As pointless as cleaning graffiti from a skate park

image: Anthony Theobold

There are somethings that I now consider to be as pointless as cleaning graffiti from a skate park when it comes to Educational Technology.

There are also different types of ‘pointless’ too. Some are pointless as in the very near future they will be so ubiquitous in life that we can hardly call them a mastery skill. Others are pointless as the incumbent hierarchical management frameworks built up over decades, suffering what Clay Shirky calls the ‘tragedy of the commons’. As the tide of teacher-relevance retreats back from incumbent management structures, we are seeing growing and strengthening personal learning networks.

Here are my top 10 pointless activities.

Pointless#1 – Teaching ‘Office’ as a mastery skill. Its a life skill to work the basics, but it is not a value add when leaving school to join the work force.

Pointless#2 – Presenting a Slideshow if the speaker reads any of the sentences in it to you. This is why Beavis and Butthead knew more than anyone what made a great MTV video. Don’t present it – I’m gonna start drifting off within 5 minutes

Pointless#3 – Attempting to explain what Classroom2.0 means, if they have not heard of Web2.0 in the first place

Pointless#4 – Trying to develop anything for which you do not have control. If you’re immediate conduit to success is via someone who fits ‘Pointless#3’, then two things will happen enventually.

  1. Your original idea and effort will be mis-interpreted and not allow you do what it was you thought they understood you were going to do.
  2. It’s mis-understood, but is sufficiently ‘out there’ that anyone that they talk to about it will be impressed enough that they won’t need to talk to you anymore. This is the transference of IP by proxy.

Pointless#5 – The act of reading and writing online must generate a sense of audience for students. If they have no audience beyond thier immediate geographical walls, then publishing online will not develop the skills needed to participate in the global discourse of the future.

Pointless#6 – Seeking (or Googling), then pasting into Office. Bernie Dodge has been telling people this for decades – well before read/write interwebs. Don’t do it – it is low level, boring and repetitive. If you can’t ask questions in a computer room for which the kids Google the answer – then get out the room.

Pointless#7 – Students being made to watching teachers use technology – or watching step-by-step quides in powerpoint. If you can figure it out, then spend more time figuring out how to create interesting activites with it and not worrying about ‘if’ they can use it. If you can, you can be sure they can.

Pointless#8 – Wikis – Unless you know the value of the discussion TAB.

Pointless#9 – Class Blogs – if all they ever do is write in limited text types (report being the obvious). Also pointless if you don’t have an effective model to scaffold the growth of the writer. Pointless if they never comment or get comments. Pointless if they do not reflect activity that can be HEARD, SEEN, LINKED IN. Blogging as a diary is just a glass diary.

Pointless#10 – Claiming to use Web2.0 without also being an active participant in a global Educational Technology community, sharing, learning and willing to deal with the multi-time zone nature of an effective personal learning network. Kids who have no choice but to spend their time with you. However – you have a choice – walk the walk, don’t go through the actions. Make a BIG noise.

Finally, I’d just like to say, that maybe the graffiti is actually beautiful, that it is personal, inspiring and replaces the cold, unfeeling concrete below. I like to look at the local skate park in the morning to see what’s been added. As long as it’s being added I think the day will be good. When I see the guys with the water blasters – I think what a waste of time it was. And that Miss ‘Bel makes me surly too.


5 thoughts on “As pointless as cleaning graffiti from a skate park

  1. Can I add :
    Creating pointless names for new technology teaching so that people can feel special?

    Great post Dean,
    I am sure I could add more and as someone who used to have to coach (at managements request) in MS Office I yelled a big yay at your first point. I also like your last point about being a member of the community for the benefit of the community. This means sharing and giving as well as recieving.


  2. Great post, especially number 10. Although as I think you stated in the end, Graffitti isn’t pointless- it is the point of most skate parks. Hmmm but then maybe that is the point you are making – right?

  3. I just have to do this! We haven’t had Office formally, consistently taught in our school for quite a number of years now and it has turned out to be in the long run the worst thing ever. As much as Office is maligned it does teach the kids some basic transferrable, yes even to web2.0, skills that they need. We are finding now that when we use blogs and wikis ther eis so much basic stuff that they just don’t know (assumed knowledge) that we have to teach them at senior levels. We are reinstituting a formalised Office course to the upper primary/lower secondary levels to counteract this. Also my research tells me (subjective as it may be) that small/medium business (where the majority of our kids get employed when they finish their schooling are still heavily reliant on Office and we are doing our kids a serious disservice but not formally teaching it. Call me a heretic if you like but we shall be teaching our semester of office to make life easier for all!

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