Zombies, Flamethrowers and Catfish

Image credit – CogDogBlog

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.

1 relatively speaking anyway, this is an edtech presentation after all- flickr shots here and here

2 You’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in many cases.

Comments on this post

  1. Jim Groom said on November 9, 2008 at 11:56 am


    Knowing that you were at least to some degree happy with this presentation as an experience gives me no end of satisfaction. As you know I am pretty much a cheerleader for everything, I understand it is both a strength and a weakness–either way I can’t help it, it’s who I am. I count on you to be honest about how good something truly was or wasn’t, and while I’m sure you can pick elements of this roller coaster ride apart–I think what really sticks with me after all is said and done is that we approached it as a fun, crazy idea and actually stuck to the insane idea and had fun while doing it. At the same time, I don’t think we lost sight of the message we both truly believe in. I see it as our first successful, collaborative attempt to spread the good word of what I hope will be many, many more such occasions.

    I love you man!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks on this post

  1. Simple but Profound at The Fish Wrapper said on December 3, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    […] some back-reading on a few blogs I’ve recently subscribed to, and I found a wonderful bit at Tom “Bionic Teaching” Woodward’s. Good teachers will use things that help them. Make those tools available and obvious. Build […]

  2. […] you’re still a little skeptical (as I still am/was) of Second Life, take a look at Tom Woodward and Jim Groom’s presentation on the metaphorical enslavement of Blackboard.  A rather excellent use of the medium, […]