It seems like I'm constantly being exposed to programs that open up the world of possibilities to me. For the last three Tuesdays, I've been 'attending' an EC&I 831 class with Alec Couros through the power of Elluminate! I'm not even really sure who everyone in the class is because it is an open class; that is, anyone in the world with access to the Internet can participate. Today, we had people on from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Luxembourg, and yes even Canada, including someone from Toronto; I believe we had 32 participants today and many of the visitors contributed valuable ideas to the discussion. It was a powerful demonstration about the power of a Synchronous ("Live") Session and highlighted the idea that we can learn from anyone in the world if we can arrange times and forums in which to meet. Elluminate is one such forum that gives learners a place to meet with teacher guides; it also is one program that proves you do not need mortar and bricks to have a place to educate people.
Tonight, our session was on an Overview of Connectivism (George Siemens). Siemens made the point that people are interacting differently because of technological advances. He also made the point that Web 2.0 is just another advance in a long line of technological improvements. It was a good connection to last week's session on the history of technology in Education that can be found by clicking on the link Introduction to Educational Technology (Richard Schwier & Jay Wilson). However, as good as the formal presentation was, the idea I heard tonight that I am most interested in came from an Aussie, 'rhysatwork', who wrote about the idea of the 'attention economy'. It intrigues me because I sometimes wonder if the world wide web is little like television; I mean televison is very good at commanding attention but often for meaningless programs while educational programs get little attention. Is this the Internet today? Programs like Facebook and Bebo grab a lot of attention as people share often insignificant details of their daily lives while the opportunity to learn meaningful lessons like the one we had today are largely ignored by the masses. It seems to me that those who are able to grab attention are those that influence popular culture and even political opinions!
I'm not sure we are at the point that George Siemens suggests we are; that is that 'people' are communicating differently and the PR spin campaigns are no longer controlling opinions as they once did. I think we need to qualify people with the word 'some'. I believe there is a movement, perhaps a significant movement, of people headed this way, but at the same time I know there are still Luddites among us and many Internet users who are just seeking information. They are non-participants in the exchange of ideas on the web. I know this because I was one of those people who lurked but held back. Maybe the day will come when it changes globally; right now I believe it is mostly a western world phenomenon that excludes people living in totalitarian countries, those who are poor, and those who are disadvantaged. Though the numbers of participants on the web continues to grow, we need to emphasize that only some people are buying into the world of Web 2.0 at least for now. I do agree though that it is only going to grow and the influence of Web 2.0 is going to change life as we know it today. For some, the change has happened.