Blackboard as Kleenex

In recent conversations with Mike Bogle, I’ve stumbled on the idea that a lot of students, and online teaching novices, are using the word “Blackboard” when what they mean is “web learning stuff”.

It’s become like Kleenex, at one time the top brand of facial tissue in the U.S. People say “hand me a Kleenex” instead of “hand me a tissue”. The brand has become synonymous with the generic item.

My evidence is that students often say things like “I posted in the Blackboard”, when my class is actually located in Ning or Moodle. I find it interesting that they know what “posted” means, but not where they’ve posted. It’s all just the web, a Narnia that exists somewhere behind their computer screen. If their other teachers have referred to their course being in Blackboard, that must be where the online courses live, back there behind the fur coats amd the ads for enhancing male potency.

I’m sure this would thrill Blackboard, though it annoys the hell out of me, and folks like Mike, a leader in applying technology to the problems of pedagogy, who’s being called “the Blackboard guy”. I frequently have novice faculty approach me and tell me they’re getting into online teaching, so they’re going to take a Blackboard workshop, and where do they sign up for one?

I am always shocked no matter how often this occurs. I never know where to start. Do I first mention that they need to decide what they want to accomplish, then look at technology? point out there are many other systems (and non-systems) they can use? point out that POT doesn’t do “training” but we are delighted to help with their pedagogical needs?

Instead, I think I should try to figure out what they mean by “Blackboard”. Then I’ll probably need a Kleenex.

4 thoughts to “Blackboard as Kleenex”

  1. This post is hilarious! What explains the tendency to put an article in front of the application name? (as in “”*the* blackboard”). I work with a left leaning political scientist who likes to say “I won’t use the Doodle” or “I like to use the Banner” When I told her that she reminded me of George Bush who said “I’ve used the Google” she was appalled.

  2. Oh, yeah, and they say they did a PowerPoint, even if it’s a slideshow using software from another company. Worse, they assume I have a PowerPoint for my presentation, when sometimes I have a web page or a Zoho slideshow, etc.

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