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Earlier in the week I Tweeted an article from Wired Magazine, it was their cover article which procalimed that the WWW is in terminal decline. Subsequently the article has also been given a reality check by technologizer’s article which reminds us that life is not quite so black and white and that the screaming banner headlines are just that.
However the app based reality envisioned by the Wired article got me thinking. Talk of the digital divide has subsided somewhat over the last couple of years, the proliferation of cheaper tools to access the internet has seen to that. Palfrey and Gasser in their book Born Digital argue that the digital divide was never about equipment, but about skills. The skills required to effectively work with the exponential explosion of information that the Internet gives us access to and the ablility to make sense of that whilst working collaboratively with our physical and virtual peers. The key here is that we all have equal access to the information and resources on offer on the Internet. The Internet has become the great leveller and videos like Karl Fisch’s Did You Know, highlight the potential issues confronting all of us competing on a globally leveled environment.
So what of the app based reality envisioned or predicted by the Wired Magazine article? This potentially puts access to and control of content back in the hands of the providers and producers. To date making money out of the Internet has been a difficult thing to master. Wired magazine itself has just made an iPad app for their magazine and Rupert Murdoch is trying to charge for his news content. How long will it be before the only way to read Wired online is through an app - subscription payment model? Apps are marketed as code that works, a classic case of “it does what it says on the tin.” My fear is that if the app based predicitons become reality, then education and e-learning will be the poorer for it. It will bring back the user pays bad old days, which creates divides, creates information walled gardens, which education will be on the outside of, unless they pay. The beauty of the open, unfettered net is that creative teachers can design and implement packages, experiences and stimuli catered to the needs of their children. An app based internet reality will either bypass education completely as the returns are not high enough for developers to spend any meaningful time in that sphere or the apps themselves will be created for mass market appeal and not terribly educationally relevant. The solution? Educators should jump on the app band waggon and start to develop apps for schools, either that or the net should remain open to all.