OK, I got a little passionate tonight, and thought I'd better share it. Here's my response to yet another post by a prominent edublogger questioning the value of our Classroom 2.0 network...

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This line of thinking continues to mystify me.

I spoke to a group of 200 educators on Saturday about web 2.0, and four of them raised their hands when I asked how many were blogging. The early adopters seem to forget 1) that the great bulk of educators aren't like them and aren't going to be so proactive to go out and do all the things you have done to get where you are, and 2) that most educators don't have the time to do all of that. So, if you really want them involved in the energizing effects of Web 2.0, it doesn't make sense to play the "when I started blogging I had to walk 2 miles each way uphill in the snow" game.

There's a reason that MySpace gets 375,000 sign-ups A DAY: it taps into the ability to get yourself up there and get attention and feedback quickly. It doesn't mean that you are stuck there. It doesn't mean that you can't start your own external blog someday. It's not a prison.

Please come to Classroom 2.0 and stay long enough to do more than just leave your URL and try to drive traffic to your blog, Miguel. I felt like that showed a real lack of respect to those who are there. Listen in on some of the conversations of educators who have NEVER EVER done anything like this and who have been AFRAID to put themselves out they, are now they reading and writing and are so excited by how they are feeling.

That the edublogger "old guard" has been publicly disdaining (too strong a word?) of the Ning network is a mystery to me. I have to imagine that those prominent bloggers who have audience and keep questioning the value of Ning, but not really exploring it and especially not even getting involved in the dialog, are actually making it harder for the thousands of non-blogging educators who read them to feel comfortable taking a baby step by going to Classroom 2.0.

The edubloggers keep saying that they wish there was a way that the edublogosphere wasn't such an echo chamber, with just a few edubloggers being read. I hate to say it, but it makes me wonder if the flat nature of the social network, which really doesn't seem to devolve into a hierarchy, isn't a little threatening to those voices that are most public. There are educators in Ning who are taking brave steps, speaking up a little, getting supported and encouraged, making connections, and finding new friends--and all in matter of a few days--that would never get that kind of mentoring in the regular edublogosphere.

Interesting that I feel so passionate about this. Hmmmm... It's the Tom Hoffman in me.

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Steve, thanks for saying what some of us wanted to. Some of those newbies out there are teachers in my little IT learning community; people I pushed to join up and see what they could learn as well as what they can contribute to the conversations. Prior to this, our reaching out into the Web 2.0 World has been pretty much confined to a closed set of blogs we have for conversing among ourselves, and a list of those more famous established bloggers and podcasters that we subscribe to and follow very regularly to see what we can learn from them. I myself have off and on hesitated to 'virtually speak up' because of my interpretation of attitudes from some of those who are already out there.
Come on, fellow travelers - this learning is a journey that we're all taking! Don't discourage us. If you don't want to participate with us, that's OK; we'll still read your blog. We may not comment back, fearing condescension, but we'll still read and learn.
:) L.
I think this is an interesting conversation about the subtle differences that interfaces have. Ning is new to me (in fact, Miguel introduced me to it), and my initial impressions are that it reminds me of a listserv on steroids. Like a list, posts to the public forum are out for all to see. However, like a bulletin board or news/content management system like Drupal (see KairosNews for a good example) you have to go to the site to pull the content. (I'm not yet savy with RSS so maybe you can get the posts "pushed" to you.) Still, this network has the feel of a listserv--it is a community.

Interestingly, each member of a Ning also has their own blog, so it is a blog+. I have not been much of a blogger like Miguel, but it seems that blogs are individual soap boxes or rather individual forums--not a social network. There is a difference. As many rss links and feeds you can make to other bloggers to form a network of bloggers, that network doesn't have the central location a Ning or an ELGG (or MySpace) has. It ties together, I think, with the conceptual metaphors revolving around the online interface.

The question I am pondering now is whether I could use a Ning with a group of teachers with as much buy in as an email listserv. Email is easy and email is known--plus it is pushed automatically to all "members." I would like to use a Ning with this group, but I wonder if the participation would be low?

Lennie
Great final question, Lennie. I am really anxious to see how others respond. Based on the immense popularity of social networking, I *want* to believe that you'd actually get higher participation. What I think MySpace and other sites do is to tap into a fundamental desire to connect, to receive attention, and to be able to show people something about who we are. It's more "personal." It also allows for some creativity in how you present yourself. When you add the connecting, creation, and collaborative aspects, I think you invite a higher level of participation than just a discussion listserv...

Please let me know if you test this out, and what the results are!
Yes, and I think that's largely reflected in the sometimes-quoted statistic that 1 in 8 marriages in the US now comes from people meeting online...
Tom, I think I see where you're coming from, but I also think I see what Miguel is talking about. Those teachers who have established blogs have regular readers, and it might be confusing or time-consuming to keep up with conversations in both places. On the other hand, I am excited about the networking aspect of Classroom 2.0. I have teacher friends on Facebook and MySpace, but nothing akin to what is happening here happens on either of those networks. I don't know that I will use all of the features -- for instance, blogging here when I have a blog seems redundant. I do find myself popping in to these discussions, and I like looking at everyone's profiles and checking out what they're doing. One thing I have found frustrating about blogging in the edublogosphere up until now is that it's the same 5-10 blogs that get recognized for everything, whether it's as simple as an appearance in the old aggregator or blogroll or a blog award or even linked to with a "hey, check it what so-and-so is doing; it's so cool!" I like those blogs, too, but there are a lot of educators blogging now, and sometimes I feel like newer bloggers can't get a toehold.
I am glad to take the side of the "underdog" in this discussion.

