Category Archives: edtechtalk

Being ‘against’ the edublog awards… wait… what?

So I had full intention of ignoring this issue, but it’s simply become too interesting to not discuss a little bit. I’ve also noticed, upon re-reading this post, that I’m a little biased. I beg forgiveness, as I (and others) worked hard on this event, and we do it, for the largest part, for the fun of contributing.

There have been any number of folks who are creating identity by being ‘against’ the edublog awards. There are any number of bits of social commentary hidden inside this expression alone, and in the number of comments as well, but I’ll confine my deconstruction to the discussion held at Doug Belshaw’s blog and while I was going to comment on Downes’ comment on oldaily, the points seem essentially the same. The point here is to assess why people feel the need to be ‘against’ the awards instead of simply not liking them. Why, given the long tail metaphor that most of us like, should people who blog about education feel the need to be ‘against’ something (a duality, usually) rather than observing it as a different cross-section of the community to which they don’t belong.
Doug’s post details three reasons for which he is ‘against’ the edublog awards. I’ll lay out each of his three posts with a little deconstruction along with it.

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

Doug makes a comparison between the Edublog Awards and graded courses that end in a final exam. And claims that, much like these courses, students are encouraged to be competitive rather than collaborative. Well… lets give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant to include the idea that the exam course was ‘scaled’ and that not all students could get the top grade. This presumes a monolithic edublog ‘club’ in which the part of the community interested in voting plays the role of teacher, and, given an agreed set of ‘objectives’, that all year that group is measuring wether or not each blog is being ‘popular’ (or say populist) enough to make the ‘top grade’.
In here, also, is the presumption that everyone who was voted for is somehow in this for the award and is just trying to ‘make the grade’ rather than blogging for whatever reason they might be doing so.

So far we seem to have identified a cabal, a populist set of critireon assuring high grades, and a subservient group of bloggers who are ‘blogging to the test’. I don’t think that Doug would agree that he meant this… but these things seem implied to me. If it ‘creates competition’ then the bloggers must be effected… those bloggers are educators, like Doug. Yet Doug and the many who agree with him are not affected. This seems to create a distinction between ‘bloggers who blog all year in order to get an edublog award’ and those that ‘don’t feel the need to do this.’

Who are these bloggers so affected by the Edublog awards? When we take ‘imaginary people who blog to be graded’ down to real cases, it starts to sound a little more insulting. I don’t think that I’m one… and Edtechtalk did win one this year. In the 2 or 3 hundred hours I poured into that community this year (i really have no idea… alot) I don’t think a single decision was affected by my ‘desire to win’. I think it’s quite gratifying to some people in the community that we won… although I never heard any campaigning on the network. I’m sure there are others who don’t care much… haven’t heard from them.

2. They’re promoted by people who have vested interests
For this point, the fact that Josie and James are consultants is apparently the critical issue. (No mention of me or Jeff, Jokay, or the jokadians who worked so tirelessly to build all that cool SL stuff, so maybe our intentions were pure) More specifically, they are being paid as educators who aren’t in a traditional institution. (Interesting note here, one of Josie’s main areas of work as a consultant over the last 18 months has been trying to improve awareness about bullying on the internet.)
I notice that Doug is using a wordpress blog at dougbelshaw.com and this seems like a really great example of how things that are given away for free (wordpress is free blog hosting software, I also use it here) and mostly made by people who are paid to work in software. Should we boycott wordpress because the people who created the software are paid programmers? My friends who develop drupal modules are betting paid consultants for their success. If Lullabot (a drupal consulting company) were to organize and award list… should we be ‘against’ it? How many bloggers out there are not paid, in some way, in the education sphere? I’m a paid consultant, and my participation in edtechtalk has resulted in paying contracts… conference presentations and wonderful prizes (well… maybe not that), but that’s not why I participate. (see Terry Freedman’s “Everyone has a vested interest” in the comments.)
And, as for Warlick’s tip jar, that’s a great idea. But, I believe, he also makes money as a consultant besides. And good on ‘im.

Money, in some people’s minds, poisons everything. Those people in the dirty business of earning it are not to be trusted… by extension, if they were not making money, they would be ‘more’ trustworthy. There is a definite division here between ‘real’ educators and ‘capitalists’ involved in education for purely monetary reasons. I’ve never understood this division, and why Josie should somehow get grouped in with Blackboard because she, occasionally (and not in this case) gets paid for her time devoted towards bettering education.

3. It’s very easy to rig them
Agreed. But, then, every award since the dawn of time has been, in some sense, rigged. This seems to be about being ‘against’ awards generally. In terms of campaigning for votes? If I campaign to have people vote for me, I have claimed a particular kind of identity… it says something about me. What that is, will change depending on who you are. I can understand people saying they don’t like it… but by what standard would people feel the need to claim that this is ‘wrong’.

