Odds are pretty good that if you're talking about changes to teaching and learning that the new Read/Write Web is bringing about, many of the words you are using start with "C." There's a whole new world out there with a whole new set of skills our kids need to manage. I guess you could call it a "C change."
The ways in which we communicate are changing daily. Phones are not just for talking; they're for texting, creating and sharing multimedia content, and for computing. E-mail is already just for us old folks, but as we become more connected, instant communications will rule the day. Are we currently instructing our staff and students how to become effective and ethical users of cell phones, instant messaging, blogs and the like?
Information is being generated at an incredible rate, and we have little hope of being able to make sense of it all by ourselves. That's why it's crucial that we teach our students to make long-lasting connections to trusted sources and filters on the Internet. We need to produce students who are skilled at making and sustaining these connections. For example, Clarence Fisher's students in Manitoba are building global networks through the use of blogs.
From Wikipedia to open source software, millions of people are working together on the Web to produce a variety of free tools and resources. This is the new spirit that the Web is fostering. Our students will live and work in a world where co-creation is the norm, and there is much to teach them about that process. The "Flat Classroom Project" teams up students from Bangladesh and Georgia to study the ways in which technology is changing the world.
We can create and publish as easily as we read, and we must teach our students to leverage this ability and add their own work to the global conversation in meaningful ways. If the bulk of what we ask our students to do centers around paper passed back and forth in the classroom, we are doing our students a grave disservice. In contrast, Marco Torres's students at San Fernando (Calif.) High School create promotional pieces for local bands and video projects that become public service announcements on television.
The Web certainly opens us up to all sorts of conversations on a global scale. But this new Web also makes it easier to tap into resources just down the road as well. There are mentors in our midst, local stories to be told, and a rich trove of resources with information about our schools and our communities we can now bring to our districts classrooms with ease.
Learning is now a 24/7/365 activity. As a result, we now have the opportunity to teach students to be lifelong learners and to create their own independent learning practice they can carry with them. Effective and ethical strategies for organizing the surrounding world are therefore crucial for educators to model and teach. For example, students at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia continue discussions and collaborate online at any time, day or night.
One of the most profound shifts we are undergoing is the move from a passive, consumer-based culture to a participatory, production-based culture. To continue to approach schooling from a content delivery model puts us at risk of quickly becoming irrelevant.
Will Richardson is a contributing editor to District Administration and The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate.