I’ve been remiss in not pointing to this year’s Edublog Awards nominees for which voting ends on Saturday. I’m particularly struck this year by the number of blogs and bloggers who I had not ever heard of, which is a testament, I think, to the ways in which the community is beginning to really get some traction. I agree with George Siemens when he says:
And yet, it feels like our small edublogger town (where everyone knows everyone) is becoming a small city – where relationships begin to cluster in smaller networks, instead of one large structure.
It’s been an interesting evolution to watch, from those early days in 2001 when a handful of us where kicking the tires on this blog thing trying to figure out exactly what it was all about to today when we have a slew of tools, a whole different name for the Web, learning theories built around it, and tens of thousands (if not more) teachers doing their own experimenting. At some point this year I gave up trying to keep track of it.
And, as if to signal another sign of our evolution, this was the year that things really got snippy for the first time in our space. Another step on the road…
The irony for me, at least, is that I read fewer edublogs today than I did last year; my network is smaller, more efficient. And that my own blogging feels like it’s at a crossroads of some type. Stephen Downes actually kicked my thinking about my own blog a few weeks ago with a very pithy comment:
The big news in this story isnâ€™t blogs. Itâ€™s that there are a billion teachers out there. Today we use blogs to communicate with them. But how might this evolve in the future? How do we make it easier, more immediate?
Doh! It really isn’t about blogs as much any more, is it? It’s not about the tool. It’s about the ability to connect. Yeah, I’ve known that, felt that, but sometimes my brain needs a succinct reminder.
So I’ve been thinking about this space and what I want to do with it. I know what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to fall into the blog as travelogue trap. Now that I’m getting out and about more, it’s hard not to just report out on what happened in Louisiana or Buffalo or wherever else. I think that what’s always been the strength of this blog has been the focus (as much as possible) on student and teacher practice. It feels like I’ve been getting away from that.
But the final irony is that I’m feeling compelled to blog less and write more. I know I’ve said this before, but as heady as all of these new voices in our community feel, we are still a decidedly small minority in the grand scheme of education. And I have to say that in many ways, while the community is growing, the conversation feels stalled. To me, we are on the cusp of a huge opportunity for real reform, but it’s not going to come online. It’s going to come in print, through writing articles and writing books, and finding ways to present a vibrant alternative to teachers who aren’t online, to preservice programs who are preparing the next generation of teachers, to the local community leaders who don’t have a context for change, and to politicians who really don’t have a clue as to the complexities of these changes and what they mean for education.
Wide ranging reports about the growing irrelevance of education are right around the corner. It feels like we’re gaining momentum toward a discussion of real reform, but it won’t happen, I don’t think, if we are content with batting about the ideas amongst ourselves, in our blogs and podcasts (which have an even more infinitesimal reach.) I’m not saying they don’t do some good. I’m just wondering if, at this moment, for those of us who at least have a basic understanding of what can be, it’s the best spend of our time.
(Photo “Old School 24” by Lainmoon)
Carolyn F. says
I agree that we are on the cusp of some big changes. I think suddenly in the “mainstream” world, that the conversation is shifting to a 21st century conversation, which needs to happen for reform to become “mainstream.” It’s as though the conversation is starting to leap past NCLB and into another much larger realm(witness the Time article you referenced).
I do want to say how valuable I have found your blog the last year. I think of the blogs I read frequently as sort of a fountainhead–
I read, get motivated and enthused, share it with my own faculty(on or offline) and it inspires me to think more widely, try more things, and continue the conversation.
To me that is the value beyond our own circle of conversations that we have within the blogs. Our enthusiasm grows, our pool of ideas is broadened, our thinking is deepened, and that is something all of us take back to wherever we are.
You are coming to our district to speak in February, so I am looking forward to how we can bring the conversation into our school in a deepened way.
Thanks as always for your thoughtful analysis.
Mike Radday says
For those in education who “get it” your blog has been the source of ideas and discussion about how we can truly transform teaching and learning. For me, in many ways, it’s been an a source of affirmation for what I believe professionally and what I expect from teachers. I agree that the way to reach those who can help facilitate change is through more traditional media – how ironic. I hope that your blog keeps the conversation going even as you focus on writing articles and books that will hopefully have a more far-reaching impact.
Terry Elliott says
Just keep telling your story. Each of us has a different arc to our tales. For example, my effort since I have moved over to the university has been to create communities of blogging practice where I am. I am trying to foster small networks among students, among faculty, and among administrators. I am learning how to do this and consider it to be the most important way I can help lead the folks closest to me toward that educational shift you and I know is inevitable. That is why my motto is an E.M. Forster quote, “Always connect.”
I see us as ever-expanding nodes on a map. We grow the local node and let the other nodes do as they will. All the work you do is toward that day. I thank you for that work in the most public way I can think of–blogging. Keep on!
It is the end of the year and I was taking stock. My students are evaluating their latest project and I want them to think about how much they have learned since they started with me. It got me to thinking about how much I have learned in this past year.
I want to thank you for getting me started down this journey I have been chugging along on. It absolutely amazes this 50 year old middle school teacher at how much I have learned in one year. Your blog and book were my starting points. I am also doing my best to spread the word.
In January I will be taking a podcasting class, teaching a University class for teachers and continuing to work with my students on new projects. I tell them that they are my guinea pigs and they love it. We are only at the beginning of what we can do but we have made such a great start. My class has been working on a blog, a wiki with powerpoints and research. Last year we didnâ€™t even know what these things were.
Again I thank you for standing up and spreading the word. Donâ€™t be discouraged because change does take awhile. We have a ways to go, but we have made some great progress in getting started. You have started more than you know. Have a great New Year.