Banging the drum easily at first
Back during my middle school years, I spent several months (not years) learning to play the baritone horn. I found it easy to get a sound out of it, but difficult to get my fingering fast enough to keep time. I knew I had it easy compared to friends playing the clarinet, sax or flute. I figured the baritone horn was more difficult than any percussion instrument. I bailed on the baritone when my frustrations outgrew my diminishing satisfactions. When my father rented a vibraphone several years later, I had no regrets about the abrupt ending to my brass instrument days.
I've been wondering this morning what connections there are between learning to play musical instruments and using the Web 2.0 "tools of student engagement". I imagined that all the tools are easy to use at first, like a percussion instruments that support "banging the drum" with no practice, sheet music or metronome signaling the beats. I then questioned whether the Web tools also have the equivalent subtleties of coordination, timing and expressiveness. Could there be a phase of learning the technique that gets followed by "playing with feeling"? I suspect the answers to both questions is "yes".
It then follows that lots of people could become discouraged as they used the Web 2.0 tools like I did with the baritone horn. It's not the the tools discourage engagement and deeper use. It's that the challenges beyond the beginner stage take considerable determination, intrinsic motivation and social support. It's not for the casual player or those with a fainted hearted interest.
Where the tools invite exploring personal freedom, self expression and one's own curiosity, they also demand a level of practice and proficiency. There's no freedom in the work involved, dedication required and patience called upon by setbacks. Perhaps we are over-emphizing the liberation and downplaying the confinement when the tools of engagement backfire, yielding more student disengagement.