Blogging as a Basic Business Skill?

I’ve railed before that it isn’t about blogging.  It’s about communicating.  Classroom blogging affords a unique opportunity to spend less time teaching writing, and more time teaching communication.  That said, this article in BusinessWeek Online caught my attention this morning.

Into The Wild Blog Yonder:

Defense contractors and aerospace companies aren’t known for their openness. After all, this is an industry built on security clearances and classified government projects. But today Boeing Co. (BA ) is embracing a kind of management glasnost that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The evidence? Boeing’s use of blogs. The Chicago aerospace giant — no stranger to recent and well-publicized ethical and political scandals — is among a small but growing group of large non-tech companies such as Walt Disney (DIS ), General Motors (GM ), and McDonald’s (MCD ) that are embracing the power of blogging. That means Boeing has learned to cede some control and expose itself to stinging criticism in exchange for a potentially more constructive dialogue with the public, customers, and employees. “Companies are nervous about creating external blogs because they fear the negative comments,” says Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. (FORR ). “But negative comments do exist. A company is better off knowing about them.”

Perhaps it is, a bit, about blogging.  If conversation is being harnessed by the corporate world, through blogging, then perhaps it is the “B” word is becoming a basic skill.  I don’t know.  It’s still about communication.

2¢ Worth!

Sustaining Innovation

My friend, David Jakes, has posted a very useful list of factors that he believes, contribute to the sustainability of an innovation. I’m listing them here, but please head over the the TechLEARNING home of the blogerati, and read

Techlearning blog: How Does Something Become…The Way?:

1. There is a high degree of organizational readiness for the innovation.

2. There are multiple entry points into the innovation that support the effective use by a spectrum of usership.

3. The innovation clearly addresses an instructional need, and solves a problem for the educator, student, or both.

4. The innovation clearly adds value to an instructional process, and extends student learning to a new place that could not be achieved unless the innovation was present.

5. There are visible and tangible results as a result of the innovation. Teachers need to see that the innovation improves what he or she does and makes a difference for student learning.

6. The technology has been taken out of the technology. It’s easy. It’s manageable. It’s understandable. Yea, I can do that. Classic Blackboard (ok..ok, already, Moodle too).

7. The teacher becomes a confident, active, and visible user.

Customer Produced Advertisements

[Browser-blogged – may be mistakes]

Video of AdI heard some buzz about a movement toward customer created ads.  It started with MoveOn’s Defeat Bush Ad contest, back in 2003.  This one comes from Current TV, a national cable and satellite channel dedicated to bringing your voice to television.

Here’s the video, produced by 19 year old Tyson Ibele and the original news blurb I learned about this from.

An Agency’s Worst Nightmare: Ads Created by Users – New York Times:

IT all happens in 24 seconds. Like a souped-up Transformer robot, a silver Sony stereo rapidly deconstructs, then reassembles into the shape of a flat-screen television. The television then converts into a DVD player. The DVD player to digital camera. The camera to portable PlayStation.

The animated spot is the latest television commercial for Sony Electronics, but its creator is not a technology wizard at either of Sony’s two advertising agencies. The commercial is the work of Tyson Ibele, a 19-year-old from Minneapolis who won a contest on the cable network Current TV for its first viewer-created ad message; it will run for the first time today.

What’s cool about this is that we are beginning to recognize the creative potential of ubiquitous new media tools, like digital cameras and sophisticated audio/video editors.  It’s only one reason why it is so important that, at the same time we continue to teach students how to effective consume content, we also need to be teaching them to produce compelling content.  Stretching the Long Tail.

I just received this clarification from Danny Robashkin at MAKE.

I’m just running around doing some damage control due to the misrepresntation of some websites and newspapers such as the NYTimes.

They do not seem to mention that Tyson is the Lead animator here at MAKE, and that the Sony spot is a MAKE project. It would be fantastic if you “tweaked” your post to include a mention of the studio that created the spot.

Image Citation:
Ibele, Tyson. “Style Sony Spec.” OurMedia. 2 12 2005. OurMedia. 12 May 2006 <>.


