in Education

3 reasons I’m against the Edublog Awards

Last year on my previous blog, teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk, I wrote a very short ‘microblog’ post entitled Please don’t vote for this blog! about the Edublog Awards. It, erm, caused some debate – some of which could be put in the category heated.

It’s time for the Edublogs Awards again, and I still haven’t changed my stance. I’m totally against them, for reasons I shall explain. I wasn’t going to say anything as people who I like and respect such as Tom Barrett and José Picardo are stoked to be nominated, but I really must give my $0.02…

1. They foster competition instead of collaboration and co-operation

Just as when you’re teaching a course that has an exam at the end of it you teach differently to those purely assessed by coursework, so the Edublog Awards can influence blogging. Although I’ve blogged before about making sure you don’t get ‘unfollowed on Twitter’ and offered tips on how to retain RSS subscribers, this is slightly different. The point of those posts was to make sure that people offering a different view of education continue to get their voices heard. The Edublog Awards are a popularity contest that pit blog author against blog author instead of striving to a common goal :-(

2. They’re promoted by people who have vested interests

I’ve met and think I get on with Josie Fraser reasonably well (education and social media consultant). I’ve heard that James Farmer (Edublogs.org owner) is a great guy. However, both of them do this kind of thing for a living. I’m certainly not saying that they set up and continue to run the awards purely for financial and self-centred reasons. But it’s a consideration.

When I’ve made points like this before, people have said that bloggers deserve a thank-you, a well done and a slap on the back. Yes. They do. That’s what comments, tip jars (like Dave Warlick’s Starbucks one) and blogging about what you’ve learned via that person are for. Awards are divisive.

“I smell sour grapes,” say others. Not so. In fact, one of my blogs (the now non-existent edte.ch) was nominated in the category ‘best resource-sharing blog’, even though it did nothing of the sort! What’s worse, people actually voted for it. I was shocked.

Still others may say that it’s a good way to find out about new blogs or ones that have escaped their attention. So are Technorati, Google Blog Search, the ‘recommendation’ feature in Google Reader, and – shock horror! – people actually just blogging about other people and their blogs that they find useful or interesting. There’s no need for an award, or series of awards, just so that people can discover new or different content. The Internet is already good at connecting people and for searches…

3. It’s very easy to rig them

Just as ‘Teacher of the Year’ awards are won by good teachers but not necessarily the best in their field, so the Edublog Awards reflect the nature the process. What happens when a teacher is nominated as ‘Teacher of the Year’? Everyone even remotely related to their school or family is urged to vote for them.

I know as a matter of fact of teachers nominated in previous years who have encouraged every student they teach to go home and vote for their blog (as the school has a single IP address). I’ve seen blog posts pratically begging readers to vote for a blog.

In the end it comes down to who wants it the most. And I don’t want it at all. Comments and thank-you’s on this blog and Twitter are reward enough. It’s a shame that’s not the case for others in the edublogosphere. :-p

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  1. Heck Doug, the one time I get nominated for something!
    I tell you what, you can vote for me on your Macbook and for Tom on your netbook ;)

  2. Spot on post Doug,

    Blogging is a great platform for folk to share their experiences, learning, wrinkles, tips and thoughts and hopefully promote others to do so. I only wish more folk would blog, what a great pool or reservoir of narratives it would be for everyone to tap into and learn from. I just think the awards promote a little bit of blogsnobbery and could possibly discourage folk from starting a blog.

  3. Hi Doug
    Public recognition is a form of reward that is indeed more superficial that consistent private acknowledgement. I suppose, it is our ego getting in the way… Thanks for the reality check!
    Isabelle

  4. Hi DougPublic recognition is a form of reward that is indeed more superficial that consistent private acknowledgement. I suppose, it is our ego getting in the way… Thanks for the reality check!Isabelle

  5. Heck Doug, the one time I get nominated for something! I tell you what, you can vote for me on your Macbook and for Tom on your netbook ;)

  6. Spot on post Doug, Blogging is a great platform for folk to share their experiences, learning, wrinkles, tips and thoughts and hopefully promote others to do so. I only wish more folk would blog, what a great pool or reservoir of narratives it would be for everyone to tap into and learn from. I just think the awards promote a little bit of blogsnobbery and could possibly discourage folk from starting a blog.

