This is my second post in a series on the politics of knowledge. My goal with these posts is to consider a basic question of critical university studies: How do universities differ from other kinds of social organization such as government agencies, corporations, and cause-oriented nonprofits? What is the importance of higher education? What kind of constituency does it present? What does it mean to build a social institution around the transmission and discovery of knowledge? What is “knowledge” in this context and what are its politics? [Read more...]
Following my last post, I had a bit of a heated exchanged with a commenter named Ryan. What came up for me from that was a desire to more fully articulate the relationship between knowledge and politics. I attempted to do something like this back in October, but as usual I bit off more than I could chew and wrote a long and probably esoteric-sounding post. I want to try again, so in the coming weeks I will attempt a series of posts that focus on the politics of knowledge from a few different angles. I hope this will be a place to work through some of my questions, and I eagerly welcome comments and feedback.
There has been much discussion recently of how to make teachers more “accountable” through measurable data, and of how and when to involve new technologies in the classroom or even to develop internet-based courses and degrees. These are important issues but, as with so many things, public debate surrounding them is for the most part superficial and shortsighted. Instead of having a real conversation about the politics of knowledge, we are distracted by reductive ideas of accountability and shallow notions of technological advance.
I originally planned to write this post about the difference in communication between human and technological means. Specifically, I was going to look at the use of the people’s mic and police bullhorns as exemplified by the events on October 1 at the Brooklyn Bridge. While the group had been using the people’s mic to amplify communication within itself and to outsiders, the police used a single bullhorn. In a letter on behalf of the people kettled that day, lawyers argue that the bullhorn was unintelligible.
However, events at Baruch College last night changed my planned post. A clearer example of the unintelligibility of technological amplification, when compared to human-centric distributed communication, occurred in the lobby of the Baruch College William and Anita Newman Vertical Campus Conference Center on the evening of November 21.
As this video shows, the security guard attempts to use a bullhorn within the Vertical Campus lobby. Sound waves are directed only toward part of the group he is addressing. The group above on the balcony or behind him past the turnstiles must rely on sound waves bouncing off walls in order to hear his transmission. Additionally, according to the Baruch website, the lobby consists of two “stacked atria, one rising from the ground floor to the fifth floor, with a glass curtain wall facing Baruch’s Information and Technology Building to the north, across Bernard Baruch Way; another, wider atrium rising above that, from the fifth to the eighth floor,” that provide much vertical space in which sound waves can get lost while reflecting off of the eight floors of glass. Since the security guard’s attempt to use directional technological amplification based on increased volume is insufficient to communicate his message to the students, one of the students must institute a people’s mic in order to ensure that the message is understood (see 00:13 in the above video). Distributed human communication succeeds where top-down technological communication fails.
A second incident from the Board of Trustees hearing that serves as an example of the failure of technological amplification comes from the first people’s mic check within the meeting itself. As this video shows, before the chair of the meeting Valerie Lancaster Beal requests, “Security, please eliminate the young lady,” (at around 1:30) her microphone cannot make her heard above the people’s mic.
Since this is a small room—only able to hold a fraction of the public who wished to attend—the issues of technological amplification are different from the bullhorn in the lobby. In this instance, a distribution of bodies throughout the room ensures that no individual—whether a part of the people’s mic or not—is very far from another person who is repeating the message. Valerie Lancaster Beal’s microphone and amplifying speakers are placed at the front on either side of the room. Therefore, her disembodied voice appears to come from three distinct locations, whereas the people’s mic emanates from a few dozen bodies throughout the whole room. This second approach not only allows listeners to hear words as spoken by human beings—rather than relayed through electrical wires—but gives an indication of how much support there is in the room for any relayed message. Just as in distributed network computing, if one of the people’s mic speakers is “eliminated” (to use Valerie Lancaster Beal’s word choice), in theory the message could be picked up by any other member of the group, thus ensuring instantaneous redundancy backup unavailable to the single-point-of-failure electrical microphone system. If the cable breaks or power is cut to an electrical microphone system, then the ability to continue transmission is interrupted.
The benefits of the human-centric people’s mic over a technological amplification system in these circumstances—whether bullhorn or electrical microphone—seem clear and come down to a division between “many-to-many” communication and “one-at-many” top-down transmission.
With technological amplification there is merely unidirectional speaking at a group with significant opportunities for miscommunication. By contrast, the people’s mic encourages a network of one-to-one communication which allows for instantaneous dialogic communication to clarify any points that were missed.
