I came across an interesting blog post by Stephen Downes, an educator from New Brunswick, Canada, that talks about the possible impact of Web 2.0 on contemporary education. I think he's worth our consideration in the class.
In this post, Downes is rebutting a complaint by blogger Gary Stager that the influence and impact of Web 2.0 technologies are little more than hype. First, Downes rebuts Stager's complaint that "Web 2.0 tools come out of corporate, not academic, cultures with very different motives." Stager suggests that these business or social tools don't have a place in education.
Downes disagrees. He says that "the division between the 'academic culture' and the 'corporate culture' misses the point. In fact, traditional academia and business share a great deal in common - structures, authorities, leaders, standards, scale, mass production, uniformity, and more. The 'school' is the perfect blend of academic and corporate culture, and as such, is everything you would expect; compartmentalized, rigid, authoritarian.
What Web 2.0 represents … is the rejection of that [compartmentalized, rigid, authoritarian structure], on both the corporate and the academic levels. 'Decentralizing decision-making' has the same essential logical structure as 'personalizing learning'. New types of collaboration (not 'teams') in the corporate world resemble new types of collaboration (not 'classes') in academia.
Yes, the edges are blurred. Yes, traditional corporations with vested hierarchies and old-school models of economics try to play in the Web 2.0 world. … And just so, some people in education who are still invested in the teacher-and-school model of learning try to present themselves as Web 2.0. … But proponents of traditionalism - cast in a guise like 'School 2.0' - should not be mistaken for what they are not."
Downes seems to be saying that in terms of structure, academic and corporate cultures are similar and that the new Web 2.0 technologies can change the mode of operation and structures of both academic and corporate cultures from command-and-control hierarchies to collaborative networks. We might say, then, that just as computers or typewriters or pen and paper have been useful technologies in both corporate and academic cultures, then Web 2.0 can be useful in both. And just as those earlier technologies changed the structures and modes of operation of both corporate and academic organizations, so will Web 2.0 technologies.
So, then, is Downes consistent with our text, Wikinomics, or would Tapscott & Williams disagree that Web 2.0 will change academic cultures as it is changing corporate cultures? What about other cultures–government, church, family, etc? Will Web 2.0 change those cultures as well? Which cultures will resist change the most? Which will change first? What happens to our traditional ideas of leadership when our cultures begin shifting from a command-and-control hierarchy to a collaborative network? Are you ready for this change? Is the world? Is it inevitable? Will we ever totally do away with hierarchical structures in the ways that we live and think? Is GCSU really moving toward a collaborative network structure, or is it just dabbling with some of the Web 2.0 technologies while keeping its command-and-control hierarchy?