Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another aspect of the digital divide?

Why isn't web 2.0 important for educators? is a question that Rachel Jeffares from New Zealand asks in her part of Graham's K12 Online conference presentation in answer to his question. And this is my question in some ways too. Here are a few reasons. Teachers are overworked, under pressure and out of time. And some people just don't like blogs (thanks to Doug Noon in my network for this one.) But to me it is part of the digital divide. This week on Radio National's program Australia Talks Back there was a segment on The Digital Divide, talking about "a country divided along unexpected lines - creating a technological underclass . . . " which was covered again in the Friday Week in Review section. Naturally the program covered important issues such as access and equity, but there was also an aspect of division along knowledge lines. A caller spoke about part of the digital divide being the intimidation felt by "those who don't know" from "those who do". Because of my recent experience in learning to podcast (well, it was a big deal for me!) I know just what he meant. I was intimidated and felt even more stupid when people were telling me it was so easy that even 8 year olds could do it. It took me a year from deciding I wanted to do it to getting the courage to try. And when I was doing my first one, I became so frustrated and wanted someone who knew how to be sitting beside me, but all I had was my husband who doesn't know about this, but listened to me venting "but how do I get a Lame encoder (whatever that is)? How do I unzip a file??? why isn't it working? how come it doesn't look like that screen shot? what have I done wrong? And two hours later it had worked. I don't know why or how. But I have done it again since and each time I have learnt more and more. Now I love it and have heaps of ideas for other podcasts. Things that did help were listening to other podcasts like Bob Sprankle and Cheryl Oakes, hearing people talk about webcasting (a different thing but still relevant) and keeping on trying, as well as being part of Graham's presentation. I am now learning to do interviews and keeping the sound recording levels right and later I will probably add music (maybe, if it's not too hard). People who know all about podcasting are probably saying "but it's easy." All I can say is, it didn't seem that way to me. But once you know how, then it is. I am writing this in a cafe with a pen into my little notebook and will later type it into my blog. I look with awe on those who can moblog with their mobile phones (like David Warlick) and that might be the next thing I learn. In the meantime for those who want to know, here are podcasts on Gattaca and The Wife of Martin Guerre for revision for students who are studying these texts. I did them as interviews with other teachers in my school which was something that they were willing to be involved with. And I thank them for that. It sounds much better than my voice alone. I can definitely see podcasting being a fantastic tool for learning and so watch this space to see what happens next.
Update: I forgot to say that I am probably intimidating to others who don't yet know, and also that it takes a special kind of person to talk about web 2.0 to people who don't know. Often these teachers feel annoyed by those who speak in a language they don't understand and as Ewan realises "explaining the hows and whys behind the social software movement in education without coming close to putting backs up or making people defensive" is hard. I know because I don't often succeed. It's good that others can.


  1. Originally I was going to use little sound bites from the edubloggers (including yourself) whom I had asked to be involved but when I got Rachel's audio back, I knew I couldn't chop a word. Hers was one of the first I got and when she started with that statement, "I don't think Web 2.0 is important to a lot of teachers..." I knew that her take was totally unique and really important. And every time, the next piece of audio lobbed in my inbox or my podomatic account, I knew it was pure gold and it didn't matter that my 12 minute presentation had ballooned and peaked at 47 minutes. The big problem I had at the start when I was trying to plan it was working out the target audience - because it's really easy to lose the non-web-savvy teacher by talking over their head. (And I do it a lot!) So, it's aimed at the teacher who's already familiar, maybe not very long but now needs reassurance that this is important and it's their turn to try and bring a few of their unknowing colleagues along for the ride. Thanks for this great post, Jo.

  2. Yep, Jo! In many ways I do find your incredible energy and determination intimidating - but intimidation is very close to inspiration. It all depends on your viewpoint, I guess: like the pessimist sees his glass as half-empty - but the optimist realizes it's half-full.

    Thinking as an optimist, I'm hoping that, now I've got broadband, one day soon I'll catch up with the rest of you!
    But - congratulations - great ideas for podcasting, and, as always, the reflections of a true blogger in this post.

  3. It is hard to inspire without intimidating. I've had so many experiences where I recognize people are intimidated by my skill. I don't think they fully understand that I was just a regular person not that long ago and I just starting trying stuff. Once you realize you're not going to break anything and increase your patience a bit, you can do almost anything. And a whole world opens up.

    By the way, there was an article in First Monday about this very issue last month maybe. Really interesting.

  4. In my experience the only way to make the transition from not knowing to joining those who do know is by jumping in the deep end and thrashing around until your head is just above water. You seem to be treading water quite confidently . I'm sure it won't be long until you throw yourself head long into discovering another tool in the vast waters of Web 2.0. I myself am just bobbing up and down at the moment with the knowledge that there is so much more out there. And I suppose when you sit on this side of the divide you become more willing to try knew things because you realise that everything is evolving all the time. The struggle for those who don't have the knowledge is that there are knew things all the time so where do they even start? Just Jump In.

  5. I think there is huge potential in using the internet for education. There is already massive amounts of information there, it just needs to be harnessed. Web 2.0 is just another way of using this information for the benefit of everyone.