The Online Educa conference session which well-known UK eLearning industry figure, Donald Clark delivered this morning featured a passionate (and entertaining) attack on the core assertions of Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur; How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, who had himself delivered a strongly-worded ‘presentation’ on the previous day. 

If Clark’s presentation appears on the Online Educa conference web site I urge you to watch it.  He has talked about it himself on his own blog here.

I read Keen’s book a couple of months ago and have to say that some of what he argues is, indeed, food for thought. I was quoted in eLearning Age magazine on the subject just last month (and wrote about it here) and I confess that I do have concerns around the potential for the spread of ignorance, the deliberate subversion of facts for personal, political or commercial aims or even more worrying criminal purposes.

However, Keen’s in-person delivery of his argument was felt by everyone whom I spoke with, as nothing other than a grossly ill-informed, bitter, arrogant and inaccurate summation of what is, in actual fact, happening in the ‘web 2.0 world’. 

An obvious example is the often quoted justification for asserting the validity of a questionable fact that is:

It must be true… I read it on the web”.

I have heard this said dozens of times BUT in each and every example it was used in a (typically British) sarcastic tone to signify that the person who said it recognised the obvious inaccuracy of the statement.

I don’t doubt that many people will accept inaccurate web-based ‘facts’ without question – and that is unfortunate – but isn’t this true of all sources of information which have not originated from a “14-year old keyboard thumping monkey” (Keen’s caricature) but from private corporations, public sector agencies and, dare I say it, quite a few governments? 

Clark clearly disagreed with Keen’s ‘patronising’ view of, in particular, children and stated that he very much believed that children already possess the ability to judge the validity of the information and the information source. In a way he was agreeing with Keen, who had stated that we should prioritise building ‘media literacy’ over computer literacy with the distinct difference that Clark credits the internet generation with already possessing that ability.