Activist Workshop in Web 2.0

Using GIS and Other Technologies to Grow Student Activism

Archive for January, 2009

Web 2.0: Conversations not Information Repository

Posted by Tamara Hagen on 1 January 2009

So this morning I get up and (proudly) log in to GoogleReader.  I say proudly because this is the second time I’ve tried to use a RSS aggregator and the last go round I never remembered to check it. But this time is different — I set it up just yesterday and I’m checking it today. Go me!

Yesterday I spent hours adding blogs related to education (18) and then skimming ALL of the posts and starring the ones I really wanted to read (only 52).   Next step reading the starred posts … [phone rings]. Well I never got back to GoogleReader, but I told myself  “I will read those posts New Year’s Day” (lol – no procrastination there).

So … back to the present and the two new posts.  Still haven’t read the starred posts but I’m trying to build the habit of checking daily so I don’t get content overload so I’ll start with the new ones.  Steve Hargadon has a short post for a widget that ranks your top blog posts, so I then proceed to read those posts.  The title of his 14th best post,  “The Solution to Content Overload” catches my eye since I’m feeling smug about the fact that my new usage of GoogleReader will mean I’m not overloaded by content.

Short interruption here — in addition to blogging I’m trying Twitter after reading Will Richardson’s “Welcome to the Twitterverse” section in the second edition of “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts.”  I’m skeptical it will be a good educational tool but I’m exploring the possitibilites.  It is at this point in my morning that I realize that I didn’t log in to Twitter and I do so.  I’m immediately hit with multiple posts even though I’m only following two people, Will Richardson and Suzie Boss, who are authors of the books that inspired me to enter the Web 2.0 world. 

Processing these posts is bizarre.  As best I can tell it’s like evesdropping on a one-sided river of conversations.  You only know half of the story. I try clicking on “willrich45”  to see if that helps bring me more of the conversation since most of the posts are from him.  This just leads to more confusion since he follows / is following thousands of people.  I’m intrigued by evesdropping on what seems like a discussion of 21st century literacy, which is something that interests me.  “bengrey” is a dominant voice so I click on him.  The stream of conversation flows on … 

Just a Reminder — I still haven’t read Hargadon’s article on content overload in GoogleReader.  I’m off on a side-trip in the Twitterverse.

Something catches my eye … a reference to an article!  I don’t have any idea what article they are referring to but  I feel reconnected to a familiar literacy, one that involves paper at some point in the publshing process.  Desperately seeking that article I click on bengray’s correspondent “AngelaMaiers”.  But the article is not mentioned.  😦

While I’m there I notice a post about Twitter being the whiteboard  for blog post brainstorming that  ends with “you make me smarter, coach”.  I desperately need a coach right now since I’m lost in the Twitterverse so I click on “AngelaMaiers” web page.  Her most recent blog post is about Twitter success so I bookmark her page with Diigo (another “new to me” tool) and go back to her Twitter page. 

I decide to leave Twitter since I still don’t understand how to use the conversations I’m evesdropping in on.  Finally (4 hours later) I’m back to the post on content overload …

Steve Hargadon  said “We will drive ourselves crazy if we continue to think of the Web as an ever-growing repository of information to consume. …  as the Web grows it is becoming less about accumulation and aggregation of content, and more and more a vehicle for participating in engaged learning conversations (both synchronous or asynchronous). … And when we teach content creation we are actually teaching the ability to take part in these conversations.”

So here’s the irony … I started my day actively managing the content overload but I was still overwhelmed.   Steve argues that the paradoxical solution to content overload is to create content.  In essence, we become better consumers by becoming editors/publishers of information.

But today my sense of an overload came from  my attempts to enter the conversation using Twitter.  I felt like I was evesdropping on conversations I wanted to enter, but I wasn’t confident enough to do so.  Since I was only seeing fragments of the whole conversation I was afraid that I would duplicate a comment, making my entry into the conversation redundent.  If so, no one would respond to that redundent comment, which means effectively that I am NOT part of the conversation.

There is further irony in the fact that my attempts to enter the conversation actually led to an increase in the amount of information waiting for my consumption.  Now I feel that I need to know more about how Twitter works in order to enter the conversation.

As a teacher all of this makes me wonder how my students will feel as they attempt to enter these critical conversations that will define their futures.  I teach in a public high school where the majority of my students are on the wrong side of the achievement gap.  Most would be considered “digital immigrants” because they have not been immersed in technology 24/7.   These factors have the potential to make it even harder for my students to enter the conversation than it was for me.   Twitter seemed like a good entry point since it requires short posts and could be done using cell phones (homework that might actually be completed) but now I’m not so sure.

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