I woke up early this morning with a bit of Jekyll and Hyde going on in my head. Part of me is outraged at the reckless abuse of one of the cornerstones (THE CORNERSTONE) of democracy, public education, by witless politicians who are desperate to find traction in an increasingly slippery world. I wish I could draw cartoons. Images sit in my head of a belligerent Mikie Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania Congressman who introduced DUPA) sitting in the corner with a DOPA-dunce hat on, after being caught trying to brick up the classroom windows.

Then again, the mature and sober side of me is grasping for ways that we might make some lemonade. I think that the challenge has been laid before us. The ball has been served, and eyes are now on our side of the net. We have an opportunity to make our case, to clearly articulate why learners and teachers should be engaged in online communities. What are students learning better? How does it improve reading, writing, and arithmetic? We should not waste time on the higher order experiences that students enjoy, when they learn through conversation. It only irritates the weak minded. Sorry! That was Jekyll!

But we need to make this simple, compelling, and with an element of emotional tension (How, in the world, are children going to learn with bricked up windows?).

I have asked Class Blogmeister users (almost 2,800 teachers & 27,000 students) to try to find some time and write about the learning experiences that their children are having, and to be specific about what their students are learning, that they weren’t learning before. I will blog these stories as they come in, but would also be willing to make them available for other campaigns to tell this new story about teaching and learning in the 21st century.

I’ve just started a new blog, Online Community Works, where I’ll post the stories as the arrive.

You May Not Get to Read This Blog

Conversations continue about schools that block access to the blogosphere. I ran across an interesting comment last night, in my end of the day aggregator scan. It was in a blog post by Wesley Fryer (Censored for Relevance – April 11, 2006), that he said, “Are we living in the United States here, or totalitarian China?”

There are distinct differences between censorship in China and censorship in the U.S. In China, it is the government that is in a position of power, whereas, in the U.S. it is individuals and the mobs that they form that owns the power. But Fryer’s statement, I believe, is still a fair association. In both cases, censorship happens from the government’s fear of the people. China fears access to information that empowers people to challenge their authority. In the U.S. we fear challenge to the government’s ethicacy.

But the pivot point is not politics. It’s in the desperate belief that we can contain the information. It’s in our gatekeeper insistence that the information we do not want our children to have can be put on the highest shelves, hidden in the back of a closet, hidden within a brown paper wrapper, or rejected by editors and librarians,

The awful shame of it is that we have, as a result, convinced our children that their information is safe inside of their containers. Find your child’s MySpace writings and then question them. They will say, “That wasn’t for you.” “What are you doing in my space?” “How did you find that?” “How did you get there?” “I thought I was protected.” “I thought my information was containered for me and my friends.”

Because we still treat information as something that we can hide behind a wall, and we continue to teach that way to our children, they do not realize the dangers that their information represents to their personal safety and future well being.

Perhaps, we should stop thinking about the problem as something that we can cut off, like amputating a gangrenous arm. Instead, why not think of it as something that is integral to our culture — and treat it. What might we do to introduce a virus into MySpace.

“Ok students. This year, I’m going to be reading your MySpace writings and introducing topics that you write about in your space with our classroom discussions. We’ll use your information to learn.”

Posted later in the day
My final suggestion had an element of tongue in cheek, because the students would certainly find a way to evade our interest. This fact was just brought to my attention in Andy Carvin’s blog, Learning•Now, as he (MySpace Is Just So Last Year) points us to a story in the Witchata Eagle, describing how students are finding alternative social spaces. Carvin also, in another post (New Federal Legislation Would Ban Online Social Networks in Schools & Libraries), brings to our attention, a new bill being introduced in congress to force blocking of any social network web server for schools and libraries that are subsidized by federal dollars. GIVE ME A BREAK!

Photo Credits
Giuli@, “So Here We Are.” Giuli@’s Photostream. May 2, 2006. 11 May 2006 <>.

Travelinlibrarian, “Leid Public Library.” Travelinlibrarian’s Photostream. May 10, 2006. 11 May 2006 <>.

