Back to the Future With iPads and Rabbit Ears

Back to the Future ArtFrom the moment television viewers like you and I got our hands on remote controls, programming power started a slow, irreversible shift away from the broadcaster/network to the viewer. Don’t like the show or the commercial you’re watching? Change the channel. Want to see your options? Click through the networks – ABC, NBC and CBS. Keep switching back and forth, fight over the remote and knock over the bowl of popcorn or your father’s beer.

Insatiable for even more control of what we wanted to watch when we wanted to watch it, we bought video cassette recorders, then video discs. We got cable so we would have a better picture and got more networks, more choices – HBO, CNN, Discovery, a Weather channel and ESPN. Still not satisfied, we moved on to PVRs and video streaming – YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu.

Television, as we know it today, is ubiquitous and can be watched on a variety of screens, devices and platforms. And, while more people watch more television than at any other time in history, it can no longer be called broadcasting. The all powerful viewer cuts the pie into an infinite number of pieces.

Broadcasting has been replaced by narrowcasting, which is more than just specialty channels for niche audiences. No longer content to passively consume programs, we are becoming content creators, producers and performers in our own programming. Broadcasting has been completely democratized. You can be a network of one, or do something interesting and entertaining enough to attract a crowd, even fans.

Two nights ago, I bought the tee-shirt for the “Two Guys and Some iPads” television show hosted by @Techbradwaid (Brad Waid) and @Techminock (Drew Minock). If they make one, I will buy the button too, and compete to become their number one fan-boy. The show that night featured guest music artists Rhett Fisher and Micah Faulkner of Project Dirty.

I watched and tweeted, “This is ‘real’ television,” meaning television that is not defined by audience size or by a network programmer. It is 100% grassroots, on the air because Brad and Drew put it there. The only approval that was required was that of their viewers. No gatekeepers were involved. Similarly, guest artists Rhett and Micah, walked away from a studio label deal and were there to perform and promote tracks that they produced and are distributing by themselves. Watch and listen to Project Dirty’s Skywalker on YouTube. It’s “real music” and great Rock ‘n Roll.

All of this resonates with me so strongly because Jena Ball and I self-published our CritterKin ebooks:   ”Meet The Mutts“ and “Poco a Poco.” Although it’s tempting to call all of this a technology story, the truth is the technology is just an affordance, a platform for telling stories, producing talk shows, and making music that small and even large audiences can discover and enjoy. The show creator has more power than ever before, and as content truly becomes king it is defining the future of mass media.

Something similar is happening in education, make no mistake about it. For the #hashtag people like you and I, the future of education is ours to define. Though it may seem that all the control is in the hands of the gatekeepers, and that the Ts and the Ss are at and will forever remain at the mercy of forces beyond their control, the truth is something very different. As CritterKin’s OCD dachshund Doxie likes to say, “Not true, not true, not true!” Educators, students and their parents have never been in a better position to completely reform education. They are calling for education that it is available not just for the mean but for the many; for unique, diverse, heterogeneous communities of individual learners – all gifted, and all with special needs.

The real power lies with us – the  #hashtag people. Grab it, own it and re-imagine education informed by all the student love, insight, common sense and genius we share with each other every day on Twitter. Go for it!


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