Education & Technology At Gnomedex

Notes from my Gnomedex session on Education and Technology.

Opening Remarks:

I teach in the Communications Dept at the University of Washington, here in Seattle.

Two years ago, when I talked with y’all about education and technology, there was a reference to this group being the “lunatic fringe” … and I showed you how few of my undergraduate students at the University of Washington were blogging or listening to podcasts.

Last year, the numbers increased slightly — my classes mirrored Pew data: about 1 in 10 blogged — about 1 in 3 were reading blogs. No one was podcasting, but a few — 10-15% — were listening to podcasts … mostly mainstream podcasts like NPR. Last summer’s Pew data suggested that about 14% (+/-3.5%) of the 18-29 year old demographic had downloaded a podcast.

I’m a poor social scientist — because I didn’t survey my undergraduates this year. But this group — Gnomedex — remains “on the fringe” — in other words, we aren’t a representative sample of how most folks are using the Web most of the time.

Pew recently conducted another of its surveys. The data are very squishy — but they suggest about 7 or 8 in 10 of 18-29 year olds are watching online video. About half are watching YouTube. I say “squishy” because the margin of error is +/- 7% … Of special interest to me — about 1 in 3 have watched some sort of educational video.

This rapid rise in video consumption exceeds the adoption rate of blogging or podcasting … or social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace. It’s going to have a profound impact on how we are “teaching” in 5-10 years.

Nevertheless, it’s the “older” technologies — blogs and podcasts — that we’re going to focus on today.

In our panel, we have two University of Washington students and one UW staffer. Our goal is to share our views on educational technology.

We’ll start with undergrads.

In my undergraduate Introduction to New Media class the students blog; for most of them, it’s the first — and last — time. This year their final project was a “podcast.” (I haven’t published them yet, so they just audio stories at this point). Students are judged not on production quality but creativity in telling a research-based story. The assignment reflects my belief that students can demonstrate learning in ways other than multiple choice tests and research papers. Not only that — I believe that in the not too distant future students will enter ‘the Academy’ *expecting* to demonstrate learning in alternative ways. And we — higher ed — aren’t ready.

I’m going to share part of a vodcast (mov) created by one of my undergrads for this class. Let me be clear: I taught Brad Ellis nothing about video production. I just provided the environment for him to exercise his creativity. BTW, Brad — who will be a senior this fall — introduced me to — and was going to be with us today but he’s with his family on their summer vacation.

Our first in-person student this afternoon is Colleen Horne. She is a now a senior at UW studying Communications and Women’s Studies, and she works for KOMO radio. She was my student for two quarters last year — “Intro to New Media” and “Blogging, Media and Politics.” She wants to use her knowledge of the blogging world and digital communications in her field of broadcast journalism.

You can follow her journey at Newsvine:; here is her COM300 “podcast” (mp3)

Most of the professors at a university spend most of their time on research; teaching is secondary. In order to achieve tenure, they have to publish — and publish in peer-reviewed, established, credible journals. Societies and journals are under lots of pressure from the move to digital. Some are charging authors x-number of dollars to have their work published; all are going online in one form of another. However, online journals are expensive gated gardens.

Yet in his book The Wealth of Networks, Benkler argues persuasively that society is better off when information is free. Yesterday, Robert Steele alluded to the new requirement that NIH-funded research must be published online for free access. Just look at the genome project if you need to be persuaded of the merits of open research.

Our next student is in the middle of this transformation.

Meg McGough is a student in our Master’s degree in Digital Media program. She manages both the marketing and subscriptions departments for the Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry, a basic science research journal in both print and online formats. As academic publishing moves closer to Open Access, she and the editor of JHC are positioning the Journal for the inevitable demise of print publishing. Meg also holds a BA in English Literature from UW.

You can follow her journey at WordPress:

Universities are institutions, and institutions, traditionally, are slow to change. Last year, Forbes reported that Stanford was the first university to partner with Apple’s iTunes University to provide expanded public access to lectures, speeches and other university content. It’s not Robert Steele’s vision of free online education, and it’s different from MIT’s efforts, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Based on the reaction in my Department, I think a really big barrier is professorial willingness to be open — to share intellectual property: their lectures. We’re asking individuals who are used to working autonomously to be collaborative; this is a major cultural shift.

Apple says that there are now more than 500 institutions of higher learning participating in iTunes University. The latest, launching later this month, is UW. And it’s the public portion that’s launching first.

Bill Corrigan is the Emerging Technology Project Manager at UW Computing&Communications. He is the former Director of Distance Learning Design at UW Educational Outreach and is currently an Instructor for UW Extension. And he’s in charge of UW’s iTunesU. Bill studied television production in college and expanded his skills as new technologies emerged. At C&C, Bill is focused on integrating new technologies into the mix of services offered to the UW community.

You can follow Bill’s journey at:

There are great examples of how innovative educators are using new technologies to reach students and the public. If you know some, tell me about them in the comments. And if you haven’t seen it, you need to watch this YouTube video from Michael L. Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University. It’s Web 2.0 … The Machine Is Us/ing Us:

Education is another opportunity for you all to volunteer — whether it’s K-12 or higher ed. Help teach educators how to use technologies. Help dismiss the FUD as a barrier to change.

There will always be room for the JibJabs of the world. All of us want to entertain or be entertained. But. The internet is more than an entertainment space. As Robert Steel — and many others before him — pointed out, this medium has enormous democratization possibilities. As Ronni showed us, it can empower retiring boomers (and our parents). But it’s not the technology that’s important — it’s the people who it empowers.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

4 replies on “Education & Technology At Gnomedex”

thanks for the mention at the ‘dex sorry I couldn’t make it. Next year ;-)

also, I might find myself ‘accidentally’ stumbling into some of your classes next fall, just to check em out.

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