  7. At one point I used to ask everyone I know to vote — to me, it is like “what is the point” — however, I do believe that anything that brings positive attention to the edublogosphere is a good thing and so I don’t want to do harm.

    I do think that they are divisive – but just about anything worth doing ends up w/ these divisive awards. IT doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the edublogosphere is a great place.

    I think it is about focus – when these things get me off focus then it is harmful to my classroom and to me as a person. Arrogance destroys the effectiveness of a blogger – it comes through in the posts and we have to all remember that we are still educators – not “ROCK STARS” ( a Term I HATE HATE HATE btw).

    We have to focus on the students – few of whom receive awards and speak out for incredible teachers – few of whom receive awards.

    I always hesitate, however, to do harm and so have tiptoed carefully around this one.

    While I mention the nomination – there is too much to do — my students are organizing protests in lively right now b/c that is an incredible tool that is about to go away! Got things to do.

    You’re always one of my longtime favorite innovators – thank you.

    • Vicki,

      I agree with your point about wanting to ‘bring positive attention to the edublogosphere’, but I would question whether awards actually do so. There’s awards for *everything* these days, aren’t there?

      It was actually your post that prompted me into writing this post. I could see that you were against the idea, but were honoured to have been nominated. As you say, you may have offended people by coming out against them. I’m not so concerned with my online reputation! ;-)

      • It isn’t a matter of offending people. But, I do think that the edublog awards have brought attention to some bloggers who needed to be noticed. I don’t think they are doing harm. Sometimes I think teachers are so desperate for a pat on the back that it really doesn’t bring out the best when this sort of thing happens.

        Very often the “winners” HAVE had a campaign to win which does make you think – well, what is it worth – so to me, it is a waste of time to “try” to win. Too many other things to do. ;-)

        I don’t think that there are awards for everything — should be more. I guess the biggest problem I have is the problem with edublogs putting ads on the blogs of their users without permission. I have a real problem with that. So, I think that their non-helpful actions of over the top adsensing their blogs has put a bad taste in my mouth. I do think that Josie and James have done great work and wouldn’t want to disparage it. I disagree with that decision so perhaps it makes me not so gung ho on the whole awards thing.

        As for online reputation — I just take seriously to be careful about doing harm – I’ve made some mistakes in the past and have hurt people and companies (although not in a huge way- I mean, who am I really? – it was still harm) and have made a commitment to myself to be very wary before posting negatively.

  8. Vicki,I agree with your point about wanting to 'bring positive attention to the edublogosphere', but I would question whether awards actually do so. There's awards for *everything* these days, aren't there?It was actually your post that prompted me into writing this post. I could see that you were against the idea, but were honoured to have been nominated. As you say, you may have offended people by coming out against them. I'm not so concerned with my online reputation! ;-)

  9. At one point I used to ask everyone I know to vote — to me, it is like “what is the point” — however, I do believe that anything that brings positive attention to the edublogosphere is a good thing and so I don't want to do harm.I do think that they are divisive – but just about anything worth doing ends up w/ these divisive awards. IT doesn't take anything away from the fact that the edublogosphere is a great place.I think it is about focus – when these things get me off focus then it is harmful to my classroom and to me as a person. Arrogance destroys the effectiveness of a blogger – it comes through in the posts and we have to all remember that we are still educators – not “ROCK STARS” ( a Term I HATE HATE HATE btw). We have to focus on the students – few of whom receive awards and speak out for incredible teachers – few of whom receive awards.I always hesitate, however, to do harm and so have tiptoed carefully around this one. While I mention the nomination – there is too much to do — my students are organizing protests in lively right now b/c that is an incredible tool that is about to go away! Got things to do.You're always one of my longtime favorite innovators – thank you.

