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Educators Are Snobs

At least according to Dean we are.

Schools are text snobs. Most people reading this are text snobs. Our institutions are built around the written word. That in itself is not bad and we owe much of our culture, knowledge and understanding to the written word. It’s not our fault, we’ve been living in a world that up until a few years ago, only offered us to easily produce content via the written word. But like the revolution of the printing press, we are in the midst of a revolution of a digital nature that’s allowing us to easily create and consume context in many different forms, specifically audio, video and imagery.

And to exercise a little practice-what-you-preach, he includes some video and audio as part of the post.

I agree with Dean’s premise that we are not doing as much as we should in most schools to help students become better consumers of media, much less to enable them to become producers.

After all, we see kids wearing ear phones or sitting in front of some kind of screen (sometimes both) all the time. They don’t need any help in that area, do they?

Which, of course, is the same as saying that kids with their face always in comic books (or the Mad Magazine from my childhood) don’t need reading instruction.

Anyway, even when it comes to text, I’m not sure we do an especially good a job.

The way people in the real world create and use text has been changing drastically (along with everything else) yet much of our “language arts” curriculum is still focused on reading from the printed page and largely from works of fiction.

Writing in most schools continues to be centered around the classic essay and research paper, often on topics that are little changed from forty years ago, produced for an audience of one.

And, as Dean notes, traditional reading and writing is what gets tested, so that’s what get taught.

However, there are other reasons why audio and video are not used more in K12 classrooms.

For one thing, in the memory of most teachers, the process of recording and editing is still a cumbersome, expensive, technically difficult process. Sometimes even playing the files, especially video, used to be a cranky process.

It’s certainly not that way anymore, all of which ties into what I was ranting about a few days ago.

Too many teachers also reject having students create media because they believe the process must be time consuming and that the end project needs to be close to perfect.

With the inexpensive cameras (even still cameras do a decent job of video) and audio recording devices available, it becomes easy for kids to do first drafts on the spur of the moment and then refine by rerecording rather than spending hours in the editing software.

It’s also a simple process to capture and use the everyday classroom, not just special events.

One of my goals this year is to help more of our teachers to give cameras to their kids and to encourage them to create.

I also want to follow Dean’s lead to do more with video in my own professional life and become less of a text snob.

Just don’t expect to see me in front of the camera very often. (You’re welcome. :-)


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  1. I agree that teachers need to give cameras to kids and encourage them to create. My two favorite projects this year were our Algebra Photo Contest (take a picture that demonstrates an aspect of linear functions) and our student made math problem podcasts (students use a digital camera on a table top tripod to record someone solving an equation. Another student records a voice over explaining the step by step process using iMovie.) Here is a link to a podcast. http://podcast.qcsd.org/users/mrslaguna/?tag=algebra+1 The kids can create one of these in about 15-20 minutes.
    Good luck with incorporating more video in class!

  2. I for one, would be happy to see you in front of a camera. Those sentiments might be similar to those who couldn’t imagine them “bearing their souls” in a blog either.

    It’s funny, but I’ve noticed my family getting more and more comfortable in front of a camera. Knowing that I’m going to take a gazillion photos and have already must make them more used to it. I think it’s the same for any type of media form in which we’ve had little practice or exposure to. I used to hate the sound of my voice. It still doesn’t thrill me but I certainly have moved beyond that uncomfortableness to focus on the content.

    It’s largely about comfort zones and pendulums. In order to get out of our comfort zones and swing the pendulum towards a diverse media perspective. In order to do that, we will have to push the envelope a bit. Thanks for the post. “See” you soon. ;)

  3. Dave

    This is a tricky topic because there are a lot of ideas coming together here. I think video and audio skills are important. I think that video and audio, because they’re rarely used, end up being effective ways to get students’ attention. I think there are concepts that are best expressed with video and audio.

    Text is definitely the superhero of learning, though, and always will be. It has a combination of attributes that make it unbeatable:
    – interacting with text is already based on its physical location on a page, so randomly accessing any part of the text is infinitely more efficient than trying to revisit or find a specific point in an audio or video resource
    – the reader controls the speed at which text is perceived and processed, so they can adjust that speed to best suit their abilities or goals.
    – text is cheaper to produce, easier to share, more efficient to store
    – right now, humanity has much more knowledge about the best ways to use recorded text because recorded video and audio are relatively new

    I know nobody is arguing for the wholesale elimination of text, but I just want to say I love text. I love being able to skim if a written work is too verbose, and I hate that there’s really no such thing as “skimming” when it comes to video and audio. As an adult, I can usually control these situations, but I hate to think of kids who have no choice but to sit through 60 minutes of video or audio that expresses 30 seconds of ideas.

    True, audio and video production isn’t as far-fetched as many teachers think. It’s easier than it used to be, but it’s still not -easy-. If the point is just to remind people that it’s easier than it used to be, I’m with you.

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