Social Learning 2.0

Here is a great website about the intersection of education and the internet. One of the concerns of the main author is that educational institutions are ill-prepared to cope with the hurricane of new media information as well as potential new online approaches to teaching.

This is a really fascinating topic partly because for hundreds thousands of years formal education has languished under the province of a priestly class of educators operating pretty much in the same fashion since the Greeks introduced the professor to student lecture model of teaching.   Although it’s not a *bad* model, I’d strongly suggest we could do a lot better, especially given the plethora of new online tools readily on hand at no cost to almost everybody.

Where an old, legacy class about global markets would dredge up boring examples from dated textbooks, a new class could use real time stock information such as the Archipelago bidding environment, currency quotes, breaking news, and so much more.   In science students should be actively participating in blogs specializing in topics like Global Warming, artificial intelligence, and biology as well as interacting with other students around the globe.

A professor friend of mine who taught an online accounting class said there were challenges with the lack of personal contact, but benefits from student interaction and the fact he could answer the same predictable questions with an FAQ rather than having to deal with them over and over, basically freeing up more time for individualized instruction on the complicated topics.

As with so many online topics education is evolving rapidly within the rapidly evolving overall environment, so it is very hard to predict where things will wind up.   However I think it’s easy to say there is a lot of potential for improvements on the current outmoded lecture models, and the internet kitchen is cooking up new solutions every day.

Links and SEO

From a search ranking perspective links are one of a website’s top concerns- probably the most important concern as linking often trumps content in terms of where a site will place for search queries.

As always, a great source for SEO information is Matt Cutts blog over at Google where a careful read of his SEO posts will bring you a lot of enlightenment about Google do’s and don’ts. His post of a few days ago was particularly interesting as it deals with Google’s crackdown on paid links that try to pass pagerank. This is one of the most contentious topics in SEO and an area where I wish Google would be more transparent since there are so many linking approaches that are not paid but may be questionable in the eyes of Google. The fact that they depend so much on reporting of paid links is also a problem as it allows aggressive SEOs to “game the system” by selectively reporting competitors while creating complex and undetectable linking for their own sites.

However my biggest concern about linking is not something Google can fix, and that is the fact that even in the world of what Google views as legitimate, authority passing links, strategic linking to “friend and associate” websites has largely replaced the early approaches to linking where people work to simply link to a great resource for the reader.   As blogging has exploded into prominence and linking importance this problem has become critical, and we now see that early and well established blogs will outrank far better resources that have few incoming links because they are new.   Ideally, the older resources would be better stewards and link out to the good new resources but generally the stakes have become too high as links are now correctly seen as more valuable than advertising and bloggers have become too reluctant to link to other resources unless there is some reciprocal benefit.