Making It Matter

I think I’ve reach a turning point in my view of educational technology.

I’m finding myself rolling my eyes each time I hear about another cool gadget or gizmo that makes things easier to do. Put best by Gary Stager when discussing a recently unveiled digital video product:

“Animoto is undoubtedly a cool piece of programming, but my head will explode if someone tells me that it has educational value…”

Call me old fashion, but I like figuring out how to do hard things. Figuring out how to do hard things teaches you a lot of things. It demands that you focus your attention. Maybe it is just the way I’m programmed, but if something is to easy there is no reward. I feel that as we strip away the need for expert knowledge, we are left with a system devoid of accomplishment.

Ultimately, I think kids are missing out on the discovery of how “cool” things are actually created. Instead they drop a few pics they stole from Google images or Flickr into a template and call it good. Students miss out on critical production ideas such as layering, cueing, masking, and sound-tracking. Without all of the prior knowledge how can students hope to be able to create anything original?

An even bigger concern is that these programs change the way we think. Just look at effect of PowerPoint on instruction. In many cases, content has been reduced to a series of 3-5 factoids per slide. We change our instruction to fit the program, instead of changing the program to fit good instructional practices.

I think I’ll try to focus more on developing applications guided by theory, instead of instruction guided by application.

How About Education 2.0?

David Warlick’s “Teacher Technology Rant” and rebuttal “Why Teachers Don’t Use Web 2.0 – an historical perspective” by Gary Stager really got me thinking about the difference between Web 2.0, as a cultural phenomenon, and Web 2.0, as a set of innovative technologies.

As a culture, Web 2.0:

  • is thrives on user created content
  • holds freedom/democratization of information in high regard
  • is inherently anti-authoritarian
  • gives equal voice to anybody with a computer
  • holds social networks in  high regard

As technology, Web 2.0:

  • allows your Internet browser to become a collaborative tool
  • permits the sharing of nearly all types of digital media
  • allows for the Internet to become nearly any computer application you can think of

Most educators I have talked with see the inherit value of Web 2.0 technologies, but they do not see the value of Web 2.0 culture. This is interesting to consider. Can you have Web 2.0 technology without having also embracing Web 2.0 culture?

I’m not sure what I think yet.