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Social software and web 2: a challenge to the future of schooling?

February 25th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

As part of my work for the the European Bazaar project I am  running a seminar entitled Social Software and Web 2.0: a challenge to the future of schooling. You can find details about the seminar and how you can take part below. But first here is the topic of the seminar.


‘In a recent blog post Rita Kop says: “There is currently a vast array of communications options available on the Internet. Especially young people have grasped the potential offered to them by blogs, web pages and increasingly personal spaces such as ‘My Space’ and ‘youtube’ to make links with like minded people and to invite comments and messages to their postings. The speed in which communities are being formed has surprised most observers. Participants in these developments, though, take them for granted as expressing themselves to the wider world has increasingly become part of their life style.

The education world has not grasped yet the revolution that is taking place outside the class room. The discrepancy in the way technology is being used inside and outside the class room seems to be growing.

The availability of blog and web authoring tools and their ease of use have made that a vast number of people are now engaged in interacting on the Internet. It has created a huge leap forward in moving people on from being consumers to becoming producers of information.

As educators know, the pace of change within institutions is a lot slower than outside the brick walls, which raises questions about the ability of formal education institutions to keep engaged the generation that lives in a technology saturated world and has grown up with technology.”

At the same time researchers have begun to explore the idea of Personal Learning environments or PLEs. Rather than access a single learning application or a walled institutional learning area, the idea of a PLE is that learners can configure different services and tools to develop their own learning environment, bringing together informal learning from the home, the workplace as well as more formal provision by education institutions. The PLE is controlled by the learner and as well as offering an environment for accessing different information and knowledge allows access to web based publishing and other opportunities for creating content and expressing and exchanging ideas.

The idea behind the PLE is to harness the power and potential of social software and web 2.0 applications for learning.

As Graham Attwell has pointed out PLEs may be a seriously disruptive development, challenging the present model of schooling. The seminar is intended to examine the changing ways in which we are using technology for learning, to look at the potential of Personal Learning Environments and to discuss the implications for the future of our education systems.

This could include (but is not limited to) the following issues:

  • Young people are increasingly using social networking sites and social software applications – but are they learning?
  • What does the new uses of technology for learning imply for pedagogy and the future role of teachers
  • What is the role of school in the future of more and more learning takes place over the internet
  • How can technology supported informal learning be recognised
  • How disruptive are the new technologies to the education system – is it just a bubble?
  • How can Personal Learning Environments be reconciled with the social nature of learning?
  • What are the implications of technology supported learning and PLEs for social equity within education?
  • What sort of technological infrastructure should the education system be providing for learning?
  • If content is increasingly created by teachers an learners and is open for access, how will we guarantee quality?
  • Does increasing learner control and autonomy spell the end of centralised curricula?


  • How dude, where’s my data?’

Click ‘more’ to find out how you can take part.

The seminar will be held in Athens on 27 April, 2007 (venue to be announced), hosted  by Ergon KEK and will take place between 10.30 and 1700.  We would like all participants to prepare a position paper prior to the event.  The paper should be no more than 2 pages A4 and should contain the following type of information:  Your name and your affiliation (company, university, etc)  An overview of how you see the current situation regarding the theme of the seminar  What you see as the key issues at stake and the obstacles to progress  Your initial thoughts on what needs to be done  Your initial recommendations, if you have any, for possible actions by the European Commission or national governments in terms of policy and/or actions to be funded  Web links to reports, studies or other information you feel is worth referencing  We regret no funding is available for travel and accommodation. However, we are happy to say we will provide lunch for all those attending!  If you are interested in attending please email Graham Attwell – graham10 at

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