I was seriously shocked this evening when I read that Stephen Downes had decided to dim the lights on his blog for an indefinite time. It was pretty clear that he has been struggling with his own reinvention for some time now. Needless to say, he has been one of my most respected teachers over the last few years, and I will definitely miss his daily contribution to the conversation.
If you aren’t familiar with Stephen’s work, one of his last posts today will give you a sense of what we’ll all be missing:
So here we have another case of ‘simply not getting it’. In a nutshell, it’s this: “In effect, John Clare has set our members a challenge which, expressed crudely, is: put up or shut up! Show us evidence of transformed teaching and learning — not anecdotal stuff, but measurable gains and, I would add, examples which are both scaleable and replicable, and which stand the test of time (ie short-term gains are sustained in the long-term).” Sheesh. Why should we respond to a challenge on these terms? Why should we let someone like John Clare set the agenda, set the terms of success? If he wants “measurable gain” he should go out there and produce them himself, not sit there and carp at us for not doing it. While he’s at it, why doesn’t he calculate the “measurable gain” from friendship, loyalty and trust? What blogging brings for us – and for our readers and students – is all of this, and more, and measuring it is as ridiculous as counting the number of friends you have. Having a personal, self-defined identity and being able to express one’s thoughts and feelings might not alter a math test score one iota, but honestly, who cares? Education isn’t about improving test results, education is about helping people enjoy richer and happier lives (not ‘more productive’ lives – that’s a measure of value we should discard as empty and worthless). Here’s my answer to John Clare (and, incidentally, what I would and do say to students and teachers): if blogging works for you, then do it. If it doesn’t, then don’t do it, and leave the rest of us alone.
Stephen’s frustration is palpable, as is his passion. I hope he finds the answers he’s needing in his time offline.