June 02, 2006

Stephen Downes concludes: how I became (blog) literate

Stephen Downes, even with jetlag, is a charming presenter. We also have a lot in common, although my hair in no match for his. Stephen, like me, spent time (far too much time perhaps) writing in the student newspaper. Like me, Stephen learned how to type and listen at the same time in the student newspaper (I learned on the Pink sports report, which is no longer produced, sadly). And like me, Stephen became literate accidentally, through writing for pleasure.

What do we do when we read and listen? We fill in the blanks, listening out for what we get and inferring the rest. Literacy, Stephen argues using Thomas Kuhn, is filling in those blanks, knowing what to fill them in with. There must be a link here between literacy and culture, in order to know with what we fill these gaps.

Control appears to be the central cultural reference when we talk about social software in education (for once I stopped typing and may have got the wrong end of the stick - Stephen will correct me). Throughout the sessions today control was a hot topic and a tension. There is hierarchy and control built into every structure of the modern world, particularly in education, so there is a tension between working within the current system and working with what works. Barbara Ganley this morning said at one point that she had almost started to give up hope with this tension forever coming round to haunt her - "we can't do anything and we can do everything".

Change is not going to be us. The revolution is not going to be us. (Ben Hammersley would disagree). We will be the writers of the end of a generation as our students take on the change and revolution. So what is education doing to prepare the ground for these revolutionaries? We teach them to use spreadsheets, databases, what hyperlinks are and how to operate their mobile phone. We make them aware of content that is out there.

Of course, we teach ourselves things all the time and have to relearn things. When we see something we don't understand there's a gap in our learning - and when it's a gap we can't fill we see danger. And social software represents a gap. And it's a gap people find hard to fill. And so they see danger.


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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