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In recent years, online learning portals have become way for facilitators of

education to make use of the Internet for connecting teaching and learning. Having
been used in the Australian tertiary sector for at least the last ten years (footnote),
secondary schools are now exploring their potential as an adjunct to – and perhaps
substitute for – face-to-face classroom teaching. With easily mastered web 2.0
applications like Wikispaces, Beebo, Myspace and many others now ubiquitous, the
nature of the web has shifted. Prior to the so-called ‘information revolution’ of the
mid-1990s, the internet may have easily been passed off as a complex network of data
sources which were nonetheless relatively static, being controlled and vetted by
professionals and enthusiasts with a technical background – thus being irrelevant to
the concerns of many.

However, it is clear that the complex nature of the web is now more evident in
the vast array of social networks which stem from the ‘read/write’ concept behind
Web 2.0: that absolutely anyone can become authors, editors and publishers of ideas,
sharing these with the world community. Furthermore, conventional authorship is
now problematic, with texts that are multiply-authored and ideas that are
collaboratively worked and re-worked, through the networking of millions of minds
continually building upon ideas.

Because conventional authorship is bypassed, authority on the web now rests

with the communities created by and around the millions of blogs, wikipedia pages,
and social spaces, all of which fundamentally operate democratically and are
essentially centred around trust, good will and equality. The alleged instances of the
Australian Federal Department of Defence altering the Wikipedia pages concerned
with the “children overboard” affair highlight the power of online communities to
hold false or misleading ideas up to scrutiny, and to continually work towards
objective truths which are democratically determined by all people, not merely
representatives in government acting with vested interests. If the barrage of media
assaults which followed the discovery of Howard’s so-called meddlers can be said to
have rattled the cages of Liberal Party offices, then here is certainly a positive twenty-
first century step in relation to the advice uttered so eloquently by Hugo Weaving
playing the role of the mysterious V in V for Vendetta: ‘People shouldn’t fear their
governments – governments should fear their people.’

In a similarly eloquent fashion, though, many education theorists frequently

lament the ‘modern’ classroom – a parody of itself – bearing more resemblance to the
industrial factory floor and being no different to how it was in the nineteenth century
(the opposite to the ‘good old days,’ perhaps?). Even if suggestions like these are
regarded as partly true, it is possible to argue that teaching vacuums do indeed exist
and in a classroom with little more than lecture-style seating and a blackboard – or
one in which little more than these are made use of – it is easy to teach within such a
vacuum. Nonetheless, the addition of ICT to the already overburdened compliance-
driven agendas in education systems around the world has led to technology being a
highly sensitive area for the ageing teaching profession. A privatised classroom, low
accountability, compartmentalised disciplines and limited professional development
are all factors which – along with the ‘vacuum’ – place the humble teacher poorly in
the arena of online learning.

So what happens when we try to reconcile the incredible gulf between

regimented teaching practices of the past and the infinite potential of twenty-first
century learning? We realise, I would argue, that these two concepts are as
irreconcilable as military dictatorships are to democracies. Continuing the traditional
teacher model of the autocrat upon whom rests the authority to disseminate ‘correct’
information is increasingly making school irrelevant in the lives of young people.
Arguably what makes technology a particularly sensitive issue for most teachers is the
fact that it cannot possibly be mastered in the way that the conventional teaching of
subject content previously could. The frustration is made all the more worse when, to
our disbelief, our young people adeptly learn the microscopic ins and outs of using the
web for more purposes than many pre-generation Y people ever imagined!

Of course, to paint the picture that secondary teaching has, up to now, been
little more than a series of lectures and an ongoing case of ‘copy this off the board’
would be wrong. On the contrary, good evidence exists that many alternative teaching
methods in existence well before the Information Revolution have fostered teaching
and learning approaches highly compatible with the democratic nature of learning in
the domain of web 2.0. The Project for the Enhancement of Effective Learning,
originating in Victoria in 1985 is a particularly pertinent case in point. PEEL
articulates twelve principles of teaching and learning, some of which could be said to
run counter to traditional teaching, or at least are not well developed in traditional
learning environments:

“..we need to be modelling how to interpret, use and evaluate

many of the tools now available at a sophisticated level as part
of our own learning, almost before student needs are
considered”. (Michael)

- tech is dazzling – don’t know what’s possible and we are easily caught up
with minor technicalities
- focus on CENet –