Friday, November 27, 2009

Journal Of Awesome Things #234

Journal Of Awesome Things #234

November 25th, 2009 by Dan Meyer

#234: Generations of Edubloggers

This is my third year blogging about teaching. A profoundly cool byproduct of edublogging is that on occasion you get to be the dealer who hooks someone up with her first hit of online expression. Someone reads something you wrote and her response is visceral enough to overcome her online inhibition and comment. And she lives for awhile in various comment boxes around the blogosphere until those confines cramp her too much and she gets a Blogger or Wordpress blog of her own.

I haven't given enough thought to this but, among the blogs I read and wander past, there seems to be a generational effect at work and it freaks me out. I'm not presuming an exact genetic link, where I gave "birth" to blogs that came after mine. I'm referring to timing.

Chris Lehmann's Practical Theory, for instance, was the first edublog I read. His blog motivated me to turn a private blog public. Jackie Ballarini was one of my earliest commenters who eventually set out to do her own thing. A year after Jackie Ballarini you had Kate Nowak, one of Jackie's readers, now submitting fine work at f(t). A year after Kate Nowak you have Elissa Miller writing up the new teacher experience at Miss Calculate.

No doubt, all of our decisions to hang out our own shingles were motivated by more than just one graybeard blogger. I have no idea, for instance, where Ian Garrovillas, Sam Shah, and Sean Sweeney fit into in this timeline nor do I have any idea if Twitter accelerates or decelerates this process. But the general effect is clear: people take their education into their own hands which provokes other people later on to do the same thing.

It's a process that boggles me a little bit, that makes me want to break out into song a little bit, that I recommend wholeheartedly to new teachers who now have the luxury of selecting mentors from all around the world.

Two questions:

  1. Who were you reading before you started blogging? Where were you commenting? How did you get into this? I'm especially curious of people upstream like Chris Lehmann and Christian Long and that Dangerously Irrelevant guy, all of whom basically predate the Internet in my head.
  2. Does this place ever seem to you like Lost island? I swear, sometimes I click around and become aware of an entire other side to this place, blogs that link to none of the blogs I read and vice versa. Bud Hunt has written this one up but he doesn't explain how any of us ended up on this side of the island or, more importantly, what the four-toed statute means!


16 Responses to “Journal Of Awesome Things #234”

  1. on 25 Nov 2009 at 9:56 am1 JasonP / InnerEd

    Dan, you’d be the one I’d probably have to give the most props, too. I read you for a good 18 months before starting my own blog. Shoot, I read you for a good nine before I even commented. I was reading some other stuff that time as well, including:

    Eduwonk (Andrew Rotherham)

    Thoughts on Teaching (Todd Seal)

    Teaching in the 408 (KB)

    Also, I was reading a great deal of the content on EdNews, which i was doing for a good year before I really started reading individual teacher blogs.

    While no blog has birthed InnerEd, these are all writing styles and approaches that I appreciate. Todd’s the one I’ve probably mentioned the most on my own blog.

    And yes, you’ve developed a web around you. I’ve got 1-2 blogs on my RSS feeder that I found just by being curious and clicking on a few links in the comments. For example, I read one called “On the Other Side of the Brain”, which is by a guy who I clicked on out of curiosity in your comment page when he claimed that blogging had little value because you were writing to a vacuum.

  2. on 25 Nov 2009 at 10:40 am2 Tom Hoffman

    Scripting News — Dave Winer.


    Talking Points Memo — Josh Marshall.

    Old school!

  3. on 25 Nov 2009 at 11:07 am3 Elissa

    The first blog I ever read was actually Sam Shah’s. I started reading blogs when I was a substitute teacher to prepare me for the next year. I liked his blog but knew I would not be teaching calculus and it seemed kind of over my head. From his blog, I found yours but I didn’t like you. :)

    The first (and only) post I read, you came off as condescending and rude so I thought, “I will never read that blog again.” I also found Kate’s blog from Sam’s. I never commented on Sam’s but Kate’s was more my style. I also found Mr. D at which I read and commented on the most. Then I started Twitter and found lots of other blogs, almost too many to choose from. Everyone kept talking about this dy/dan guy and linking to his blog and I thought, “What’s the big deal?” So I read some more of your blog…and more and more and more. I became obsessed and started reading it all the time and looking through all the old stuff and reading every comment and so on. I watched all the videos and downloaded as many lessons as I could. I’m still a stalker.

