Learning in a Flat World, interview with Britt Watwood

Britt Watwood, edublogger and founder of Learning in a Flat World, is with us today. Britt is an online learning specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has a doctorate in education. He is here with us today to share his views on education and technology.

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

It was a gradual process. It really started with my adopting Delicious for social bookmarking…and through the growing network I built, I saw more and more blog posts that were relevant to me. One moves pretty quickly through lurking and reading to commenting on the blogs of others. Once I began commenting, I felt that I had something to say myself, so I started blogging. That was 2 years ago. Within the first six months, I became increasingly aware that others were reading my blog. However, for me, it is first and foremost a reflective journal that I keep in an open manner, as the feedback I get from others is something I find very useful.

The other thing I would add is that blogging is simply one side of social networking, and there is a constant interplay between my blogs, my Google Reader where I read the blogs of others, and Twitter, where I many times find out about new blog posts…and where I announce my new posts.

2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?

I think what makes them different is there comfort level and their mashup of the physical world with the virtual. I do not buy in to the notion of digital natives. Many younger students are less savvy about technology than old folks like me, and in reality, most of the networked web or Web 2.0 applications have only been around about 5 years. The difference is that the younger generation is not afraid to try new things on the web while their elders are scared.

3. How can technology change education?

I like to think that it is already changing education. We live in an amazing age where every individual has access to world knowledge and the ability to generate text, audio, and video and publish it themselves. For years, there was a digital divide between those who had the technology gear and those that did not. Now, the divide is less about physical ownership and more about access to the web…which increasingly is occurring on smart phones. Teachers and faculty who think they are not using technology are not watching their students, who already are.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in education?

The biggest obstacles are in the mind. I am currently reading William Kist’s book, The Socially Networked Classroom. Bill notes that one can integrate a little technology, a moderate level or high levels, and gives good examples of teachers already doing it. What I hear from the teachers I work with is that they are either blocked by policy (made by fearful administrators) or blocked by their own fears that they will appear foolish in front of the technologically savvy students.

5. Do you think it is possible to one day have an all-online classroom?

I have been teaching online for 15 years…it already exists. The bigger question is how classrooms will appear when instruction moves seamlessly from physical to virtual and back. Right now, we make a big deal about “online classrooms” but in the near future, the use of the web in instruction will be assumed. Udemy is a perfect example of how “classroom” is evolving.

Thanks for agreeing to talk to us Britt! Again, you can find his blog, Learning in a Flat World here. For more information on democratizing online education, see Udemy’s main website here.