I did some counting yesterday. Totalled up all of the blog posts and comments on those posts for the last three years, and found a pretty interesting relationship. Seems the less I write, the more people comment. (Click the picture to view my first “pencast” on the subject and to get the numbers if you want them.)
Now I know that there may be a host of explanations for this, and certainly, the reasons for the reduced number of posts at least are pretty obvious to me. In order, my work with PLP, the craziness of my schedule last year, the desire to spend time playing with kids vs. blogging when not on the road, and Twitter. In short, I’m just not the blogger that I used to be by more than half over three years ago if you’re just totaling up the numbers. Yet, somewhat surprisingly to me, there’s more conversation. I know this isn’t just happening here; it’s not unusual to find comment threads of over 25 or 30 in various places around the edublogosphere. And while I’d like to think that my ideas are getting more compelling or stickier (or maybe more debatable), I think most of it is just Twitter. The somewhat bizarre reality of my Twitter existence is that it’s become a tool to drive readers here. (In fact, I’d love to be able to see what percentage of people commenting come here via Twitter…I’d be willing to guess at least a third.) That’s not a bad thing, per se, but I wonder if that’s really the direction I want to be moving in.
I’ve suggested here many times that I think the size of the audience for these conversations (loosely, very loosely defined as those having to do with how learning and schools change in the context of social Web tools) is still amazingly small. I still believe that. I’d sincerely love to hear how others view this, but my own very general estimation is that maybe, maybe 5% of the educational professionals in this country are compelled enough by these shifts to think seriously about changing their own personal and professional learning practice. Maybe. When I think of that in raw numbers, even 350,000 feels high. Really high. You’d think with 350,000 we’d have some sort of organized movement or conversation. If anyone can tell me where it exists, please let me know.
So, looking forward, I’m still in the same place in terms of where I want to spend more of my energies…not so much on the people who have already showed up, but on the people who don’t know that this production is even playing. Sure, presenting and speaking can accomplish some of that. But if you take the aggregate effect of all of us supposed idea peddlars, I’m not sure that’s where substantive change is happening. (That’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to the PLP model…sustained PD not just drive by.) I wonder this: what would happen if 5% of the 150 million or so parents in this country started thinking about this stuff? What if we had 7.5 million or so in some coordinated effort to rethink this system that is serving us so well? Possible? I think it’s something worth continuing to explore. And maybe collectively, we do have the reach, the networks to have some real effect on policy…assuming we can coordinate a message. More to come on that…
Along those lines, one of my goals for this year is to continue to write offline for print, for magazines, another book, and any other ways I can think of to bring more voices in. And in that process, I really want to try to extend myself as a writer. (I’d love to start a “Craft of Writing/Blogging/Essay” group or something if anyone is interested.) So that trend line for my blogging may continue downward in 2009, perhaps not as steeply, but downward nonetheless.
Sincere thanks to all of you who participated, commented, read in 2008. Here’s to even greater learning in 2009…
Love the idea of a Craft of writing/blogging/essay group. As an elementary teacher who has spent many years thinking hard about reading and writing workshop, my new thinking is about how this tech piece just adds new layers to the conversation–craft being one of them. As it relates to my own blog writing and that of students. This year, I have committed to playing around on my own–joined twitter, will add aps to the iphone, etc.
Recently discovered your blog via twitter and am glad I did! Happy New Year and look forward to reading more in 2009
Got here by way of Twitter. I will try to get my staff twittering when we get back to school next week. I can see this tool helping us to be more connected and, of course, that is what is best for our kids. Very interested in your ideas of connecting us around a message. I’ll stay tuned. Happy New Year!
Love the idea of the Craft of Writing/Blogging/Essay group. I’m a science teacher but the more I use blogs and forums in my classroom the more I find I need to develop those skills and how they translate to the web and my content area. I suspect there are a lot of teachers that are suddenly working in an area outside of their expertise and a group like this will help teachers jump in and give the kids better classroom experiences.
Tom Hoffman says
Seems to me you’ve been slowing down because you’re running out of ideas.
John Connell says
Kind of similar thoughts from me on New Year’s Eve, Will?
Mitch Weisburgh says
While it is not strictly “Craft of Writing” we do have a “Craft of Teaching Writing” group.
Our first foray into creating this community is The Writing Teacher blog/website at http://www.thewritingteacher.org.
Since writing well is reflective of a variety of higher level skills, and since so few students write well, our goal it to collate and publish (free) best practices.
We are always looking for new authors, if you would like to participate.
Howie (Did You Know Guy) DiBlasi says
Great thought Will,
I especially liked your comment;
â€œBut if you take the aggregate effect of all of us supposed idea peddlars, Iâ€™m not sure thatâ€™s where substantive change is happening.â€
Over the past year of presenting, keynotes, feature presentations and hands-on workshops, and updating the â€œDid You Know â€œ series, I think all of the â€œIdea Peddlarsâ€ wonder about the impact we have. In my keynotes this past year I share a quote that was written in 1776 (see below)â€¦something to think about.
â€œI am not complacent at all John. I have gone through experiences such as this for a very long time. I know I am right. I make the good argument, write the wise articles, and the persuasive letters. And sometimes I feel as though I am preaching to a stack of wood. People do not easily embrace change. Convincing them to turn in a new direction requires a patience and persistence that tax everyone. It does not help matters that the course we are attempting to follow could get us all hangedâ€
Ben Franklin talking to John Adams , June 7, 1776
Best to you in 2009
Bob Cotter says
I looked at your pencast and listened to your description of this series of events and while it does appear there is a relationship between the number of blog posts and the number of comments, I don’t think the relationship is causal.
If I was going to speculate, I’d say it has more to do with the number of bloggers and blog readers who are more comfortable now that in the past few years about writing comments and engaging in at least a bit of conversation.
