I have been doing a little bit of catch up in PLENK2010. Considering some of the future trends and directions that the web might take reminds me of just how much we tend to overestimate the near term and underestimate the long term.
After recently giving my students the Nicholas Carr article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” to my high school freshmen English classes and asking them to write about it, I have been thinking about how the Internet has been developing. It was interesting to get a window into the thinking of fourteen year-olds on the topic the impact of the Internet. A few had some keen perceptions, like wondering why Carr didn’t consult anyone there age that had grown up with the Internet their whole lives. It was a fair point, after all it is precisely kids of their generation that are likely to be responsible for the next seismic shift in Internet development.
In the meantime, I am not sure how many major jumps we are likely to experience with the eXtended web, xWeb, or whatever it is likely to be called, in the near term. There does seem to be a clear momentum towards the increased application and extensibility of data. So perhaps it will be akin to the Web 2.0 blogging evolution, which simplified the ability for people without extensive coding ability to use tools that allowed them to publish with relative ease. Perhaps, people will be able to use and manipulate data with greater ease, without the need to have actuarial mathematic understanding. The rise in certain aspects of mashup culture would suggest this to me.
Additionally, it seems to me that those most prepared to benefit from all of this are large corporate entities. As more and more data is collected that facilitates some of these evolutions of the web, completely redefining our notion of privacy, it seems to me that it cedes a lot of power to entities like Google, Facebook, and the next iteration of their like. This leads me to believe that the near term is likely to be more of a slower creeping, rather than a significant leap. Of course, it only takes one remarkable breakthrough that emerges as if out of nowhere, that could radically disrupt this notion.
So how will this impact education and educational practice? For one, I think it increasingly complicates things on a fundamental level. The breadth and depth of understanding, as well as the number of skills involved in learning, is swelling at an extraordinary rate. I liken it to the difference between what a medical student needed to know to become a doctor twenty years ago versus the volume of information required today. Perhaps, a better contrast would be the difference between a medical doctor and a veterinarian.
Plus, existing educational disciplines do not provide easy accommodation, at least at the secondary level. A lot of the new knowledge and skills that will quickly become necessary for students don’t easily fit into existing departments. My concern would be that some technology or computer class becomes a kind of junk drawer of classes, in which an institution tries to jam everything. That scenario worries me a little.