in Education

The Map Is Not The Territory: the changing face of the edublogosphere

World mapI started reading educational blogs in late 2004/early 2005. Back then, there were only a few educators blogging – the likes of Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Wesley Fryer. Oh, and the inimitable Stephen Downes. There was (and still is) a dearth of UK-based educational bloggers.

One thing they had in common, however, was a revolutionary message: that education must adapt to the 21st century or suffer the consequences. There were fantastic conversations to follow across these blogs. This is one of the reasons I started teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk in late 2005 – to become part of this ‘conversation’. :-)

Now, in early 2008, things have changed. Whilst it’s great that there’s more educators than ever blogging, tweeting, etc. the focus has shifted. Those that were formerly in the classroom and relating the changing world and tools available to everyday educational experience are no longer in those positions; educators who have no desire to transform education are blogging. The edublogosphere has changed from being about ‘the conversation’ to being part of ‘the network’. It all smacks a little too much of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and, to be honest, viral marketing of Web 2.0 apps.

Newcastle

At the end of the day, the map is not the territory. My wife, for example, memorized the map of Newcastle-upon-Tyne when we got married and she moved up there. In many respects she could navigate herself around the city better than I could – someone who had lived close-by for 15 years or more. She could name the most popular places for pizza, show visitors the major attractions. But she didn’t know the city in the way a local would. She knew the what, but not the why.

The same goes, to a great extent, with the edublogosphere. Three years ago educators were looking to using new technologies to move towards a new model of education. Nowadays it seems to be all about bragging how you’ve used (web) application X before anyone else has. The edublogosphere seems to be overrun by educators who know the what but not the why. They’re impressed by those who can ‘leverage the power of the network’. This means, in practice, seeing how many people following you on Twitter respond to a shout out for information/hello’s whilst you move out of the classroom and into a consultancy role.

I guess from the above you can tell I’m not in favour of the new direction the edublogosphere’s headed. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still people keeping it real and not jumping on the latest bandwagon. But they’re becoming increasingly hard to find. Technology and the teaching methods that gave a vibrancy to the early edublogosphere have been distorted in order to be shoehorned into a corporate vision of schools I, for one, find repugnant.

So how should we fix it? Well I’m not saying that I’m not also to blame. I know that I am. These days I use technology to make my life easier rather than to push boundaries. Perhaps we need a commitment to collaboratively develop new pedagogies rather than remark on how ‘cool’ it would be to use any given tool? I can’t believe that it’s 2008 and we’re still using a method of education more than a little reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution… :-(

  • http://www.speedofcreativity.org/ Wesley Fryer

    Doug: I agree the landscape of blogging has really changed and continues to morph. As the number of voices “out here” increases, it becomes more challenging to not be overwhelmed. I agree that we need to avoid the tendency to simply swap web 2.0 applications and experiences, and have our latest “bleeding edge” technology experiences become the focus of our advocacy and passion. I certainly run that risk at times, I think.

    I remain more committed than ever to the goal of pedagogic sea-change in our public and private schools, however. I hope in the not-too-distant future that I’ll be able to write many of these ideas down in a book… That’s been a goal of mine for years. I’m not naive enough to think that just writing a book is going to change the world, but I do know that the conversations I’ve had and continue to have with educators like you around the world because of these tools have changed my thinking in very important ways. I see myself actually living now in both this virtual space as well as the face-to-face world of relationships. My virtual relationships and interactions with others are just as important and influential on me, my thinking, and my behavior as F2F interactions are. In some cases, I think the virtual interactions are MORE impactful because the depth of idea sharing which can and does take place here goes beyond what time and geographic restricts can permit in F2F discussions.

    I think we all need to maintain a focus on school change. I certainly want to. I continue to struggle with where I want and need to personally “plug-in” to make a positive contribution to this effort, and both a local and a larger level. I don’t have the answers, but I DO know that we’re armed with communications abilities that previous reformers like Dewey, Freiere, and Holt of which probably never even dreamed. What are we going to do with these communication tools? As you point out, we certainly can use them to swap stories and links about the latest web 2.0 tools and services. I enjoy and benefit from that, but my main focus continues to be on learning and helping others (as well as myself) operationalize the increased potentials we have to extend and expand our opportunities for learning far behind what was traditionally possible.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. This is a good reminder about “focus.”

  • http://borderland.northernattitude.org Doug Noon

    I think what is happening now is the natural result of more people taking advantage of opportunities to interact. It may be something like the difference you’d note between the early, middle, and late stages of a big party.

  • http://www.crucialthought.com Chris Craft

    Do you think it’s because the conversations we’ve been having for years now have served to enact zero change?