You and other influential writers on the topic of blogging have consistently promoted the idea that comments are a very important consideration for teachers working with students on class blogs. I imagine much of that “teaching” on your part is showing results.
AJ Cann says
You’ve fallen into the trap of assuming correlation = causation, which it could do but there’s no way to know this. Seems to me a more likely explanation is that the number of comments on your blog follows the length of time you have been blogging and the number of readers rather than the number of posts.
Scott McLeod says
Will, I would concur with AJ that there’s likely a relationship between # of comments and # of readers. What’s that relationship look like?
Merdith Broderick says
I got here because I saw you speak at November Learning in 2006. I paid for myself to go and was not disappointed at what I learned. I was introduced to the shifts through you and a host of other people I track every day on RSS readers, which by the way I learned how to do from you. To some extent I have become somewhat disenchanted, with the slowness of change, and with the gurus who peddle this change. I have never been a fan of “professional developers” they are in it to some extent to make money, remind me of potion salesmen, like Mcgraw Hill and the Wright company, and like administrators are removed the heart of the matter, teachers and students.
I also teach an unpopular group, I teach children who have been labeled ED, and have been previously thrown out of every decent school in our borough of NYC to end up at our school.
over 90 percent of our kids fall below the poverty line, and a large portion of them will do hard time in their life. ( I know this because I have been here for 25 years and I subscribe to our local paper.) Of course jail time in a country that 1 in 100 are thrown in jail at some point or another is not really that impressive, add in the variable that about 80 percent of my students are black males, and that other impressive statistic that 13 percent of black males have been convicted of felonies, and it is even less impressive.
My take on the shifts is that this could really help the most disenfranchised group of people I know, and have been blessed to work with these past 25 years. That is another phrase that loses it’s meaning in our current climate, disenfranchised, when the whole country is going bankrupt, even the billionaires seem disenfranchised.
But just in case we needed reminding there still is a poverty class in this nation, and it does seem a shame they also have the bad luck to not only be poor but their kids are labeled crazy from the time they are 4 years old. Thats right most of the kids I teach 5-7th grade were identified at 4 or 5 years old as being ” emotionally disturbed”.
My point to you is I have made it personal my business to introduce my students, parents, and my colleagues to these shifts. Not that anyone cares because really the kids I teach and their families have been written off long ago when the social experiment of the Great Society was deemed a failure. ( Just ask Corey Booker). But I do. I have spent my life here, and I can attest if anyone needs the advantages that Web 2.0 and 3.0 and social networks, and these tools can provide they do.
You were a large part of the” shift” in my teaching . I still read you every day or two, as I do about 98 other people on bloglines, and egad I actually practice some and use a good portion of this stuff in the classroom. My kids have their own delicious accounts, run blogs, make their own films, use google earth/maps and utilize a host of other tools thanks to you and people like you who blog sharing what they know. With out this blog and others like it and ( rss readers) you would have just been another PD guy, peddling his potions. It the connections and the ease that we can make them through these tools that have made you a factor in my student’s lives. I realize you are lookikng for a bigger impact. But perhaps the small ones count as well.
Kobus van Wyk says
I was getting worried about the slow take-up of superb technology usage by educators in South Africa … now I read about your estimate/suggestion of 5%. You can’t imagine how much better I feel! I am not alone any more! It is not just an African thing! It is happening in the developed world as well!
And by the way, I would also be interested in your Craft of Writing/Blogging/Essay initiative, once you get it off the ground. I am a struggling blogger, with no formal blogging training (where on earth do you get such a thing?).
Jean Tower says
We don’t win people’s minds in a single flash of brilliant oratorical genius – they are won slowly, by inches. I just want to say keep on keepin’ on.
I also want to encourage you in your goal of getting your message out in offline media – I hope it continues to increase awareness of the issues you write about.
Lee Anne Morris says
I teach tech integration to area educators. I often feel I come off looking like a late night infomercial — great idea, easy to use, low low investment, time saver, everybody will want one . . . but I wonder how many are actually sold? Like many PD educators, I can feel a little discouraged by the lack of a recognizable conversation or movement — change.
So here’s what caught my eye in your post: “Youâ€™d think with 350,000 weâ€™d have some sort of organized movement or conversation. If anyone can tell me where it exists, please let me know.” More specifically, it’s the word “organized” that got me thinking.
I’m not sure I can tell you “where” it exists, but I believe that it does and in quantity (maybe it’s the quality that is missing?). What if the conversation reflects the medium? It’s NOT organized. It IS self directed. We expect to see change (a movement/a conversation) that we recognize. How can you define, describe, or measure something when you may not really recognize what you are looking at?
Jo-Anne Gibson says
I’m an educator who’s just getting started on the Read/Write/Share Web 2.0 journey. I found you first through print (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Tools for the Classroom) which is where I think most educators today would still find you initially despite the numerous contact points on the web. Subsequently, I think your idea of writing more print materials is a good idea. It’s only then that teachers might find themselves moving toward the web with more confidence.
As the teacher-librarian in a large junior high school, I have vowed to show as many teachers as possible the power of RSS feeds so they can begin to see the big picture. It’s been through my aggregator that I have realized the true potential of the Read/Write/Share Web. I wrote about the importance of teachers learning about RSS feeds in my blog post: “In Search of a Common Web 2.0 Vision” November 28, 2008 http://jagibson19.wordpress.com/2008/11/ (Web Jammin’ Blog). I encourage you to check it out and let me know whether I’m on the right track.
I follow many educators, including you, using Twitter but I find it not as educationally satisfying as the blogs I subscribe to. I also never been to a educational technology conference so I hope you keep the blogs coming new year. I will be directing several teachers to you in the new year.