That’s hot – Web 2.0 and the empty vessel

“____ 2.0” is turning into a catch phrase for educational technology bloggers and conference presenters, who know that anything with 2.0 in the title gets attention. Taking a dip into the marketing world, it’s easy to see why. Although Web 2.0 has a definition that relates to the underlying technology, it has come to mean much more. It’s a social movement, a defining line between who “gets it” and who doesn’t, a feeling, a look, and a value system.

It’s what marketing mavens call an “empty vessel” – a phrase or name that has no real meaning, but sort of suggests someting. In that vacuum, people can insert their own interpretation and actually feel like they understand the product or brand better as a result. By simply adding 2.0 to pretty much anything, it neatly implies the “second generation” of something with a techie twist.

So themes like Classroom 2.0 and School 2.0 become a shared idea with no real meaning. They signal that something is changing without anyone having to say exactly what that is. We can all agree that “Classroom 2.0” is a good thing, because each of us fills that empty vessel with our own idea of what a new version of a classroom looks like.

Hey, I’m the first to admit I do it – I did a conference presentation this morning about including students in Web 2.0 implementations. My version of Classroom 2.0 has students involved in constructivist projects using open-ended technology tools in a collaborative learning community. It drew a nice crowd, even though everyone came in with a completely different idea about what Web 2.0 meant to them.

But that’s OK – at least we agree that something is changing and that’s hot*


* For those of you who hate TV and never read trashy magazines, “That’s hot” is the catch phrase of Paris Hilton, who has turned being famous for nothing into a major career.

2 Replies to “That’s hot – Web 2.0 and the empty vessel”

  1. For me, “2.0” means two-way, or the fact that intermediaries are no longer necessary, whether in online business or online learning. The workers (learners) now have the tools to be co-creators of knowledge. Web/Learning 2.0 also means lack of control and that scares a lot of people. Perhaps in our lifetimes we may actually see democracy entering the workplace and the classroom.

    “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

  2. I couldn’t help feeling that there are more empty vessels than the one we call Web 2.0. I am beginning to think that schools are ghost ships, running aground because there is really no one at the helm.

    Your empty vessels expression is similar to a post I had the other day about cicada carapaces. I believe we have the tools online now to begin to stop thinking about learning places as ‘classrooms’ or ‘schools’. In a way web X.X is merely shorthand to get us away from the old metaphors and paradigms, a crutch that will allow us to walk away from the old wreck that is the school and onto a new, bustling, alive vessel that will carry us someplace we all really want to go to.

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