When I first started using digital technology in the classroom I often argued that in the late 1990s the internet and digital media was really just providing what we had always had, only more efficiently. We had text that could be reproduced faster than with a photocopier, we had video that didn’t require a 35mm projector. The one media element that was new was the hyperlink. The effect of the hyperlink on the design and consumption of text and the patterns of narratives was studied in the first decade of the wider adoption of the internet.
In the first decade of the 21st century the internet shifted from a large and messy library to become that plus a worldwide scrapbook. The ability to write your own story on the internet, and share it with the world, was the first opportunity to make a real change to learning and teaching at a large scale. The social web that has added a layer of communities over the earlier web make a new internet that people interact with more consistently and in ways that could not have been predicted twenty years ago. All of these internets, aggregated together, are the environment you are teaching in today.
This week is a look at the possibilities opened up by this multi-faceted internet. A look at personal learning environments and personal learning networks – two concepts that I think are better understood in combination – starts us at the personal level. Examining the trends identified on the outer borders of educational technology lets us think about the possibilities yet to come. But in most instances revolutions in technology supported learning emerge from the innovative use of existing tools, not the introduction of something new. Tools like iPads and Twitter have been used in ways that the original designers never imagined, but this took years after the introduction of these technologies for educators to discover the new ways they could be used.