Back in March 2010, Learn the Net posted an article about internet activism, stating that despite criticism, e-activism “isn’t going to disappear.” The closing line of that article was: “Often it takes more than a few words on a blog or an e-mail to make a difference, but it’s a positive start.”
Fast forward a bit to December 2011, which saw a bitter debate erupt around the world over concerns that proposed U.S. legislation would potentially put too much power into the hands of the U.S. government to censor the Internet and bring many information sharing sites to a swift end. That legislation was introduced as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.
The ruckus culminated in a massive Internet-based “blackout” on January 18, one that saw thousands of websites go dark in protest of the legislation. In fact, over 75,000 websites participated in a blackout through SOPA Strike, one of many online activists groups that tried to rally people to protest.
Many people were surprised to see the likes of Wikipedia, Google, and Craigslist either go dark or include website content that made users keenly aware something was not right. Many even stated they didn’t know what SOPA and PIPA were until they visited websites participating in the online protest, if nothing else proving that awareness was raised by the event. And Internet users shouldn’t be surprised to see similar actions (though perhaps on a lesser scale) in the future.
“Technology has grown as a part of our lives, and the companies now have something of value that they can withhold in terms of services, which is a shift in the overall political landscape,” Colin Gillis, a technology analyst at BGC Financial, told the L.A. Times. “Is this spawning a new level of activism? I’d say absolutely yes.”
While citizens continue to find new and interesting ways to better protest using the Internet and technology, it’s worth noting this “new level of activism” seen last week didn’t exclusively take place on the Internet. Protesters wrote letters to, called to, and even visited the offices of their representatives, frequently doing so on multiple occasions over a prolonged period of time dating back to 2011. Activists even pulled together to participate in rallies in San Francisco, New York, and other major U.S. cities, adding an additional discontented presence to the masses. Two days later, voting actions on the SOPA and PIPA bills were postponed indefinitely by House and Senate leaders for further discussion.
While it’s easy to argue whether or not this is truly an end to the legislation, what’s difficult to argue about is the role the Internet itself played in bringing the votes to a halt. Not only did activists use the Internet as a tool, but they also were essentially fighting for their right to continue to protest online without fear of having their voices censored. And while last week’s blackout wasn’t the first time hundreds of thousands of people have took to the Web during times of dissent, the blackout stands out as a sort of “high water mark” for what can be accomplished using the Internet.
It may be a while before we see online activism in such capacity again, but be certain that it will happen. As the concept of social networking continues to change and draw in new Internet users, new methods of bringing information to people from all walks of life will certainly appear. Additionally, as an increasing amount of business is performed and information is exchanged over the Web, look for online businesses and other entities to become more vocal, using their clout to help shift political and social thought. With them will come a continuing evolution in how people communicate, learn, and protest.
Photo via mangtronix, Flickr Creative Commons
2011 has come and gone, and tied to it were numerous stories related to education technology. E-readers and tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Apple iPad gained momentum, big-name universities offered even more free online classes, and the flipped classroom gained more attention. And while some ed tech predictions weren’t realized in 2011, this year shouldn’t be any less exciting.
I’ve talked a bit about education technology here, most recently on whether or not the rush to adopt it has moved too quickly. The reality, however, for Internet newbies and long-term users alike is that technology and learning are increasingly difficult to separate now. While schools like the Waldorf School of the Peninsula are still resistant to technology’s march, many more work to integrate it into curriculum. But education technology isn’t merely relegated to the school; even the simple act of going online to learn about new technologies highlights the role tech is playing in our learning.
That said, 2012 should continue to change how we use technology while learning, with experts already making bold predictions. Technology author Audrey Watters recently posted her list of 12 education tech trends to watch in the coming months, a list that includes important concepts like higher-quality interactive content and “social learning.”
“The ability for learners to connect with one another will be one of the most important trends of the coming year,” said Watters in her piece for MindShift. “This isn’t just a matter of connecting learners with online resources or with online instruction. Rather, one of the big opportunities will be to create a space in which learners can help and teach each other.”
With the recent news that students of online schools are lagging behind more traditional schools, it’s easy to wonder if the isolated, somewhat impersonal nature of an online course is at least partially to blame. While solid research into social learning over the Web is still needed, there are at least a few studies that indicate that learner-learner interaction is just as important as teacher-learner interaction in online programs.
At least one company is already betting on the importance of that interaction. Last week education start-up Piazza announced it had received a $6 million infusion to fund further research and development into its social learning platform. The start-up states that its service is “designed to connect students, TAs, and professors so every student can get help when she needs it — even at 2AM.” Similar efforts are sure to make headlines this year.
Another important area that Watters addresses is the consideration of high-speed Internet access to schools and how it may sadly get worse than better. She notes that while the U.S.’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recognizes the importance of high-speed Internet in schools and libraries, “even those schools with broadband access may find their resources strained in coming months.”
This topic was discussed here in September and again in November, addressing both the importance of broadband access to schools and the actions the FCC took last year to expand broadband access. The news also highlighted the Idaho Education Network and how despite its successes, funding cuts to the program have already forced some Idaho schools to reduce availability. This news highlights what is likely to be many more education cuts before 2012 ends, potentially leading to further reductions in tech investments at schools.
Despite the cutbacks, education technology will likely continue to be a hot topic this year as people from all walks of life take to the Internet and mobile devices to study, learn, and teach about our world. That very concept is what drives Learn the Net, a site utilizing technology to help you learn how to use it better. It’s also a reminder that education technology, while contentious, isn’t going anywhere. We may or may not see many changes this year, but ed tech’s importance will only grow.
Photo via Erin Lodes, Flickr Creative Commons
It’s hard to beat the Internet as a learning tool, regardless of your interests. But one area in which the Internet really excels is history.
Because history is a passion of so many people, there’s a wealth of resources available on the Web. That’s why Learn the Net has recently teamed up with Famous Daily to deliver historical gems right to your Inbox every morning.
The Famous Daily shows you what makes today special, highlighting a famous quote of the day, famous birthdays celebrated today, along with important historical events that occurred today in history. Historical events are broken into categories including Business, Entertainment, Geography, and Sports. The Famous Daily also highlights (world??) holidays that are celebrated on this day.
Subscribe for free by clicking the Famous Daily link and entering your email address. Then amaze your friends with all the fascinating historical nuggets you’ll glean.