"Humans tend to use new technology in the same way they used the old technology," says Cleve Miller, founder and managing director of English360, an online learning and open source model for English language teachers.
"The first television broadcasts were of a man in an armchair with a microphone -- exactly like the radio! It takes a while for things to sink in, for us to realize what the possibilities are."
In partnership with Cambridge University Press, English360 gathers expert-created content and pairs it with authoring and communication tools to allow English teachers to grab what they want, piece it together as they need, and share what they make with others in their field -- all free of charge. If they enroll students for a per-student fee (who are, so far, mostly professionals learning English for business and other specific purposes), the interface helps extend the classroom beyond the school building and the school day with forums, blogs, calendars, assessments, and other tools.
"When it was a Web 1.0 world, English language teaching, especially with education publishers, still followed a top-down instructional model where all the content was created somewhere by a bunch of experts," says Miller, who's taught English to professionals in 11 countries around the world. "The early model was that the Web was just a delivery system. But I was running a language school in Buenos Aires and I thought, now that this stuff is digital, why does it still have to be so rigid? I should be able to repurpose, resequence, an edit it to a certain degree."
Inevitably, Miller says, "The economy of the old model -- mass consumption course books designed for a global audience -- led to a generic content approach." But now, mashups are the norm, or should be, in education.