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 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.

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. 🙂

Top 10 Edtech News etc thingers of 2008

10. Blogging is dead
Proclaimed and recinded. Here it is ladies and gentlemen the end of the first era of blogging. Far fewer are the blogs that tell us “just how exciting it all is”… According to Alan Levine, who quoted Nick Carr who quoted Technorati “they’ve been tracking 133 million blogs since 2002, only 7.4 million have posted in the last 120 days “ its current death was facilitated by Nancy white at Northern Voice and then case closed on December 16th as injenuity proclaimed

Jen 2:07 pm on December 16, 2008 | 0 | # |
Very pleased to no longer be a blogger.

Is it really dead…? meh. But it’s different. Our blogs are now less megaphone and more like 21st century school lockers.

9. Wikipedia is old Is Wikipedia saturated? Yep! Last year.
Wikipedia came into its own this year, no more drastic increases, no more crazy growth. Gone are the debates from years gone by about whether or not it’s the same as brittanica (how that ever was thought to be a good thing is beyond me) but now its where and what for. Proven by the focused if silly schools-wikipedia project… claiming to be school safe… yes, lets take the participation away so that everyone can participate. Never mind. It’s not cool anymore… it just is. And, if you need anymore proof… Overheard from a prof on CBC radio “when i was an undergrad all we heard was “don’t use wikipedia””

8. There are alot of people who still – just. don’t. get it.
“First-year student Chris Avenir is fighting charges of academic misconduct for helping run an online chemistry study group via Facebook last term, where 146 classmates swapped tips on homework questions that counted for 10 per cent of their mark.” And now, he faces 147 Academic charges. If my math holds out, he’s also being charged for working with himself on Facebook. A group of students comes together to work on the thing they are trying to learn… ban them! Burn them! Dear Professor, your system is broken.

7. PLN vs. PLE
Oh the humanity. Whatever can be the difference? Whether it’s by twitter via @courosa or by image via doug belshaw people do love to debate the meaning of acronyms that they are currently making up the meaning of. There is someting strange about the kinds of negotiations that are being made with new phrases we’ve all just made up… Never mind. PLEPLNs are important, they’re helping people talk about what we’ve all been doing since we started scratching sticks together a few million years ago

6. Open Viewers MUVEs for the plebes
Blah blah blah. Oh yes, multiuser virtual environments… have to have that on the list. Every early adopter has to have one, but like any technology, it can be measured by when people start forgetting their passwords. They’re old. But now, for your participatory pleasure, we have the first real breakthrough in 5 years. Browser viewers. Bringing the virtual world to the peeps. No more downloads, no fuss, no mess, “ooooone world for eeeeevvvvry boooooy.” (and girl)

5. MOOCS – Massive Online Open Courses
Yeah, well, so I’m biased. But when 2400 people sign up for what is essentially an epistemic research club (sounds fun doesn’t it, the web equivalent of “pawn day at the chess club”) something is happening. Couple of really big offshoots of this one. Fame will bring fortune. Professors and instructors who can bring in 5000 students are going to be worth their weight in gold… or, say, silicon. That and we’ve got a new model to make our universities work. Let everyone in. I like it.

4. Whisper of Green
Just the tiniest whisper of a concern for the fact that Jennifer Maddrell’s 47 computers are burning down the rainforests and for the greenness of all this technology was heard this year. I think it’s the harbinger of change to come. We’ve got greener chips in the laptops, autoshutoff extension cords and cows running computers (can’t imagine that’s good for the cows) Barring the coldfusion breakthrough we’ve been promised for thirty years I’m seeing power conservation as a key move in 2009

3. Bring on the research Technology may be altering how brains work RAND Study Is First to Link Viewing of Sexual Content on Television to Subsequent Teen Pregnancy A leading neuroscientist says processing digital information can rewire your circuits. But is it evolution?
Blah blah blah. More research telling us that thinking and doing stuff changes the way our brains are structured. Enough already. Ok. I believe you. My instrument of learning can learn. I agree. The thing that is manifestly obvious to anyone who actually has a brain, that our brains change with stimuli, is now confirmed. Now… if we can only figure out how they get that tasty caramel in there…

2. Unleashing The Tribe: small passionate communities Ewan McIntosh
People are really starting to like their communities. Much less hopping around this year, started the year in twitter, ended the year in twitter. We communitophiles are growing up and settling down in the communities that allow us to thrive and survive. Overheard in my kitchen regarding mommy blogging “people can only have so many real friends, smaller communities make sense”. We’ll see more people identifying themselves by where they learn, and less eager to ‘invite the world’ to their communities. We might be on the road to a little more isolation as the long tail solidifies.

1. Death of ‘T’ruth and the killer app
All this year and for the year to come… very little but silence about “the absolute only best way to do whatever it is you probably don’t need to do anyway… is…”. People are finding different solutions to the same problem… If twitter brownouts have taught us anything its the value of being there, enjoying the good with the bad and taking life as it comes. We’ve finally come to terms with the fact that ‘better for me’ does not mean ‘better for you’ and that we are not, as some would have us believe ‘working out our differences’ but, rather, ‘accepting our differences’. Let the truthiness reign. Kumbaya.

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