I only managed to skim George’s History of Networked Learning (note: RTF) but had more time to read A History of the Social Web. I was deeply disappointed in the latter, a bit like Lisa, though perhaps for different reasons. I, not being a historian, was less troubled by the fuzzy thesis than by the uncanny ability of the author to take what ought to be a fasinating story and make it as dry as the package of silica which protects electronic equipment during shipping.
Most of the people mentioned in the essay are alive. Several of them blog. Why not let them speak in their own words? Why not let them tell the fascinating tidbits about how all this ferment happened? I suppose there is some need to be concise, but I felt as if the narrative sucked the life out of it, at least for me. Others seemed to like it, though.
As to the broader question of these networks in a learning context, what I’ve seen unfolding in the course suggests to me that decentralized may in fact be better. Someone connected this with Ivan Illich. Although I haven’t had time to read him yet, an Illich fan with whom I chat on occasion explains it as creating tools and letting people use them. If you go beyond that, it seems very easy to create a creepy treehouse. Trying to specify in great detail how people use the tools reminds me also of Clay Burrell‘s “schooliness”. (BTW, he has been doing a fascinating series on Gilgamesh – especially appropriate since it’s Banned Books Week).
If you make things student driven and open, how do you then meet the demands for copious assessment? When you aren’t among the self motivated multitudes of CCK08, but among those for whom it’s about the grade….about the credits….about the diploma, I suspect that an open participatory model might create a whole lot of virtual silence, unless you declare, “Thou shalt post X times per week” in which case it becomes about grading and earning points rather than about teaching and learning.