Technological amplification passively objectifies the recipients of the message—it is unconcerned with whether or not the group agrees with the statement being transmitted. The people’s mic, however, demands active participation by all of its subjects, even if they are in disagreement. While not the ideal way the people’s mic was designed to work, the choice can always be made not to relay a message if the matter becomes too disagreeable to the participants.
The means by which distance is overcome also differs between these two methods. With technological amplification, directed volume is employed. As the message gets further away from the specific direction that speaker is facing, sound waves dissipate and the message is lost. Increasing the volume on the technological device can improve the distance at which the device can be heard, but also increases the distortion, making the message unintelligible even to the listeners close to the device. With the people’s mic, sound radiates from the speaker through the crowd of the listeners’ collected bodies. Distortion is possible, as in the children’s game of telephone. However, since the number of repeating bodies is significantly lager than the single person in the children’s game—a whole group rather than one child whispering to their neighbor—redundancy is built into the system to make distortion very unlikely. There is also a chance to clarify anything unheard or misunderstood through an immediate side conversation.
When I heard that my high school principal Saul Bruckner had died in his Mill Basin home on May 1, I was shocked, but in an aimless sort of way. It felt huge, impossible—a massive loss and somehow a very personal one. And yet while I had a vast sense that Mr. Bruckner had influenced me deeply, I had no luck when I tried to articulate that influence to the people around me. “My high school principal died,” I told my roommate. “He was really incredible.” And then I’d trail off.
So, like legions of other Murrow alums, I’ve been spending time thinking about just what it is exactly that makes me feel like I want a bust of Mr. Bruckner in my living room. Many of us appreciate the important teacher figures from our pasts, but what of the folks who didn’t necessarily teach us long division or what the Rococo period was about? What of the learning that comes from that dispersed thing known as educational leadership?– from administrators, of all people?
The first thing to mention about Mr. Bruckner is just how old school he was, in a new school kind of way. He was a truly progressive educator who didn’t need to appropriate slang or wear a whistle in order to “connect” with young people. He rose up the ranks in the New York City school system (back when it was still a Board of Education, and not a Department) as a social studies teacher, became assistant principal at Dewey High School, and eventually opened Murrow in 1974.
Edward R. Murrow High School is known for the many progressive aspects of its structure and approach, but Mr. Bruckner himself came across as a pretty subdued, non-controversial guy. You’d imagine that a principal who allowed students freedom of choice in their academic pursuits, outlawed bells and hall sweeps and detention and sports teams, gave students the benefit of the doubt when it came to unstructured time, and fiercely defended music and arts programs might be more of a hippie crusader in moccasins than a buttoned-up older gentleman in neat tweed suit jackets. Not so.
Still, those are the facts. When the Times published a short article about his memorial service, I started honing in on what I found so unique about Mr. Bruckner. The photo that accompanied the article did it; Mr. Bruckner, with his arms folded, his red name tag jutting out from his jacket, listening intently to three students surrounding him, all of whom look like they’ve got more than one bone to pick with the guy. That was his usual posture—arms crossed, ears open, completely committed– and it wasn’t rare for Mr. Bruckner to be outnumbered. I stood in front of him this way many times, standing with my friends and shooting off at the mouth about something or other, while Mr. Bruckner stood stock-still and listened—sometimes with a bemused smile, sometimes with a look of mild judgment. Perhaps the man closed the door to his oblong office (where he also taught his 7:30am AP American History course) and privately screamed into a rattan pillow—if he did, we never caught on.
The man was consistency itself, and I’d guess that he realized just how important that was to us, to see him standing by the main entrance every morning as we entered clutching our bagels. He was an eloquent man of few words, but clear actions. Students at Murrow were allowed to lounge in the hallways during “free” periods (which weren’t called “periods” at all), but if we were obliviously sitting next to a clump of trash, Bruckner would suddenly swing around a corner to pitch it in the garbage, reminding us at once that he was boss, it was our building, and no task was too insignificant for him– or us.
