Say what you will about the quality of the 1,055,114,644 pieces of writing that Technorati is tracking on the 8,950,672 Weblogs they are watching, that’s a boatload of content. How much of it is really worthwhile? Depends on your standards and interests I guess, and I know a lot of them are simply links. But I think anyone who reads blogs regularly knows that there is a lot of really great original thinking and valuable information being published these days by people who just a couple of years ago never would have been able to enter the discussion. I find it to be an amazing statistic and an inspiring turn of events.
I have no clue what the statistics actually are, but the trends are clear. The ratio of readers to writers on the web is getting smaller. More people are getting it, realizing that the barriers to entry have dropped, and that it doesn’t matter as much if you know how to put words together in coherent sentences, you can “write” and share your ideas in many new ways. And that most likely, those ideas will find an audience. It’s powerful stuff.
At my school, our quarter ends this week, and I know what that means. New classes, new books, new content for teachers to disseminate, old content for students to throw away. I’m going to make some assumptions, but if our 3,000 or so students each create just 2 pieces of content each day, that’s 1,080,000 pieces over the course of the year. I’m going to be generous and say that via the hallways, the Website, and various other outlets, a typical student or teacher at my school may run across 250 of those artifacts in a year in any “published” form. That’s somewhere around .0002 of what our students produced. (If that’s wrong, remember, I’m an English teacher by trade…you get my point.) Even if we assume only five percent of the total content our students produce is really quality stuff, worthy of being added to the knowledge base, that’s 54,000 nuggets of information, 53,750 of which I’ll never have the chance of seeing.
One more step. Bear with me. As of 2003, about 61 million kids were out there creating content in public schools. If my assumptions hold up and each student creates about 18 pieces of publishable content per year, one every two weeks, that’s 1,098,000,000 artifacts that our kids could be contributing to our knowledge base each year.
We’ve been treating students as consumers for over 100 years. We supply them with all sorts of content that we think they should know. By and large, our students are asked to take it all in, pass the test, and leave with very little to show for their efforts save a grade that once they graduate high school and enter the workforce or go to college has little or no meaning or relevance. And I understand that up until now, we haven’t had the means or the technologies to archive our students learning in meaningful ways for them to reflect upon and for others to learn from.
But now we do.
This is the big shift that the system is going to have to come to terms with. We have to stop seeing our kids as consumers and start supporting them as creators that can all contribute meaningfully to our collective body of knowledge. And we have to give every kid access to the tools to do so. I know there are many things that we have to make sure they know, and many literacies that we have to help them master. But any more, not to find 18 or 10 or even 5 quality things that each of our students creates in the course of a school year and not share them with the world does us all a disservice.
1,098,000,000 student posts a year. That should be our goal…
Ken Leebow says
You’re great and a trusted resource, however, I give many presentations in schools and to Net savvy folks. A coupla observations:
1. Net-Savvy Non-bloggers are clueless about RSS
2. I had 20 Net-savvy people in a blog presentation. As a test, I asked them if they had heard of Flickr.com — 0, zilch, none have ever heard of Flickr. I presented them with a BusinessWeek article about Flickr.
3. I present to students and teachers. The kids get it — great questions. The teachers — got a long way to go.
So, talk about blogs and posts all you want: There’s a ton of education that still needs to be done — to teachers, students, parents, and to the non-education market.
Will R. says
Absolutely right, Ken. I get the same responses. But it’s really not about blogs as much as letting people know that they can create content, share it, and get feedback on it. And so can their students. Blogs and RSS and Flickr don’t mean much unless you can wrap your brain around that. This is all a part of the education that needs to get out there…maybe a billion pieces of content a year will raise some eyebrows.
Thanks for the comment and the kind words.
Steve Dembo says
I talked about this in my last podcast, how even in a room full of techno-savy ed people, it’s amazes me just how few people understood blogs and their interactivity, much less RSS, Wikis and sites like Flickr/Del.icio.us/Furl. And that was a room of tech coordinators. I think I went to a blogs 101 workshop session about two or three years ago. For a while, it seemed to me that to keep offering blogs 101 sessions was redundant, almost like offering “How to work a mouse 101” at a tech conference. But the reality is, despite the statistics, the vast majority of educators don’t know about any of this stuff. Those of use that make use of it tend to be totally immersed in that world. It’s easy to forget that the vast majority of educators still have no idea why a blog is anything special at all. You make a great point, Will, when you say that Blogs and RSS don’t mean much unless you can wrap your brain around the concepts.
Will R. says
Thanks for your comments Steve. You’re doing some great thinking and some great blogvangelism. You and Ken are both right…we’re still at the dawn of the “Read/Write Web.” But there’s no doubt the momentum is growing with educators.