The New Industrial Revolution?

This summer, instead of giving myself a break like a sane person, I am taking a class on Information Policy. I have to say that when I saw the name and description of the class, I cringed a bit because, quite frankly, I’ve never really been a huge fan of policy and diving into the ridiculous semantics of how laws are written. So far, I’ve been surprised at what we are covering versus what I thought we’d be covering. This has, of course, brought me to have thoughts about the class even when not doing homework.

Having just finished watching a documentary on the History Channel (because I am a huge enough nerd that I like to learn even when relaxing) I just spent about an hour mentally likening the information industry to the American Industrial Revolution.

In the case of the Industrial Revolution, goods that were previously quite expensive because each component had to be hand-made and custom-built to fit that particular piece, became suddenly much cheaper because products were now mass-produced, each piece standardized. This had both a positive and negative effect on the economy as well as the quality of the products sold. For example, while it allowed for guns to be much more accurate and the production of weapons much more cost-effective, the mass production of goods like clocks, clothing, shoes, and even brooms put a number of tradesmen out of business. Things that had previously only been handmade were now considered pieces of art when they were homemade. These days, handmade items like quilts or custom-made clocks are much more expensive than their mass-produced components but people are willing to pay for the craftsmanship of the pieces as well as the piece itself.

The Industrial Revolution paved the way for the changing of fast mass information distribution. What the Gutenberg Press did for books, the Industrial Revolution did for paper and suddenly the newspaper business was booming because it was possible to produce daily, sometimes twice daily, editions of the paper rather than a weekly or monthly gazette. The question of how accurate and unbiased these newspapers were is a different issue in itself (see any article on Yellow Journalism), but the fact that men like Joseph Pulitzer had the ability to send out mass information quickly was quite extraordinary.

The information-based economy now has further revolutionized how we receive information in that what used to be a once-daily paper has become a constant stream of never-ending headlines, up-to-the-minute financial reports, and instantaneous information retrieval. Like the Industrial Revolution, this information age is arguably putting some older technologies out of business, or at least forcing them to change their business models. Whether or not the information markets will change the way America does business completely or if this change is simply more of the ever ongoing evolution the economy trucks through has yet to be seen.

IST611 Discussion Questions

In the article Diary of a Blog: Listening to Kids in an Elementary School Library by Janie Cowan (located in our class resources for the week), the author touches on the topic of site moderation and censorship. Discuss your thoughts on how you would run a blog through your own school library–specifically as it relates to the task of moderating and possibly censoring student responses.

First of all, I think I would begin by making it clear to students that a blog is public (much like any social networking sites that I am sure they are familiar with) but this particular blog was associated with the school. Comments or entries posted on the blog was the same as commenting in class or turning in a paper – don’t say anything you don’t want the administration to hear.

That said, using a blog site like will allow me to preview any comments before they are made public. While I don’t like the idea of censoring student comments, it might be necessary to do just this to ensure that students are using the technology appropriately. It would also give me the opportunity to privately speak to a student who might be doing just this and rectify the situation before it becomes an administrative nightmare. Students might not realize how their words come across and might otherwise be punished for an honest misunderstanding. I don’t think that silencing student voices is the driving force behind the censorship and I personally would have a difficult time not allowing a student to post their honest feelings if it does in fact relate to what is being discussed on the blog.

I think that the easiest way to avoid a major mess is to post some ground rules that all contributors (comments or bloggers alike) must follow. These would include the school’s policy on cyber-bullying, harassment, and appropriate handling of school materials. It would be made clear that the blog, while hosted on the Internet, is considered school property and should be treated as such.

In the article Learning With Blogs and Wikis, Bill Ferriter talks about how at times schools can be “hostile to the learning of adults”. Explain how a school librarian can incorporate blogs, RSS feeds, and wikis into professional development offerings. What potential do these tools hold for educators?

The potential for web 2.0 tools to be useful for school staff members is truly limitless. I believe that subscribing to RSS feeds from professional blogs, newspapers, or educational resources could greatly improve the access most teachers and administrative staff would have to such sites, especially with the help of an RSS reader what would put all of these feeds in one place.  As far as wikis, these would make collaboration with other teachers much easier, allowing both teachers to edit and add to their assignments and work collaboratively in an asynchronous manner. Not only does use of these tools enrich student learning, but it can help to make teachers’ lives easier (and who wouldn’t want that?). Perhaps allowing the librarian to prepare how-to seminars for the staff that would count towards some of their professional development hours would also entice teachers to learn more and to try to use some of the technology on their own.