Zombies, Flamethrowers and Catfish
It’s really a strange world. The shot above was taken in Second Life by CogDog following my presentation with Jim Groom the other night. It was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had with a presentation. The video’s down there somewhere.
There were zombies, flame throwers and a lot of madness1. Jim was in rare form and really justifying his Reverend moniker. It was a pleasure to listen to him roll. CogDog has a very solid synopsis on his blog.
The gist of the presentation is that forcing people into boxes tends to mess up education rather than improve it- that things like BlackBoard create a lot of false impressions. They make it look like lots of your teachers are using tech but the way that they’re using it tend to be very low level and actually hurts your real tech integrators.
The future is open. The future is mobile, agile and friendly. BB (and others) are slow, ugly and unfriendly.
It seems simple to me. Forced tech integration doesn’t work. It just gets you really poor teaching with tech sprinkled on top. Focus on forcing good teaching, get rid of people who don’t do it. You can do things to require that and your time and energy will be spent in a much more useful way.
Good teachers will use things that help them. Make those tools available and obvious. Build conversations around them. Get people thinking and talking about what they might want to use and most importantly why they might want to use it. Help them. Make them superstars. Then get those people in groups talking to each other about what they’re doing. Then mix those groups every so often. Get those groups mixing with similar groups in other locations. See what happens.
If you hit teachers upside the head with something as big and unwieldy as BB as they roll in you short circuit a lot of the conversation and construction that actually helps build solid technology integration. You get people using things because they’re there or not really using anything because they have no idea why they might use them.
I’m not saying people can’t do good things in BB. It’s possible. Rather, I’d challenge that the mindset that adopts BB does it for mass coverage and to allow them to support more “clients” with fewer “experts.” It lets them brag about BB usage and how modern they are without really looking at how BB is being used. “We have 90% of our blah blah blah.” I hear them saying. They should be saying “90% of our staff uses BB to publish PDF syllabi and ineffectively use discussion boards.” Congratulations.
It seems so obvious to use small pieces. To spend all that BB license money on teaching and support2. Are lots of small pieces and lots of people doing non-standard things harder to manage? Hell yes! It’s just like differentiation though. BB and things like it are the textbook of the tech age. Homogenized, mass marketed and overpriced for a poor quality product that’s outdated before you even get it.
There is no one shot solution. Don’t believe those who sell one.