You are on page 1of 4

Education 2.

Wave Power
There is a tsunami heading towards your school and your classroom. It’s a wave of new
learning and technology generated by a seismic shift deep within the geology of
education. For twenty five there has been a growing tension between two educational
movements – digital technology and our understanding of learning. For the most part the
expected shock waves have failed to make an impact on the fabric of learning and
teaching. All this is about to change with the arrival of the Read/ Write web, social
software and increasing awareness of what needs to be done to prepare students for the
knowledge based economy.

The Social Software Revolution. The Web is Us

Web 2.0 or the Read/ Write web has proliferated a new generation of social software tools
such as Blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds, Podcasting, Video Casting and Social Book Marking1.
This has supported the evolution of whole new communities, in which individual come
together to learn, collaborate and build knowledge. Technology which is enabling people
to do things for themselves and changing the way we are able to deal with knowledge2.
The key words in this new learning paradigm are creation, collaboration and
communication. The Pew Internet and American Life3 project found that more than 53
million American adults had use the internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others,
post pictures or share files. lists more than 25 million blogs and Time
magazine officially voted You as the person of the year. Web 2.0 has put the We back
into the web and changed forever the modality of communication and where the
emphasis has shifted from the producers of content to the users of content.

The Education Revolution. Networked Learning Communities

There is a growing conviction that schools must move away from the institutional logic
of school as factory to the network logic of the learning community. Educational
research makes the case for a new understanding of the learning process which
acknowledges the value of connected learning. The writings of Jim Hewitt, G Salmon4
and others all comment on the potential of on line communities to engage learners in the
co construction of knowledge and the collectivisation of knowledge. Scardamalia and
Bereiter’s ( 2003)5 work on the Knowledge Forum showed the huge potential of this type
of medium to support collaborative learning and creative problem solving. From a
slightly different perspective West Burnham and Otero make the case for building social
capital through networked learning communities as a measure of school improvement
and improving standards rather than solely focusing on improving classroom practice.
James Surowiecki in Wisdom of the Crowds argues that the large groups of people can be
collectively more effective at problem solving than small groups of specialists.

See appendix 1 of Social Software and learning. Futurelab report in Digital Natives for list of examples
See the Googlezon video
See report in Digital Natives
Jim Hewitt From a Focus on Tasks to a Focus on Understanding: The cultural transformation of a Toronto
Scardamalia, M and Bereiter, C (1994) Computer support for knowledge building communities.
Where does this leave schools and education?.
We are witnessing a user driven revolution in knowledge building and collaboration. The
business world has been quick to learn the lessons of the tsunami; Companies like Lego
and Goldthorpe have used the new technology to tap into and literally capitalize on the
energy and creativity of their customers. By comparison the change in schools and
classrooms has been glacial and yet our students are already active participants in on line
communities, creating music, publishing stories and participating in games. The US
Department of Education Survey shows that 35% of children between the ages of two and
five spend time online. Just imagine if we were able to tap into this level of participation
and knowledge creation and channel it into our education system.
As Annika Small6 chief executive of Futurelab says “ how can we enlist learners to
become co-developers in their own learning?.” If Wikipedia can match Encyclopedia
Britannica for accuracy then why are we still using text books?7. How can we harness the
collective expertise of our teachers and enthusiasm of our students to drive a culture of
genuine innovation and collaboration across our schools?.

What will you do as the tsunami approaches?. Consider these scenarios

A group of Year 8 Harry Potter enthusiasts use a wiki to start an encyclopedia on All
things Potter. It grows to 500 entries with world wide contributions and becomes a
definitive reference source of Hogwarts information

The entry on wikipedia is more accurate and up to date than the school website and
become the most popular source of information about the school

A Year 7 student writes an essay about one of her Jane Austen set readings. Before she
submits the work to her teacher she submits it for peer assessment on fanfiction. Within
24 hours she receives constructive feedback from five other Jane Austen fans and she
improves her essay

A Year 6 student develops a blog about the Hong Kong in the war; the site is discovered
by some old veterans. They interact and add their reminiscences of the conflict along
with photos and scanned press cuttings. The site becomes a popular reference sites for
other year 6 students.

