Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blogs, lists, and audience

I've been thinking about writing this for some time. The events of the last two weeks have finally brought me to this point.

It's about blocking, censorship, MySpace, administrative vs. teacher leadership in technology - just a huge ball of wax. Will Richardson's post, Battling Censorship was what pushed me to writing here. Here's part of what he said:

...There are at best, what, 50? 100? 500? 1000? educators tuned into this conversation in a sea of hundreds of thousands. How many have posted? ....

Background: Here's Miguel Guhlin, leading the charge against censorship, after having both his blog and that of Wesley Fryer's blocked in some (many?) Texas school districts because they included the word MySpace in their postings. Content filtering of a really surprising magnitude - just incredible. Miguel has spoken out vociferously, is trying to get everybody to put "MySpace" on their blogs and web pages, so that those sitting at the blocker buttons will have no choice but to ease off, because nothing is getting through to schools.

OK. So Miguel's call to arms may seem unrealistic, but here is what he is doing that may indeed make a difference. He is getting his message out to educational discussion lists. I've seen his postings on wwwedu (2,000 members), edtech (3,500 email members), and I assume the digital divide list (3,000 members - Andy Carvin has pushed it out there for sure anyway). I'm sure the thread has spread to other lists by now. Easily, 10,000 people will have read what Miguel has had to say by now. Next, they will discuss it - with exponential numbers just around the corner, if people quote his postings and responses to them . Will R. is wrong when he suggests the numbers hearing this conversation are so small. That's if you only count the choir.

I say connect to the congregation, not just the choir. Miguel is truly taking it there. I wish other bloggers would start to realize the power and potential of the list medium. Just because it's not brand new and glitzy like blogging and rss is no reason to turn backs on the most powerful aggregator there is - the Inbox.

Posting to a list is a different art form from blogging. Man, once you send it, you can't EVER take it back on a list - can't just go into your blog and just delete the post. It's there for good. I find it so much easier to blog like this than to post to a list. It really takes me a long time, relatively, to put together my thoughts for a listserv.

So thanks for doing it, Miguel - taking on the somewhat stodgy establishment of lists, presenting a fresh approach, a new way of looking at things. There are wonderful writers out there posting incredible ideas on blogs right now. I wish their audience was bigger. It could be.


Miguel Guhlin (@mGuhlin) said...

"New paradigms are created by engaging a new action path," shares Quinn in his book 'Deep Change,' one in which we must separate from the status quo and courageously face and tackle uncertainty."

Thanks for the affirmation, Mark. I appreciate your courage in facing and tackling uncertainty. But, we have a long way to go.

Wishing you well,
Miguel Guhlin

Will Richardson said...

Hi Mark,

Point well taken. I don't do lists, and I should. A 27 hour day would help. ;0)

Having said that, it's one thing to read and another to act. And even if it's 10,000 or 20,000 or more, how many are answering back, taking the time, like you and Miguel, to write and extend the conversation. Miguel is absolutely right in that we need serious engagement here. I'm just asking whether or not educators will really become engaged in change until they sense an approval for that change from cultural and community forces.

Thanks for pushing the conversation.

Wesley Fryer said...

We have a long way to go, but we are on the path, my friends! It is so easy for us to get discouraged, but I think we all (myself included) can easily lose sight of the scale of change we are participating in. Never before in human history have classroom teachers and everyday citizens like those reading, blogging, and commenting on these ideas had the opportunity to be global content publishers. Never. Even when Luther wrote the 99 Theses, his idea distribution was very limited on a global scale. We are not.

I agree with Mark that Miguel has laudably "taken the message to the streets" via the listservs. That was a lesson for me this past March at the SITE conference in Orlando, and in the build-up to the conference. Dr. Glen Bull of the University of Virginia wisely recognized that email remains "the common denominator" of communication for most educators, at the higher education as well as K-12 level. So good job, Miguel. And thanks for expressing these ideas, Mark.

As I've reflected on before, we may be in an echo-chamber with a limited audience, but that should challenge us to have more F2F conversations and invite more folks to the dialog. Our spheres of influence and interactive potential are most likely going to only grow. As long as we maintain open minds and a spirit of inclusively for the discussions we have, I think many more will be joining us in the months and years to come. That is very exciting.

Because ideas matter. Words matter. Ideas shape perceptions, and perceptions drive action. We ARE changing the world. It may seem pretty slow right now, but that's because this train is just leaving the station.

Mark Ahlness said...

Miguel, Will, and Wesley,
Thanks for your comments and for all you contribute in this new space. Wesley, it is so important to stay positive, and it is so hard right now. Thanks for the bright outlook you bring.

I will keep looking for ways to blend old/new communication forums - because I know new ways are out there, it's just that nobody's figured out how to put the pieces together yet to maximize the spreading of the conversation/dialogue.

For instance, what would happen if there were a (very easy) way to have blog postings automatically sent to listservs? Gotta ask Andy Carvin about that one.

Thanks again! - Mark