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Developing a post-web-2.0 strategy for learning – a twitter conversation

September 16th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I moaned on twitter this evening about the intrusive advertising now showing on Slideshare. Fairly obviously, Slideshare are trying to persuade people to sign up for the recently introduced Premium Accounts. The end of free is in sight with many social software providers turning to premium account models in an attempt to monetize services (or at least pay for bandwidth). And of course this was bound to happen. Whilst in the initial days of Web 2.0, service providers could make money on advertising by poaching advertising budgets from print publications, there has to be a point where advertising money runs out, especially in a recessions.

But this provides a big challenge for using technology for teaching and learning. the last two years has been a period of great innovation, with an increasing focus on pedagogy, rather than technology per se. That in turn has been facilitated by teachers (and learners) being able to themselves choose what applications to use, free from institutional diktat be it by managers, accountants or systems administrators. whilst the cost of premium accounts is generally low (although interestingly not for high bandwidth applications such as video streaming), teachers and learners are going to be forced to decide which of the many available services they wish to subscribe to. And most teachers do not have access to a budget for applications. So does power return to the managers? Will we be forced back to the Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Platforms so beloved of systems admins.

In a series of tweets Scott Wilson suggested “we need a new post-web-2.0 strategy” and that “open source and the open web are going to be at the heart of it, and new partnerships with IT departments.” He pointed out that “IT departments are under pressure to cut costs and outsource services; this is a key leverage point and educational technologists may be able to help.”

Scott Leslie joined in the discussion, suggesting that my original tweet fearing a move from the free use of social software by teachers to managerial and IT administrator control “is a false dichotomy that confuses ‘Agency’ with ‘Autonomy’ – there’s a role for system-wide/inst….” He suggested “provisioned systems to replace the “free” ones, but done in ways that maximize learner/teacher agency and choice.” And as an example of such a strategy Carlos Santos proposed the SAPO Campus model. Scott Wilson agreed with Scott Leslie saying “also work on ensuring centrally managed platforms are extensible and flexible for adding new edu tools and apps (even sharepoint!).”

An interesting discussion and one that urgently needs to be taken forward. I wonder if this could be continued as part of the #PLENK2010 course?

2 Responses to “Developing a post-web-2.0 strategy for learning – a twitter conversation”

  1. Scott Leslie says:

    I agree that it’s an interesting discussion though it seems hardly a new one. I dislike the idea that this is a “post web 2.0” strategy because I think it conflates the lack of clear business strategy by commercial companies who started off (in a clearly unsustainably that is now increasingly evident) offering everything for free and are now folding or not free or adding some other tweak we don’t like, with all of the other aspects of “web 2.0 apps” (social, ajax-y, user-centric, network focused & scaled, open, etc) we might want to preserve.

    So how about instead a “Post-Naïve” strategy, that recognizes the vital importance of “free” *to the end users*, the value of network-effect enhancing scale, the importance of promoting strategies that enhance individual agency to the highest degree possible, etc., but that don’t simply rely on the (quickly disappearing) commercial services to provide this? How?

    Well, there are lots of (non-exclusive) ways that many of us have been pursuing – public sector entities, especially ones that provide services across institutional boundaries provisioning such services to whole populations or sectors; open source/open standards/distributed or federated or P2P approaches that allows for the interconnections of smaller (even as small as individual) installations into large aggregations [small pieces loosely or a little less loosely joined]; network access (along with storage) as not only a public good but a public right; national (and other) identity strategies that don’t serve the surveillance state but do allow for more persistent digital identity if you want to have one; etc.

    I don’t have a single set of examples to point to and say “this is the one way to do this” not only because there are *many* but because they are still evolving. But I am (as are others) increasingly developing skills to see the ones that will enhance the kinds of values I think are important and to weed out the ones that don’t, or at least to learn how to deploy them only tactically in ways that can keep them becoming less entrenched.

    The demise of “free” web 2.0 (as in beer) is only a temporary bump (and indeed an OPPORTUNITY) IF our reactions to it are not to run into the arms of corporations and other entities that offer free (as in beer) but with what ever other enclosing/agency-starving caveats it comes attached with.

    But this is where I think many in the PLE/network learning crowd go too far in their assumptions about the possibility of/need for TOTAL autonomy; the alternative to not succumbing to corporate control (nor institutional control) needn’t be full-on autonomous approaches (much as these seem ideal, they fall prey to their own utopianism and critique). There are myriad combinations in between, just like there are myriad forms of social connections, myriads ways people relate. The trick though, I think, is that one of these directions points to the foment of diversity, choice, agency, while the other points away from them. I know which direction I am heading in.

    (Sorry for the rant. I thought about just posting it on my own blog. Probably should have.)


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