A group of students make their own video about bullying and post it on Youtube. The
subsequent discussion sparks off a lively debate across all the schools; other students
from the UK and Australia submit their own videos and the discussion goes international

A group of year 5 students use a blog to create an on line IT Support network which gives
technical advice on such things as how to use java applets in their web pages. They
quickly add a regular podcast about latest technological developments; it also includes
advice about how to be safe on the net.

Futurelab issue 04 of Vision 2007
See An example of open resources for learning
What do you do?. Because these scenarios are happening now, in a classroom near you.

The questions we need to ask ourselves

What will you do when content is washed out of your hands because your students can
find it for themselves and in a form that is relevant and immediate to their needs?. There
are over 2.7 billion searches run on Google every month; before Google who was
answering these questions?. What will we do when the students have already
personalized their learning using Blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds and social bookmarking. What
will we do when our classrooms are no longer the stock exchange of learning – when
what is learnt, when it is learnt and how it is learnt is determined outside the classroom.
Are we building 21st century structures and systems that will enable us to manage this
new way of learning or are we just re- creating old practices and re- arranging old
acronyms?. What will happen to the new management structures when we realize we
have lost our traditional hegemony over learning - where learning and schooling are no
longer different words for the same thing?. What we will we do when the curriculum
disappears and is replaced by an alternative curriculum or learning network put together
by the student. It is estimated that there are anywhere between 50,000 to 170,000
students educated at home in the UK; the number of students and parents registering for
on line courses in the USA grows by the day

Education and schools have a huge capacity to resist real change, especially in the use of
digital technology, the ESF is no exception. The danger is that the tsunami wave will
simply pass through us taking our learners with it, leaving us wondering why our
students no longer feel we are preparing them for the world they are living in now. The
seismic shift that created the wave has the potential to change our assumptions about
teaching and learning, but are we asking the right questions and are we making the right
connections between technology and learning?. Will we use the introduction of the IB or
PYP to exploit the new technology or just re create, albeit with new names, all that has
happened in the past?.. Are we equipping our teachers with the skill set so they can better
understand the digital natives in their classrooms?.

We need to explicitly acknowledge that, if we are to create genuinely new deep learning
experiences for our students, if we are to create a truly personalized learning
environment where learning is authentic, situated and immediate, then we must use
digital technology

Part Two. How to Surf with Social Software

See diagram 1

Look beyond the beach and towards the horizon at the learning networks beyond the
classroom. This is where your students are and this is where we they are learning stuff.
Historically we have dismissed these learning experiences because they take place
outside our classroom and we see them as unnecessary distractions from homework. The
first step is about letting go and not seeing this as extra work but as a better work; the
students will be doing most of the driving anyway.
• You can either use the CLC or any of the free social software tools to create a
learning mesh onto which the usually unstructured informal learning can take
hold and acquire a purpose and authenticity.
• Give this learning status and use the various learning scaffolds to develop
personal learning pathways.
• Use the networks to tap into community expertise and give your students a
genuine sense of audience. The CLC is free and your students know how to use it
so ask them for support.
• Forget about e – learning and think instead of c – learning; community learning,
communication learning and collaborative learning and place this at the heart of
your classroom practice.

For more read Jay Lemke for a description of natural learning8. As he says “it takes a
village to educate a child” (Lemke 2000). Use social software to create your own
learning village.
Looking beyond the classroom
Where learning
environments and
Extended curriculum learning
Learning Networks
communities are
youtube Second life determined by the

The Physical
Learning Google
environment writely
democratization msm
of learning
where time,
place and blogs
access is Garage band
determined by curriculum
the crowd World of warcraft

To learn more about how to use the learning tools on the CLC read the short article on
Forums in Digital Natives ( )
For more information about how to use the CLC as a learning tool, go to:

Lemke,J (2002). Becoming the village;education across lives. In G Wells and G Claxton Learning for
Life in the 21st century.