Mr. Bruckner’s death crystallized for me even further when I read an article penned by one of my former English teachers at Murrow, Katherine Schulten. Ms. Schulten is now editor of The Learning Network, and she identifies five poignant lessons for educators that she took from working with Mr. Bruckner. The final one, “Kids come first,” coupled with her description of Mr. Bruckner—kindness, intelligence, commitment and vision—packaged up exactly what I’d wanted to say all along. How remarkable to observe someone with so little (discernable) ego, a fellow who never went out of his way to strut his feathers and yet implemented such a strong vision at the same time. To be an educator who skips the bloviating and lingers on the students while constructing a school culture that follows his thoughtful concepts– and then he hangs out long enough to really see it flourish and sustain? A term that Mr. Bruckner himself taught me is the only one I can think to use: rara avis.
Ms. Schulten’s article got me thinking: as someone who routinely stands in front of clusters of young people and some days finds the crown of educator a very difficult one to wear, ignoring Mr. Bruckner’s legacy outside of its most general terms shouldn’t be an option. Sure, the life of an adjunct lecturer and Communication Fellow is very different from that of a high school principal, but that’s no excuse to disregard the challenge that his example puts forth. I heard the news about Mr. Bruckner’s passing during the crowded and frustrating end-of-semester crush, when students were filling my inbox with frantic emails arguing about grades, contesting plagiarism charges, pleading for forgiveness. Some days it’s incredibly difficult to maintain empathy, priorities, and focus—the kind of focus, I realize, Mr. Bruckner persisted with, day in, and day out, for so many years.
Numerous Facebook groups have already popped up paying tribute to Mr. Bruckner, and an accompanying campaign to have the street outside of the school renamed in his honor would be a fitting memorial to a life’s work that thrived at the humble intersection of Avenue L and 17th Street. An equally moving tribute is represented by the many students who, like me, have been newly considering just what was in this special sauce and where we might apply it ourselves. I’d suspect that it won’t just be about picking up that lone piece of trash in the hallways, but also about that particular blend of action and patience. Still, it’s an educational riddle worth committing time to: how did he do it? And how can we?
Several units at Baruch College, including the Schwartz Institute, are planning an initiative for the next two academic years: Performing Diasporas: Identities in Motion. The broad goal of the project is to raise the profile of the Baruch Performing Arts Center while more deeply integrating the performing arts into the curriculum and the life of the College. We are finalists for a Creative Campus Grant, a competition funded by the Doris Duke Foundation, and organized by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. The project will proceed even if we don’t get the grant (winners will be announced in August), although the programming will be more robust with the additional resources.
Performing Diasporas is centered around artists-in-residence — in 2010-2011, Maya Lilly; in 2011-2012, Randy Weston; and, both years, Mahayana Landowne — each of whom’s work engages questions of group and individual identity formation. These artists will perform throughout their residencies, and also lead and participate in workshops. Much of the programming, however, will be directed at incoming students. The first year experience for the next two years will revolve in large part around exploration of the project theme: the Freshman Text will be about diasporic identity, the artists-in-residence will perform at August’s Convocation, and significant components of Freshman Seminar and the curricula of selected Learning Communities will be devoted to the theme.
As part of the Steering Committee planning this project, I’m especially excited by a few particulars. Too often the administrative labor of higher education falls into silos whose work is narrowly focused and lacks programmatic coordination with other initiatives at the College. This project is structured to counter that impulse by drawing several partners into a collaborative effort to inject consideration of both the arts and the themes of identity and diaspora into the curriculum. Obviously, this will most directly impact our first year students. But it’s also good for everyone at the College for the various moving administrative parts to find synergies. The project will raise the profile of BPAC, inject the first year experience with a variety of new ideas, and dovetails nicely with Dean Jeff Peck’s Global Studies Initiative.
The project also will also help lead Blogs@Baruch into its next phase. Last Fall, we began supporting Freshman Seminar. 1200 first year students wrote more than 6500 blog posts to 60 weblogs, all of which were aggregated ultimately into a single space. FRO Blogging was a success, if solely because we were able to pull it off with little time to plan. Feedback from last Fall’s students and the Peer Mentors who led the seminars suggested the desire for more creative leeway and fewer required blog posts (students were expected to author at least six reflections on enrichment workshops they attended over the course of the term). The feedback also showed appreciation for the social component of the project; students used their blogging to get to know each other and to form community, something that’s always a challenge at a commuter campus like Baruch.
We’ve redesigned FRO Blogging to incorporate this feedback and to intersect with the goals of Performing Diasporas. There will be three specific components to FRO Blogging in Fall 2010:
- Students will be required to write blog posts at the beginning and end of the semester reflecting on their adjustment to college and, in the middle of the semester, will post monologues about their own backgrounds that they develop with their Peer Mentors (who will receive training). Selected monologues will be shaped and then performed by professional actors at an end-of-the-semester event: “Baruch’s Voices.” In Spring 2011, students who are interested in performing their own monologues will workshop them and then perform at a series of Coffee Houses.
