For my new course (Teaching & Learning in a Networked Environment), I've been browsing around a couple of websites, Department of Education School 2.0, and Partnership for 21st Century Learning.
The Dept of Education site left me pretty cold. There are lots of clever maps and differently colored blinking lights to say "You are here," but there is little of real interest that I could see. The introduction says, "By encouraging a discussion of community-based next-generation schools, we hope communities will be inspired to think creatively about teaching, learning, and management and then explore how technology can help meet those goals." They may be talking about School 2.0, but they're only talking about using Internet 1.0 when they get there.
The website is a collection of dead-end pages with very little connection to anything else. The only links go to other pages on the same site and I spent lots of time clicking the "Back" button. There's only a single style of presentation and little, if any, opportunity for the readers to get involved - either by asking questions, making comments or deciding what's relevant to them. Perhaps I didn't spend enough time on it to give it a fair shake (correct me if I'm wrong, here) but I lost interest pretty quickly.
The Partnership for 21st Century Learning site was much more lively and interesting. On the home page there are a variety of options - a video clip, a section with links to articles on related topics, an option to subscribe for email updates, and access to their on-line program cleverly branded "Route 21." The site provides a lot of specific detail about curriculum frameworks and the skills they support and provides opportunities for feedback and discussion. What a difference between the two sites!
Well, we do have a new administration now in Washington. Perhaps the Dept of Education could get in touch with rapper MC Hammer for some ideas about the benefits of social networking...