Tuesday, 7 July 2009

This is part of the work for my H800 course. We are asked to read Read Web 2.0 for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education by Tom Franklin and Mark van Harmelen on behalf of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, and then answer as below. Reflecting on this it is a traditional top down task dressed up in web technology in itself. But then maybe it is that for which we pay.

1. What proportion of people in different age groupings are doing more than reading the Web? (See the table on page 6.) I thought this rather interesting, see below for my interpretation of the data. I had previously supposed that the older fifth of the population (placed in one group here??) would have been more active. I also wondered if within any given group of contributors what the relative size and frequency of contributions were. There is other evidence which suggests that this might be quite disproportionate with some very frequent contributors and others who ‘pop something in’ from time to time.

2. What does this suggest about the experience of Web 2.0 that the majority of users have? Does it embody the claimed characteristics of Web 2.0 or is it closer to those of Web 1.0? (See section 2.5 of the report.) The suggestion is clearly that many users of Web 2 actually function at a web 1 level, there ‘contribution’ to the common weal is not readily apparent. It would be interesting to explore in greater depth the barriers to becoming a contributor. On one level some do not wish to develop an online persona due to personal preference, constraints of time and so on. However there is also evidence to suggest that users feel constrained form participating, worried that they might cause offence or upset some higher level debate of which they are unaware. Some, certainly amongst my students, are still finding their academic voice. It might also be that participation is not encouraged; one might suspect that this is all to do with the power relations in Higher Education. For example Wikipedia is widely held to be not to authoritative…and yet at times speaks with greater authority than many peer reviewed articles http://bit.ly/pTGp so one might wonder if what we see here is a power shift, with those losing power making loud complaint.

3. Do the reports of projects using ICT at the universities of Warwick, Leeds, Brighton, Edinburgh and Klagenfurt provide evidence in support of Martin Weller’s view that universities are creating a centralised and top-down version of technology in current applications to teaching and learning? In as much as several examples are ‘walled gardens’ yes: this keeps all knowledge and information inside the Universities control. This is something that I have discussed before, on courses that I tutor there was a migration of students from Monitored forums in First Class to a free forum using Facebook: the origins of the original break were because posts were being censored by the moderators (for containing critical comments about tutors, and this was quite clearly their expected role so does not reflect on them personally). Some tutors were actively engaged in discussing ways of preventing the formation of breakaway groups and there were clear issues about power and ownership involved. Institutions have a prime objective of self preservation: to let go too much might prejudice this.

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