An iPhone for Every Learner?

On the Horizon:  The Personal Web

The just published Horizon Report 2009 suggests that The Personal Web is on the horizon for adoption within 2 – 3 years.

Fifteen years after the first commercial web pages began to appear, the amount of content available on the web is staggering.  Sifting through the sheer volume of material – good or bad, useful or otherwise – is a daunting task.  It is even difficult to keep track of the media posted by a single person, or by oneself.  On the other hand, adding to the mix is easier than ever before, thanks to easy-to-use publishing tools for every type and size of media …  Armed with tools for tagging, aggregating, and keeping track of content, today’s learners create and navigate a web that is increasingly tailored to their own needs and interests:  this is the personal web.(p.19)

To me, the Personal Web represents a shift from chaotic immersion in the multitudinous array of emerging and discrete online tools for social networking, aggregating information and blogging to a relatively speaking more stable (although perhaps only short-lived), streamlined and personalized practice of meaning-making.   Learning, facilitated through the particularized design of Personal Webs, will become more precise and learner-driven.

The Personal Web, Social Media and Mobiles

In a recent blog post on Read/Write Web, Ravit Lichtenberg suggests that social media will change in 10 ways in 2009.  Resonating throughout Lichtenberg’s description of the changes proposed is an insistence on meaningful connections and relevance:

People will be looking for ways to keep their networks going regardless of device or platform. They will connect around meaningful topics and have live and simultaneous conversations within parameters they themselves define, which will bring relevance back to their interaction with others.

It will become necessary for educators and their institutions to rethink the initial knee-jerk reaction to the ubiquitous devices our students so effortlessly adopt and manipulate to connect to each other and the world beyond the traditional classroom.  The Horizon Report 2009 suggests that mobile devices, already integrated across many college campuses, have valuable application within a learning environment (p.8).  

As educators, we should allow ourselves to assume a perspective that recognizes the value in our students’ ability to rapidly acquire information across the vast web in a way that is tailored to their learning needs.  Our focus should become the truly committed cultivation of higher order thinking skills to support students as they evaluate and synthesize aggregated information and apply their learning across a variety of disciplines and environments.  Rather than insisting that digital devices be turned off and stored out of sight and out of mind during instructional time, why not embrace their networking abilities?  Instead of one laptop per child, why not one 3G mobile for every learner?