Connecting Online and On the Ground

When I called my dad this week he was a little distracted. It seemed he was trying to look up the phone number of his eye doctor.

Since I was at my computer, I simply googled the name and within ten seconds was able to give him the phone number. No big deal except that I was on the other side of the country and since he’s a technophobe he was freaked out because he couldn’t figure out how the heck I had managed to do it so quickly. He had to admit he was impressed even though he’s been ranting against technology for years and has absolutely refused to have anything to do with computers. If he had been born in an earlier time, I’m sure he would have been ranting about buggy whips.

In another technology related incident this week, I received an email from a student I taught at Niagara College about ten years ago. He had managed to track me down through my Facebook page. I recognized his name because he was one that I somehow felt I had let down. He simply stopped coming to class, disappeared and never did graduate.

He wrote, “I want to take this time to extend to you my thanks for all of your support and encouragement during my tenure at Niagara College. The freedom you extended to me with regard to my creative endeavours in the classroom is something that I have not forgotten. The learning environment you created was one in which I felt most comfortable and uninhibited.  You truly created an atmosphere most conducive to self-exploration and self-realization. 

It was such an unexpected and moving message that I put my head down on my desk and cried. Who knew?

While it was good for my self-esteem to know that both my dad and a former student felt I had done something valuable, these stories are examples of “Web 2.0” or the second generation of web development that is moving beyond simply pushing information at us, to instead doing more to facilitate communication, information sharing, and collaboration on the web.

While it’s true there are some legitimate concerns about how we’re using technology, there still is much to celebrate.

As technology continues to evolve, improvements are enhancing opportunities for accessing resources, networking, sharing, and collaborating.

Just as organizations, businesses, and even entire communities are working to integrate and converge, so too are those within the world of technology.

Finding information is becoming simpler as keyword searches are improved, customized, and refined. The content available on the web is more meaningful as even those with little or no skill or experience are able to update, link to, and improve upon, the work of others.
Sharing is becoming simpler what with web-based, shared calendars, networking sites that make it easier to keep in touch, and improved capacity to bookmark sites and resources and store documents.

This emerging world will result in radically different opportunities for learning and growing together.

Although often without seeing the full possibilities, many youth and young adults have embraced Web 2.0, there are still many others entrenched in bricks and mortar believing physical places are essential for getting services and knowledge. As the song says, “It ain’t necessarily so”.

While the bricks and mortar in our communities such as libraries, schools, and government buildings won’t go away, they, like the web need to be seen as having dual functionality as both warehouses and gathering places. These gathering places, now sometimes being referred to as “the third place” (after the two other social environments of home and the workplace), are foundations of community life that facilitate and nurture broader, more creative interaction.

Bottom line? The information that we seek to share, and the services that we seek to provide, will have to be fluid enough to be available in many forms. We need to foster communities and a sense of connectedness online and on the ground.

Posted on 02-22-09

Add your Comment here:






Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

Next entry: Reflections on Reflection

Previous entry: The Importance of Fun