Long ago (less then 10 years), there was no Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook or any software as a service (SaaS) cloud computing technologies. In those dark and drab days, Microsoft Office was the only ubiquitous software package capable of allowing for effective communication. Sure blogs and forums may have existed, but they were clunky and not user-friendly (not by today’s standards anyway). The common way of communicating to people was through a printed Word Document. Here I am talking about how different it was back in my day when Word documents were the cutting edge, and the way we used to get things done. Please excuse my ignorance if the pen and paper for you meant more than tools for doodling, I mean no disrespect. But in my day, MS Office was it. The B-O-M Digity. It made things happen. Don’t get me wrong, MS Office still has its place in Enterprise systems, but for how long? And what about other industries, like Education? Does MS Office still have a place as a one way communication medium focused on individual endeavours in a social society based on collaboration and communities of practice? These questions are not only relevant, but are at the forefront of the minds of many educators, students, academics, governments, heck – everyone who has anything to do with education on any level (parents for example).
There is a little term you may have heard of called Web 2.0? If you haven’t, the basic principal of the technology is that the Internet serves as a platform for user generated content, with practice underpinned by ideas founded in Wikinomics. These ideas include being able to act globally and collaboratively, something that MS Office has not been able to evolve with. However, some organisations, like Google, are on the forefront of strengthening (note: not developing; strengthening) their suite of services supported by SaaS cloud computing. The machine technologies of the modern era are not boxes that tell you an answer in a strict and didactic format, but devices for communication and mass collaboration. In some sense, Paulo Freire may have seen these technologies as revolutionary insofar as braking the culture of silence of passive acceptance of didactic learning outcomes strategically selected by Government bodies. Now, students are gaining the freedom, and expertise, to choose their own learning outcomes and fields of research.
Today’s cloud based social technologies are raining down innovative services based entirely in the web. These services are underpinned by Wikinomics, and offer the capacity for open communication, learning and collaboration in a way never seen before. As such, these technologies are so disruptive that any industry unable to adapt and redesign core structures to accommodate, will fail. Education is no exception. Signs of these technologies and their effect, have already seen the rise of MOOCs, elearning, blended learning, flipped classrooms, gamification, and the list goes on. The sheer fact that these technologies can be attributed with a sense of power increases the acceptance of Actor-Network theory, where it becomes impossible to distinguish which has more effect; the technology or the people who use them to communicate. These technologies have delivered so many developments unable to be delivered before, that as a result of their advent have caused a shift where society will ensure the technologies continual growth. From the students point of view, these technologies are just part of the way things work. It wont be long when you hear some of them say, ‘you still use MS Office, what a joke’. What do you think?
My, have times changed.