So, yes, this is yet another post on the thinking of Clay Shirky, who what with all of the videos and interviews available out there on the Web has been pushing my own thinking on almost a daily basis. (I’m also happy to report that I’ll be doing a live streaming interview with him on July 10 at 11 am for those that might be interested in how this all translates down to K-12 education. Stay tuned as I’m going to be asking for some audience participation…)

In a presentation to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), a site that is getting a Ted Talks feel to it, btw, Shirky talks about these shifts in terms of how our use of media is changing. Whereas we used to use media to know things, we can now use media to do things. In this world, to speak is to publish, and to publish is to gather. At one point he says that “every URL is a latent community now,” and that community can not only consume the information there but can build platforms to act together. He discusses a number of examples that he used in his book, but he adds a great story about how the businesses in Palermo, Italy are using these new abilities to fight back against the mafia in some creative ways.

This idea of using media to act has been borne out in some interesting ways in our community in the last few days as well. Doug Belshaw found himself in the midst of some controversy recently when he posted his negative feelings about TALMOS, a Virtual Learning Environment that he had found difficult to use. Seems TALMOS contacted his school and asked that they get Doug to take the “offending” material down, which he did. Doug noted on the post:

***I had criticized TALMOS in this section, but they contacted my school to ask me remove my ‘potentially commercially damaging’ comments. It’s a shame to be effectively silenced through legal threats when all I did was compare their offering unfavourably against another…***

Love it. Of course, when people found out about this, they started writing and Tweeting about it, and it now appears that the company has backed down, saying according to Doug’s comments, that they wanted to “start a dialogue.”

And the other example was the networks reaction to ISTE‘s announcement of its seemingly restrictive policy about videotaping and streaming at next week’s NECC conference. After a number of bloggers wrote about it and attempted to frame a coordinated plan of action, ISTE re-evaluated it’s stance and has now made it much more accommodating to sharing.

But while that is all well and good, there is a part of another Shirky video interview that resonates here. He talks about groups’ abilities to use these tools for action, but he differentiates between using them reactively and using the proactively.

We’re not seeing a lot of real world collective action where people are coming together to build things and not just complain about things.

Now certainly, there are some examples in our network of that kind of work. But to me, that’s the real challenge for us as educators, teaching kids to use the tools for connecting and learning and acting, but also teaching them to do it not just as response but as creation, as inspired construction. That’s the real creative, potentially transformative piece to this. That’s what I want my own kids to be able to do.