- Each seminar will be asked to develop its blog over the course of the Fall semester. We will push this process along by crafting prompts that are distributed weekly and that encourage students to reflect upon and share their own stories. Peer Mentors will guide the process, with assistance, and students will be nudged, but not required. At the end of the semester, the most fully developed sites will be recognized with an award. This is an experiment in voluntary buy-in, and we realize that student investment of effort will be uneven. Yet, the constraints of a non-credit course make this approach necessary, and the goal is less to have students develop polished public spaces than to get their feet wet thinking critically about how to present artistic and intellectual material on the open web.
- Finally, I’m excited to note that we’ll be rolling out BuddyPress this Fall, which will add a social networking layer to Blogs@Baruch, and afford students additional opportunities to connect with and get to know one another.
Ultimately, what I like most about this project is that it treats our students as creators and makers of knowledge, not merely as consumers. Baruch students are among the most interesting students in the world, and yet few of them seem to realize this (in fact, that’s one of the things that makes them interesting). Performing Diasporas, because it will draw our students inside productive processes and creates multiple opportunities for them to see and share the art in their own lives, is going to be something special to watch.
A bill that will link individual teacher’s salaries to student performance and effectively destroy teacher job security was passed by the Florida state Senate last week.
Besides its obvious anti-unionism (pretty much business as usual for Florida politics), this bill will most likely serve to punish rather than help schools that are facing a number of difficult obstacles while rewarding those that are already relatively successful. It’s unfortunate that the war against public education in recent years is so often waged using the tools of accountability and evaluation, both concepts that might actually be put to good use. Even historian and former assistant secretary of education under Bush Diane Ravitch, a long-time supporter of standardized testing and No Child Left Behind, seems to be reversing her position on the matter in her newest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
If the bill passes (as it most likely will given the comfortable Republican majority in the House and the willingness of Florida Governor Charlie Crist) notoriously inaccurate standardized testing outcomes will be used to evaluate teacher salaries and job security, essentially using one inaccurate form of evaluation as a foundation for another; however, it will also have a much more direct effect on learning. When Florida teachers begin “teaching to the test” in a desperate attempt to hold onto their jobs and a decent standard of living, it seems inevitable that the teaching of many important written and oral communication skills will quickly drop out of the curriculum.
Now seems like as good a time as any to reflect on something that’s been on my mind for a while: assessment. While maybe not the most exciting topic, I think it’s a really important and prevalent one. To be clear I’m referring to program assessment here, not assessment of student writing. Until last year my only experience with and training in assessment was through working at community-based organizations, specifically programs for youth that incorporated education and work readiness as well as several other elements. While this experience had its ups and downs, last year I figured out pretty quickly that assessment means something very different in the university context. I, of course, saw assessment and the implementation of Writing Across the Curriculum at CUNY as a great marriage. Faculty in different disciplines trying out different pedagogical tools? Lots of written products, i.e. data? Opportunities for different people to get together and talk about their teaching experiences, what works and what doesn’t? Great! I really did not expect the resentment and lack of cooperation I received when I began to talk to faculty about these issues.
Rather than focusing on all of the problems and tensions around these issues within some (not all) universities, I thought I might mention a few basic elements often emphasized by community-based organizations:
First, assessment should be truly collaborative or it can quickly become extremely divisive. Transparency seems really important here. Asking for all kinds of information about someone’s classroom, students, and teaching without being clear about how that information will be used can be a great way to alienate faculty members.
This leads to the second point, which is that assessment should serve as a means of improving the overall quality of education in a particular department or discipline or university rather than as a policing mechanism. While it’s important to be aware of areas that need improvement, highlighting best practices is equally, if not more, important.
Finally it seems important to start and finish with the people actually doing the work, in this case, faculty members teaching writing and using writing as a teaching tool. Being aware of the needs of these folks allows the assessment to be more than charts and graphs. This way the information gleaned from this assessment project can be put to practical use. This is also a good incentive for faculty members to cooperate and provide useful data. It can even make it possible to enlist their help more directly. While faculty and administration often have different priorities, they don’t have to conflict. I think both groups have some stake in assessment and, if designed and implemented properly, it can help both meet their goals.