    I’m not totally sure what made me start my own blog but I’m pretty sure it’s my mantra of ‘Anything you can do, I can do better”. Although that turned out to be false, I love having a place to put my thoughts. And some people actually care and write it back! Reading blogs has seriously changed my whole perception of education, teaching, school, assessment, and learning in general. It frustrates me on a daily basis because I can not adequately give my students what I know they are missing. Which I didn’t know until I started blogging. Thanks for the frustration! I’m kidding but not. The blogs of all you more intelligent, more experienced teachers has created a goal for me to work toward, a pattern to simulate, an image to imitate, and permission to create. And for that, me and my blog thank you!

  4. on 25 Nov 2009 at 11:14 am4 Glenn

    The first blog I read regularly was yours, Dan. From there I discovered the love of RSS and have been getting feeds of all the people you mentioned for over a year now.

    I have not been blogging as much as I want to this year, but I have been forming some ideas about what Teacher Leadership is and is not. More and more of my ideas of Teacher Leadership centers around what goes on on “this side of the island” as you put it.

  5. on 25 Nov 2009 at 11:40 am5 iTeach

    Hi Dan,
    Actually yours was the first blog I read. One of Jackie Ballarini’s old colleagues turned me to your blog (probably because Jackie turned him), then I began reading many others. I’ve actually never commented on yours, but did read quite a few posts. I only recently started blogging on my own because I saw how it helped many others become more reflective practitioners as well as share ideas and materials with people around the country. So thank you for the exposure and the ideas. Keep up the good work! :)

  6. on 25 Nov 2009 at 12:12 pm6 Alex

    This isn’t unique to edublogging: think role models in general. If you’re ever wondering whether female / black CEOs / math teachers matter, *this is why.*

  7. on 25 Nov 2009 at 1:52 pm7 Sue

    I was on the Yahoo group Living Math Forum, which is mainly homeschooling moms, because I was trying to get a handle on how to teach kids, when all my experience is college level.

    From there I found out about the Kaplan’s math circles, and saw Denise’s blog, Let’s Play Math! I can’t say I was following any blogs regularly until I got set up with Google Reader. Kate got me started with my own blog.

    Now I follow 94 blogs, mostly math teachers.

  8. on 25 Nov 2009 at 2:00 pm8 Jason Dyer

    I felt weird just emailing it so I started a blog so I could post my comedy response to your annual report contest.

    Sort of an inglorious start, but eh, it works.

  9. on 25 Nov 2009 at 2:33 pm9 Scott Schwister

    A karmic twist to the generational theory that’s worth noting: graybeards who hang up their cleats (or keyboards, or whatever edubloggers hang up when they *retire* from formal blogging), and then, phoenix-like, reinvent themselves and rise again from the ashes and mashups. Birth…and rebirth, perhaps?

    Welcome back, Christian Long and think:lab.

  10. on 25 Nov 2009 at 2:38 pm10 JYB

    Don’t really know how I got here. I originally started looking in the blogosphere when I was trying to revamp my assessment style. I think I started with I think it was that I read the most though. I’d say it was Kate’s rubber band ball lesson that really got me hooked on the blogosphere as a place to have my mind blown versus something I just check in to in order to get info.

    As for the Lost thing…this is something I’ve often struggled with. Somehow through you and Kate I ended up with this strange loop (not in a Hofstadter sense) of blogs that all sort of link to each other and generally pat each other’s back. First, I’m a science teacher and would like some really good science ones. Second, we may disagree on minor issues but the overall philosophies are similar. I worry that I’m doing the equivalent of Dick Cheney only watching Fox News.

  11. on 25 Nov 2009 at 7:24 pm11 Dan Meyer

    @Scott, interesting phenomenon there. Christian goes dark and then comes back in from the cold. John Pederson keeps the blog but nukes all the posts. I don’t really understand either impulse but there are probably as many right ways to blog as there are bloggers.

