A really interesting conversation has broken out in the comment section of a Darren Draper blog post that spotlights a recent interaction between Arthus—a 14-year old digital superstar that has helped to shape thinking around Web 2.0—and several members of his learning network.

In the interaction, Arthus comes across as a bit unwilling to learn from others.  Drape’s central concern is whether or not the attention that edubloggers have paid to Arthus has inflated his digital ego:

And let’s talk about celebrity now. Arthus has become a poster-child for the 21st Century student. I’ve propped him up, I’ve defended him, I’ve even admitted that he’s likely smarter that I am.  Is it too difficult to see that fame may have something to do with this?

Ryan Bretag wonders whether or not we’ve thought about the consequences of digital mistakes when pushing our students to become participants in online communities:

Let me throw this into the conversation as this highlights something to ponder: the fact that participatory media does not allow K-12 students to make mistakes within a smaller culture.

If someone had a conversation with me like this when I was his age, you’d have a lot of posts to write about. The thing is that my mistakes, heated situations, odd conversations, etc. weren’t there for the world to see. This mistake (not really the best description of the situation but stick with me) is now there for the world to see and is part of his virtual footprint.

Arthus himself has learned a valuable lesson about the role that Twitter should play in a learning network:

There is a reason Twitter asks “What are you doing?” instead of “What are you thinking?” and I learned it today. Twitter is good for many things and I find it to be an invaluable part of my day, but its greatest flaw is also its greatest strength: Twitter is simple. By being so incredibly simple, great innovations and conversations can be built on top of it. Unfortunately, its simplicity can also mask the nuances of language and humanity. I discovered this the hard way: through trial and error.

For me, this experience has highlighted an important realization that has sat beneath the surface of my digital work for a long while now—That teaching the skills of collaborative dialogue is essential in today’s hyper-competitive world.  Here’s what I wrote:

First, many thanks to @arthus for being willing to allow this conversation to go on!

Arthus, whether or not you are the “poster boy” for 21st Century learning, you’re clearly doing all of education a huge service by allowing a group of passionate teachers and thinkers to use your development—both as a kid and as a kid in a digital, open, participatory world—as a bit for reflection about what is happening in our classrooms and in our schools.

That’s huge.  Period.  We owe you one. 

As far as the strand of conversation from Twitter goes, I think the only lesson I’m going to take away is that all humans—-but particularly the students that we engage in ongoing digital conversations—need to be taught the difference between competitive and collaborative dialogue.

When I think about any conversation that I have in the blogosphere/Twitterverse, I think of it as collaborative. I assume that everyone I’m interacting with has good intentions and that we’re all learning together. Operating from that assumption changes the way that I respond to anyone—-whether it be in a Tweet or in a blog comment.

And collaborative dialogue has an entirely different language than competitive dialogue does. There are more questions asked in collaborative dialogue. Challenges happen—but from the lens of “How can we learn more about this together so we can come up with a new understanding for both of us?” rather than “How can I show everyone that my ideas are right? What evidence can I use to support my thinking or to debunk my opponent?”

Our world tends to model competitive dialogue all the time. We’re surrounded by companies fighting for market share, by politicians fighting for votes, by sports stars and musicians fighting for attention. We see opponents everywhere—-instead of seeing allies.

That emphasis on competitive dialogue isn’t a result of participatory media—-check out the ads in the newspaper or the signs hanging in the local pizza shop window. Competitive dialogue has been around for a whole lot longer than blogs and Twitter.

The change that I think we need to see in our classrooms and communities is a new emphasis on helping our students—-and our neighbors, colleagues and friends—to recognize the appropriate times for competitive and collaborative dialogue—-and then to teach the skills for engaging in both to everyone.

Does this make any sense?
Bill Ferriter

So what do you make of this digital dust-up?  Are there any ideas here that resonate with you?  Should we walk away from this experience scratching our heads?  Discouraged by technology?  More determined than ever to teach children the skills necessary to “participate” in participatory media?

Interesting questions, huh?

And questions we need to consider as we move forward with digital efforts, that’s for sure!

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