Read an article recently - Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? in the March/April 2006 issue of Educause Review. The article, which was mostly a descriptive account of the emergent “social software” and tools that justify the 2.0 in the moniker 'Web 2.0', fell somewhat short in its analysis of how these would lead to innovative teaching and learning, other than mentioning the obvious affordances of the read-write web in collaborative projects in higher ed.
Reading the article left me a bit depressed – this emerging new web paradigm is progressing too fast (even by Web standards, according to the article) for us to keep pace. The education community in India has barely tapped the enormous potential of the old web (Web 1.0, if you will). There are enough tools for collaboration even in our familiar Worldwide Web of old. How many teachers here are using even easy-to-setup-and-use e-groups or wikis or even email for telementoring or collaborative projects? How many have even heard of Webquests? Why are urban schools with email-savvy teaching staff that has access to the internet not using the affordances of the internet for communication (a la corporate houses)? In this world, RSS probably means little more than Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh!
It is not my intention to suggest that it is mandatory that every available technology be used by every educator. But what stops a teacher from exploring these new tools that don’t cost anyone anything other than some time and effort? While some of these do require a cursory understanding of xml and html, simple blogging and social bookmarking tools such as del.icio.us don’t. To me all this again points to the lack of digital fluency among the majority of our teaching population as well as a dearth of educational technologists who can help teachers stay abreast of tech advances and even aid teachers in such explorations (ref. my post on Enabling Conditions for Successful Technology Use).
If the aim of every good teacher and school today is to prepare children for the 21st century, are they not obligated to provide these children with exposure to the new paradigms of interactions – and the openness and social quality that are the hallmark of collaborative work in this century?