The Price of Student 2.0?

A really interesting conversation has broken out in the comment section of a Darren Draper blog post that spotlights a recent interaction between Arthus—a 14-year old digital superstar that has helped to shape thinking around Web 2.0—and several members of his learning network.

In the interaction, Arthus comes across as a bit unwilling to learn from others.  Drape’s central concern is whether or not the attention that edubloggers have paid to Arthus has inflated his digital ego:

And let’s talk about celebrity now. Arthus has become a poster-child for the 21st Century student. I’ve propped him up, I’ve defended him, I’ve even admitted that he’s likely smarter that I am.  Is it too difficult to see that fame may have something to do with this?

Ryan Bretag wonders whether or not we’ve thought about the consequences of digital mistakes when pushing our students to become participants in online communities:

Let me throw this into the conversation as this highlights something to
ponder: the fact that participatory media does not allow K-12 students
to make mistakes within a smaller culture.

If someone had a
conversation with me like this when I was his age, you’d have a lot of
posts to write about. The thing is that my mistakes, heated situations,
odd conversations, etc. weren’t there for the world to see. This
mistake (not really the best description of the situation but stick
with me) is now there for the world to see and is part of his virtual

Arthus himself has learned a valuable lesson about the role that Twitter should play in a learning network:

There is a reason Twitter asks “What are you doing?” instead of “What
are you thinking?” and I learned it today. Twitter is good for many
things and I find it to be an invaluable part of my day, but its
greatest flaw is also its greatest strength: Twitter is simple. By
being so incredibly simple, great innovations and conversations can be
built on top of it. Unfortunately, its simplicity can also mask the
nuances of language and humanity. I discovered this the hard way:
through trial and error.

For me, this experience has highlighted an important realization that has sat beneath the surface of my digital work for a long while now—That teaching the skills of collaborative dialogue is essential in today’s hyper-competitive world.  Here’s what I wrote:

First, many thanks to @arthus for being willing to allow this conversation to go on!

whether or not you are the “poster boy” for 21st Century learning,
you’re clearly doing all of education a huge service by allowing a
group of passionate teachers and thinkers to use your
development—both as a kid and as a kid in a digital, open,
participatory world—as a bit for reflection about what is happening
in our classrooms and in our schools.

That’s huge.  Period.  We owe you one. 

far as the strand of conversation from Twitter goes, I think the only
lesson I’m going to take away is that all humans—-but particularly
the students that we engage in ongoing digital conversations—need to
be taught the difference between competitive and collaborative

When I think about any conversation that I have in
the blogosphere/Twitterverse, I think of it as collaborative. I assume
that everyone I’m interacting with has good intentions and that we’re
all learning together. Operating from that assumption changes the way
that I respond to anyone—-whether it be in a Tweet or in a blog

And collaborative dialogue has an entirely different
language than competitive dialogue does. There are more questions asked
in collaborative dialogue. Challenges happen—but from the lens of
“How can we learn more about this together so we can come up with a new
understanding for both of us?” rather than “How can I show everyone
that my ideas are right? What evidence can I use to support my thinking
or to debunk my opponent?”

Our world tends to model competitive
dialogue all the time. We’re surrounded by companies fighting for
market share, by politicians fighting for votes, by sports stars and
musicians fighting for attention. We see opponents
everywhere—-instead of seeing allies.

That emphasis on
competitive dialogue isn’t a result of participatory media—-check out
the ads in the newspaper or the signs hanging in the local pizza shop
window. Competitive dialogue has been around for a whole lot longer
than blogs and Twitter.

The change that I think we need to see
in our classrooms and communities is a new emphasis on helping our
students—-and our neighbors, colleagues and friends—to recognize
the appropriate times for competitive and collaborative dialogue—-and
then to teach the skills for engaging in both to everyone.

Does this make any sense?
Bill Ferriter

So what do you make of this digital dust-up?  Are there any ideas here that resonate with you?  Should we walk away from this experience scratching our heads?  Discouraged by technology?  More determined than ever to teach children the skills necessary to “participate” in participatory media?

Interesting questions, huh?

And questions we need to consider as we move forward with digital efforts, that’s for sure!

7 thoughts on “The Price of Student 2.0?

  1. Scott

    A comment above mentioned seemed to suggest that wisdom is acquired through the expanse of time. This is only half true. I can buy a guitar and let it sit in my living room for decades without ever getting any better unless I practice. Thus, wisdom is only acquired by experience (i.e. time) tempered with failure. There’s simply no other way to acquire it. You can absorb others’ failure osmotically, but that rarely carries the visceral impact that one’s own failure have.
    I also take issue with the statement that we place our students in competitive environments and then expect them to collaborate.
    We don’t place anyone in anything. Existance is in and of itself competitive. Doubly so if you adhere exclusively to something like natural selection as the engine that drives existance. That’s another topic for another day, though.
    My point being that comtemporary education tends to coddle and shelter from failure. Is the old-fashioned (time testd?) way of grades and ranks the best way? Possibly not, but then neither is allowing the pendulum to swing all the over to no grades and no ranks as inertia seems to be carrying us.
    It is a shock indeed for a person who has been educated all their life without the impact of external review and reaction suddenly finding themselves in an adult job where that happens on a daily basis.