Several weeks ago, an old friend of mine from my undergraduate days at Sarah Lawrence College (who, it should be noted, is about to enter a graduate program in Business Administration) sent me a link to a New York Times Op-Ed article. His comment was “this op ed is great. He’s basically saying that all universities should be like Sarah Lawrence.”
The editorial, “End the University as We Know It” by Mark C. Taylor, did not actually mention Sarah Lawrence College at all. The article does call for the end of the tenure system, of doctoral dissertations, and of the system of academic departments based on traditional disciplines such as Psychology, English, Philosophy, etcetera.
It is this last detail that must have reminded my friend of our alma mater. That is, the curriculum at Sarah Lawrence is arranged around “problem-focused” topics (to borrow a phrase from Taylor’s editorial). Students can take courses such as “Surgically and Pharmacologically Shaping Selves” or “Contemporary American Politics: the 2008 Election in Context,” (two offerings from the 08/09 Course Catalogue) without being a Political-Science major or first taking introductory courses in medical anthropology. In addition, the way the professors are tenured — without rank — in disciplines rather than in departments allows for the fluid creation of new disciplines to adapt to changing fields of study. Disciplines such as Global Studies, Ethnic and Diasporic Studies, and Science, Technology and Society were created in all likelihood by interested faculty in extant disciplines. The college has no majors or minors. Every undergraduate takes a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree. Some students choose to prepare for entry into law school or medical school or to design a highly specialized program suiting their own passions. However, the net effect of this curriculum is that the college graduates class after class of knowledgeable generalists.
That is the extent of the similarity between Sarah Lawrence College and Mark C. Taylor’s idea of a “university for the twenty-first century.” Sarah Lawrence does not grant doctoral degrees so his suggestions about how to revise the dissertation hardly apply. Taylor’s suggestion of ending tenure certainly is not exemplified by Sarah Lawrence where all faculty, in theory anyway, are tenured or on the tenure-track.
The idea to end the tenure system, radically distracting as it is from his other ideas, seems to me the only proposal that Professor Taylor puts forth in the article that would actually address the set of problems he starts out with — the failing economy of graduate education. Prior to the recent meltdown in the global economy, the problem of a glut of Ph.D.s for a dearth of tenure-track positions seemed to me a bit of a bugbear. Daunted by the job market as a doctoral candidate and no stranger to exploitation as an adjunct, I nonetheless had felt curiously optimistic that after several years of grueling applications I could land that sought-after tenure track position somewhere in the United States. This optimism had been based on the impending retirement of the baby-boomers, however, and it shrank along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the value of all those 401k accounts. Reading this Op-Ed after a season of cancelled jobs and announced hiring freezes, I found myself sympathetic to Taylor’s polemical claim that “graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning” and also found myself for the first time oddly receptive to a proposal to end the tenure system. Certainly, mandatory retirement age seems like a reasonable idea.
For many years, I have been pondering the economics higher education. With the skyrocketing numbers of young people enrolling in college and especially junior college in the United States, there must be another way to increase the access of all these students to higher learning than exploitive adjunct labor.
Professor Taylor’s proposals seem unlikely to implemented any time soon. But maybe his example should be followed. I propose we all go out on a limb and imagine our ideal universities. What ideas do you have? Perhaps the existence of one college that has managed to become an elite institution without playing by the rules (besides having no majors, did I mention — no grades!) should inspire us with the value of the improbable.
As many of you know, last month BLSCI applied for external funding from an organization that recognizes exceptional faculty development programs focussed on enhancing undergraduate teaching and learning. In order to make our case for the award, we included some preliminary results from the Writing Diagnostic Assessment data. I’d like to use this post as an opportunity to share some of these results with readers to demonstrate the effectiveness of the work that many have been doing over the years and get some feedback regarding ideas for future analyses.
When looking at the data, on average, students start the semester with scores on both the expectations and writing quality variables in the “middle” range (scores around 3). When we then looked to see if students’ scores significantly improved over the course of one semester in a CIC, there were no major findings. This was because many students started the semester out scoring high (scores from 4 to 5) on many of the variables, and thus did not have any room for improvement (as measured by the diagnostic scoring criteria).
However, when we looked at students who scored in the “low” to “middle” range on all of the variables (thanks Diana for this suggestion!) we observed statistically significant increases from the beginning to the end of the semester on all variables. These increases were consistent across disciplines and schools as well. The figures below illustrate the changes we observed in the data separately for the Weissman and Zicklin Schools.