    Do you think the ineffectiveness of the conversation reached it’s tipping point and to console our woes we turned to the giddyness of finding some new tool or kvetching about our kids?

    The conversation changes us, not our circumstance.

    I’d be curious, what’s had more impact on you professionally, the conversations from days gone by or your Ed.D program?

    Chris

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Thanks for your responses guys – this is what it used to be like! :-)

    @Wes: We need people like you, Will, etc. – I’m certainly not disagreeing with the need for evangelists. But we need people in classrooms arguing for change and showing what can be done. I’m a bit concerned that all of the ‘best’ people are going to end up as full-time consultants…:-o

    @Doug: Indeed, but the problem with parties is that they end. Are you prepared for the hangover in the morning? ;-)

    @Chris: That’s an impossible question to answer. I couldn’t say which has impacted me most, as my thoughts and conversations with others interact with one another. That’s partly why I’m blogging here instead of at my teaching blog now. My experiences and thoughts can’t be neatly separated and sectioned off. What I do impacts what I write about – both blogging and towards my Ed.D.

  • http://edu.blogs.com Ewan McIntosh

    I’m going to jump to the defence of UK bloggers, or at least north of the border. Scotland has a very healthy edublogosphere, full of people churning out the whys. We do feel frustrated, though, at the lack of conversation created from those blogs in the wider ‘sphere. Quite often we’ll see edubloggers in other places around the world struggling to get grips with, say, Assessment for Learning when, for *months* some Scottish edubloggers have been talking about the long-term effects of their work in this field over the past four years.

    Who knows? Maybe they’re not of interest. Maybe they’re irrelevant for other people. Maybe they’re just hard to find in the cacophony of bland Joneses.

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    @Ewan: OK, I agree that over the last couple of years the number of Scottish edubloggers has risen dramatically, especially compared with the English.

    May I tentatively and hesitantly suggest, however, that they are a tad… well… insular? There's some great things going on in Scotland (not least Glow) but a lot of time seems to be spent discussing the ins-and-outs of the current specific system rather then where it's all headed.

    Having said that, Scotland is still light years ahead of England when it comes to reflective practitioners – and a lot of that's down to forward-thinking people like yourself in prominent positions. Keep up the good work! :D

  • http://lisibo.blogspot.com Lisa Stevens

    Great post! I actually find myself quite intimidated by the amount of applications, fancy tools etc that people blog about on a daily basis – just when I get my head around one thing and can see ways of using it, another ‘thing’ becomes en vogue and I’m back to square one. I’ve investigated Diigo as everyone was tweeting about it – but after numerous efforts to import bookmarks, I’m sticking to del.icio.us. Perhaps it’s insecurity on my part that I want to try everyhting in case I miss the next big thing, but my brain spins sometimes with the effort of understanding things that I am given the impression are MUST HAVEs. I like finding out new stuff but what use is it if I don’t focus on WHY I’d want to use things? Your post is a reminder to be selective and stop trying to understand everything – quality is so much better than quantity.

  • http://borderland.northernattitude.org Doug Noon

    I've avoided Twitter because I don't want to be *that* connected. I know that it might be "useful" on some level, but so would joining clubs, taking classes, reading great books, working for non-profit civic organizations, and spending time with family. Everyone should set their own priorities, and define some limits. We can at least accept responsibility for our own hangovers. Communities change, grow, and collapse – even virtual ones. It's interesting to attempt an analysis, but the read/write web phenomenon is very complex, and it's bound to change, like everything else.

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Doug and Lisa, you both make valid points. Doug – you’ve inspired me to blog about Twitter and the importance of having different ‘modes’ of working. Lisa – I really don’t understand the current Diigo craze. Toolbars are clunky and the interface is so much more difficult to use than the sleekness of del.icio.us. :)

  • Pingback: Is Twitter bad for you? at dougbelshaw.com

  • http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com Vicki Davis

    Last time I checked… I'm still in the classroom.

    I think the blogosphere is changing but honestly, I think more people are twittering than reading RSS, particularly the blogging type.

    There are lot of people adding us all to their RSS readers for the sake of having an RSS reader but not really to converse.

    And we're all forced with reinventing ourselves. However, sometimes I feel "plain and boring" just chugging along in my classroom — I can barely eek out time to blog and handle the kids and house!

    (Oh, and I only started blogging in November 2005 — so you predate me!)

    Anyway, I too think the blogosphere is changing and also have issues with a lot of what I see too. It is hard to find really fresh thoughts and innovations and we need to begin highlighting teachers who are innovating as well.

