As pointed out by Nicolas, Sébastien Paquet was giving a talk on Friday. He talked about blogs and wikis for collaborative learning. As an interesting sidenote, the famous Gilles Brassard attended Sébastien’s talk since Gilles was Sébastien’s thesis supervisor. As reported by Nicolas, I think a number of professors do not like the bottom-up nature of these tools.
I think it is quite natural to get these reactions. Blogs and wikis are part of a larger trend where central control is being neutralized. I think the Web in general will eventually have a very deep effect on society: my son will live in world where individuals are in charge much more than companies or governments. Universities will be hit hard too: I see students taking progressively charge of their learning. Currently, we decide what my son eats, but he started to protest when he doesn’t like something, and soon, he will alone decide what he eats. I think technology will progressively put students more and more in charge. I don’t think this will diminish the need for university professors, but their role will change from spoon-feeding students to providing guidance.
I predict that in 5 years, students all over the world will learn Calculus with little input from from instructors (but a lot of input from other students!). They will use sophisticated on-line laboratories and on-line testing, and on-line support. The technology is already here, but we still don’t know how to use it properly.
Update: Jeff Erickson seems to predict that in 5 years, I’ll still be predicting that in 5 years learning will change. Well, he is right. Learning is changing all the time. The role of university professors has changed quite a bit with technology, whether we care to admit it or not. What I’m saying in this post is that the Web has reached sufficient maturity now that it will soon be able to do away (mostly) with instructors in some of the more spoon-feeding courses.