One of those “Way Out There” Ideas

139074281_743774dd74_m.jpgI’ve been trying to reconcile some of the problems that I see in the way that we inflict education on children today. For instance, think about this. There are a large number of teachers in our (U.S.) classrooms today who are around my age, fifty something. In the last half of our careers we have witnessed astounding changes in the very nature of information, and these changes are only accelerating. So here’s the math.

  • Thirty year teachers
  • Teaching 6 to 18 year old children
  • Preparing them in a time of rapid change for a future of accelerating change
  • Where they’ll change jobs 10.2 times between the ages of 18 and 38 (Number of Jobs Held)

OK, I’m still figuring on this, but does this scan? Does it scan that teachers, who we encourage to make their profession a 30-year career, are preparing children in a time of rapid change to prosper in a time of rapid change? If we could just factor in ongoing, casual, professional development and make it an explicit part of the definition of being a teacher and give teachers the time to pay attention and adapt, then the numbers I’m grappling for may cancel each other out.

Or are we wrong in expecting teachership to be a career? I think not. Good teaching comes from lots of experience.

So here’s my weird idea:

Every fifth year, all teachers take a paid sabbatical. They can take on an internship related to what they teach for that year. ..Or they can propose a project to produce some significant advancement the practice (a new textbook, new type of textbook, significant research, instructional materials, etc.). The result would be that after every five years, teachers would re-enter their classroom re-connected to the world that we are preparing our children for.

“Never happen,” you might say. Well, Ya’ll, if we are not willing to at least consider, at the highest levels, ideas that are this radical, then I don’t think we are going to make it.

2¢ Worth!

Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth Among Younger Baby Boomers: Recent Results From a Longitudinal Survey Summary, US Dept. of Labor, 2004. <>

Photo Citation
Luh, “Ser criança é divertido, colorido, mas dá um trabaaalho!! .” Luh.’s Photostream – Flickr. 2 May 2006. 10 May 2006 <>.

SOCM 2.1

I have been reading all of the suggestions. Many have been kind and constructive suggestions, and others expressions of frustration with Son of Citation Machine. I understand completely. People use Citation Machine to alleviate the frustration of navigating complex style manuals, and to have to figure out how to navigate a new CM… — well I understand.

I also understand the frustration among educators about the presence of paper mills in the Google Ads. Brenda has been blocking those companies as we run across them, and the list is surprisingly long. I wrote about this (It Doesn’t Solve the Problem) in 2¢ Worth the other day, and I suggest your reading.

We have also been working on another strategy to diversify the Google Ads. I have installed three RSS aggregators in SOCM 2.1, that will display news feeds from three sources:

  • BBC World News
  • Internet Movie Database (IMDB) Studio News (movie reviews)
  • iTunes top selling songs

Again, I know that folks do not come to citation Machine for casual reading. But the main purpose of the feeds is to provide more varied content for the Google Adsense spiders to find and to issue more varied ads on the site. Our test site already indicates much more diversity in the ads.

We hope to have 2.1 up by the end of the week.

The Great Silence Approaches

Warning: This is a Northern Hemisphere-centric post!

76720898_9bf677e3f5_m.jpgEach year, about this time, the eclipse begins, as the shadow cast upon education discourse begins its irresistible march toward the end of the school year. Discussion boards and mailing lists slow to a crawl. E-mail all but disappears and blogging? Well we’ve only seen one summer of education blogging, so no trend has made itself apparent. We have seen some bloggers, during the summer months of 2005, disappeared completely into the darkness, never to be heard from again. Others, however, found their traction during the months of sunshine and frolic. ..And certainly, the summer conferences will spark much blogging and podcasting.

But, as Will Richardson says, “When I’m not blogging, it isn’t because I don’t have time to write. It’s because I don’t have time to read.”

So what are you reading this summer? (you knew this was coming!)

Let’s start our 2006 reading list, and I’ll begin with something light. I’m listening to a book right now, during my afternoon cholesterol walks, that actually had me holding on to a stop sign the other day to preventing my rolling into the street laughing hysterically. The book is A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I’d heard of Moore before, but downloaded this piece, from Audible, on a whim, and haven’t stopped laughing since.

