The greatest invention since sliced bread?

The extent of the hype around Web 2.0 in education seems even to dwarf the hype around Web 2.0 itself. Numerous times I've encountered enthused reports along the lines of "this is truly the future of education!!" which tell us of a Skype conversation between a few people, or of a podcast. With all due respect (and I'm convinced that cellular phones have an important role to play in the future of education, though that's a topic for a perhaps future column) all we're really talking about here is a telephone conversation, or making what we used to call a tape recording. More often than not, what actually happens is that the Skype conversation, or the podcast, is a string of Wow's and Cool's and Boy, can we do something with this's, rather than an actual use of the tool.

But as I write this I'm well aware that I'm being somewhat unfair. After all, I'm not an outside observer, but someone who to a great extent identifies with the camp I'm criticizing. Quite a number of years of experience have brought me to the belief that the basics of education aren't, and won't be, changed because of the integration of internet technologies into the classroom. On the other hand, I'm firmly convinced that if today the possibility exists for the realization of a constructivist approach to learning on a broad scale, it's because of the opportunities that internet technologies offer us. The internet is perhaps the best thing that could have happened to constructivism - it's precisely what such an educational approach was waiting for. If the internet didn't exist, constructivism would have had to create it. Constructivism, however, doesn't posit that we simply plop our pupils down inside the sandbox and wait around until they start constructing the Taj Mahal. We still have to nudge them, to point them in the right direction. And we have to give them sustenance for the journey - a rich enough background so that they can start making intelligent decisions. Too much of what the blog evangelists seem to be writing seems to assume that our pupils already have these capabilities. And as much as I'd like to agree with that assumption, my experience tells me otherwise.

Go to: A magic strand?