There is a saying among Wikipedians that the problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it’s a total disaster. This summarize pretty well how Wikipedia has developed since its beginning. Anyone, old, young or Internet troll can edit, destroy, delete or simply make up stuff and post it on the site.
It does sounds like a recipe for making an absolute mess of unreliable information, because people will take advantage of these freedoms, right? They will abuse the system because they can, that’s how things work, or?
It’s hard to argue against that Wikipedia has been a huge success story, because there has been vandalism and issues but bots and moderators have quickly restored the pages, and the trolls have tired and gone home. Even deliberate large scale “attacks” have not really resulted in any lasting problems.
But ANYONE can write there how can there possibly be any good quality? No ones disagree to that a professor at a good university is better qualified to write about research topics then a high school student. But something that is overlooked on the other hand is how an average person can create a high quality research article with a bit of help, some templates and when he/she feel an ownership over what’s being created.
Wikipedia have shown that there seem to be a disconnect between the quality that the people believe will happen and what actually is the result. This is not to say that there are no problem, because there are, but in the grand scheme of things have been working very well many steps have been taken to improve them further.
But perhaps the real lesson learnt is not stopping at Wikipedia, perhaps Internet is not so full of hate as we believe, perhaps we are better than we believe, as long as we get a template, a purpose and get to take some ownership over what we create?
The 1% rule of thumb for Internet participation has been around for a while but it is as important as ever. The rule point to a trend that only about 1% of the Internet user are responsible for actually creating content, about 9% participate and the other 90% are users that just lurk. I am sure this number could be increased slightly today because YouTube and other Web2.0 sites have helped us to more easily participate. But there is still a long way to go to fulfil the vision of a Internet where everyone is a contributor. I do think the start of this change should be in the classroom.
First I think schools need to become better at explaining why being an contributor on Internet is important and the kind of threats that Internet has been under throughout it’s history. The internet plays such a huge role in our lives yet it’s still an area which is pretty much untouched in schools. Is the history being thought? How does it work? Why is it important to protect? These things are not being addressed in schools at the moment.
I recently read this article in Engadget based around Dr. Liss Kerstin Sylvén from the University of Gothenburg and Dr. Pia Sundqvist from Karlstad University research about the positive impact multiplayer games can have on learning language. Most of the English that I know today comes from thousands and thousands of hours of playing online games and there is no way that I would have become an International teacher if not for this experience. So these findings are not new to me, but people I talk to still seems unaware that a big portion of the language learning that our students do stem from online gaming.
A key to language learning where ever it take place is of course motivation. What am I going to use this new language for? Why do I have to learn it? Gaming is good in that way that it gives the players a huge motivation to learn and understand the game and the players around them. Because if they don’t it’s going to be hard for them to actually part take fully in the game, and the players know it.
The 25th Internaut day was just a few days ago. This means it was merely 25 years ago since Tim Berners-Lee made his own little project the World Wide Web open to the public, and forever changed the world. It’s significance on how we communicate and learn can not be overstated. His visions of an open Internet, where information flows freely and where everyone is not only a user but also a participator, not only made WWW possible but also put it onto the right track to become a Internet that is for everyone.
I don’t think many people these days really understand how Internet could have taken a completely different path, a path where words like connectivism would not even exist. Blogs, Wikis, Google, Facebook and YouTube are all example things most likely would not exist if the Web would have been created with business in mind. The fact that it was created in a language that everyone could quickly master made this possible, HTML. This fact have had a profound impact on how we learn new things. These days if I face a problem I rarely think it’s impossible not to do, as long as I have time and Internet I can tackle almost any problem. And the same thing is true for our students, perhaps specially them because they are Internet natives. But much is still needed to be done in curriculums and classroom around the world to better accommodate this change in the teachings we do. With the 25th anniversary just passing I think it’s high time for things to start changing, Internet is not a new thing anymore and our education should try to get up to speed with these changes.