internet at schools keynote

I figured that most people at IL2005 would be attending and blogging the primary keynote, so I snuck away for the alternate: “The New Read/Write Web: Transforming the Classroom” by Will Richardson. We’d be better off spending more time thinking about the information gathering/processing/producing of young people. They should be served by libraries just like adults, and they are our future taxpayers, dig?

He made a few points that really got me going:

The web isn’t about technology anymore. Technology is fading into the background. This was echoed by Jessamyn in the social software session when she stated that Flickr is so easy that every living member of her family can use it. So, the playing field is leveling out, the web is being democratized, however you want to put it. HTML is no longer a requisite skill for getting text, pictures, and video on the web. Richardson emphasized that digital documents are not only easier to make, they are easier to publish.
For libraries, this means we can get more of our staff, people that might not be able to write a page out of HTML, to contribute.

The read/write web builds confidence and encourages people to do more. He told the story of his daughter who drew a book about weather, which is now a photoset on Flickr. It has been viewed over 500 times, which is a great distribution for a young person.

know what :::> know where. Richardson wants to forget about “just in case learning.” He thinks that when facts are readily available, it is more important to know how to find them, rather than know them all. He must get a ton of cross looks in the school systems. As a reference librarian, this was music to my ears. Nonlibrarians often ask me, “How do you answer all the questions people ask? You must be so smart” to which I respond, “No, I’m smart because I know where to find everything.” Knowing the process is vastly more powerful than one just one outcome, isn’t it?

We must teach our kids to have discussion about truth. Librarians have been ranting about this for ages, it is called information literacy. The New York Times, Wikipedia, Britannica, magazines, whatever: for anything serious, more than one source needs to be consulted. Nothing should be taken as the Absolute Truth. The importance of this skill increases as the amount of extant information in the world increases. Again, thinking critically about information is more important than memorizing a fact.

Teachers must be creators as well. Kids need models for how to blog. If they don’t have guidance, they’ll be “blogging” on MySpace, and not practicing very good Web safety. Banning blogging in schools is shortsighted. Flickr is banned in the school system of Kentucky. So students use the tool on their own time, rather than receiving instructions and teacher added value.

Richardson prefers “publish your homework” over “hand in your homework.” Students’ output should be on the Web to be part of the conversations going on. Instead of doing homework for their teacher, they could do it for an audience, and be motivated to do well by the idea of reputation. This would certainly approximate the adult world a bit more.

Let’s not contain our ideas in text, let’s spread them around with links, IM, flickr, blogs, wikipedia, etc. This meshes perfectly with what Jenny and I independently mentioned during the “Future of Public Libraries” session. We need to get our libraries’ content out into the swirling online world, interacting with itself, people, and the web.

Take a look at his blog, Weblogg-ed: the read/write classroom


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