Monday, October 29, 2007

When is out of date, out of date?

A couple of days ago I was exploring a link to a wiki created by a class in New Zealand. It was posted to a mailing list to illustrate a good example of educational use of a wiki. And it was an excellent, genuine example. However as I was reading it, I noticed that the last entry was posted in about June 2007. My immediate reaction and consequent action was to stop reading and to move onto something else. Why?
When I thought about this, I realised that the more I read information and ideas on the web, the more I expect the posts, or entries to be 'fresh'. Why, I wonder. I would have no qualms about reading a non-fiction textbook that might have been published 10 0r even 20 years ago. What is different about the web?
Speed is also a need. I find that often I'll read something and if it doesn't 'grab' me, I'll either move on or at the very most, tag it and then move on.
I wonder what it says about me as a consumer? I wonder what this need for immediacy or action might say about our students as consumers?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

“I realised that the more I read information and ideas on the web, the more I expect the posts, or entries to be 'fresh'. Why, I wonder. I would have no qualms about reading a non-fiction textbook that might have been published 10 0r even 20 years ago.”

I agree with you when I read information on the internet I expect it to be only a few days old, a week at the most. I think it is because we think of the internet more as a newspaper than a textbook. We wouldn’t read a ten-year-old newspaper to get up to date information on current events. Today with information changing so quickly we expect the internet to keep up because it is the fastest way to get information. As well as the easiest place to update current events. If a book talking about natural disasters had been published a week ago it would already be considered out of date because of the horrible forest fires taking place in California. However if the same information was published on the internet the author could easily go out and update his webpage to reflect the situation in California.

I do not think that it is a bad thing to expect web pages on the internet to be updated on a regular basis. However, just because a page has not been updated recently does not mean it is obsolete. I think it is still important to examine those sites to learn other people’s opinions about a certain topic.

Samantha said...

When you say how you would read books that are 10-20 years old but seem to pass over older items on the web, I can really relate. I however do this because all through school I was taught to look for more recent sources. Also the more I used the web, the more I saw that older sites tend to have bad links and faulty information. So I always wondered, why isn't there something or someone who in a sense "cleans up" the web? That gets rid of this older sites that do not contain valuable information. However, also keeping the older sites that still have something to offer. Just something to think about.

Melissa Reed said...

"Speed is also a need. I find that often I'll read something and if it doesn't 'grab' me, I'll either move on or at the very most, tag it and then move on.
I wonder what it says about me as a consumer? I wonder what this need for immediacy or action might say about our students as consumers?"

When I read this I thought back to the 56K modem I used to own and how long it took to log in to the Internet and to load websites. At the time I thought nothing of having to wait for my information because I always had to. However a few days ago I got extremely frustrated with my e-mail server for lagging slightly. I think that as a society we are becoming spoiled with speed.

As an instructor I believe that it is important to teach students how to find information quickly online but we must also make sure that they learn how to practice patience in life as well.

Anne said...

The need for speed is really interesting isn't it. I think that these days I am more impatient than my students. It seems the more you use the web the higher your expectations are of how well it should work. Coming from the country, Melissa's comment about the 56k modem also is fresh in my mind. What a celebration it was in our house when we finally got broadband. And even more recently a wireless connection.

Anonymous said...

Great point about the web’s effect on our need (preference?) for speed and freshness. As an educator, I have two points, a reason for hope and a concern. First the hope.

1.) Textbook dominated curricula have little impetus towards change / improvement. The pedagogy under girding the use of textbooks and the actual content of textbooks superficially changes in miniscule ways from year to year (even generation to generation). For example, there are teachers in my building who still use the same overhead projector sheets and ditto copies they made in the mid – 80s. Perhaps our (both teachers’ and students’) needs for “freshness” and “speed” will help minimize the number of unreflective and uninspired teachers who rely too heavily on ancient files, routine, and canned curricula. Perhaps an atmosphere where “freshness” and “speed” are both expected and valued will be one where continual change / improvement and innovation are the norm.

And a concern . . .
2.) Neil Postman in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (1985) wrote the following about television (emphasis is mine):

“Television is altering the meaning of 'being informed' by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information - misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing."

I often wonder whether a similar idea applies to our consumption and preferences of web content. Furthermore, I wonder if the way we consume web content does lead us (and our students) away from actual knowledge. Are we losing our ability to synthesize since so much of what we encounter is brief and fragmented? Do we value what is new over what is timeless? To what extent do we value what is new over what is timeless?


P.S. What is different about the web, for me at least, is that I trust the content of a book. Finding web content that I trust takes some sifting. Perhaps it’s because a book has “passed” inspection and revision on the part of an editor or that a publishing house has deemed it worthy for publication (and money making). On the web my first (and sometimes only) indicator of trustworthiness is when it was last updated. But then again I think we would expect any open sourced medium to reflect that which is newest. We don’t turn to the web for that which is timeless. In the same way, we don’t hand kids paintbrushes and tubes of paint as they enter the Louvre. Which makes me wonder whether there will ever be a museum of history’s greatest web sites?

Anonymous said...

Great point about the web’s effect on our need (preference?) for speed and freshness. As an educator, I have two points, a reason for hope and a concern. First the hope.

1.) Textbook dominated curricula have little impetus towards change / improvement. The pedagogy under girding the use of textbooks and the actual content of textbooks superficially changes in miniscule ways from year to year (even generation to generation). For example, there are teachers in my building who still use the same overhead projector sheets and ditto copies they made in the mid – 80s. Perhaps our (both teachers’ and students’) needs for “freshness” and “speed” will help minimize the number of unreflective and uninspired teachers who rely too heavily on ancient files, routine, and canned curricula. Perhaps an atmosphere where “freshness” and “speed” are both expected and valued will be one where continual change / improvement and innovation are the norm.

And a concern . . .
2.) Neil Postman in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (1985) wrote the following about television (emphasis is mine):

“Television is altering the meaning of 'being informed' by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information - misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing."

I often wonder whether a similar idea applies to our consumption and preferences of web content. Furthermore, I wonder if the way we consume web content does lead us (and our students) away from actual knowledge. Are we losing our ability to synthesize since so much of what we encounter is brief and fragmented? Do we value what is new over what is timeless? To what extent do we value what is new over what is timeless?


P.S. What is different about the web, for me at least, is that I trust the content of a book. Finding web content that I trust takes some sifting. Perhaps it’s because a book has “passed” inspection and revision on the part of an editor or that a publishing house has deemed it worthy for publication (and money making). On the web my first (and sometimes only) indicator of trustworthiness is when it was last updated. But then again I think we would expect any open sourced medium to reflect that which is newest. We don’t turn to the web for that which is timeless. In the same way, we don’t hand kids paintbrushes and tubes of paint as they enter the Louvre. Which makes me wonder whether there will ever be a museum of history’s greatest web sites?