Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘web 2.0

I’ve had a Netvibes account ever since Netvibes promised new ways of pulling and pooling content. But I abandoned it a while back when it did not deliver as much as I wished. I have renewed my interest in it because of a helpful comment from a visitor to my blog recently.

As a result of the suggestion, I have created publicly-accessible pages to all of my teacher trainees’ group blog entries and comments (see screenshot below, click for larger version).


What I like about the Netvibes format is that I can share not just the initial entries of my trainees but also their comments and responses. If they do not wish to subscribe via RSS, the URLs to those pages gives them a one-stop shop to get updates on what the other groups are discussing.

Of course they can visit their peer groups’ blogs directly, but new comments are not obvious. Furthermore, by visiting a page that gives them both a bird’s eye view and detailed views of their blogosphere, they can see who is contributing, who is not, what is being shared, etc.

Want to know how to do this yourself? Check out the Thinking Stick.

Now if there only some way to be able to “star” and markup select postings or comments like you might do in Google Reader or Kwout. This would allow me to highlight key concepts in the online space.

Ever wonder what the RSS feeds of my classes looks like?

I use Google Reader to follow the entries and comments in group blogs maintained by my teacher trainees. I also use Vienna on my Mac to track the total counts or to archive good postings (click image below to view larger version).


I opted to rename the feeds so that it makes sense to me. Instead of retaining the name of the blog, I label them by their course, tutorial group and subgroup. I keep track of the comments too because that is where the fun really begins!

BTW, the list of feeds might look long, but it is markedly shorter if you think about how I used to follow individual blogs of all my trainees in previous semesters!

New to RSS? Learn more about RSS at our class wiki. Then import the feeds using this XML file (right-click and save).

Video source

I’ll admit that I did not know what this year’s National Day Parade theme song (above) was because I don’t watch MediaCrap/MediocreCorp TV. I listened to and watched mrbrown’s remix first as soon as it was released (below) and then decided to look for the original.

Video source

I highlight these videos not to weigh in on “matters of national importance” but on one effect of Web 2.0. It’s largely about remixing what you find. This has already begun to challenge our notions of copyright, plagiarism, and intellectual property amongst other things.

The traditional way of doing things when “standing on the shoulders of giants” is to cite them. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Web 2.0 way of doing things is to mash things up, i.e., incorporating the work of others before you, and letting the Web denizens decide its worth. There is a certain transparency, democracy and even savagery in the latter process when the crowd critiques your work. I think that it is no less rigorous than being grilled by experts.

The other thing that struck me about the difference between the two videos was how, to date, the few-men show has garnered more views than the officially-backed version. Experts (specially chosen committees) don’t necessarily know what the people want to watch. People on the ground do.

Experts don’t necessarily make the best decisions too. After all, some committee or other decided that this year’s NDP theme should be “Come Together”. And the people on the ground sniggered.

Last year, a writer at The Atlantic asked Is Google Making Us Stupid? Recently another writer from the same publication wondered if the opposite was true. They might seem to be taking different sides, but they are really providing depth to the same coin.

The first author said:

the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

I found it somewhat ironic that he wrote an article that a digital native would likely skip. A persistent or struggling digital immigrant (the type that still licks a finger to turn a page) was more likely to read it all the way through. Maybe he was targetting the old school reader as his audience.

But the main issue beckons. There is value in different forms of reading. I agree that more people seem to read only on the surface because of media like mobile phone SMS, ticker-tape TV and the WWW. The need to skim or “power browse” has become necessary to deal with the way information is presented and the sheer amount of information that is now available.

Any educator or digital immigrant would tell you that once the skimming is done and something relevant is found, the reader should then read deeply and reflectively. But that is becoming a lost art. And it is inevitable. After all, how many of us still know how to plant crops and milk a cow the good old fashioned way? Technology has reduced our need to do these things so we can focus on other arguably more worthwhile tasks.

I am a realistic optimist, so I tend to agree more with the second author that technology will help us get smarter in our bid to survive as a species. We might seem to be losing some of our cognitive abilities (e.g., attention span) with the explosion of information but this is only a phase in our development. I’d also like to think that “we’ll move from a world of ‘continuous partial attention’ to one we might call ‘continuous augmented awareness.'” In other words, technology will not only allow us to get the information we need when we need it, it will also help us make sense of it. The author gave great examples in the form of customised travel itineraries and focused Twittering.

I am a bit surprised that there was no mention of Web 3.0 (the semantic Web) which I think is a critical stage in developing continuous augmented awareness. Rather than define Web 3.0, I’ll give an example of what I think it might look like.

Imagine that you are a parent of two children, one is a bright child and the other has special needs. You have a Facebook profile and a blog. You Google for a variety of information regularly (meal ideas, strategies for dealing with special needs, educational and enrichment activities, etc.) and participate in a loose but passionate community of parents on the Net. With Web 2.0, you generate information effortlessly, share it with others and respond to what they have to say. But there is still a lot of information that you need to look for and process.

With Web 3.0, only what is meaningful to you comes to you. As you search for information online, the engine is already aware that you are a parent of two very different kids because of what you post in Facebook, your blog and the forums you participate in. The search results (and even the ads that come with it) are more meaningful to you.

You may not even have to search for relevant information. You carry this information and, say, your shopping list with you in a mobile device when you go out. As you walk past a bookstore, a virtual display changes to highlight a help book or game that might be useful to your children. While doing groceries, you receive notifications on food items on your list that are on sale.

This is continuous augmented awareness. This is Web 3.0 (or even beyond it). This may scare advocates of privacy, but the notion of privacy depends on culture and it changes with time. I am looking forward to such a world because we will collectively want to make it this way, not because some Big Brother is forcing us.

Video source (MP4 version available at source)

How we change the world in this “ground up” manner is another story. But I think that the video above gives us a clue on how this is already happening. The video is long, but I think that it will be 60 minutes well spent. There was nothing about education is it, but it got me thinking about the world our children will be living in. Their education should prepare them as best as possible for their world, not ours.

Tom Barrett is an educator in the UK. If you follow his tweets, you will know that  he has Nintendo DSs and multitouch surface computers to use in his classroom. I envy him. But that it not why I am blogging.

Tom shared in his blog how he uses Google Docs (GD) to provide feedback on his students’ written work. He is also thinking of using GD to provide regular feedback to parents.

If more practitioners shared ideas like him, they would need next to no formal professional development. Every teacher would be helping some other teacher!

Every day I get a feed about how an organisation is adopting some form of Web 2.0. But it was surprising for me to read about the CIA and the US Army being so open to them.

Singapore has its own headlines on Web 2.0 too. A while ago Digital Life had a series on how various companies here used different forms of Web 2.0 to increase productivity, change work culture and practices, and so on. Those articles were presented in a positive but FYI kind of way.

Lately, there seems to be a negative tone to the headlines. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at a June 3, 2009 headline in the Straits Times:

Many firms 'forced to allow Web 2.0 surfing'

The same article in the online version of ST read:

When Web 2.0 attacks

Not selling enough newspapers, ST?

Sensationalism is not the way to go unless it wants to walk down the tabloid path of The New Paper. I’m certain that the ST is facing the same pressures of news publishers in other parts of the world, but stooping low is not a way to distinguish itself.

But I think that it has already begun its slippery descent. After all, the same publishing company gave birth to Stomp. The denizens that used to congregate and in-breed in Stomp seem to have wandered into ST Forum. A cursory glance at the responses to most readers’ letters will reveal a village idiot or three.

Have a gander at the creative ways people visualise Web 2.0 as they try to understand and represent it.

Click to see all the nominees!

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