Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Should podcasting and Second Life be priorities for schools?

When I come across interesting-sounding videos that are too long to sit and watch, I usually play them in a corner of my screen while I do something else. I can usually glean the main ideas without losing an hour of my day.

I was playing just such a video of a big deal 2011 TCEA Conference Featured Presenter, when I stumbled on a realization about how far education technology culture is from real world technology culture. I tested the thought in Google Trends, and what I saw blew me away. (Google Trends lets you compare the number of Google searches for up to five different phrases, and shows the data in nifty charts.)

First, check out this Google Trends chart for the terms [podcast] and [second life]:

No big surprises. Second Life exploded at the beginning of 2007, and most people quickly lost interest. Podcasting grew organically until Apple officially added it as a feature in iTunes in June 2005 (says wikipedia), and leveled off by the end of that year.

I still hear about podcasts all the time in education technology as a really cool new thing that schools and teachers can really go for. And, in the TCEA video I watched that spawned this whole post, a featured presenter sounded really gung-ho about Second Life. That's at one of the biggest education technology conferences...ever, with thousands of attendees. So keep in mind, these two tools are still being pitched in the world of education technology.

Now, look at what happens when we add [myspace] and [twitter]:

Holy smokes. You can't even see the lines for Second Life and Podcast. They're basically inconsequential in comparison! 

(And, if I can digress for a moment, you probably have a good understanding of how big Twitter is right now, right? To put things in perspective, look at this chart and realize that, at it's peak, MySpace was searched for over twice as often as Twitter is now. You can really start to realize why MySpace was such a big deal, and why it freaked out so many adults and educators. It took over a big part of online student culture before anyone knew what had happened.)

(Digression #2: "Podcast" is also a no-show in the Wikipedia article for iPod, which is sad, but indicative of the real world impact of podcasts.)

Now, take a look at all of the above...compared with searches for [facebook]:


MySpace is gone. Twitter is hanging in down there. Podcasts and Second Life didn't even show up to the game.

Now, look. I'm not saying podcasts don't have their place. I'm not saying that a skilled teacher couldn't get some mileage out of Second Life. But the big picture is that schools need to think pretty hard about turning their backs on Facebook. When you ignore something as big as Facebook, or advocate strongly for something as inconsequential as Second Life or podcasts, you're mapping out a very challenging road for yourself.

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