Ergodic education: how to avoid “shovelware” when we teach online

Death by Zoom: are we mistakenly trying to recreate the classroom instead of making something web-native?

Why ergodic education? The shovelware problem

Back in 2011 in the first edition of the Online Journalism Handbook, I created a simple diagram: the journalist, reader, and another reader connected by a triangle of double-headed arrows.

The network of interactions in a classroom is more complex than in basic online interactivity

4 dimensions of control: space, time, input and output

From the narrative era to the database era

The dangers of the database

This tension between interactivity and storytelling is well-worn. Giving control over to the ‘people formerly known as the audience’ opens up all sorts of possibilities — but it also underplays our own talents as storytellers, and the audience’s desire to sometimes not be active: to sometimes simply be told a story rather than having to invest the effort required to make or complete a story.

From interface to interactive narrative

It might be helpful to look at research which has tackled this tension between interactivity and narrative.

Ergodic education

Hegel and Seer identified three approaches that had become generic by the time that they were looking — but since then many more genres have become better established in the field of interactivity, from polls and quizzes to personalisation, chatbots and games (a rich area on its own).



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Paul Bradshaw

Paul Bradshaw


Write the @ojblog. I run the MA in Data Journalism and the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism @bcujournalism and wrote @ojhandbook #scrapingforjournos