Skip to main content

The Fads We Follow

Those of us specializing in new media, digital composition, writing technology or whatever we might call our courses and research projects sometimes fall into the same idealistic fad-think as tech prognosticators.

Remember interactive fiction? Our students don't. SecondLife? Not a single one of my university students has seen it or cares to see it. The list of gone and forgotten technologies seems endless. This week I made a reference to MySpace, something wildly popular only seven years ago among my composition students. Turns out, the MySpace of today is unpopular and doesn't even resemble the old version I knew.

LiveJournal? Yahoo Groups? Don't even try to explain Usenet newsgroups or Internet Relay Chat.
Remember AltaVista? GeoCities? Tripod? My students don't.

In 1992, I operated a Fidonet BBS, first with WildCat and then RoboBoard. Boardwatch was a thick magazine. Internet meant dial-up at 2400 or 9600 baud. Does anyone say "baud rate" today?

I read recently that podcasting peaked in 2007. I have no idea if that's true, but I personally switched to Internet radio apps two years ago. Again, none of my students listen to podcasts. They do love streaming video -- of network television! So much for the revolution.

My students don't live in virtual reality, few blog, and none had heard of Wikibooks until this week. They access Facebook and Twitter on cell phones. Theirs is a text-based world, connected in 140 characters or less.

The world I imagined never arrived and likely never will.

When I've attended conferences over the last decade, the talks and panels have focused on MOOS (Multiuser, Object-Oriented Systems) and other "virtual" settings. We had a futuristic vision shaped by fiction — cyberpunk was coming, we'd simply plug-in to a new reality. It would look and "feel" like the real world. But, that SecondLife meets real life never materialized.

My students tell me they don't want large screens and images. They want quick messages and sometimes a grainy photo sent from a smartphone. They use technology to supplement, not replace, their real life social connections.

This week, I even had students tell me they overwhelmingly reject eBooks for courses. Why? They want the physical books to mark, highlight, and even photocopy. I asked why photocopies mattered and the students explained a trick I never used: copy the end of chapter quizzes and discussion topics, because many teachers use those for tests. They use the photocopied pages to make flashcards or other study aids.
But, I'm still excited by the idea of an eBook with multimedia content. Just as I was excited by podcasts and streaming videos. My students? Not nearly as enthusiastic about rich media content.

As one student reminded me: "Google isn't cluttered. Yahoo is. We all use Google."

I need to keep that in mind, too.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Comic Sans Is (Generally) Lousy: Letters and Reading Challenges

Specimen of the typeface Comic Sans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Personally, I support everyone being able to type and read in whatever typefaces individuals prefer. If you like Comic Sans, then change the font while you type or read online content. If you like Helvetica, use that.

The digital world is not print. You can change typefaces. You can change their sizes. You can change colors. There is no reason to argue over what you use to type or to read as long as I can use typefaces that I like.

Now, as a design researcher? I'll tell you that type matters a lot to both the biological act of reading and the psychological act of constructing meaning. Statistically, there are "better" and "worse" type for conveying messages. There are also typefaces that are more legible and more readable. Sometimes, legibility does not help readability, either, as a type with overly distinct letters (legibility) can hinder word shapes and decoding (readability).

One of the co…

Let’s Make a Movie: Digital Filmmaking on a Budget

Film camera collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
June 5, 2015 Deadline
July 2015 Issue

Every weekend a small group of filmmakers I know make at least one three-minute movie and share the short film on their YouTube channel, 3X7 Films.

Inspired by the 48-Hour Film Project (48hourfilm.com), my colleagues started to joke about entering a 48-hour contest each month. Someone suggested that it might be possible to make a three-minute movie every week. Soon, 3X7 Films was launched as a Facebook group and members started to assemble teams to make movies.

The 48-Hour Film Project, also known as 48HFP, launched in 2001 by Mark Ruppert. He convinced some colleagues in Washington, D.C., that they could make a movie in 48 hours. The idea became a friendly competition. Fifteen years later, 48HFP is an international phenomenon, with competitions in cities around the world. Regional winners compete in national and international festivals.

On a Friday night, teams gathe…

Edutainment: Move Beyond Entertaining, to Learning

A drawing made in Tux Paint using various brushes and the Paint tool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
November 2, 2015 Deadline
December 2015 Issue

Randomly clicking on letters, the young boy I was watching play an educational game “won” each level. He paid no attention to the letters themselves. His focus was on the dancing aliens at the end of each alphabet invasion.

Situations like this occur in classrooms and homes every day. Technology appeals to parents, politicians and some educators as a path towards more effective teaching. We often bring technology into our schools and homes, imagining the latest gadgets and software will magically transfer skills and information to our children.

This school year, I left teaching business communications to return to my doctoral specialty in education, technology and language development. As a board member of an autism-related charity, I speak to groups on how technology both helps and hinders special education. Busin…