    Then again, things always change. LIstening to Danah Boyd this past week on Wow2 talking about that social networks are moving out and the kids are moving more to cell phone to cell phone communications after "resumeifying" their facebooks. We have a whole new set of issues to deal with relating to these mobile devices full of hope and danger called cell phones!

    I don't know the answer, Doug. I do know, though, that as many Web 2.0'ers get on the circuit and out of the classroom that we need a continuing influx of classroom innovators like Kate Olson and Louise Maine.

    Best wishes!

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Hi Vicki, thanks for commenting. I thought you starting blogging earlier than that – it certainly feels as though I've certainly been enjoying your writing for a long time. :-)

    I wasn't saying that you are outside the classroom – of course, I know you're not – but the temptation's there, isn't it? We need people who are both au fait with the day-to-day world of schools and the possibilities open to us with new technologies. I'm delighted to see what you're doing with the Horizon Project, for example.

    Keep up the good work! :-D

  • http://creativeict.typepad.com John Sutton

    Hi Doug, a slightly provocative post! Maybe some of the people who are swapping new websites and apps are doing it because they’ve just discovered a whole new way of looking at the educational world, and they’re loving it. They might have nothing valid to say to you, but their conversations with each other are just as valid in their own terms. Maybe they will find what works for them over time and effect the changes that we’d all like to see? A few edubloggers on their own could never have effected the pedagogical revolution that you’re looking for.

    Surely harking back to a “golden age” of edublogging is the last thing you would have thought you’d be doing when you started blogging. If you’re accusing the Scots for being insular, then maybe you are just being a tiny bit elitist?

  • http://carlanderson.blogspot.com Carl Anderson

    I see two different but interrelated issues at work in this post and the subsequent comments and I would like to address them both. First, the evangelizing of new tools has come to feel a bit sickening lately and I agree we run the risk of moving away from the goal of developing new pedagogies for the 21st century. However, I feel this is reflective of the sheer volume of new tools and new types of tools that have emerged recently. This kind of blogging is not so much about racing to be the first to use and discuss a new tool as it is a valuable technology assessment tool. Being able to do this online within a network of people or share this with a network of people saves us all from having to evaluate everything 100% for ourselves.

    Also, I think it is widely agreed among those in the edublogorsphere that new pedagogies for the 21st century will be shaped in large part by these tools. If the tools that will shape this new pedagogy are in a state of dramatic flux, evolving at alarming rates it is almost paralyzing to write or discuss how we should make change since change is the nature of the landscape. We are challenging institutions of learning who have for years operated with pedagogies that have largely gone unchanged in an environment that was highly predictable to look for new pedagogies that address a new constantly changing environment, an environment that demands that pedagogies change to adapt to the tools. This is like asking all painters in the mid 1800s to become photographers.

    The second issue is change itself. Change is difficult enough for an individual but for an institution it is extremely difficult. I fear that the change necessary to adapt to this changing landscape is going to be too great for our traditional institutions. Web 2.0 is a disruptive technology and disruptive technologies have a tendency to evolve to a point where they become superior to the prior industry leader. Change is easier if you are building something from scratch. Perhaps what we need to be discussing is how new schools, new learning environments, and new models for educational institutions should be created that maximize the effectiveness of these new tools and address the need for flexible pedagogy.

    I rarely use yahoo for internet search, now I use Google, tomorrow I will use _____________. I rarely use my landline for phone calls anymore, now I use VIOP, tomorrow I will use _______________. I don’t use Prodigy anymore, or Netscape, or Internet Explorer, now I use Firefox, tomorrow I will use _______________. We no longer send our kids to school where they are sectioned off by grade level and then by some metric that determines their reading or math efficiency level and have to sit in rows where they do worksheets and listen to a teacher talk at them, now we send our kids to classrooms where they sit at a computer in rows and listen to a teacher talk at them and sometimes do projects but still get a grade that defines them, tomorrow we will send our kids to schools that _____________________.

    I still use Yahoo from time to time. I still use my landline from time to time. I don’t use Prodigy but sometimes I open up IE to see how my webpages look in another browser. I still like to listen to lectures from time to time. I still use worksheets from time to time. I still think there is a place for traditional ed but I believe it will need to step aside and become another pedagogical tool we have and another one of many learning options available. If web 2.0 is marked by a flood of diversity in applications and services then learning 2.0 will likely see the same explosion of diversity. Right now we are seeing what looks like the deployment of many small escape vessels fleeing a sinking ship full of passengers either convinced the ship won’t sink or believe it can be saved. By the time the water hits the deck, how many people will still be on board?

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Thanks for the considered comments John and Carl. :)

    @John: I suppose you could read this post as 'harking back to a golden age of blogging'. But that's not what I'm doing really. What I want is for those new to the edublogosphere to understand the importance of having a rigorous pedagogical (or, as I'm sure Andrew Field would argue, androgogical) approach to using new technoglogies in education.

