unplanned and haphazard way; but that can be a good thing. I saw the information in a blog; read it; thought, “Yeah, why not, I have some cognitive surplus to spare right now”; signed up for it on a PBwiki; got some feedback on Twitter; planned my ideas in a Notepad; created a presentation on Prezi; and met People in the Real World.
Web 2.0 was not just the medium, it was, in some (McLuhan) way, the message too.
What is Web 2.0? And what does it mean for this community?
Teaching children about the web and information technology is actually about using and creating the web and information technology. They are all intertwined in what can only be described as an actual web.
This, I feel, sums up the message of this module: Web 2.0 is not only a resource, it is a responsibility. When you are supporting learning communities in the web, everything is interconnected, like a spider’s web: how to find things, use them, make them; how to talk to one another, establish policies of acceptable use, courtesies and politeness; how to be safe and responsible; how to learn, how to teach, how to learn by teaching (and vice-versa); how to choose between modes of safety and versatility, openness and privacy.
The Case for Choice
Which toolset would I choose for my classroom? I spend a lot of time thinking about this; it’s one of my pet-ruminations. I have had the benefit of using both modes of provision: the Web 2.0 model (which I will call Google) and the VLE-type model (which I will call Moodle). Google and Moodle are not specifically referenced. Google could just as easily be a non-Google array of web tools such as wikis, blogs, media-sharing sites and pupil-generated sites. Moodle could be Fronter or any prescribed infrastrucuture. It puts the case rather bluntly to throw Google and Moodle into the ring for a smackdown: each has its benefits and drawbacks, and comparing them is like comparing backgammon and chess.
Nevertheless, I have to choose between Google and Moodle. Which would I use for my classroom? Which of them provides the advantages I want for my pupils, and fewer frustrations and disadvantages?
Moodle is tailor-made for teaching and learning. It is safe, free, easy to use. It offer multiple learning tools. Google is perhaps not as safe. It is easy to use but large and complex. It is not designed for education (strictly speaking).
Considering the relative merits, and the risk of using either, I have to choose Google. Why choose Google over Moodle?
Google is what the children are using, They speak Google, in the McLuhan sense. They don’t, or don’t want to, speak Moodle, unless Moodle is all they have, in which case they quickly adopt the language; and then where do they go? Google is as future-proof as any product can be in the fast-moving world of the web. Google will only become safer and more customisable over time, allowing me to protect my pupils’ privacy and safety to my liking, while teaching them to personalise and customise their learning at their own pace. It is infinitely scalable, and allows my pupils to determine their own level of commitment. Nothing is forced on them. Google is synonymous with informal or stealth learning. BYOD is easier with Google than with Moodle.
Ultimately, I want freedom; for myself in how I implement the technology, and for my pupils in how they employ it. This is my model for the self sufficiency which will enable them to become the future citizens of a digital economy, not as consumers, but as creators. Only a worldwide landscape (Google), rather than a provincial landscape (Moodle) can teach them this. Lockdown may be safer, but it is not an education.
Freedom is my most important criterion; I acknowledge that many will disagree with this, and that's fine. Even within communities and tribes, McLuhan discusses the literary man in his own corner.