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TUANZ ’07

I attended TUANZ’07 in Rotorua. I didn’t blog the workshops or the keynote by Miguel Guhlin. That’s a skill I still have to work on, although the necessity to pre-purchase network access via the local networks didn’t help either. I suppose I kind of admire those who can; although the two to my left who continually checked emails or whatever they were doing, distracted somewhat with a continuous “tip-tap-tip”. Perhaps it was simply Miguel’s ‘Disruptive technologies’ – the ability to publish at will in text, audio and/or video – in action. As to whether “tip-tap-tip” enhances our freedom of speech I’ll withhold my opinion.

A future note is to get myself a Rio or iPod (or something similar) and (like Miguel) try podcasting the events instead… So many events, conferences etc, and how great it is to visit them through edublogs.

_ . _ . _ . _

The keynote – Our Future is Unwritten – that freedom to assemble in virtual communities – espoused by Social networking tools like MySpace and YouTube grant freedom of speech and assembly to the masses in a way that past wars and social revolutions never could, has caused me to stop and wonder. My spouse is a Speech and Language Therapist (Pathologist in the US) and very much an exponent of oral communication; anyway one of her comments on virtual communities is that it’s like the tree that falls in the woods – who hears the screams? If we don’t open the email, read the text, browse the blog, explore other flickr’s, or notice the one in many millions of MySpace pages, then what revolution is being fought, or are the revolutionaries simply shouting silently to the empty hills. Are the said MySpaces fulfilling the function of appeasement, not so much freedom but rather an opiate for the “masses”?

Technologies, like many forms of communication, are often the tools of the intellectual elite, and while the spread is relatively world-wide, it is still very “relative” to geographic and economic power. Miguel passed comment at the beginning of his presentation that we here is New Zealand are at the edge, far from the ‘centre’ of the (possibly civilised?) digital world. I wonder though can one be truly at the edge of a digital world, or simply on the wrong side of a digital divide? If there is a Revolution it has yet to be ‘televised’ in any meaningful way.

The threatened ‘powers’ are meant to include our schools, and certainly there are phantoms at the edge of our shared educator consciousness, to do with texting, “cyber-bullying”, rouge publishing of illicit or threatening material. However the students in my class are in reality still no threat, disruptive or otherwise, to those powers that have traditionally controlled the means of publication. The majority are not on broadband, a large number do not have access to the internet at home, nor even a computer. As far as I can ascertain I am the only ‘voice’ with a blog. Ground-breaking software – Social or otherwise – is passing most of them by. There are several Bebo or MySpace accounts, but I’ve checked-in on those and they seem un-utilised since the initial few flurries of action at their various inceptions.

My challenge as an educator has not been to embrace the future “like my students”; but rather to attempt with or without arms wide open to cajole my students into embracing their own as yet unwritten futures; even at times getting them to acknowledge that they have a future. Certainly our fate is intertwined with their’s, and I sincerely hope that (together?), we must follow, lead, and learn in an unknown, but hopefully increasingly knowable, future…

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On another note, and something that I do find great and so constantly rewarding are educators (especially at conferences) who are willing to share not only their personal (although sometimes disparate) knowledge and skills, alongside their personal insights, and experiences, enabling us all to keep up and stay relevant as 21st century learners: possibly the literal “lifelong learner” although I need to reflect on that term more in response to Artichoke’s recent post.

On an endnote: Miguel played us several clips during his presentation including this great look at what web 2.0 is all about. Stuart, over at Openair makes the point that it’s “sooooooooooo March 2007”, but just like real world viruses they don’t stay down.

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