    @Carl: Love a couple of metaphors you've used there – especially the one about fleeing a sinking ship! My issue is that it seems to me that people are shoehorning these immensely powerful and potentially transformative tools into existing pedagogies. That, somehow, doesn't feel right to me… :-(

  • Pingback: Conversation And Circumstance | Teaching Generation Z

  • http://gwegner.edublogs.org/ Graham Wegner

    Doug, I started to construct a comment here but found that I wanted to wrap too much into it so I've posted it over on my blog. It's not intended as a hijack of your conversation but you have touched on a few things that have been swirling around in my brain recently anyway. I read pretty widely and quite often blogs that are at opposite ends of the spectrum – some even openly hostile towards each other, some that you've even had verbal spars with the past – and there are so many ways that blogs can be leveraged for educator benefit, that I'd venture that there's plenty of room for all uses, global changewise or tomorrow's classwise.

    Nice post.

  • http://paulhami.edublogs.org Paul Hamilton

    You’ve prompted a great conversation with this post, Doug. As a relative latecomer to the “party”, I’m encouraged that the edublogger network is growing so rapidly. There are downsides, of course, but this growth means that there are more people who are paying attention and becoming involved in exploring and implementing new pedagogical approaches. There are more people using newly available tools in their classrooms. Some of these are tools that are engaging learners who have hitherto been poorly served in schools the world over.

    In my experience, the sad reality is that despite all the noise in the edublogosphere, the overall impact of all that has been written is still just a drop in the bucket. So, let’s continue to encourage educators to read blogs, to move on to commenting, and then to creating their own blogs. Let’s encourage each other to connect in productive networks. There may indeed be too much focus on the latest and greatest new application, or on the network, or on any number of other peripheral issues. This seems a small price to pay for helping to prod and shape much needed change.

    It sometimes seems to me that the term “lurk” is used in an almost pejorative sense by edubloggers. I know that I for one, however, have learned a great deal, and my thinking has been challenged, by lurking on the fringes of the edublogosphere. It can be a little intimidating to dive in and swim with the big eloquent fish who are already well established in a pond where a couple of years seems like forever.

  • http://lisibo.blogspot.com Lisa Stevens

    I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph, Paul!

  • Pingback: dy/dan » Blog Archive » Backward / Forward

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    As Lisa states, Paul, you make a very good point at the end about 'lurking'. The danger is that people new to the edublogosphere never read some of the seminal posts which outline the vision of an education system that uses these tools. In other words, they assume that these tools can be retro-fitted to an outdated pedagogy…

  • http://www.sandaigprimary.co.uk/pivot/johnjohnston.php John

    Hi Doug,
    I knee-jerked a tweet last night with my tongue in my cheek but I do think blogging is a bit young for you to realistically ask blogs to be fixed. Once there is a set idea of how things should go we will really be bogged down.
    The way I blog now is very different to the way I blogged 6 years ago and if I am still blogging in another 6 years I hope I'll be doing something different.
    As to Scottish EduBlogs being insular that doesn't seem to be the same ScotEduBlogsers I read. This week Ewan has been in Finland, John has probably looped the world several times and Scotland is pinned on the map as a place of edu innovation and goodness. A pile of others have been blogging about what goes on in their classes which I guess might be seen as insular but often a source of practical ideas.

  • http://blog.mathsage.com Mr. K

    I am amused that you are complaining that the very thing that was supposed to change the way we think: technology, and in particular all this 2.0 stuff, is not only not effecting that change in the way you expected, but is showing itself to be less robust than the ideas it was supposed to replace.

  • http://www.weblogg-ed.com Will Richardson

    Hey Doug,

    Just a couple of thoughts on what's obviously a provocative post. First, I'm constantly struck by how limited the reach of the edublogic (new word) conversation is outside of the sphere. From the perspective of someone who within the span of two weeks has spent significant time in both inner city New York schools and in the most expensive, well regarded private schools in the south, let me just say that the vast majority still don't have a context for this conversation. We all talk about it every day at every turn, and it feels like everyone should be "getting it." Just not the case. This despite the fact that, as you note, the number of edu bloggers compared to 4-5 years (or 7 years ago) has exploded.

    Second, I think Twitter and Ning are changing things in a significant ways. Twitter has meant less "blogging" in terms of depth of thinking, the thing you are doing here. Ning has made the whole network piece easier. I wonder sometimes if the folks in Classroom 20 feel as tightly connected as some in the more "traditional" folks feel. Not sure. And I'm not saying it's either better or worse. But it is different.

