John Willinsky and the Ten Years War

If you’re interested in education and technology, go (now!) and listen to Jon Udell’s recent interview with John Willinsky. Then go listen to Willinsky’s fascinating 1 hour lecture which deals with everything from Issac Newton as proto-blogger to Wikipedia error rates to why our exam-book culture is selfish and anti-intellectual.

You might want to listen at home. I made the mistake of listening just now at lunch, and I don’t know how I’m going to work for the rest of the day.

I want to march. I want to start a revolution.

But since I left my musket and pitchfork at home, I got off the Willinsky lecture hyped up, and put the energy into browsing the web instead. And I bumped into an old friend in a surprising place.

Back in 1996/97 I worked at Northern Illinois University. And long story short, I sold them on an idea I called visible education. We did this site called The Persona Project, which was supposed to be a student produced encyclopedia of biographies.

Then I left grad school, and the site died a slow lonely death.

Here’s the weird bit. The site still exists. I just found out it’s still on NIU’s servers, here:

Apparently no one had the heart to delete it.

What a time machine that site is. And what a trip to see that I’m saying exactly the same things today, and calling them “Web 2.0”.

I’m not showing this to prove how smart and visionary I was in 1997 (although, come on, it *is* kind of cool).

But rather, reading through the site and seeing how much it matches with the Willinsky pieces, it just really brings something home for me.

We’ve been fighting this battle, off and on, for 10 years now. Some of us more than that. But when I listen to John Willinsky the ideas don’t sound old, or tired. I don’t roll my eyes and say “We’ve pushed for this for 10 years, it has no legs.”

When I hear Willinsky, I think, we’re almost there. One more push.

To some people that might sound like I’m in denial.

So be it. I’ve waited (and pushed) 10 years to get to this point. I can do another 10 years if I need to.

When you believe in something passionately, time just scales differently.