The Internet Is the Platform

The internet is the platform. Let me make that declaration.

I’ve spent the last four weeks trying to build the framework for technology at Island Pacific School, trying to figure out which tools we’ll have the students use for producing documents, spreadsheets, video, images, podcasts and so on. And then I tried to figure a way to put this all in one bucket using Moodle or Google sites or something like that.  There are plenty of options in each category, but the staff and I felt it important to choose one and make it the school standard or default tool.

But after a couple good conversations with @pamcoun @prawsthorne and @chriscorrigan I thought, “Who cares?” Working on the web is not about putting content somewhere, it’s about connecting it. I don’t think it matters where or how a student produces and shares a video, using Kaltura or iMovie, as log as they make one and show it to me. After all, I don’t ask all of you to put your content in a convenient format or place for me to read; I go out and connect it myself using RSS, FriendFeed and so on. Or I let the web sort out the translation problems–my browser will let me watch all kinds of video formats. So why should I ask my students to work within specific platforms?

I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to that question. The need to standardize seems tied up with ideas of control, not good pedagogy, and whenever that issue comes up we need to ask where is the locus of control in the school and does that get in the way of good teaching? So, going forward from my declaration that the internet is the platform, the first thing I’m going to do when classes start again in the fall is let my students decide which tools to use for any given task. The only criteria is that we can somehow connect the content together.

6 Comments

  1. Reply
    Graeme Campbell July 26, 2009

    I agree that it would be nice if we could have students use whatever tool they want, and agree that if they wanted to use one we aren't using, they should be able to.That being said however, I think that if we provide them with too many options, or worse, too many different tools, many wont know where to start. The benefit that I saw with Google Apps is that they only have to learn one platform, and it all connects through that. The “tech savvy” students will be quite happy fiddling around with three or four different programs, choosing which they like best, and using those. I believe however that those are in the minority in any school, and the majority of students will expect the educator to tell them which tool they are using, so they only have to “learn” one thing.I think that giving them the choice will be good, but I suspect that only a few of them will take you up on the offer – many more will do what their friends have chosen, and then only because those friends chose it “randomly” from a list.Should we standardize? No. Will we end up standardizing – I think so, but it will be fun to see!

  2. Reply
    Braddo July 27, 2009

    But what if it wasn't a choice; that is what if an important part of the assignment was selecting a tool, trying it out and reflecting on how well it suited the task. If things went well, the student might add it to a list, say on Diigo. This way the student has to search out tools, try them out, evaluate them and make a decision about future use–all high order thinking skills on top of whatever else is required by the assignment. I see this as a rich opportunity.I simply don't accept a.) we let the majority of students opt out of the work b.) that good teachers would let that happen.If we do standardize at the end of the day because the crowd has determined that one tool is better than another, that's fine. That's not at all the same thing as settling for some default.

  3. Reply
    Graeme Campbell August 4, 2009

    I agree completely – I think that it would be great to have students try out different tools. My only concern was that in your example, unless you said “Students 1-5, use this tool, Students 6-10 use this tool” then a group of friends will generally allow a dominant member to choose a tool, and then follow along with the friend who learns it. Theoretically it could work out very well – two non-tech students are friends, pick a tool, and have to learn it together, but I suppose we can only hope that's what happens.The person who picked the tool will get fantastic experience with it, because I they will be teaching their friends how to use it. The followers, unless forced to choose a DIFFERENT tool, will simply allow the friend, or the teacher, to teach them how to use it.If there is some way to get people to, as Mrs. Frizzle says, “Get Messy, Make Mistakes!” when it comes to technology, I'm all ears – it would make the learning so much better :)

  4. Reply
    Braddo August 5, 2009

    No doubt there would have to be a bit of give and take, depending mostly on age and development; and the way teachers coach and evaluate their use of the tools would be important. The point is to keep their focus on content and delivery, not the technology. But this is exactly the idea. It's going to be a fun new term with you.

  5. Reply
    Hélène September 29, 2009

    Very interesting. You know, you would probably take something away from the book Everything Is Miscellaneous (http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com/) It’s a fascinating read about information and the way we organize it (or maybe shouldn’t) and the power of messy systems in this 3rd age of information. 

  6. Reply
    Brad Ovenell-Carter September 30, 2009

    Thanks for the tip, Hélène. I’ll track doewn a copy.

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