Although these results are based only on a subset of the data we’ve been able to clean, match, and analyze (~ 5,000 students), they nonetheless illustrate that the work of BLSCI in creating and implementing CICs seems to be paying off for students across the board. Although most probably knew or were able to sense this already, it’s always great to have “hard data.” We would love to hear readers’ thoughts on these findings and how you see these data stacking up next to the work you’re doing with students in your own classes. Also, as always, any general thoughts and/or questions on the assessment data are welcome.
The article “Public Library Geeks Take Web 2.0 to the Stacks” on Wired.com describes a program where hundreds of staff members at North Carolina public libraries were asked to explore Web 2.0 in ways by trying out 23 things that were simple, yet meaningful and useful.
The result: Learning 2.0.
The impetus was the need for staff to know about Web 2.0 technologies:
When the IT director at North Carolina’s Charlotte & Mecklenburg County public library began training staff in the latest web technologies, she lured reluctant participants with bribes — a free MP3 player and the chance to win a laptop.
Six months later, the program they developed is the real prize. Learning 2.0., developed by public services technology director Helene Blowers, has become a surprise grassroots hit, available for free on the web and adopted by dozens of other libraries around the globe.
“The last thing we want is for people to come into our libraries and ask about Flickr or Second Life and be met with a blank look,” said Christine MacKensie, director of the Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Melbourne, Australia, which just finished a four-month version of Learning 2.0. “And they certainly won’t now.”
The program is inexpensive to run, but is fun and engaging. Hundreds of staff members signed on.
Recognizing that librarians need to know how to participate in the new media mix if libraries are to remain relevant, Blowers challenged her 550 staffers to become more web savvy. Using free web tools, she designed the program and gave staff members three months to do 23 things.
They created blogs and podcasts, tried out Flickr, set up RSS feeds, learned about wikis, uploaded video to YouTube, played with image generators and Rollyo, and explored Technorati, tagging and folksonomies.
“Librarian avatars were popping up all over the blogs,” said Blowers.
In the end, the library system found that they’d just trained their staff in new media with very little financial output (save some blog hosting and the mp3 incentives), without going to the trouble and expense of bringing in staff training, or forcing people to sit through classes.
Although her original goals for Learning 2.0 were touchy-feely “E’s” — exposing staff to new tools, encouraging play, empowering individuals, expanding the knowledge toolbox, eliminating fear — the effects were both practical and financial.
“We don’t have to wait for some training company to come along and say, ‘For $20,000 we’ll show you how this stuff works,’” said Michael Stephens, who wrote Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software. “Helene put it on the web so anyone can use that program.”
Libraries all over the world are doing just that — moving the entire Learning 2.0 program to their own websites. The program has been duplicated by university and community library systems in Sweden, Australia, Canada and Denmark. In the United States, programs are underway in South Carolina, Florida, Maryland and California. Even the Combined Arms Research Library, a military repository, is trying it.
It’s no surprise that now the 23 Things idea is spreading beyond libraries, to two realms cac.ophony.org readers are much more familiar with: higher education, and business.
Now Blowers’ program is spreading beyond libraries (even virtual ones, like the teen library in Second Life teen library in Second Life): A public relations firm wants to set up a Learning 2.0 program for its staff, and several universities and an elementary school want to use the system to educate teachers, she said.
Several years ago, I taught a semester-long course and some weekend workshops with Paul Allison and Ken Stein of the New York City Writing Project. We walked participants (mostly high school teachers, but also some CUNY and SUNY college faculty) through various experiences, from setting up a blog, editing a wiki, to using bloglines, del.icio.us and tags (this is a few years ago, mind you, when bloglines, del.icio.us, and podcasts were “new” new, or at least a newer new, not old hat, as they are now). Then, as now, new stuff was coming out every week.
The New York City Writing Project was interested in giving teachers a chance to blog, so they’d see if, and how, blogs might be useful for their students. They ended up finding out how blogs, flickr, podcasting, WiKis and all kinds of other web 2.0 applications could be useful in teaching literacy and communication skills, and they ended up using these, and other aspects of Web 2.0, in their classrooms. The 23 Things idea is very similar, though the 23 things could easily be tweaked to include the newest useful Web 2.0 technology, since good new stuff comes out all the time.
Perhaps the best thing about Web 2.0, and Learning 2.0 is that so many resources that work, like the 23 Things program, are free to use and free to build on.