When I was reading my assigned chapters from Personal Learning Networks (Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli, Solution Tree Press, 2011) a few things jumped out at me.
First was this: 'When texts and teachers are all over the place, however, it becomes crucial that learners of all ages be able to answer the questions "What can I believe?" and "Who can I trust?" during every interaction online." (p.26) Boy, does that ring true! The same was always true of the print world, but when anyone with a computer and internet access can post information online, it takes the level of misinformation to a new level. My practical suggestions to students regarding the reliability of a web source involves determining 1.) If other sources support this information, and 2.) What is the motivation of the poster? Is he or she sharing the information from an altruistic point, or is there some agenda involved? Finally 3.) What is the educational and experiential background of the poster? Expertise in one area does not translate to expertise in all areas.
The other point that stood out to me from Richardson and Mancabelli was the importance of focusing on quality rather than quantity in our connections. "...with the literally billions of potential sources at our disposal right now, it's imperative that we find those that offer the most return for our time investment"(p.36) Finding the pretty pony in amongst the horse manure can be a challenge, but it pays off in the end. A good connection tends to lead you to other good connections through its links.
Perhaps the best definition of what exactly Web 2.0 tools are and what they do can be found in Web 2.0 How-to For Educators (Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum, ISTE, 2010) It stresses the collaborative and creative nature of work done through Web 2.0 tools "Web 2.0 tools go a step beyond to offer ways of creating, collaborating, and distributing the final product and then interacting with an audience." (p.5) The question for me, though, is this: In an educational system that stresses individual effort rather than group collaboration, how do you convince administrators, parents, and indeed the students themselves that collaboration is a good thing. I have had many students lament over group projects where they feel they did all the work and others reaped the benefits.