  10. It isn't a matter of offending people. But, I do think that the edublog awards have brought attention to some bloggers who needed to be noticed. I don't think they are doing harm. Sometimes I think teachers are so desperate for a pat on the back that it really doesn't bring out the best when this sort of thing happens.Very often the “winners” HAVE had a campaign to win which does make you think – well, what is it worth – so to me, it is a waste of time to “try” to win. Too many other things to do. ;-) I don't think that there are awards for everything — should be more. I guess the biggest problem I have is the problem with edublogs putting ads on the blogs of their users without permission. I have a real problem with that. So, I think that their non-helpful actions of over the top adsensing their blogs has put a bad taste in my mouth. I do think that Josie and James have done great work and wouldn't want to disparage it. I disagree with that decision so perhaps it makes me not so gung ho on the whole awards thing.As for online reputation — I just take seriously to be careful about doing harm – I've made some mistakes in the past and have hurt people and companies (although not in a huge way- I mean, who am I really? – it was still harm) and have made a commitment to myself to be very wary before posting negatively.

  11. I agree with you Doug… To me it seems rather desperate or arrogant to campaign for a blog award. To me edublogging should be about collaboration, just as good teaching requires collaboration.

    • Exactly. My RSS reader reflects what you have stated: I’m interested in those educators who share what they do because they love what they do. I’m not interested in those who are doing it with one eye on a prize!

  12. I agree with you Doug… To me it seems rather desperate or arrogant to campaign for a blog award. To me edublogging should be about collaboration, just as good teaching requires collaboration.

  13. Exactly. My RSS reader reflects what you have stated: I'm interested in those educators who share what they do because they love what they do. I'm not interested in those who are doing it with one eye on a prize!

  14. I am not in favour of the Edublog Awards either (and like you, it's not a matter of sour grapes as I have also been nominated in the past). However, I really don't understand your point about vested interests: EVERYONE has a vested interest! It's a matter of whether their vested interest is transparent or whether it actually matters. I don't know if Josie or J Farmer makes any money from it, but how is that relevant? You make money from teaching, don't you? In fact, if they ARE making money from it, I say good luck to them: they're pioneering the way for the rest of us.

  15. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this … I’ve not been nominated, nor am likely to be. However, I think that I’d be torn between the being really rather pleased, but also way too embarrassed to actually *ask* anyone to vote for me. Besides, I’d rather they based their vote on the *blog*, not the owner. So, much as they might like me, I’d hope they’d vote for the blog they liked the best.

    Luckily I’ve not had to put anyone in that situation!

    I guess it’s also related to *why* we blog. For me, it was first & foremost because I was intending to get students to blog – the whole concept of writing publicly was scary to me – so I thought I’d better start. But, the audience was never intended to be more than my students (and, as they weren’t *required* to read it…) So, anyone who’s not a student of mine is a plus :)

    I’ve decided, therefore, this time to have a look at the list of blogs – and will only vote (should I find one) – for one by someone I have never read before (so, you’re in with a chance, Sarah!) – and use it as a way of finding new blogs, rather than reinforcing my own.

  16. I am not in favour of the Edublog Awards either (and like you, it’s not a matter of sour grapes as I have also been nominated in the past). However, I really don’t understand your point about vested interests: EVERYONE has a vested interest! It’s a matter of whether their vested interest is transparent or whether it actually matters. I don’t know if Josie or J Farmer makes any money from it, but how is that relevant? You make money from teaching, don’t you? In fact, if they ARE making money from it, I say good luck to them: they’re pioneering the way for the rest of us.

    • Fr the record, none of the Edublog Awards team have ever directly made money from putting the awards together, we’ve all donated our time and energy in the hope of doing something good for the community. We have all benefited immensely however, in terms of having the opportunity to spend time with each other and learn from the global community, and from the ability to demonstrate we are engaged in our chosen professions. It isn’t a closed club – anyone who wants to get involved is more than welcome to contribute and help shape the event. I’ll probably have to step down after this year so more than delighted to hear from people who can do a better job.

      I really do think the awards do an important job of raising awareness of whats going on and sharing resources internationally. They should be a celebration of all our hard work and an opportunity to recognise the vitality of world going on in blogging and social media. I’d be an idiot if I thought everyone would see them in the same light as me however.

      Have a great Xmas Doug & hope to see you again in the New Year.

