Web 2.0 Attention Deficit Disorder Epidemic Strikes Educators!


It’s getting to be all too much!

Follow more than 40 educationalists on Twitter and the sheer volume of tweets about new Web 2.0 apps you have to try, decry and maybe buy is overwhelming. The thousands of onomatopoeic and/or cutely-named little tools jostling for market share means that we can do no more than scratch the surface of each before charging off to the next seductive offering, quickly forgetting all about the one we just left behind.

We’re suffering from a collective Web 2.0 Attention Deficit Disorder, and there’s no Ritalin in sight …

We once called these apps and gadgets ‘disruptive technologies’ – a term soundly roasted by John C. Dvorak in PCMag.com and revisited in Allison Kipta’s blog.  Dvorak defines a disruptive technology as

“a low-performance, less expensive technology that enters a heated-up scene where the established technology is outpacing people’s ability to adapt to it. The new technology gains a foothold, continues to improve, and then bumps the older, once-better technology into oblivion. Sounds good. The problem is that there is not one example of this ever happening. When boiled down, the notion is essentially a rewrite of the adage Adam Osborne devised to explain the mediocrity of the Osborne 1: ‘Adequacy is sufficient.'”

Dvorak goes on to say:

“There is no such thing as a disruptive technology. There are inventions and new ideas, many of which fail while others succeed. That’s it.”

The thing is, there are so many so-called ‘disruptive technologies’ around now that we can’t apply the label to individual tools anymore. Regardless of Dvorak’s dislike of the term, it may still have a place, but in a more generic sense. Perhaps Web 2.0 itself is now the dominant disruptive technology, not its constituent parts. All our favourite shiny tools have become merely transitional technologies.

So our main challenge may be to start using a bit of intellectual rigour when evaluating what’s out there – and perhaps to become agents of evolution. We can ensure the survival of the fittest by actually using ‘good’ stuff and junking ‘bad’ stuff, instead of just being drawn to ‘cool’ stuff.

Osborne’s adage might describe some of the offerings I’ve seen lately, but for me, Sturgeon’s Law – “Ninety percent of everything is crap” is usually more relevant in trying to find an overarching strategy to deal with the flood.  🙂

I would be most interested in comments about how you deal with the deluge!


6 responses to “Web 2.0 Attention Deficit Disorder Epidemic Strikes Educators!

  1. Sorting wheat from chaff seems like a personal affair. I like what I like, for my own quirky reasons (including running dial-up on a Win98 at home, and running Win2000 in my classroom). In fact, dial-up or similar older-computer performance issues is probably my main concern in evaluating a webtool.

    As for “online learning tools”, I take a kind of functionalist approach: If it does something useful in the real world, it’s probably useful as a tool for scaffolding learner independence. On the other hand, if it’s only about learning (e.g. “add the numbers correctly and get a banana – twenty bananas and you win!”) I probably avoid it altogether based on my bias that a computer screen makes a terrible workbook, and mouse clicking provides for only very limited motorskill learning.

  2. Hey Vyt ,

    I hate it all too- the more technology they try and flog, the more that stands between the educator and the learner. Corporate has to rationalize it’s “educational industrial complex”
    Knowledge wants to flow, so we’re just trying to connect the Educator and the Learner and get out of the hell out of way.

  3. The curmudgeon

    Thanks Tod – I agree that “knowledge wants to flow”. But I don’t hate the technology. My post was less about the volume of tools being ‘flogged’ than about the need to implement a strategy to winnow web offerings by supporting only those that themselves support learning.

    And, while I agree that it is necessary to connect the “Educator and the Learner”, I also think it is equally important to connect learners to other learners.

    … and the “educational industrial complex”? Well, apart from a few bigger players, most of the tools that I see have been created by passionate and dedicated educationalists. Like us 🙂 The EIC is not some shadowy bunch of corporate Gordon Geckos – because of Web 2.0, it’s actually us!

  4. Agreed. What do the students need to achieve? What are the desired outcomes? What are the traditional approaches? Is there an approach that employs technology that can augment the traditional and perhaps add value? Then add the technology and employ the most appropriate tool for the task.
    Know your destination before your elect a mode of transport.
    Curmudgeon on!
    Cheers, John

  5. The curmudgeon

    Thanks John.

    “Know your destination before you elect a mode of transport.” Love it.

    Or as a fellow instructional designer told me: “Most of my clients ask me to build them a boat. But what they really want is a way to cross the river …”

  6. MMM! just catching up on all this edutechnobabble and trying to sort out the wheat from the proverbial. Great work in supporting Linnet with her ning. She’s inspired and I’m intrigued by her shining eyes on the topic. Now I just need a podcast or microchip that gets me up to speed on all that I should know [but don’t know cos no one at VU has engaged me sufficiently!] about elearning.

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