Saturday 29 January 2011
Getting the English B website launched last week was one of those Big Moments that turn out to be ... er ... rather small. The world, of course, did not actually stop turning, and there was not a stunned silence while the global population read through every one of those laboriously produced words. But for me, at least, there was a sense of closure, of having moved from one condition to another ... a sense which probably has been misguided, because I was not thinking properly about the nature of the internet.
The internet is an organism which continually grows and changes. There seems little prospect that it will stop expanding - I read today in El Pais that it is estimated that between 120,000 and 130,000 blogs are added every day. To attempt to visualise, to grasp imaginatively such amazing proliferation leaves me with a sense of vertigo. How then can the English B website have any significance in the middle of such mind-boggling variety?
The answer, I hope, lies in relevance and quality - specific relevance to the practical teaching lives of the clearly identifiable group of people who teach English B, and quality in the sense that all my experience and imagination can be focused on those specific people. But discussions are already starting within InThinking about making the sites even better - and the driving force behind those discussions concerns how people actually use the internet.
Nicholas Carr wrote the seminal article 'Is Google making us stupid?' - and I have two pages on the site discussing and expanding on that idea ( see Google & stupidity 1 ). He argues that the intrinsic qualities of the internet - speed, flexibility, multiple connections - encourage short-term thinking and discourage concentrated attention. In an interview published today in El Pais, Carr notes that when you read a book "there is only the page", but when you are online the whole system tends to side-track you. Google provides endless possible avenues ... adverts flicker in peripheral vision, ... the computer chimes to tell you an email has arrived ... what's new in that chat? what's happened on Twitter? ...
This site has been designed from the start as something that people would read, not just glance at. It assumes that teachers of English might enjoy stimulating, sophisticated writing. It will be interesting to find out if that was a good bet. What do you think ?