‘Write only’ media

Podcasting, creating wikis; it sometimes seems like everyone’s doing it. The act of creating such resources undoubtedly has benefits, as does the sharing of them with a wide audience, but how often do children actually consume this media for their learning?

It struck me during a student’s presentation last week, that podcasts and wikis are almost exclusively sold as learning aids in terms of the benefits children get from creating them. Many schools seem to be empowering their students to create and broadcast podcasts, but how many are actually using podcasts to access learning material? I know of some, and I may be wrong, but my experience seems to suggest that we have a lot of children creating podcasts, and much fewer actually listening to podcasts created by others in order to learn. This creates the strange situation of a media that has more broadcasters than consumers.

Similarly in the case of wikis; they are always ‘sold’ as learning tools in terms of the benefits of creating them, yet there seems to be significant feeling that even rigorously policed wikis like Wikipedia are not the best places to go for learning. In the case of Wikipedia this attitude may be shifting, but how many teachers would advise their classes to use small wikis created by other learners in schools as a source for their learning? Such resources may not be 100% accurate, but in their research into the  use of digital video in schools BECTA found that content created by peers actually had a bigger impact than shiny, fact checked professional videos.

Certainly there is lots of learning in the process of creation of this media, certainly they will be listened to or read by those involved in them.  However, if we don’t encourage the use of this kind of media for consumption, then is their potentially worldwide distribution really as powerful as it seems? Children have been recording themselves on tapes and playing them back to their classmates for decades, without an acceptance of new media as valid sources for learners to consume, is podcasting or wiki creation really that different?

Valuable as creating is, I can’t help thinking that we are missing a trick if we don’t look at the learning that can be gained from actually consuming what others create. All those podcasts out there must contain masses of useful content. Perhaps more significantly though, without this we end up with a ‘write only’ medium, that doesn’t actually have the audience we like to imagine…


Photo: (cc) Dave Mclean on Flickr






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