The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I don't get it.

I didn't have the opportunity to attend NECC in Philadelphia but I did have the opportunity to follow the activities through several blogs. Obviously, from what I read, podcasting was a big hit and I'm not really sure why, other than the name and the obvious link to Apple's iPod.

Now I have listened to my share of podcasts. But what is so exciting about an audio file? I'd rather read a blog and interact with hyperlinks, and process and scan for interesting content, but maybe that is just my learning style. I know you can download them and listen to them on another device but do I really want to do that? I've read that others listen to the podcasts in their car-well, you know, I think I'll listen to some Springsteen or Bodeans or some Steely Dan, cranked with the windows open (but the air conditioning on) and turn loose the 265 horses of my Nissan Maxima and do some driving, thank you very much. I spend too much time with technology as it is.

I certainly respect the right to podcast, and I think podcasting can and will contribute to open source thinking and learning, but not on a large scale. I could be wrong. Realistically, is the average teacher going to Podcast? Unlikely, given the demands of the daily grind of teaching and the technical nature of creating and posting a Podcast. I'd be happy if they just filled out my online surveys on professional development. Will kids podcast-probably, some. Will it be our responsibility to teach them? Hmmm.....I think we have other things to teach them that ultimately be more important.

I don't object to podcasts at all-what bothers me is that this is the latest and greatest and people are jumping on the bandwagon. Education has been criticized for years for doing this. How many of you who are teachers have invested time and energy in some initiative to find out next year it's something different. And the next year it's something different. With this in mind, why do we wonder why change is so difficult for educators?

We need to focus on fundamentals, with a glance towards more substantive tools. How many teachers right now could outline a plan to implement information literacy into their instruction? How many could explain fair use? How many could teach kids how to locate Web resources effectively? How many can design an effective presentation to kids that models the priniciples of visual literacy effectively? More importantly, how many teachers could actually describe what constitutes effective technology use within the context of effective instruction?

We wonder sometimes if technology makes a difference in student performance and student learning. Many people say it doesn't. We all know it does. But continued hopping on the newest bandwagon actually moves us further away from what is important.


  • At 2:58 PM , Blogger Dean Shareski said...


    You raise some valuable questions and your criteria needs to be used when examining any technology.

    However, I disagree with your bandwagon opinion. Podcasting fits in to all the genres of social software including weblogs and wikis. Whether teachers will podcast or not is less of an issue than providing more tools and opportunities for anyone to publish and connect. The ease and ability of publishing is really the key. You may choose to listen to Springsteen in the car but I enjoy listening to podcasts or books when I'm out walking the dog. Audio, in particular has, in some ways, more potential than video or text because of its portability and that it enables us to do more than one thing. Video and even written text require much more of our attention than audio. That's one reason why podcasting may offer something different.

    In some ways I think podcasting may be one of those "fundamentals" you speak about. In conjunction with teaching kids about uses resources effectively, they'd better be taught how to make effective contributions to these resources. Wikipedia is one example of resources that anyone can contribut e to that is becoming more and more a viable, legitimate source of knowledge.

  • At 10:20 AM , Blogger Teach42 said...

    You knew I'd have to chime in on this one, didn't you? :)

    First of all, let me just say that I do agree with you on many accounts. Several months ago, I wrote a post called Podcasting: A very shiny tool where I explain why I'm at least a little skeptical about the impact it will have in education.

    That being said, I want to put a little spin on it for you. Podcasting is nothing more than Digital Storytelling. It's a different medium to be sure, with different criteria, but when you boil it down to it's basic elements, it's pretty darn similar. And I know I don't need to convince you the value of teaching our students to tell their own stories.

    Personally, I believe that podcasting has much greater implications for the world at large that it does specifically for education. It's the very tip of a wave that is going to change the way we think of the entertainment industry, radio, print, tv, and movies. I'd go into that more but that would be a blog entry and a half. One reason it's so powerful though is its ability to reach niche audiences. I know you like Springsteen, Bodeans and Steely Dan, all of which are fairly mainstream and get quite a bit of radio play. However, if you wanted to hear people discussing NCLB and how it's affecting Illinois schools, you'd be completely out of luck. Podcasting provides a way for people with niche interests to make connections and find material that interest them. It's an idea that stretches throughout all genres, but since Education is a genre too its resonating nicely.

    I'm not saying that we should be podcasting at the expense of fundamentals, but as we explore this new medium, we are determining what place it has, if any, in a classroom.

    You say that "continued hopping on the newest bandwagon actually moves us further away from what is important." It's about more than just hopping on a bandwagon. It's about finding something new, trying it and evaluating its worth. it's exactly what we're trying to teach our students to do. Don't take someone else's word for it, verify the information for yourself. Find out if it's valid. People are hearing quite a bit about podcasting and they want to know what it's all about. There's such a low entry level that anyone can experience it for themselves and people are doing just that, inside and outside of education.

    Personally, I don't think that podcasting has enormous implications for education. But I do think its successors will.

  • At 11:05 PM , Blogger jon said...

    While searching for new carrier air conditioner info for my house I stumbled onto your blog. I totally agree!


  • At 9:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Sound like a professional news anchor the next time you create your own podcast or vblog with this podcast tool by

  • At 10:41 AM , Blogger podcasting said...

    Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

    I have a podcasting site. It pretty much covers podcasting related stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time :-)

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