After having a few weeks to mull over the events of the WCET conference as well as having time to discuss things with my team back at the office as well as with my business partner, not to mention reading some blogs on the issue, the more I have come to realize that nearly all instructional technologists who advocate the use of technology to enhance instruction are all members of what has come to be known as the Creepy Treehouse Club. During Chris Lott’s talk at WCET the term Creepy Tree House was coined. It was defined as a place online that adults built with the intention of luring kids in. Kid’s, they said, can see them a mile away and generally do a good job in avoiding them. I myself have advocated the use of mash-ups and games in education in effect building up a creepy treehouse meant to lure kids in, albeit for the grater purpose of learning. As an advocate that has been paying attention I thought for just a second that I may be doing something wrong, perhaps even immoral.
A recent web article entitled Students tell universities: Get out of MySpace! gave credence to my line of thinking. “Students really do want to keep their lives separate. They don’t want to be always available to their lecturers or bombarded with academic information….They appear to want to keep their online persona private but when you ask them whether they’d like instant communication with tutors or feedback on essays (via Skype or Facebook) the answer is always yes.” An informal survey of my own students confirms this notion, so I was forced to think just because I can exploit web 2.0 apps to teach should I?
Well I was only lost in thought for a moment because I was immediately reminded of a quote form a leader in my church which says something like this “If we do not use technology for good someone will surely use it for evil” (Boyd K. Packer). And its not that I see web 2.0 apps as evil its that I see it as an unused opportunity for me as an educator to make connections with my students. This notion is supported in the article as Phipps states “We’re seeing a set of new online literacies emerging but we need to understand how students use those literacies. The challenge for higher education is to learn how to integrate the social networking sites with traditional academic practice and traditional ICT systems.”
For me that is where I am at. I am pretty well invested in exploiting these technologies to the betterment of my courses but how do I let the students have their cake and eat it too? For now I just make it a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity. Students are free to read my blog, follow me on twitter, or IM with me when they see me online, I do not, however, require them to do any of this. Is this enough? Too much? Have I built a Creepy Treehouse?