  2. Nate Barton

    I am really resonating with the idea posted by Ryan Bretag and the idea of mistakes being aired out for all to see. Virtual footprints. This, in my opinion touches on a larger epidemic that I feel is touching a majority of our students. Fear of failure.
    Hedging. I think is the term that hits the nail square on the head. I have a fellow teacher whose class motto is. “Be bold, not perfect.” I cannot tell you how many of my students do not make attempts because of their fear of failure. This kills me, because if a nine year old is afraid to attempt something that they haven’t ever done, simply because they are afraid that they might fail, then what kind of world are we headed towards.
    Beyond that you have to consider how many students give up after one or two tries. I tell my kids, as I am sure many of you do, about Edison’s two and a half years of toil for the light bulb, but they don’t connect. For that matter I think that there are many of us, myself included, who struggle to grasp the meaning of that kind of perseverance in this day and age. We’re losing it.
    Is it possible that Web 2.0 may be adding to this?

  3. Adam

    I enjoyed your post and I went to Darren Draper’s blog to follow the thread. The interesting thing to me was the discussion about collaboration vs. competition. When we post it appears to be about collaboration, but is that why kids post? Have we placed them in competitive situations in our schools from grades to class rank and then assumed that they would be collaborative in online environments.
    The point was made that Arthus had helped many people before this incident, so are we to assume that he understands the nature of these interactions?
    My other thought is why is this such a big deal (admittedly I haven’t seen the tweets)? If learning is a process shouldn’t student’s be allowed to present their thoughts and defend their opinions? Are we teaching Arthus that it is okay to collaborate on the web, but when you say something that people don’t like we will automatically dismiss your credibility? I know I have a lot of questions, but this topic has many ramifications for the Web 2.0 tools that we use in our classrooms.

  4. Dina

    Bill– great questions.
    You cast the issue of DI communication as competitive versus collaborative dialogue, which I think is right on in many respects. However, I also think you’re giving short shrift to the idea that DI itself is a hothouse for communication that is not “collaborative.” Let’s look at what DI encourages– even requires in some formats.
    * Instantaneous response.
    * Two-dimensional interpretation of text (emotional nuance and tone of writer very hard to convey without an explicit and mature command of written language.)
    * The false sense of solitude in 2.0 (we’ve discussed this before) which fosters not only forgetting how we might be “rubbing raw” a real person on the other end, but also can cause *us* to say inflammatory or inappropriate things we would never consider F2F.
    * Tremendously abbreviated statements (140 characters? 🙂 ), versus exploratory or expository comments or questions.
    I have to wonder, in the end (and again), just how much most of DI is a *dialogue* at all.

  5. Mike

    I’ll not specifically address the digital component of what’s going on here. I will, however, refer you to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the novel that Hemingway himself called the foundation of American novels. One of the many lessons inherent in that work has to do with the proper, rational relationship between adults and kids.
    Huck is intelligent, and particularly, streetwise (for his era and in those skills appropriate to his era and situation). In fact, some adults often want to ban the book because Huck often gets the better of adults and makes them look foolish. Readers are even tempted to think that Huck is smarter than his uneducated companion, Jim the runaway slave. But the wise reader eventually understands that while Huck is smart and capable, for a child, he is a child, and he gets into considerable trouble, trouble that hurts himself and others, because he lacks the foundation of wisdom: experience. There is no substitute, and experience cannot be obtained absent the passage of time, considerable time.
    This is a lesson that many teachers never learn, or having learned, forget to the detriment of themselves and their students. There are indeed students that are, in raw intellect or in the application of a specific skill or skills, smarter than adults, but it is our duty as educators to help them channel and develop that intellect and to gain, correctly, the experience that they need to understand that intellect without experience, wisdom, compassion is wasted. Teachers have the experience that students do not. And experience teaches us that we have to get over ourselves if we are to progress and thrive in a world full of disparate personalities.
    When we forget this lesson and praise students too much (note that I said “too much”), we do them, ourselves, and society no favors. Perhaps that’s a part of what’s going on here? At least, I seem to catch a whiff of it.

  6. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Hey TX Teacher,
    First, welcome to the blogosphere! I can guarantee you that you’ll learn more in your travels around edublogs than you have in dozens and dozens of years of PD.
    I only know that because I learn more every day from digital forums—including from your comment!
    I hadn’t even considered this situation from the lens of an AG child—but your point is completely legitmate.
    I liked this quote the best:
    As adults, we are not usually constantly barraged by people blatantly providing direct instruction. Kids are.
    Why is it that we can’t recognize that we’re rubbing kids raw through DI—which is a learning style we resist?
    Good thinking,

  7. atxteacher

    As a newbie, this post got me more excited about the blogosphere than anything else I’ve encountered so far. The interaction resulted in such a varied and rich reaction. My point-of-view is from gifted education and my knowledge of the 2.0 tools is quite limited. In the interaction, I saw the opportunity for my colleagues to discuss the needs and experiences of a gifted kid. As adults, we are not usually constantly barraged by people blatantly providing direct instruction. Kids are. As adults, we would get really tired of everyone acting like we’re clueless about everything. To some degree, I think many kids start to feel this way as they enter adolescence. It’s part of growing up. But gifted kids feel this way much more often – and often they DO know more than the adults around them.

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