Are There Too Many Portals?

I have been working to create an educators portal for about a year now (Learning Aloud). It is a combination of my blog posts, a social bookmarking site focused on topics in educational technology, and most recently something I think of as an online book entitled Meaningful Learning and the Participatory Web. I originally developed the online book as a personal wiki (anyone could read, but only I could write), but then converted the content into more traditional web pages. There are also options for participation – it would make little sense to write about the participatory web without welcoming and offering opportunities to participate. The social bookmarking site allows registered users to contribute and rate. Access to some parts of the stie are controlled through Drupal and those who register are provided a page they are encouraged to use to link to their own projects and examples.

My site was certainly not the original. Those who work in this area enjoy working with the tools and sense the value of using these tools to tap the knowledge and experiences of others. However, a reasonable question might be – if too many portals are created has the potential body of participants been diluted to the point that the potential benefits of collaboration cannot be realized. I have begun to think about this topic because of two new portals I have encountered in recent weeks.

Social Networking 4 Teachers

ISTE Connects

One site is sponsored by a major organization for educators with technology interests (ISTE). Those organizing the other are a little difficult to identify (I know how some of the individual components originated, but not the site). While it has been argued that survival as a content/service provider is really a battle for attention, I encourage your examination of all of these sites. BTW – I am making no effort here to be exhaustive.

So, the site I am attempting to organize may have little hope of competing with the resources of an organization or perhaps an organized group with well-known members. So, what I would like to argue, perhaps in an effort at self delusion, is that the model I propose is more useful. Others could offer this model (a cohesive position/vision statement in combination with examples and comments), but I am guessing this will not be the case with the examples I offer here. I translate “cohesive vision” into something as comprehensive as a book. I say that I doubt the willingness of the sites I have mentioned to offer such a resource because of the “money” issue – the examples I am using as contrasts generate income from books or presenters’ fees. It is therefore difficult to acquire an integrated model and examples from these sources.

I think others offer a similar perspective. In Tapscott’s recent book (Grown Up Digital), he offers a perspective he bases on Geoffrey Moore’s famous “Crossing the Chasm” (this analysis based on an even earlier model of innovation that I remember using farmer adoption of hybrid seed corn as the core case study if my Iowa roots serve me well). To be honest, I am using Tapscott’s analysis here – I have not read the original content for some time. I am guessing you have encountered the argument – ideas take off when the early majority (rather than early adopters or visionaries) buy in. Moore argues that to reach the more pragmatic “early majority” one must offer a “whole product”. Visionaries and early adopters are excited enough by pieces that they will generate their own implementations and discuss these implementations with anyone willing to listen. I read an interesting ReadWriteWeb post that went further and proposed a somewhat different scenario when applying the Moore model to tech innovation. This post argued that innovators and early adopters can be driven by the excitement of the innovation (my interpretation), but they may not necessarily serve the most useful role in promoting change because they often move on to new innovations before the present ones are actually fully implemented or given a trial. I see a real germ of truth in this claim.

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