Avoiding the Echo

Dan’s got a post about how-

. . . much easier (it is) in this tech-enamored ‘sphere of ours to write those posts than it is to criticize them. I’m not saying my rejoinders don’t demand a more objective tone (I’m saying the opposite) just that, having exhumed a lot of dusty blog posts the last few days, a lot of people seem less offended by my tone and more offended that someone bothered to contradict their majority opinion.

I think he’s right and I’m glad to hear he’s working on his tone (just a little- generally I find him funny) because I see his ideas as rock solid and it’s too easy to end up dismissing ideas because of things like tone.

I’m thinking of the stock edtech conference. Why not have debate style presentations on the topics? It’s an idea that’s old as dirt but edtech conferences tend to just have one point of view presentations. Why not a timed debate style? Something with over the top titles like those below

  • 1 to 1: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
  • Internet Safety: Pedophiles’ Playground or Digital Utopia?
  • Digital Natives: Naive Name Calling or Nuclear Children?

I saw this done really well at our law school Friday. The two law professors wrote a humorous biographical introduction for their opponent. This starts things off in a positive way and gets people laughing. They referred to each other as “pathetic,” “monster,” etc.

They were supposed to argue for 13 minutes, 15 minutes then each would get a 3 minute rebuttal. The time was completely ignored by the first participant. I think this hurt things in the long run.

The point is you don’t really see this kind of point/counter point going on the edtech environment. It’d be interesting to see. I’d like to see it being done in blogs. The point being, the disagreements could be pleasant and even humorous rather than spiteful. That can be a hard line to walk but the conversation would be worthwhile and if done correctly it’d be pretty entertaining as well.

There might even be value in doing this in a fake way- really making the points black and white while ramping up the hyperbole. I think people would see pretty quickly that there is a whole lot more gray in this area than there seems to be.

Comments on this post

  1. Mathew said on April 7, 2008 at 10:18 am

    It sounds like fun. The only problem is that these discussions should be driven by data and there’s not a lot of data on either side yet. We’re kind of acting on faith and theory that will take awhile to be proven.

  2. Tom said on April 7, 2008 at 10:53 am

    I guess I have mixed views about that. I think that most of this can be talked about using studies on learning theory rather than specifically focusing on technology – but that may be because I feel the technology is just making previous techniques/styles/methods easier.

    There’s certainly data out there on child abductions, internet crime etc. It’s certainly being misused.

    A number of the conversations aren’t really about data anyway. They’re just view points. I don’t see any way to prove someone is a digital native through data but I can still see a debate about whether digital natives exist.

    A lot of things will simply never be “proven” because there are so many variables. Take the 1 to 1 for instance. There are so many variables that impact how and if one to one laptops will change learning. Getting it pared down to a yes or no isn’t likely to happen in any way that I can put much faith in. However, the argument about it being good or bad for learning would be interesting. I could argue both sides right now and feel both would be pretty strong.

  3. Ben said on April 7, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Tom: A fantastic idea! Very much akin to Forensic debates or extemporaneous speaking. I would love to be in the audience listening to two ed tech big wigs go at it, but the problem is (as dan points out) most voices in the ed tech world are just echoing the same comments and thoughts. Perhaps we need to start inviting more administrators, curriculum specialists, and other leadership in schools beyond the technology leadership. I know a couple of administrators that have some excellent points about why we should limit technology, but they would probably feel very out of place in a room filled with ed techies just looking to “beat them up.”

    Mathew: Those discussions don’t need to be data driven. Many competitive debate programs in high schools allow students to collect information for their points from a variety of sources, including print, digital, and other media. Some people can make a strong argument without the necessary data, although truth be told it would help to have data.

  4. Tom said on April 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Ben- I may start heckling. I wonder how that would go over?

    I agree that the change has to start with the concept of edtech conferences. The conferences tend to lean way too far towards the tools in most cases I’ve attended. It would have to be handled carefully to keep people from feeling like targets but that opposing voice is important.

    I may start playing devil’s advocate. I wonder if I’d get accepted at edtech conferences with completely hostile anti-edtech titles.

  5. Benjamin Baxter said on April 13, 2008 at 3:12 am

    One person is boring. Two people, less so.

    It occurs to me that whatever skills many educators have with connecting to or engaging students, they tend to forget it all when they start dealing with their peers. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good presentation from a teacher to a fellow teacher.

    You’d think the credential schools would teach presentation panache, but they don’t. Figures.