First of all, I agree with Joel that institutions often think they are more progressive than they are. I also think that what is reported, and what we see from experience, is a narrow swath of the world, and not everyone is as social media and tech savvy as pundits let on. And the latest trends aren’t universal. Last spring I selected Twitter for class assignments. The approach was very specific, and very clear to regular users of Twitter. Unfortunately, out of my 20 some students, only a couple knew what twitter was, let alone used it. So although there may be great, just-in-time, online learning through distributed mentors all over the world experiences going on, only a few people have tasted that future.
I personally believe that is the future, but we are not yet at the tipping point. The people who struggle to access traditional education also struggle for access to high bandwidth Internet or mobile Internet connections. The seeming slowness of education institution to change comes from inertia that won’t be slowed by a few random “trends". So I think Joel’s observation about the focus on tools is right and wrong. If the people attending don’t understand the opportunities for technology, or how it is being used, then they won’t be able to get on board with using them. They need these rudimentary classes just as much as Joel needs something that takes him from where he is to what’s next. Chances are, what’ s next is not going to be shown at a conferences about Higher Ed and the Web. What’s next is at some other orthogonal conference, and what they are showing isn’t being shown for use in education, but it will eventually be co-opted by students and teachers.
So yes Joel, it isn’t about the media, but it is until you get your head wrapped around that, and then you can imagine a more holistic view.
I think this is the key to Joel’s observation that “Convergence has already happened. We are already there. Anyone young enough to be coming up into college has been living as if there is no difference between digital and embodied.” He is right. The people running the conference, however, aren’t freshmen, they are established web staff, some of whom may be removed from education and in the business of running conferences. Unless you immerse yourself constantly at the unfolding edge, you can’t claim to really know what’s going on. I hang out with students so I can learn how they learn, first hand, not from old studies of learning. And I have regular conversation with Ruby developers who keep correcting my Cobol&LISP-age programming brain.
Personally, I learn on the web all the time, everyday. From people and from reading. And they cycle back between themselves, so I talk to the people I read, and read the people I talk to. The learning is very different from how I learn in a class, very focused on the immediate task, very contextual. So I have to supplement my online experience with meeting time and reflection time that is not informed, at those moments, but digital information. Joel is right is saying that learning is the big thing. I don’t have anything specific I just go to the web for, but I do specifically go to meetings in the real world to meet people in serendipitous ways. It’s good to shakes hangs and share hugs.
On the other hand, travel and personal time is very expensive, in dollars, in time and in environmental impact. So we will likely increase the amount of time we spend with people against a digital backdrop (I’m trying to avoid saying virtual).
So what’s next Joel? You tell me. Let’s start sharing ideas and learning from each other. This is the first interaction prompted by @yongclee after I retweeted a link to your blog post. We’ve start. Now I ask you what’s next??[P.S. So after a bit more investigation at Joel’s prompting, I was directing my earlier comments at educators, where this conference is for and by web professionals in education. Most of my comments still hold. I have corrected the context. In answer to the question more directly, I would love to see a consortium of web professionals creates some new ways of integrating the various modes of learning into something more comprehensive than the commercial companies are offering. Social, content, video, etc. wrapped in a continuous learning context for a topic. I’m not talking LMS, but learning experience. What does it look like? How do the parts fit together? What can easily be swapped out? What looks like it creates the next form of legacy technology? What features do people actually use? Which ones do they ignore? Why? If you’ve already done that, I’d love to see some of the work and share it here]