      • Hi Josie and thanks for your comment. It’s not really a personal dig, just a reminder to people that money actually does (or at least used to!) make the world go round and nothing comes for free. See adverts on edublogs.org as an example of this… :-)

  17. Fr the record, none of the Edublog Awards team have ever directly made money from putting the awards together, we’ve all donated our time and energy in the hope of doing something good for the community. We have all benefited immensely however, in terms of having the opportunity to spend time with each other and learn from the global community, and from the ability to demonstrate we are engaged in our chosen professions. It isn’t a closed club – anyone who wants to get involved is more than welcome to contribute and help shape the event. I’ll probably have to step down after this year so more than delighted to hear from people who can do a better job.

    I really do think the awards do an important job of raising awareness of whats going on and sharing resources internationally. They should be a celebration of all our hard work and an opportunity to recognise the vitality of world going on in blogging and social media. I’d be an idiot if I thought everyone would see them in the same light as me however.

    Have a great Xmas Doug & hope to see you again in the New Year.

  18. Fr the record, none of the Edublog Awards team have ever directly made money from putting the awards together, we've all donated our time and energy in the hope of doing something good for the community. We have all benefited immensely however, in terms of having the opportunity to spend time with each other and learn from the global community, and from the ability to demonstrate we are engaged in our chosen professions. It isn't a closed club – anyone who wants to get involved is more than welcome to contribute and help shape the event. I'll probably have to step down after this year so more than delighted to hear from people who can do a better job. I really do think the awards do an important job of raising awareness of whats going on and sharing resources internationally. They should be a celebration of all our hard work and an opportunity to recognise the vitality of world going on in blogging and social media. I'd be an idiot if I thought everyone would see them in the same light as me however. Have a great Xmas Doug & hope to see you again in the New Year.

  19. Hi Josie and thanks for your comment. It's not really a personal dig, just a reminder to people that money actually does (or at least used to!) make the world go round and nothing comes for free. See adverts on edublogs.org as an example of this… :-)

  20. I do have to agree with you Doug, for slightly different reasons. For me it all seems to be same old same old… you’ll get same names / blogs nominated, the same ed tech folk on the judging panel, presented by the same people and attended by the same people year after year.

    Perhaps I should eulogise about Posterous and Twitter and Google Apps and casually drop in ‘Clay Shirky’, ‘Chalres Leadbetter’, ‘Ewan McIntosh’, ‘Digital Divide’ etc etc into my blog posts… see you on the winners podium in 2 years :)

    Anyway, I couldn’t call myself a true blogger so perhaps I’m missing the whole point but I tend to be busy doing the actual activity of finding / developing and implementing emerging / new technologies in schools rather than endlessly blogging about Posterous or Animoto or whatever, which has been blogged about 100s of times already..

    I’m a doer rather than a blogger

    Awards? no thanks! My award is when a classroom of kids (or even staff) go silent or are blown away when they see some of my work or approach me and ask me ‘how did you do that? Show me!’.

    Merry Xmas Doug!

    • Here is where I saw your comment, Karl: “Awards? No thanks!” and then dropped right into your web page advertising nominations for some technology awards. I don’t know you or any of the people who posted here, or for that matter most of the people who got edublog awards. It just strikes me as some weird politics or one-up-manship, some inside deal that is mysterious when looking in from the outside. What’s up with the negativity? Now the Edublog award winners can read this thread and feel less honored. Wow. Cool. Productive.

      • I don’t think that’s the reason why people, including myself, are coming out as ‘anti’ the Edublog Awards, Liz. The point is one of the whole community, not the select individuals who have been nominated or who have won an award.

        I just don’t think the awards are for the good of the whole community. There are other ways the same people – and more – can receive recognition and thanks.