    For me, the longer I stay in this conversation, the less it becomes about schools, frankly. It's about learning. And if I can provoke teachers to consider what these technologies mean in terms of their own learning, and help them then think about the changes in terms of their classrooms, then so be it. I just don't know how schools change (except in unique circumstances) before systems change, and the only way systems change is if enough people in the system demand it.

    Thanks for the thinking.

  • Jennifer

    So, Doug…where are those seminal posts located? Is anyone out there going to put them all in one place for those of us new to the party?

  • http://blog.larkin.net.au/ John Larkin

    Doug, what an incredible post and how very reassuring.

    I have blogged about all sorts of crap for a while now. Last year I thought I would give the blog a bit of focus.

    I have returned to the secondary school classroom to teach history. This is after ten years in educational technology in corporate and tertiary fields. I have experienced some fairly incredible highs and also one incredible low that left me in a Singaporean hospital for about five days in 2000. Nothing like being bullied into submission and having your self-esteem surgically extracted by an abusive boss all in the name of IT, portals, eyeballs and stickiness.

    The classroom restored my focus and I thought I would rebirth the blog and write about education and technology and history. It was time to enjoy education technology. I enjoyed it at first and garnered a few comments here and there and made some contacts. But then late last year and early this year I began to get this sinking feeling. The blogs that I read were becoming homogenous. So many blogs began to look and sound the same.

    I was on quite a roll myself early January but then the wheels fell off my litte red cart. Something about the education blogging environment was gnawing at my guts. Whatever it was it must have been gnawing at your guts too.

    I may elaborate further on my own blog Doug but in short I agree with you wholeheartedly that “…the edublogosphere has changed from being about ‘the conversation’ to being part of ‘the network’. It all smacks a little too much of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and, to be honest, viral marketing of Web 2.0 apps”.” I know I have been a part of that. Forgive me father for I have sinned.

    Wes Fryer is right. We need focus. We need a little chaos and anarchy as well. Is that what Graham means when he writes that there is room for all users? I think I sound confused. Must make sure that the focus does not create an all over grey world of bloggers.

    I worry about the education bloggers that are guiding the more recent entrants to the medium how to blog. New bloggers have surfaced recently, have been adopted by “more seasoned” bloggers and have been moulded into the image of their guide or mentor. These may be like the “bland joneses” that Ewan McIntosh refers to in his comment. Some of these “bland joneses” are now centre-stage in the education blogging environment.

    I have observed a number of new education bloggers join the networks of late and they soon become mirror images of the more seasoned or ‘vocal’ edubloggers. By vocal I do not mean provocative or innovative. I simply mean they have a voice within the edublogging environment that is taken as gospel. It is a pity. I feel that the twitter networks play a role in the establishment of this sameness. It is quite intriguing to observe.

    Lisa Stevens makes a good point about the intimidation regarding new tools. I have been caught up in that as well but nothing incenses more when I blogger mentions how they spotted that app before such and such did. Who cares? The earth will still manage to rotate on its axis without that knowledge.

    Perhaps I am getting old but the excessive positivity about this tool and that tool in some blogs annoys me. Does that make me a ‘grumpy old man’. I am a little tired of the excessive use of bold font type and exclamation marks in some blogs to proclaim some ‘new’ tool. Lately it has been Diigo and Friendfeed. As you mention there is a diigo craze on the moment. I think there is now an inverse correlation between the number of exclamation marks a new tool receives throughout the education blogging environment and my willingness to give the tool a try.

    Sometimes the tools are not all that new and have escaped the attention of the majority of education bloggers until one of the old-guard, blogging elite or a member of the newer ‘generation 2.0′ drops a line about a tool on Twitter or their blog and all the acolytes jump on board and go into orgasmic delight about the world changing benefits of the ‘new’ tool. It is the acolytes that add the bold font and the exclamation marks. As Carl Anderson commented the evangelising of new tools is indeed sickening. I have been caught up in that. I guess I need to say ten “Hail Marys” and stand in the corner now.

    Vicki Davis is also right. It is “hard to find fresh thoughts and innovations”. I have also wondered about the conversations and the reducation in th diversity of thought within the edublogosphere and at least within the blogs that I read there seems to be a sameness creeping into the environment. I articulated these thoughts a little further on Christopher Sesssum’s blog when he posted about social networks the other day. Some of them are repeated here.

    I have sensed of late that segments of the “edublogosphere” are dominated by a small coterie of seasoned bloggers who are followed by a dedicated core of disciples that hang off their every word. I think this is stifling original thought and creating a sameness in some edublogging arenas. The conversations are limited to a few yet cloned by many.

