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…