  21. I do have to agree with you Doug, for slightly different reasons. For me it all seems to be same old same old… you'll get same names / blogs nominated, the same ed tech folk on the judging panel, presented by the same people and attended by the same people year after year.Perhaps I should eulogise about Posterous and Twitter and Google Apps and casually drop in 'Clay Shirky', 'Chalres Leadbetter', 'Ewan McIntosh', 'Digital Divide' etc etc into my blog posts… see you on the winners podium in 2 years :)Anyway, I couldn't call myself a true blogger so perhaps I'm missing the whole point but I tend to be busy doing the actual activity of finding / developing and implementing emerging / new technologies in schools rather than endlessly blogging about Posterous or Animoto or whatever, which has been blogged about 100s of times already.. I'm a doer rather than a bloggerAwards? no thanks! My award is when a classroom of kids (or even staff) go silent or are blown away when they see some of my work or approach me and ask me 'how did you do that? Show me!'.Merry Xmas Doug!

  22. I have got jobs on the strength of my blogging and other online activities like writing reviews, insights, materials, courses, consultancy documents and videos+ other educational related stuff and thank god for that, otherwise I’d starve, but I also do still teach from time to time, rarely, but actually don’t get paid for it but that may change after having seen all the wonderful practice in schools recently :) At the moment I work for agencies that make everything available under CC licences for free to everyone regardless of access. So maybe there’s some symmetry there. I’m not against the EBA in principle – I was involved in the beginning with the awards but couldn’t find the time for all the unpaid meetings, travel etc involved more than anything else – it’s a big commitment. I’m not against it in principle – my blogs will never get nominated – I use them simply as reflection on ICT in education and for dissemination of good practice and I would never take part in any awards ceremony – doesn’t interest me in the least but somehow I do like to read and explore the winners sites as it highlights practice I might not see otherwise. I did, in fact, win something many years ago to do with writing educational materials for my school with my kids at the time but I never entered or was nominated or had people vote – but I got to take the kids in class to the ceremony and they had fun and I got the chance to write even more materials for a wider educational audience. But it was far more my kids’ day than mine. What I do object to however, is consultants who use any and every event to push their current clients’ commercial concerns at the drop of a hat – it does them no favours, erodes their status as independents and lowers everyone’s trust and their esteem in the educational community – it is nakedly acting as a channel for commercial concerns and that is a no no in my book because, as a consultant you try your best to keep and unbiased, objective view of things and not be dragged into endorsing stuff otherwise you’d be a salesman wouldn’t you? I don’t think any of the consultants on the Edublog Awards come under that category. But I do agree with Doug – it does come down to who wants it most and I’m not interested. Someone on Twitter suggested to me that a simple list of recommendations would be enough and that is an interesting idea to explore as it does exactly the same thing – creates a focus without the hierarchy. Anyway – interesting stimulating debate all round though ;)

  23. I have got jobs on the strength of my blogging and other online activities like writing reviews, insights, materials, courses, consultancy documents and videos+ other educational related stuff and thank god for that, otherwise I'd starve, but I also do still teach from time to time, rarely, but actually don't get paid for it but that may change after having seen all the wonderful practice in schools recently :) At the moment I work for agencies that make everything available under CC licences for free to everyone regardless of access. So maybe there's some symmetry there. I'm not against the EBA in principle – I was involved in the beginning with the awards but couldn't find the time for all the unpaid meetings, travel etc involved more than anything else – it's a big commitment. I'm not against it in principle – my blogs will never get nominated – I use them simply as reflection on ICT in education and for dissemination of good practice and I would never take part in any awards ceremony – doesn't interest me in the least but somehow I do like to read and explore the winners sites as it highlights practice I might not see otherwise. I did, in fact, win something many years ago to do with writing educational materials for my school with my kids at the time but I never entered or was nominated or had people vote – but I got to take the kids in class to the ceremony and they had fun and I got the chance to write even more materials for a wider educational audience. But it was far more my kids' day than mine. What I do object to however, is consultants who use any and every event to push their current clients' commercial concerns at the drop of a hat – it does them no favours, erodes their status as independents and lowers everyone's trust and their esteem in the educational community – it is nakedly acting as a channel for commercial concerns and that is a no no in my book because, as a consultant you try your best to keep and unbiased, objective view of things and not be dragged into endorsing stuff otherwise you'd be a salesman wouldn't you? I don't think any of the consultants on the Edublog Awards come under that category. But I do agree with Doug – it does come down to who wants it most and I'm not interested. Someone on Twitter suggested to me that a simple list of recommendations would be enough and that is an interesting idea to explore as it does exactly the same thing – creates a focus without the hierarchy. Anyway – interesting stimulating debate all round though ;)

