Emerging Issues in Educational Technology

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

I just wanted to take a quick moment to draw gnovis readers’ attention to the EDUCAUSE 2007 Conference that has been taking place this week in Seattle. Covering a huge range of topics related to education and technology, the conference has been receiving fantastic coverage by the Chronicle of Higher Ed on their Wired Campus blog , plus a number of posts on the EDUCAUSE blog .

One of the most compelling stories from the conference is a huge challenge to the popular belief that Wikipedia is less rigorous than the Academy. A professor had her undergraduate students submit their final papers as new articles on Wikipedia.

"By the end of the term, all of the papers had met her standards — in fact, she said the papers were generally the best she had ever had, since students worked harder knowing their work would be seen by a wide audience. But one of the papers was rejected almost immediately by Wikipedians, and four others were later removed by the community for not being up to the encyclopedia’s standards."

-from Jeff Young’s post on Wired Campus

The "conventional wisdom" about intellectual rigor, particularly in relation to Wikipedia, is that academia gets it right, and the public gets it wrong. It’s taken for granted that Wikipedia should not be trusted, and that reputable (ie institutionalized academic) sources should be trusted. What is being overlooked here is the fact that academic writing is extremely susceptible to laziness and self-legitimation — the private, isolated nature of academic work means that it is vulnerable to the failures of individuals.

Public work, such as Wikipedia, on the other hand, is equally vulnerable to individual failures, but it is self-correcting due to the wisdom of crowds, to steal a term from James Surowiecki (who, incidentally, is the keynote speaker The New New Internet "Web 2.0 for Business" Conference , taking place next Thursday in Reston, VA)

There are so many other interesting articles on the EDUCAUSE conference that it’s hard for me to choose which ones to call out — I wish I’d been there so I could report more directly — so I’ll instead point you to this convenient list of highlights . This particular list is entirely focused on Web 2.0 topics, so it’s overlooking a number of other aspects of the conference (including a great deal about campus security and technology, but it’s a good starting point for anyone who wants to read more.