Interesting Bits from 2006

G’Day Fellow Year-End Revellers,
In the spirit of re-capping 2006, I’m weighing in with quirky twists that I think portend the end of “school-as-we-know-it.” Certainly the biggest story of 2006 is the emergence of Web 2.0 (audio discussion) and the flourishing that followed Tim O’Reilly’s What Is Web 2.0.But I like to get a feel for the littler moments within the grander sweep to sense which way the wind might be blowing for education. With that in mind here are my top five interesting bits for 2006.1) Early in the year the Wikipedia vs. Britannica battles began. The skirmish was well-documented with a little fudging room on either side of the debate, but the key point for me was not the 162 versus 123 flaws in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively, but that within a week, Wikipedia’s errors had been corrected. How long before the next edition of EB?

2) Biting the hand that feeds them… When a UK security firm discovered a high frequency tone that drove away teen-aged loiterers, the teens turned the annoying sound into the Mosquitone, a ringtone that only youths can hear. When asked what schools should do about the scenario of kids phones going off in class and teachers not being able to hear it, one said, “hire more young teachers.” Ouch, but true?

3) Corruption as a sign of maturity… Most commentators are anointing You Tube as the big story of 2006. I’d point to a sign of its maturity even within its short lifetime. As Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth gained traction world-wide, a PR firm working for energy producers got caught when they used YouTube for “Astro Turf”, the false presentation of what appears to be a “grassroots” up-rising. To me this is just one more padlock on the gates of the Factory School. Inquiry always trumps “information.”

4) Mashup as Art… Another popular sensation this year has been the emergence of Mashups. The most well-known examples often include Google Maps and other databases (wikis, classified ads, etc.). One that is close to my sensibility is Jonathan Coulton’s “Flickr”, a song that seems to begin like any other alternative folk song and then morphs into a post-modern collage of images drawn from people’s Flickr galleries. Here’s the kicker for education: what grade would you give this song if a student turned it in?

5) The New WWW & addiction… Finally, I’ve been predicting / watching the development of new forms of addiction as we enter into an era of the New WWW (Whatever, Whenever, Wherever). An archetypal example this year wasn’t when a hardcore World of Warcraft leader abdicated, but the 234 pages of heart-wrenching comments that followed the post. No wonder some call it “World of WarCrack”. Our task isn’t to bemoan, but to model what it means to be happily human. Not always easy, is it?

That’s it for me. I hope you all have a great holiday season and a terrific 2007.


(this post was cross-listed on the InfiniteThinkingMachine Blog)

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