    @JYB, I want to believe that the bloggers on my side of Edublog Island have congregated because “the overall philosophies are similar” and not so much because we indulge each others’ egos.

    Of the thirty nominees for best teacher blog 2008 I had heard of seven. And one was mine. That’s just kinda … weird to me.

  12. on 25 Nov 2009 at 9:32 pm12 JYB

    It’s not so much that I think the problem is ego indulgence. I’ve seen a lot of examples of what I want to be doing but haven’t been able to pull off yet. It’s definitely nice seeing those ideas put into concrete form. Because we all sort of think the same, I’m worried I’m missing those moments where I’m smacked on the side of the head.

    Example: I was watching Independent Lens “Objectified” last night and the designer in the beginning (Dan Formosa) told a story about how clients give a profile of their average customer. He essentially said he doesn’t care and wants to know about the outliers, the quote is something like “if we understand what the extremes are, the middle will take care of itself.”

    In one fell swoop he was able to clarify my general feelings on educational research and in class instruction. In research we focus too much on the mean and effect size when what we should care about are the extremes. Tell me about the one group that moved forward 2.5 grade levels not the overall .4 effect size.

    In class I don’t know how many times I’ve had meetings with principals/trainers/developers and they tell me to choose 3 kids in the middle and teach directly towards them. What I should be doing is picking the bottom kid and the top kid and taking care of them.

    I worry I’m missing those “you’re doing it wrong” moments.

  13. on 25 Nov 2009 at 10:23 pm13 Ryan

    Yours was the first blog I read, back in 2007-2008. By the end of that year, I decided to start writing.

    I think I’d been introduced to RSS in 2006, but I didn’t start using it effectively until my colleague got me into reading educational blogs. He started blogging shortly after I did (

  14. on 26 Nov 2009 at 11:01 am14 monika hardy

    It’s a process that boggles me a little bit, that makes me want to break out into song a little bit, that I recommend wholeheartedly to new teachers who now have the luxury of selecting mentors from all around the world.

    this is huge – and what we should be offering our students…the luxury of expert tutors from all around the world.

    that way jyb – we’re reaching all of them. not just three in the middle, or some at each end.

    the web is allowing this for the first time ever – in public school.

    thank you all for modeling it.

  15. on 26 Nov 2009 at 8:11 pm15 Tom

    I started reading around 2004, blogging in 2005. There didn’t seem to be that many education related blogs back then. I think it was Steve Dembo (he was a classroom teacher back then) and Bud Hunt that got me interested in actually writing my own blog. I got a free blog with James Farmer on a crazy new derivative of WP called WPMU. That was so my address was something like – very memorable. It’s long gone now, which sucks (and probably also protects me from some embarrassment).

    It would be really interesting to visualize how these networks work. If people still used blog rolls you could crawl and scrape things to get a pretty decent look at at least a couple of levels down.

    I’m pretty interested in how these networks form, work, and are sustained. The buy in part is also interesting. I see the worth, you see it, lots of other people do but I can’t even get some people to look at this. It strikes them as incredibly stupid and time consuming- which is never a good combination.

  16. on 26 Nov 2009 at 11:00 pm16 Mr. Sweeney

    I found your blog first, Dan, about a year ago. For awhile there I was pretty much exclusively reading your and Kate’s blogs. Sam’s became one of the big three sometime around when I started my own. Then I became part of the community and I follow a lot more. I actually don’t think I really commented at all. I’m shy. (haha) I started looking because I was part of this technology learning network thing with a bunch of area schools. On it’s own, I wasn’t that impressed with the program, but it got me looking which inevitably was a win.

Leave a Reply

I am not sure if you are a blog reader or even if you are aware of the power it can be for a teacher. Here is a blog post by my favorite math teacher blogger. He links in the post to several other math and just teacher blogs. If you do have a Google Reader, add them for a while and follow. If you do not, then google, "Google Reader" and find out how to keep track of things. Then later start your own blog.

Posted via web from Jim's posterous

No comments: