Friday, May 23, 2008

A Rose by any other name...

Emma Duke brings up a valid point. We need to reach beyond the nomenclature of "Blogs, wikis, podcasts...." These terms turn the general public off. They are the names of tools we use to do something else anyway, so why use names of tools instead of names of processes?

Blogs are about reading and writing. There are some minor technical points, like tags, hyperlinks & images that are used in blogs and not in paper essays. Primarily, the reading, the resonating, the conversing, the writing - these are the crux of the matter.

Wikis are about sharing and collaborating. They have some differences from paper groupwork, but essentially the sharing is the point. Learning to use a wiki is not the point of k12 education, it is a vehicle.

Podcasts are audio recordings. I went to a podcasting workshop at PETE-C. On our way there, Jim asked me, "What do you hope to learn about podcasting?" I really know nothing. I use a tool for live interactive audio. I create live noise. Podcasting is a different tool. They can be generated from a synchronous meeting, as in a webcast. Or podcasts can be totally asynchronous and listened to at convenience.

I like Emma's point. I certainly have been guilty of using names with which few identify.
So what is the new mantra? Reading, writing, sharing?


The Virtual Teacher said...

I was trying to explain this same stuff to a parent recently who felt that computers were taking over in our class. He felt like we were not putting enough emphasis on the basics. I tried to explain that the student blogs were writing and that podcasts required writing and speaking. He didn't seem convinced. Maybe next year I'll try naming them differently...the question is which names? Please share if you come up with a good set.

Jason Priem said...

I agree with you and Emme that we should guard against the media becoming our message; in a good post today about "technology delusion," Stephen Ranson includes this great piece of advice from a teacher: the purpose of schools is to "teach carpentry, not hammer." We don't want to be saying "I teach [mumblemumblemumble] WITH BLOGS!"

But, I think, neither do we need reverse it and put the mumble over 'blogs.' I wonder if getting rid of the terms blogs/wikis/podcasts is really the answer. I think that the key, instead, is in that separation of tools, or 'vehicles' as you say, and teaching.

It seems to me that we should be proud to say, for instance, that we teach writing with blogs--those "technical points, like tags, hyperlinks, & images" make blogging a powerful tool for teaching not just writing but a wide range of content and thinking skills.

I think we should be telling the (often justifiably) skeptical folks like the parent tVT mentions both sides of this coin: we teach content and skills--and we to do it we use [blogs or whatever]because it's the best tool for the job. If we teach sculpting, we shouldn't have to apologize for handing out chisels.

Lisa Parisi said...

Good point, Lisa. The message we try to give our parents is one in which a great deal of reading, writing, and collaborating is being taught. When we focus on the learning, it is easier for parents to understand and accept the tools we use.