Friday, June 15, 2007

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day One - Web 2.0 and Post-Secondary Education

Before I describe and reflect on what happened today, let me explain my motivation for selecting the sessions that I did. I came to the conference particularly interested in seeing what others were doing in the areas that I am interested in - Web 2.0, portfolio, Problem-based learning (PBL) and so on. So you will see that my selection of sessions reflects that.

The first session of the day that I attended was "Web 2.0 and Post-Secondary Education" presented by John Mitterer from Brock University. As he put it - "Web 2.0 isn't a thing - it's a state of mind". I couldn't agree more.

John is a psychology professor who among other things teaches a first year class of 1400 students (that's not a typo and I will never complain again about class sizes at NSCC), so he doe snot do a lot of Web 2.0 stuff with them, but he is thinking about it.

As a frame of reference, he made the following distinctions between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0:
  • Web 1.0 - a giant library
  • Web 2.0 - the Web as a giant conversation - individual control over the means of production - allows for creativity, power, and expression
Web 2.0 participation empowers individuals (I read this as learners). he recommended Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat". I will have to get a copy.

There is a need to get back to inquiry, critical thinking, discovery learning, and reflection. Web 2.0 can help do this - as an example he presented, a student produced wiki from York University. Asa counterpoint he presented a faculty run site - BioMe, this site is controlled by faculty and while it has aspects of social interaction, is not really a social Web 2.0 site (IMHO).

He suggested that instead of papers, get learners to post to wikis (something I have done) instead of papers and assignments - share their work. Use blogs to get learners to express opinions and tell stories (we need more story telling).

He then posed this question - can Web 2.0 be used for inquiry? Can (or should) inquiry tools be socially constructed. he then presented us with an example of one - Otavo, created by a student ( - dubbed the "Intention Engine", Otavo is inquiry-based software that takes users of "quests" for information etc.

An interesting session and a good way to start the day - Web 2.0 is being used to varying degrees in post-secondary education, but is still a ways away - that whole digital divide between faculty and learners...

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