    Christopher Sessums asked “What sort of mechanisms can we set up to encourage creativity and diversity among edubloggers?” I agree that the world of education bloggers should be more like an agora as Christopher alluded too with a highly varied range of discussions, debates, marketing of ideas and the ‘playing of games’ (as per an agora). (The agora of ancient Athens was largely responsible for the creation of democracy, philosophy and western thought).

    Vicki Davis mentions that more people are Twittering. Twitter is a strange beast. I wonder how an educator can rack up 4000 updates in 3 months? That is an obsessive compulsive disorder in my opinion. It is bizarre. Do they actually teach in a classroom?

    I wonder about the relationship between Twitter and education blogging.Has anyone else observed anything peculiar about Twitter? Is it just me? I have written positive posts about the tool but I also have uneasy stirrings in my gut about Twitter. I cannot help but feel that there is an us and them tendency in some Twitter networks. Am I imagining this? Is there a sense of exclusivity that is related to the number of updates or followers? Perhaps I am paranoid.

    Your readers may think I am full of sh*te but its how I see things. There are of course great and humble educators that produce excellent blogs that are not a part of the self-flagellating and mutually-masturbating and occasionally elitist group that I have observed. Why do these bloggers not get the voice that they deserve? Are their Twitter ranks too low?

    I recently spoke about these trends and a friend simply said why give the education bloggers that you feel do not contribute or lack innovative thinking a voice? Why link to them? I agree. I mentioned to Christopher Sessums that perhaps it was time to look for fresh contacts. Elements of my Google Reader list have indeed become stale.

    Doug, you are the first of those new contacts. Thanks for reinvigorating my interest, restoring my faith in the medium and giving a voice to the thoughts I have felt.

    Best wishes, John.

  • http://toolsofengagement.wordpress.com Jeannine

    Very thought provoking. To me your key comment was “The edublogosphere has changed from being about ‘the conversation’ to being part of ‘the network’.” The network that has developed among educators is phenomenal, and as each new teacher learns the tools the network grows larger. But perhaps the time has come to take the “conversation” about the revolution outside of teaching?

    Here in Canada a great deal of the “visioning” exercise is placed in the hands of school boards or parent councils. How many edubloggers are actively engaging these decision makers? (I’m a decision maker and I’ve only come across a few others who are engaged in this conversation and see the potential for 21c learning.) Until you get those who are responsible for the long-term visioning (and often control the funding, and don’t necessarily appreciate disruptive technology)to embrace the potential of web 2.0 tools and their potential in delivering improved learning, then you are preaching to the choir.

    If we are ever to move to the model Carl Anderson described above (new schools, new learning environments and new models of education) we are ALL going to have to be part of the conversation.

    Great post, great comments!

  • http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

    Doug, two thoughts…

    1. I think John Sutton above has it right. These people are new and they're trying to find their own meaning, just like we did earlier (and continue to do). How else are they supposed to understand the power and potential of these tools if they don't play with them, reflect on them, share about them, get feedback about them, etc. I know that I didn't understand the power of blogging and the 'network' until at least 6 months into it. I needed that space and time to learn the ropes. Don't others deserve the same, particularly if we want them using these tools in pedagogically sound ways?

    2. You said, 'The danger is that people new to the edublogosphere never read some of the seminal posts which outline the vision of an education system that uses these tools.' And where would newbies find these seminal posts? Buried in the hundreds of other posts on key bloggers' blogs? It's not like there's a 'Newbies Guide to the Seminal Posts' out there. Maybe you should make a wiki page (or add to one of the ones at http://www.movingforward.wikispaces.com)?

  • Pingback: Doug Belshaw speaks my language

  • http://njtechteacher.blogspot.com Ann Oro

    Hello. It's nice to learn about your blog. I've added it to my reader tonight. There is so much to learn when you're late to the party as I am. I had a huge number of thoughts generated by your post. So many that it took most of the night to respond and it still feels like there's more to be said. I ended up writing a post. Overall, while the conversations can become overwhelmingly tool oriented I see a lot of interesting work going on in different pockets at different schools. What will take to reach a tipping point? I don't know, but I'm willing to do what I can on my end.

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Thanks for the additional comments. It would seem I need to create an area for people to add ‘seminal blog posts’. Hmmm… I’ll get on it presently… :p

  • Jackie Blackman

    I am very new to the world of edubloggers and I have been fascinated by the ideas and comments put forward so articulately in response to Doug's post. This is the first time I have ever commented but I wanted to say that I agree with Paul and Lisa, it can all be a bit intimidating. It is very difficult to join a conversation which has been going on for sometime. You don't know how or where the conversation started and who has said what. However, that does not mean that you are not interested in taking part or finding out how the conversation progresses. Sometimes however, it can be more important to listen before joining in.

