The Essence of Web 2.0 Is By No Means Anything Technological

I’m borrowing from Martin Heidegger here. In his essay, The Question Concerning Technology, he says that our anxieties around technology is not so much the existence of technology itself or the forms it takes, but rather our orientation to technology. Or, as the University of Manitoba’s George Siemens says, technology is not neutral. (Heidegger, by the way is an important, but tough read; this guide helps.)

I’m speaking on this subject at the Canadian Association of Independent School’s Best Practices conference in Montreal today and tomorrow. My friend Richard Smith calls me an optimistic curmudgeon for my stick-in-the-sand stance against technology; and I do think that educators ought to be cautious in adopting new technologies. I’ve seen plenty of web 2.0 artifacts such as podcasts and video that haven’t engaged students in any higher order thinking than they might have had they used, well, a stick in the sand. Not that new media is inherently a bad thing; far from it. But we need to be able to see that a podcasted book report is still a book report–the game hasn’t changed.

Nevertheless,  it’s hard not to be excited these days. Not since Dewey has so much been going on in education. And never before have teachers had so much opportunity to get involved in the discussion. So it’s ironic for me–the optimistic curmudgeon–to see that schools are moving so slowly in making sense of emerging technologies.

I say “making sense,” not “making use,” because the real cause of the slow uptake comes from not understanding our relationship to technology and the ways it might reshape pedagogy. I’m not sure anyone has the answers yet; as Clay Shirky says, “the old stuff is breaking faster than the new stuff is put in its place.” But I do think it’s crucially important the schools get deeply into the conversation.

Here are the links to my slide deck and the set of bookmarks I’ve gathered in preparing for the talk.

CAIS-BP Conference Talk (Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint because it allows you to zoom in and out to reinforce context, something you can’t easily do in PowerPoint. But to be honest, I never find anyone else’s slide decks much use without their voice over; but here’s mine for those who do)

Delicious Bookmarks


  1. Reply
    Patrick May 1, 2009

    Your line, “it’s hard not to be excited these days. Not since Dewey has so much been going on in education. And never before have teachers had so much opportunity to get involved in the discussion,” is something that I have repeated to both new teachers and old teachers alike in the last two years. What I’ve noticed is that now, more than ever before, teachers not only have the opportunity for to have their voices heard, there is also more opportunity for collaboration among like-minded individuals in the teaching profession. Look at the work Dean Shareski is doing with his undergraduate teachers at University of Manitoba, where he requires them to collaborate with schools from all over North America–it’s dead simple anymore.The real test, for me, anyway, is proving to teachers I work with that participating in these conversations is worthwhile at all.

  2. Reply
    Technology in the Classroom | Our Kids Blog May 15, 2009

    […] student is doing. That’s one of the points Brad Ovenell-Carter makes, saying, for example, that if students prepare a book report as a podcast it’s still a book report. A few days ago I wrote about how PowerPoint isn’t necessarily appropriate for the […]

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