Reflections – It’s a flat world
Trends past and future
Thomas Friedman (2007) in his book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century draws our attention to a reality that has crept up on us. Like the frog in a pan of gradually heated water, we have not paid attention to the flattening of the world by ten key drivers. Each driver has built on the other gaining momentum and changing the way we do business, study and research, connect socially, share and create knowledge and other artefacts. By flat, Friedman means the global, competitive playing field has become as flat as a sports field or the screen of a computer (p.7-8).
Flattener number two, the World Wide Web and age of connectivity, has had a significant impact on education and scholarly practices. When the World Wide Web become available to the public in the 1990s Web 1.0 was born. Content was uploaded by those who had access to a website and the web was an electronic substitution for the printed book. Web 1.0 was an information portal where users accessed information. Today, in the 21st century’s technologically rich learning environment, content and services are free (Conole, 2013, p.13). Web 2.0 is a media rich and social environment which invites participation and creation of content. Platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook and blog sites such as WordPress and Wix provide easy to use tools and platforms to build and share content. However, new digital literacies are needed to navigate, engage and source information in this new web-based culture (Jenkins, 2009).
Working as a learning designer at a University in an affluent developed country, I am able to design learning activities that utilise Web 2.0 technologies and platforms. I build courses in code and am able to design for learners, who for the most part, have access to desktop and mobile devices which are able to access modern web browsers. Friedman’s work has served to focus my design intentions to design authentic learning activities which include inquiry-based activities and flipped learning that expose students to collaborating, participating and working in online spaces and results in learner-generated knowledge rather than relying on educator-generated content.
Web 2.0 by way of its participatory and connected culture has benefitted scholarship practices by providing tools and platforms to collaborate and share knowledge. Virtual communities provide ways of connection in synchronous and asynchronous ways not previously possible (Fulda, 2000) and Open Educational Resources (OERs) provide access to tools and platforms for educators to create and share resources independently of their institutions. Tools such as eduCommons and CNX are examples of platforms which support the content creation and distribution of OERs. Learners are able to access content from experts via Massive Online Open Course (MOOCs) and collaborate with peers globally if they have access to the internet. The world is flat for those who have access to digital technology and platforms
The INF537 Colloquiums are an example of this open, participatory, scholarly practice of sharing and collaborating in digital spaces.
My case study which investigated the uptake of digital technology in Vanuatu, provided first-hand experience of what it means to study in an environment where the affordances of Web 2.0 tools and technologies is not part of the education landscape yet. If I had not had access to the library databases via my workplace or University I would have been severely disadvantaged whilst overseas. The local public library only had old donated copies of old fiction and non-fiction printed materials. The only computer was at the front desk and patrons sat inside a large, dark room around old wooden tables. As a former librarian I was saddened at the state of information provision and resources on Efate island. I am privileged to find a public library in all suburbs in Brisbane equipped with a variety of print and electronic resources and equipment for me to access. Like the public library, the Vanuatu Institute of technology (VIT) similarly is resource and equipment poor.
As a learning designer I would not be able to prepare students via activities such as blogging, vodcasting or direct them to content-rich websites. Nor would I be able to support the educators to deliver their teaching in online spaces.
Importance of digital literacy for students and educators
In this Least Developing Country (LDC) infrastructure and educational systems need to focus on connecting the people to the global community to drive economic recovery. Education needs to transition from Web 1.0 behaviours which focus on information provision to Web 2.0 behaviours which build capacity in students and educators to collaborate and participate in online communities and share and access knowledge. Instructional methods that provide opportunities to participate in discussion forums, skype sessions and blogging, are foundational to learning how to communicate in the flat learning world. However, only 7% of the country has access to the internet. The ISP Digicel has partnered with the government to provide connection to 98% of the country by 2018. With the speed Web 2.0 technology and tools are evolving, and Web 3.0 in the wings, digital literacy skills are critical to position the students and educators of Vanuatu to participate, collaborate, innovate and create in this rapidly developing environment. As a learning designer and former librarian my goal is to seek opportunities where I can design and deliver information and digital literacy training in Vanuatu.
Web 3.0 is the next web where Tim Berners-Lee wants everybody to put data on the web and this data will be linked. Lee calls this linked data. The internet is made up of diverse data and Berners-Lee advises that there are three rules which govern the new Web 3.0 of linked data.
- HTTP is a name – http is no longer just used for documents but for people and products and events; there are conceptual things have names that start with http.
- HTTP protocol retrieves data – Using the http protocol from the web to search for data currently retrieves data in a standard format which is relevant to my search
- Data contains relationships – When this information is accessed, this data contains more than facts, it contains relationships. And the other person, event or thing that is related to the retrieved data has a http name. I can mine down even further and link to this new data which is connected to my original search. So the more data that is connected, the more powerful it is.
Berners-Lee uses the example of drug discovery and the power of scientists to share data on genomics and protein and linking this data to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s.
The internet has enabled connectivity on the World Wide Web to a vast amount of information. The challenge for educators is to become skilled and authentic participants in this learning environment to build capacity in students to enable them find, evaluate and use this data from the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ (Surowiecki, 2004)
Conole, G. (2013). Designing for Learning in an Open World. Explorations in the Learning Sciences, Instructional Systems and Performance Technologies, 5. New York: Springer.
Friedman, T.L. (2007). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Fulda, J.S. (2000). The Internet as an Engine of Scholarship. Computers and Society, March.
Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Part One)[weblog]. Retrieved http://henryjenkins.org/2006/10/confronting_the_challenges_of.html
Pennystocks.La (2015). The Internet in Real-Time. Retrieved http://pennystocks.la/internet-in-real-time/
Steele, H. (2015). Field Notes from Efate Vanuatu. Retrieved http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hyacinth/2015/09/15/field-notes-from-efate-vanuatu/#more-202
Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of the crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economics, societies and nations. New York: Anchor Books.