    I think I am probably an example of the type of new edublogger Doug was talking about in his original post. I get very excited at what new apps can do and I want to try them out. But, that doesn't mean that I don't think about how these can improve teaching and learning in my classroom. I work in a school where 90% of teachers, including me, have very limited access to computers and using powerpoint on the IWB is seen as a good use of technology. However, because I have been so excited by some of the things I have learnt about the past months, I have used every opportunity to tell and show people what these tools are and how they can be used to improve the learning experiences of our students. Whether my vision of how and why fits in with the original "revolutionary message", I don't know because I wasn't part of that conversation.

    Surely everything has to start in the classroom, without the desire for things to be different by those who will have to implement the changes then change will not happen, regardless of anything else. My experiences in my classroom and working in small ways with colleagues has started to have a wider impact in my school as I have been asked to work with other teachers to introduce a new course for our yr 7s (11 yr olds) which will make technology central to what they do in all of their lessons. More than that it will change the way we teach and learn and by "we" I mean both students and staff.

    I suppose the point of my contribution is that in my opinion, it doesn't matter how, why or indeed when, we join the conversation just so long as we do and if the conversation changes somewhat over time, as long as it continues that is the most important thing.

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Hi Jackie, thanks for your comment! My concern is that people start using Web 2.0 apps, etc. just because they are 'cool' or 'engaging'. That doesn't change education: thoughtful inclusion of such tools to create new pedagogies does. Otherwise we simply create 'School 1.5' instead of 'School 2.0'.

    As per the request above, here is my first 'seminal blog post'. It's by Jeff Utecht and entitled Pedagogy defines School 2.0. I suggest everyone reads it. Now. :-)

  • Pingback: Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Links for 2008-03-31

  • Pingback: Borderland » Blog Archive » What now?

  • http://www.boxoftricks.net José Picardo

    Hello Doug. I may be the only one who disagrees with you on this by the look of things.
    Please don't take this the wrong way: I like your blog and read it now and then, you make some very good points, but I think this particular post reads a little self-important and a little pejorative.

    It sounds as if you want to exterminate the weaker races, eradicate the inferior members of society in order to promote your own superior breed… I hope all those History books aren't getting to you!

    The Blogosphere, as people call it, is receiving and influx of migration. It's growing and it's evolving and that is a good thing, Doug, not a bad thing. You can always choose who to aggregate to your feed reader so you don't have to mix with the chaff.

    PS: I know text can very impersonal: I don't mean to offend and this is written tongue in cheek ;)

    José

  • Pingback: Weblogg-ed » The “Conversation” About “Conversations”

  • http://franksblog.edublogs.org Frank’s Blog

    I’m a bit confused on 1 thing. Why is the starting point for this observation and conversation the “blog?” Many of us have been web logging long before the “blog” format was introduced. One could say that the edublogosphere itself and birth of the blog was the beginning of this conversation rather than post- Will, Vicki, Stephen, etc. Perhaps it is the blog itself, and it’s ease of use (I had to hand-code my own websites and social networks previously, starting in 1993)) that is the cause of this effect. As tools become more accessible it is natural that more will play. And why couldn´t then we say that the entrance of the edublogosphere diluted and distracted preblog Web movements? Where do we really start with this conversation?

    Reminds me of a Native Indian in the USA that once said to me, “Go back to Europe.” I could have returned, “Go back to Asia,” but what would be the point really? We are all here now. And, this is why tools need to evolve to help us manage the data and relationships. We each have a choice on our level of participation. Fresh voices along with seasoned experts is a mix that I have personally adopted. As a right-brainer, I like divergent thinking as a starting point. I can always converge when the time is right. Some people, however, are convergent thinkers at the start. As a divergent thinker and explorer, the Web and it’s varied voices and ability to connect is the greatest gift of my lifetime.

  • Pingback: » There Isn’t Just One Bud the Teacher

  • Pingback: If you want to know the future . . . use less technology «

  • http://jessmc.edublogs.org Jess McCulloch

    I’m glad you wrote the line ‘keeping up with the joneses’ as I have thought this often lately and have found it to be more than a bit disheartening. I also find all the ‘should dos’ that get sent around the blogosphere to be a bit irritating.
    I agree totally with Lisa about quality being much more important than quantity. I’ll try to remember that everyday when I face google reader and decide what to read, rather than trying to read everything!
    Insofar as what you wrote about not much changing in the education system/s it is disappointing to think that in the 21st century we are still so far behind where we should be and that our workplaces don’t match up to our conversations. I would say we still have to realise that we are a small group (technology and Web2.0 wise I mean) who are pushing the boundaries and that change takes a long time, but sometimes I just want to scream “How much longer is it going to take!!! It’s time for a change. The fact that you’ve been doing things this way for years is the exact reason you need to change it!”

