Sorry, folks, but I’m here to once again pollute this fine blog with class material. One final time, I will pretend to write a real blog entry when in fact I’m writing for an audience of one: my instructor, Jeff Boyer (hello, Jeff). After this entry he will suggest that I try something other than a blog to complete my weekly digital artifact assignment. Noted in advance! I will probably try a podcast next time. This week my topic is super vague: “Communicating with technologies”. That happens to be exactly what I’m doing right now. Actually, that’s pretty much the only way I communicate with you people (Jeff, most of the writers/regular readers of this blog live in Iowa ). When I have something to chat I talk to you guys via AIM or Gmail Chat. If you’re not signed on then SOMETIMES I e-mail. And when I have something cool that I want to ramble about I write about it in here and hope you actually read it. If I want the rest of the world to read it (as in the National Game Registry series), I put a bunch of tags on it and hope Google will do the rest (it doesn’t).
The means of communication I just described may be defined is synchronous and asynchronous. The former basically refers to realtime communication. So Gmail chat is synchronous. We’re in sync, we’re there together at the same time, we’re kicking it live. As far as teaching goes, I see this as being most useful in communicating with students in other cities or maybe even other countries, kind of as a cultural/social awareness activity. Because of time zone limitations, if my students were to participate in some kind of synchronous activity with students in other schools, they’d probably have to be in Canada or any and all countries south of us, as long as there aren’t language barriers. On the other hand it’s RISKY! How do you regulate it? What if they start talking dirty? What if that class of Paraguayan 3rd graders turned out to be a bunch of perverts in Arkansas?
I mentioned the blog as a form of asynchronous communication and it is – when people actually comment. Otherwise, it’s really just a diary/news service/etc. A better version of asynchronization is that tired beast, the message board. I can see how this would be good with students, in a more controlled version of the previously mentioned chat situation. Time zones wouldn’t be an issue. In fact, using something like Babelfish, languages wouldn’t be much of an issue, either. In a coordinated, orderly message board, students from around the world, including my own, could share their thoughts on various issues.
Other forms of communication that my curriculum is pushing this week are videoconferencing and podcasting. Just a few years ago I would have laughed at the videoconferencing idea as impractical but my semi-new laptop, purchased last summer, includes a built-in microphone and video camera. Most of the laptops I saw had these features. When I was in high school (over ten years ago), I was on the Academic Decathlon team. During the season, we would gather after school in the A/V room and turn on an expensive camera and boom mic and compete with similar losers from local high school. With a standard, modern laptop, something like this could be set up on a moment’s notice. With the Smartboards that some classes now have, the video could be easily projected. Kids love to be on camera, they like to see weird strangers, and they like to compete. Imagine setting up a spelling bee or math contest with a class across town. I think it’s actually a pretty fun idea.
As for podcasting, EH. The only value I see in it is that students will work harder if they think someone other than the teacher will consume their product. I suppose that, given the widely available mics I just mentioned, it wouldn’t be very expensive but I can’t imagine giving up the time for it. Do I put a few kids in a quiet closet so they can record without background noise? Does the WHOLE class sit around and contribute? And how do I mend their hearts when they post the podcast and find out no one cares and no one downloaded it? Maybe I’m just biased against podcasts; the only ones I ever enjoyed were the Ricky Gervais Show releases. Most podcasts I’ve heard are just pointless drivel, usually bad industry (video games, movies, etc.) writers that take their crap writing jobs seriously and consider podcasts a chance to let their hair down. Usually this means stupid inside jokes, unwarranted laughter, and 30 minutes I could have spent listening to some music or just sweet silence.
In closing, message boards and videoconferencing good, chats and podcasts lame. The end.