On the more serious side, here are some I’ll consider reading in the coming months:

Well, that’s all I can think of right now. Been working for three hours, and it isn’t 6:00 AM yet. Shame! What do you recommend for the forward-thinking educator’s reading list?

2¢ Worth!

Photo Citation
Lex in the City, “Very First Faux Lomo Attempt.” Lex in the City’s Photo Stream — Flickr. 23 Dec 2005. 9 May 2006 <>.

It Doesn’t Solve the Problem

Work continues with Citation Machine. There were a number of features that got left off of the new version, and I have certainly been hearing about the ones that were most sorely missed. Mainly, folks don’t like reading the instructions that I included, for formatting multiple authors. So for most of the sources, you can now click a plus symbol to add an author or a minus to subtract one in the template. In some of the sources, you just click two, three, four, or five to produce a template with that many author textboxes.

I get it. People aren’t using this because they want to read.

yahoopapermill.gifI’ve also run across a couple of blogs, people talking about Citation Machine, ..and apparently, some folks on a listserv are grumbling about my putting Google Ads on the tool. By the way, Google Ads work. I’ve calculated that if the the load on SOCM were to continue through the year, I could make just about as much money as I did my first year teaching. Of course, my first year teaching earned me less than $7000. The problem is that upgrading to a dedicated server is going to cost a lot of money, like a car payment — a really nice car, car payment. So Google Ads, stay 😉

But to be fair, it wasn’t really the Google Ads that bothered people. After all, schools can get Son of Citation Machine without the ads. The problem is that Google can detect the content on the page, and pick ads that are relevant to the content, and I had no idea that there were that many research paper mills out there. Yes, that’s the problem. Just about every five ads were places where students can pay five to twelve dollars a page to have the company write your essay for you.

OK, I’ve done some research and learned how we can block specific ads from our Google Ads box, and Brenda and I have been configuring our account to block the ads sites as we discover them. Plus I am working on a way to aggregate some news, movie, and music RSS feeds into Son of Citation Machine, so that there will be much more content for Google to select ads on.

moretyping2.jpgBut hey! I’m really beginning to second think this. The problem isn’t that the kids don’t know about paper mills, and hiding them doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is with students who think they might just get away with turning in a purchased paper. They should know, be told, that we know about the paper mills too, and that we know how to detect them, that we have ways of telling when a student wrote it and when someone else got payed to write it. Students don’t plagiarize because they’re smart. They plagiarize because they’re lazy. We’re not lazy. We’ll catch them. They need to hear that in their schools from their increasingly tech-savvy teachers.

I guess that the most interesting thing about all of this is that I’m picturing educated Chinese college students, sitting in their apartments, getting payed a nickle a page to write research papers for lazy U.S. students. It could happen!

Plugimi, “Su Typing.” Plugimi’s Photos. 26 Jun 2005. 7 May 2006

Why Kids Blog

Yesterday, the local MEGA group held a showcase event where they invited a fairly large group of people to come and showcase some of their projects. The were a number of vendors there, but it was mostly schools, who brought posters and computer samples of their local projects.

I demonstrated Class Blogmeister, though I actually promoted ePals’ and Gaggle’s blogging tools. A couple of hours before the event, I sent a request out through the Class Blogmeister mailing list asking for any blurbs that Blogmeister teachers might share as to their students’ use of blogging. So here are the ones that came back almost immediately, with very very minor edits.

Even when they’re out sick, students work on their blogs.

Carol Barsotti

I’ve got 6th graders coming in during their lunch and after school to add articles to their blog and to respond to their classmates’ articles

Al Gonzalez

My students are floored when, as they say, “some random person from Texas commented on my blog!!” The students are getting real world experience with writing.

Brian McLaughlin

Why would my students want to write on paper for their teacher to see, when they could write on their blog for the whole world to see.

Kathy Cassidy

In fifteen years of teaching, I have never seen anything come along even CLOSE to motivating students to write – like blogging does.

Mark Ahlness

For your edification!