A British “professor of the public understanding of technology” writing in The Guardian offers nine things everyone needs to know about the internet.
For anyone who’s been connected and paying attention, which I suspect includes many people who read blogs like this one, this is a review of what you already know.
However, it’s still a great read, detailing some important concepts about the web that many people still don’t get.
Three of them stand out for me as an educator.
DISRUPTION IS A FEATURE, NOT A BUG
One of the things that most baffles (and troubles) people about the net is its capacity for disruption. One moment you’ve got a stable, profitable business — say, as the CEO of a music label; the next minute your industry is struggling for survival, and you’re paying a king’s ransom to intellectual property lawyers in a losing struggle to stem the tide. Or you’re a newspaper group, wondering how a solid revenue stream from classified ads could suddenly have vaporised; or a university librarian wondering why students use only Google nowadays. How can this stuff happen? And how does it happen so fast?
Or you’re an educational institution and the traditional structure where all information flows through one teacher makes no sense in this age of instant connection to many teachers.
THE NETWORK IS NOW THE COMPUTER
For baby-boomers, a computer was a standalone PC running Microsoft software. Eventually, these devices were networked, first locally (via office networks) and then globally (via the internet). But as broadband connections to the net became commonplace, something strange happened: if you had a fast enough connection to the network, you became less concerned about the precise location of either your stored data or the processor that was performing computational tasks for you.
We in the education business also need to recognize that the network is also the classroom. And vice versa.
OUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY REGIME IS NO LONGER FIT FOR PURPOSE
Since our current intellectual property regime was conceived in an era when copying was difficult and imperfect, it’s not surprising that it seems increasingly out of sync with the networked world. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your point of view), digital technology has provided internet users with software tools which make it trivially easy to copy, edit, remix and publish anything that is available in digital form — which means nearly everything, nowadays. As a result, millions of people have become “publishers” in the sense that their creations are globally published on platforms such as Blogger, Flickr and YouTube. So everywhere one looks, one finds things that infringe copyright in one way or another.
Which has incredible implications for teaching and learning. Â We need to spend more time teaching kids how to be responsible producers as well as smart consumers.
In the end the writer notes that it “would be ridiculous to pretend that these nine ideas encapsulate everything that there is to be known about the net”.
Still his excellent points are well worth the read.