  • Pingback: Seminal blog posts at dougbelshaw.com

  • Pingback: Significant Blog Posts

  • http://http:missprofe.wordpress.com Miss Profe

    I think that the reason there are not many fresh ideas is because of the Web 2.0 cliques that have developed. Since everyone chooses to follow "the anointed ones", those bloggers with something really unique to offer aren't getting the attention they should. It seems to me that there are too many people saying the same thing – at least on the edutech-oriented blogs. Which is why I tend to avoid reading them with the exception of two.

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    It seems to me that there are too many people saying the same thing – at least on the edutech-oriented blogs. Which is why I tend to avoid reading them with the exception of two.

    I'm glad this blog (it would seem) is one of them! ;-)

  • http://www.whirligigs.edublogs.org Corrina Gideon

    Hi Doug –

    Thank you for your comments. You have certainly been around and contributing much longer than I have, and I respect your ideas. However, I feel that I must insert myself into this conversation as one who is "building a network" and in the process listening in on and becoming part of "the conversation". I feel discouraged when you seem to classify those of us who are trying to change our part of the educational world in the best way that we know by suggesting that we “have no desire to transform education…” because that’s exactly what I think I’m trying to do. Granted, I may not follow someone else’s blueprint for change and I barely know how to operate my new blog – but I do have ideas for change and I do recognize that we must change our collective systems if we are to make a meaningful future for ourselves and our students.

    This reminds me a little bit of a comment I overheard a few years back at a software training. There were many people at the training who had limited experience with using this software (isn’t that funny…it wasn’t that long ago, but that training was considered ‘cutting edge’ in my district) but they were there, nonetheless. One of the participants wanted to ask what I thought was a valid question, but felt afraid because – according to her – the instructor “made you feel like her knowledge only belonged to her”. At the time I remember thinking how sad that was, and this conversation makes me feel the same way.

    To everyone who’s been around for awhile, I’m suggesting that you realize there are many of us who want to be part of whatever conversation is out there. The last thing we need is to feel unwelcome because we aren’t doing it “right”. I believe that we all have something to contribute and it’s okay to not be on the cutting edge as long as you are at least on the path. What do you think?

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Hi Corinna,

    I'm certainly not suggesting (as Dan Meyer seems to think) that there's a black-and-white distinction between 'those of us who've been around a bit' and 'you lot'. Not at all.

    What concerns me is the fact that instead of being driven by a notion of 'something needs to change in education' to 'right, what are the tools which will help me do this?', it seems to be 'wow! cool tool!' and then 'how can I retro-fit this to existing pedagogies?'.

    I'm all for using Web 2.0 and other educational technologies in education. Even a passing glance at what I've been writing over the last 2.5 years would bear witness to that. I would hope, however, that my use of these technologies has mostly been driven by a desire to change the whole system. I think it's the case that, sometimes, people both new and old to the edublogosphere can focus on the 'coolness' of the tool rather than on the pedagogical impact it may have… :-)

  • http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

    Doug, I wonder if you're expecting too much of people. For example, it was only after about 6-8 months of immersing myself in the blogosphere that I truly started to understand this complex new learning environment and what some of the pedagogical possibilities were. Was I driven by a deep desire to enact change? Yes, I always am. Was I viewing blogs as a way to facilitate that? No way, not then. Does that mean I shouldn't have immersed myself? No, because it was only by diving in and learning that I came out the other side more knowledgeable and more ready to use these tools as you describe. I'm guessing that many others are traveling similar journeys. Accordingly, I'm more than willing to give people the benefit of the doubt as they explore the possibilities with all of this new stuff. How else are they going to make sense of it all?

  • Kristine

    Doug,

    Interesting post. I tend to agree that those who jump on the new technology bandwagon fail to fully grasp how this technology can change existing teaching methods or even how to properly use the tools.

    However, I would rather see adoption of new technology than an outright fear of it — which is something that I think is more likely among educators today.

    Kristine

  • Pingback: Are you an ‘Edupunk’? I’m not. at dougbelshaw.com

  • http://www.dirmonster.com Johny

    Nice post you wrote here, congrats
    Cheers

  • http://www.dirmonster.com Johny

    Nice post you wrote here, congratsCheers

  • http://www.rocktheadored.com Web Directory

    Pretty much helped me, thanxCheers

  • Pingback: Digi-teachers: viewpoints & reflections | damoward