I thought this was going to be an easy week as there was only one reading, A History of the Social Web. (Review to follow). I was looking forward to being able to get caught up on outlining the major themes for each reading from week 1 and 2 because I spent more time in the forums than I should have those 2 weeks. I also knew I had an assignment coming up so it would give me some time to work on it. My day and evening jobs had some major deliverables this week so it was looking manageable. Things looked rosy on Friday as I said, 1 reading.
Then low and behold I check out the Course wiki to find the hyperlink for the reading and I suddenly discover 2 more readings, one from George (8 pp) and an optional one from Stephen. George’s was at least written as an article so it has some sense to it. Stephen’s is a bibliography with almost zero context as to the usefulness or content of each link (Hint Stephen, perhaps a sentence or two to introduce each link? A little bit more user-friendly, or is that my job since this is in a Wiki site ) Just when I though I had a handle on things, here’s more work for the week. The least they could have done is left a placeholder on the Course Wiki that they were working on something that would eventually be linked in.
Now I am going to vent without swearing. I would add more readings whether required or optional once the course starts. Students need to know what the workload is up front. They make rational decisions based on course outlines and readings to decide if the content is what they want and if they have the time to do the work. In my 20 years of working as an educator, I have never added more readings to the course outline after the fact as a requirement to read. Yes, I sometimes point out new stuff I have run across, but I never add the required reading list. I usually try to work the new material into my lecture the first time, and then add it as a required the next time the course is run.
Now George and Stephen would likely argue that the process of Learning has to be dynamic and that if they suddenly trip across something that is utterly fantastic and should be included for a particular week, then they should do it. With a course this size, someone is bound to have insight into a study/article that George or Stephen may not have seen before. Following that logic, it would actually be irresponsible of them not to add it to the outline. I would say OK, but now you have to yank something out to compensate for the additional work. There, I said my piece about course management, now onto A History of the Social Web.
I looked forward to reading this article because I am a historian at heart with 2 Master of Arts degrees in History (Warfare Studies and Atlantic Canadian History). IT started of well with a good introduction, thesis and key points, and then it fell apart. Trebor Sholtz fell into the classic first year history student error of providing a temporal approach with very little analysis. Many of his short paragraphs began with a date, the antithesis of bad history. Many of his paragraphs stated some fact and then left the reader hanging as to the implications or the outcome (Cyclades, Closing of ARPANET, Netscape, BitTorrent, Technocrati, New IT lifestyle, Adsense, Amazon.ca revelations, Facebook privacy statement, Deleting Online Predators Act, and User Riots). I found the info on Second Life to be particularly sparse. Then there was a brief 2 paragraph conclusion. This would have been much better had he looked at some key technologies, examined how different social tools addressed privacy, how corporations took over, how widespread some are used, etc. I found he quoted Discloser statements for websites all over the place with no real reason linking back to the thesis (“The evolution of the social Web was driven by fear, desire (to be with others), and fandom. By no means exclusively an American story, it shows instances in which users succeeded when striving for open access, jointly negotiating with corporate platform-providers.”) Unfortunately, Trebor has a serious rewrite to do. (He also needs to avoid passive voice.)
Now for an intermission while I read George’s new piece (A Brief History of Networked Learning). If you want, hum the theme song to Jeopardy…
Now that’s better compared to Sholtz. George provides an analytics framework for looking at why the social web is useful. He uses the Five Significant Stages to explain how network learning has grown. This I can bite into. I have no quibbles with his five stages although I wonder if those that went through the 5 stages understood what was going on! My own field of Information Architecture has gone through something similar and it is only the last 3-4 years that has seen an explosion of literatures (Stage 5) explaining the practice. In my case it is around user-center-design, not unlike leaner-centered design. (Stephen may take umbrage with that term and whether it the focus should be on network-centered learning. My Information architecture practice may actually about networks of similar users so perhaps this is not an unreasonable leap.) Anyways, a much better piece, albeit too short, but I understand why as it is only attempting to explain a small part of the social web.
Well signing off as it is 12:30 AM and I thought tonight was going to be an early one.