I’m not sure if this is the ‘i don’t like what’s popular’ popular angle or not… it may just be the thing that was put because Doug wanted three things.

Comments
There are some very interesting comments my favourite being from Karl Goddard, who I sincerely hope was joking with his comment “I’m a doer rather than a blogger”… As if all that is done in the bloggosphere is the recycling of the rest of the bloggosphere. This is my favourite identity move, but, of course, he’s saying he doesn’t like blogging… not the edublog awards.

I’ve gotten this off my chest and managed to clear my mind about how I feel about this. Sadly, if you’ve gotten this far it’s probably because you agreed with me to begin with…

It is only natural I suppose, for people to identify themselves around events of import… in a sense it shows that, to some people, the edublog awards must mean something. I think this was my fourth one… and to me it’s a yearly top ten list, some time trying to put together a show that people will enjoy, and some new avenues for exploration… I guess I am ‘for’ the edublog awards. :)

Edtechtalk – ‘Managing’ a Community of Practice

Some initial comments…

Kind of a funny thing to say isn’t it? Managing a community of practice… but that is exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next 14 months. Edtechtalk is an organic community that has grown from a single, live, interactive webcast in June 2005 to 12 mostly-weekly shows with bunches of listeners and, most importantly, each with their own small dedicated community. Those shows are one of the central parts of my learning as an educator, as a social community worker and as a tech dude.

We currently support a dedicated server, mostly paid for by a couple of members of the organization and has been, over our existence, mostly been paid for under the fine auspices of worldbridges. There have been several-several different attempts at finding a management system to help us decide things like community policies, new ideas going forward, the acceptance of new shows to the community, web design (omg); a bunch of things. In lieu of a better plan, I have been appointed (partially by me) to be the manager from now ’till the end of 2009. A movement by the managing committee could no doubt cut that short but, as I was ‘chosen’ because I’m one of the only people with that special combination of knowing everyone, knowing where we’ve been, knowing the server side and… uh… being willing to do the job… I don’t see a coup in the cards anytime soon :)

Base Premises

  1. I don’t have alot of time. No one else in the community is particularly brimming over with time either, whatever management model we have must take that into account.
  2. People should be able to opt in/opt out freely… even on a week by week basis. (therefore the system for this should not generally involve manual controls
  3. Simple sooner is better than perfect later. We need to get accustomed to making decisions in a simple way now and work out the details of structure as we go along.
  4. The community needs a voice, but that need not slow it down. As we are a community of ‘mostly’ like minded folks. 9 times out of 10 the people available in the governance blob are going to make a good decision… some planning must be made for that 1/10.

Initial Decision Making – The Blob
The edtechtalk blob is a group skype chat that ‘anyone’ would be allowed to join. By this, I mean anyone who has an interest in edtechtalk… or communities generally. Decisions that need to be made by the community would be posted in the community chat with answers to the commuinty decision gathered by a management committee rep… majority rules. As manager, and this being kind of a non-normal way of doing things, I reserve the right to take a blob decision and put it to the edtechtalk management team.

Edtechtalk Management Team – The Backup Team
I’m going to pick the interim management team. They are going to be made up of a combination of the people who have, over the past three years, consistently expressed an interest in being part of the management of the community, and those people who are now doing a bunch of work for the community. I expect that this body will be largely honorary, and are mostly intended as a backup in case my blob plan gets out of control. I worry about this, because I don’t want people to feel left out for not being picked… there is bound to be one perfect member of the community out there that I’m just going to forget about… sorry about that person who knows who you are.

Goals

  1. We need to get edtechtalk to being revenue neutral. There have been various excellent plans bandied about in the last couple of weeks regarding this, and we’ll need to pick one and get there soon.
  2. Give those people who are interested in helping out the community some direction so that they can work towards a stronger community
  3. Decide about whether we want to make direct effort towards being an information repository. There is a bunch of information on our website, not terribly well organized. Should we be working on that?
  4. Whither drupal. design? layout? functionality?
  5. Whither webcasting. Getting rid of the shoutcast and moving to a less labour intensive devise might make sense. Is edtechtalk somehow connected to the idea of shoutcasting?
  6. Is edtechtalk only that drupal? Should we be supporting other things?
  7. Does the blob get involved with the shows? Should we ‘talk to people’ if things are becoming ‘un-edtechtalky’?

Still here?
If you are, and you want to see what’s going on, you can email manager {At] edtechtalk and ask to join the governance and management team… or you can just ask a question.