A Blog should have been the "citizen journalist," ferreting out waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, stupidity, ignorance...and exposing the "Let's do it like we've always done it" mentality.

When Blogging takes on a corporate identity, when notoriety becomes celebrity status, when people who work for bureaucracies take up the "soap box"...all we get is "little bubbles."

On the other side, a Blog tends to polarize the discussion. Great in one way, you get high Google(TM) page rank numbers...but, less than useful for garnering comments. Few teachers or school district personnel dare comment on my Blog of newsletter because their bosses don't like their "pet secrets" exposed. There is a conspiracy of silence in our school districts that remains cloaked under the guise of "chain of command."

I belive that there is a place for social networks, and as these develop, the useless, "This is what I think" Blogs will give way to, "This is what we can accomplish together for the good of our children and our profession.

I see Blogs, if they are honest, tell it like it is, as one person's opinion.

I hope that social networks evolve into a collective voice that takes the "exposed dregs" of what is really happening in our children's education. and lead collective demonstrations for improvement.

My hope is that social networking allows people, worldwide, to take to the "cyber streets," and demand reform.

Those Bloggers that crave transparency should be ecstatic that we can achieve "mass transparency of opinion." When truth resonates, bureaucrats, speaking in monologues, quake in their boots.

This is the way that it should be.
Sounds like you need to be over at School 2.0 (http://school20.ning.com)! :)

I have great hope that the modest goal of helping educators learn to use the tools of Web 2.0 will provide them with personal experiences that create a foundation for discussing how learning and education have the potential to change.

Thanks for the interesting comments on blogging.

Steve
Hi Steve,
This conversation reminded me of my grad school experience and learning about community of practice. The thing that stuck with me was the idea that the power of the community was in the shared talk. For newcomers, learning to talk in the language of a professional is as important as learning to use the tools. And to talk, you have to have a community with experts, newcomers, and everyone in between. Newcomers can learn by watching/listening to experts talk amongst themselves, they can practice their own speech in a safe place, and learn from everything that's going on.

The most famous edubloggers are having a fairly one-sided conversation, something like a lecture. Newcomers can learn from them, and even try their hand at a comment, but it's rarely a conversation.

But here, there is a place for conversation with a lot more participants. But it doesn't do any good if some experts don't show up and take part. They are the ones who can model the use of tools and language for newcommers. So, Steve, even though it would be great if Miguel showed up to participate, it's not like you can make him. But there are others here. We've seen quite a bit of sharing, and different people using Classroom 2.0 in different ways. I'm learning, both by reading and trying new things, and I think others are too.

I may have to write more about this on my blog ;-)
Good points Sylvia!

It reminds me of the classroom--if we are content experts, but we want to be learning alongside our students, then we have to "suspend" our authority and also be open minded enough to learn from them and explore with them.

And we have to be open to different people using different avenues.
Sylvia:

I'm glad that you and others are here to speak more eloquently than I am able to! Good points--thank you.

Steve
I have more accounts than I can keep up with, but Classroom 2.0 and School 2.0 were welcome additions to the accounts that I am currently using. I have an edublogger account. Nothing wrong with the account, I just use it with my students to allow them to get their feet wet replying to questions and such. I guess I am really using it like a classroom management tool, but that's okay because it seems to be working and my students like it. However, I am still trying to find the best use for my edublogger account. I also use moodle, but I can't get the tech guys to move it from the intranet to the internet. Maybe, they will move it this summer. I'm starting to ramble...

As for my personal blog, I use blogger to do my blogging. I also have a Facebook account and a MySpace account because I wanted to see what digital social networking was all about. However, I don't have a problem with classroom2.0 or school2.0. These are great places where intelligent individuals can come together and read each others work. I love the fact that I can come here and click on profiles and find out about others as well as read their blogs. This is a huge plus. I don't see why anyone is concerned about these sites versus edublogger. Blog at edublogger if you like and RSS it here in your profile area and more people will read it! What's the problem? I guess I am missing Miquel's point.

Steve, you have created two great think tanks to discuss Web 2.0 from different angles. Thanks!

William Bishop (Bill)
How enlightening this is. For a couple of years now, I have been trying to explore the merits of a blog to teachers that have created one (or several) accounts, posted once or twice, and then found it to be useless to them because it still seemed to be one voice. Blogs are great in the classroom when there is a true intent on a goal. Sometimes that goal is met in a short time and the blog no longer serves a purpose when that goal is accomplished. I value blogs for its place in the Read/Write Web, but blogs are still not for everyone. My opinion extends to podcasting. I have been an advocate for podcasting, but the majority of podcast consumers will not be consistent podcast publishers. I was in a recent conversation with someone who reminded me that I haven't posted a podcast for a while. The pressure to post is greatest at those times. I feel guilty in a sense because there are expectations that I always have something to say every Monday morning (or at least once a month). Of course, in my school district, I cannot publish it (it is an official podcast posted on the district server) without having it go through my supervisor's approval. That can take some time as my supervisor has to sit down and read the transcript or listen to the audio file.

What Classroom 2.0 has done is create a place in the Read/Write Web that is free of the restraints of educational organization policy as well as liberating to those who feel guilty for not posting a blog (or podcast) entry in a while. Here, I feel no need to put something up every day while developing links to others I have found to have ideas I bring back to the classroom. This social network has replaced the couple of e-mail listservs I am subscribed to as my primary source of information on the trends that are continually changing instruction.

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