I remember when I was at university (the first time!) seeing a picture in the National Geographic, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. According to the description, the Hubble had chosen an area of sky about the size of a grain of sand, that appeared completely empty, and then zoomed in on it for an extended period of time. This is what they saw. Mindblowing. Each speck of light there is a galaxy, containing hundreds of billions of stars. This is a vastness our brains are not really wired to comprehend, and you can only 'Respond with Wonderment and Awe' and feel very tiny.
I came across an image on the internet recently, which invoked that same feeling. Ever wondered what the Internet looked like? Try this:
This image is from the Opte Project, who are using special software to 'map' the Internet. It looks to me as though it hasn't been updated for a while, but incredible nevertheless. I have this image on my desktop, and I think most of my colleagues think it's a fireworks display (!). To me it's a visual representation of collaboration and connection on a grand scale. I believe that relative to the future, this image may just be a seedling.
Ultimately, when working with Web 2.0 in the classroom, this is what we are teaching our students to navigate and use effectively. And unlike space travel, which takes light years, to get from one end of the Internet to the other only takes a couple of clicks, and there are plenty of black holes on the way.
As part of my course I'm reading Will Richardson's book 'Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom'. It has some incredible statistics.
"In early 2008, Technorati.com, one of the many blog tracking services, listed over 110million blogs ... At this writing, the service was adding 120,000 new blogs and 1.5 milion Weblog posts each day." p.2
He also discusses Wikipedia, which often gets a hard time from critics. Richardson's comments here are worth reading too, particularly regarding the accuracy of Wikipedia.
"No one person, or even small group of people, could produce Wikipedia, as currently edits appear at a rate of around 400,000 per day. Everyday, thousands of people who have no connection to one another engage in the purposeful work of negotiating and creating truth. They do this with no expectation that their contributions will be in some way acknowledged or compensated, and they do it understanding that what they contribute can be freely edited or modified or reused by anyone else for any purpose. The extent to which this happens and to which it is successful is truly inspiring." (2009 p.57)
Inspiring indeed. Go forth, in Wonderment and Awe.