  24. Doug,

    Do you actually think anyone adjusts their blog writing to win a lousy award? i can’t see it. Really, other than people pestering me to vote for them, I think it only can draw attention to good work. I see no downsides. Even if it’s rigged, flawed or whatever. People enjoy awards. It’s simply one way to highlight good work. Linking,technorati ratings are others and preferred methods but this is okay too, especially for newcomers. Most of these blogs are nominated because they do link to other blogs so in that sense, everyone wins. The fact you’re writing about it and I’m adding a link to my blog here, also helps everyone win.

    Again, if you can point to someone or some evidence that someone is adjusting what they write because of these awards, I’d like to see it.

  25. Here is where I saw your comment, Karl: "Awards? No thanks!" and then dropped right into your web page advertising nominations for some technology awards. I don't know you or any of the people who posted here, or for that matter most of the people who got edublog awards. It just strikes me as some weird politics or one-up-manship, some inside deal that is mysterious when looking in from the outside. What's up with the negativity? Now the Edublog award winners can read this thread and feel less honored. Wow. Cool. Productive.

  26. Doug,Do you actually think anyone adjusts their blog writing to win a lousy award? i can't see it. Really, other than people pestering me to vote for them, I think it only can draw attention to good work. I see no downsides. Even if it's rigged, flawed or whatever. People enjoy awards. It's simply one way to highlight good work. Linking,technorati ratings are others and preferred methods but this is okay too, especially for newcomers. Most of these blogs are nominated because they do link to other blogs so in that sense, everyone wins. The fact you're writing about it and I'm adding a link to my blog here, also helps everyone win. Again, if you can point to someone or some evidence that someone is adjusting what they write because of these awards, I'd like to see it.

  27. @Leon: I’ve got nothing against Josie and James as people, I just don’t see why it needs to be an AWARDS ceremony. What about valuing the whole community and organising it a different way?

    @Dean: Feel free to get in contact with me for a discussion of individual bloggers. It’s not something I want to discuss in public as they’d obviously deny it and it would get ugly…

  28. I don't think that's the reason why people, including myself, are coming out as 'anti' the Edublog Awards, Liz. The point is one of the whole community, not the select individuals who have been nominated or who have won an award.I just don't think the awards are for the good of the whole community. There are other ways the same people – and more – can receive recognition and thanks.

  29. Hi Doug,
    Two years ago, I was very new to the whole blogging thing and genuinely thought the edublog awards were worthwhile… but I was very uneasy about the fact that they were for the educators rather than the students. (You can see my post if you want to see what I said: http://nwinton.wordpress.com/2007/12/09/and-id-like-to-thank/)

    Two years on, and the Edublog awards are still centre satge, and the recognition of pupils achievement is still negligible. I really would like to see a celebration of the best of pupil work… and not necessarily an awards based celebration. There are plenty of ‘best student’ ceremonies already from the Exam Boards.

    If I had the time and the know-how to do it, I’d rather create a virtual — regularly updated — gallery of great pupil learning, be that online or offline. Something that showcased the achievements and attainments of the pupils we are there to help…

    Maybe in another two years?

  30. OMG!!! I thought I was quietly protesting the EduBlogs Awards all by myself and being a spoil sport – I ditched a draft blog post on this same theme… as truth is, I saw that so many people were enjoying them and felt they’d think I was sour-graping.

    I’d innocently wrote a blog post nominating some of the blogs I love when I first saw the competition, once their posts were up I then saw that many of these didn’t make the “cut” with the ridiculous excuse that they couldn’t feature all of them… plus they did not respond to my question and protestation about being only able to nominate one blog per category….

    my blog was indeed featured in their list but when it came to how to get votes I felt distinctly yuck when I saw that I had to then go ask people to vote, put one of their buttons on my page and then go with begging bowl – I mean, you know, like – that smells so much of politics… and the rigging you mention – not blogosphere as a community – not quality over quantity of votes.

    Thanks for this post.

    I absolutely won’t be participating next year and will be brave enough to sound off on why not then too.