Why Schools Cannot Ignore Web 2.0: Technical Factors

#iCTLT2010 Based on my recent talk at the ICTLT2010 Conference, this short series looks at the social, technical, commercial, economic and educational factors that I think together mean that a compelling case can be made for schools to fully embrace Web 2.0 technologies.

Last week I looked at the social factors involved. This time, let’s look at the technical drivers for change. The obvious one here is changes in technology. As well as Wikipedia and social networking, there are other developments too, such as Cloud Computing, which is starting to enter the mainstream as a viable proposition. In fact, 98% of reluctant companies have said that their main concern was security. But technically, it is now completely feasible to use web-based software for most things, and some schools and even whole districts have been using Google Applications for Education, or similar services, with success. In fact,  Singapore's Minsitry of Education has arranged for access to Google Apps right across the country.

There is also now an openness on the part of government as far as data is concerned. For example, the UK Government recently launched a data portal that enables people to work with the data, and create apps, to drill down into the data to find information which might otherwise remain hidden, such as to do with housing and local amenities in an area. In the USA, the Patent Office has built a wiki called Peer to Patent to enable people to peer review patent applications.

The technology of search engines has changed so that search results can include blogs and consumer reviews. There has also been a  growth of open source, consumer-developed apps, such as for the i-Phone. There are now 150,000 apps  in the Apple Store, and by January there had been 3 billion downloads. Other companies are also adopting this model. Facebook Connect, which lets you take your Facebook identity with you to other communities on the internet, is another example of what I called a kind of 'levelling' process.

Changes in technology have enabled the existence of what Chris Anderson has called the long tail, by which is meant the fact that anyone can produce a niche product in an economic way. For example, by using print-on-demand you can produce a book that only you and your students will use, or you can create a television channel just for use in your school.

AnywhereIn a recently-published book called ‘Anywhere’, Emily Nagle Green talks about the importance of connectivity, in devices, such as pill boxes that know when they’ve been opened and closed, and can notify the network accordingly; in customer experiences, such as people being able to pay parking meters by text messaging, as shown below; and connectivity in business, such as wireless transmitters on taxis in London to save waiting time at Heathrow Airport.

I discovered that in Singapore when you enter a car park your arrival and departure are noted, and you are sent the bill afterwards. Apparently, in Hong Kong things are even more connected.

Parking by textI think the degree of connectivity in the world was brought home to me recently by something which a manager in IBM said:

“There are more transistors in the world than grains of rice”

Brendan Riley, IBM

I have no idea how many grains of rice there are in the world, but I’m sure it’s a lot!

Next week: The Economic drivers for change.