Monday, October 15, 2007

Comments on Will's "Random Thoughts and Admissions"

Since I'm singled out as a source of Will's blogging ambivalence, I might as well offer my own thoughts on the matter.

I find Will's endorsement of Twitter exasperating. Will and I used to argue about his insistence on stressing that the "right" way of blogging was to write well thought out little critical essays. I felt this would tend to lead to people not blogging, and it just seemed unnecessary, since many, if not most, successful blogs have short informal posts. If you want to write quick posts, can't you do that as easily with WordPress? I'm not saying Twitter and blogging are exactly the same, but nobody is forcing you to write long blog posts.

Also, I've always configured my news reader to use the "river of news" style that Twitter encourages. I never read individual feeds out of sequence, and if I thought I could save a feed for reading tomorrow, I'd unsubscribe immediately. There are some feeds whose posts I skip over 80% of the time, but I keep around because I have some personal connection, but I never, never, never let anything pile up in the aggregator. So my reading experience has always been relatively Twitter-like.

Concerning Will's broader ennui, I don't think the traveling consultant/speaker role is healthy, and the fact that this role can be so influential in our business is a double curse. You have to be kind of crazy to want to do it, and doing it will only make you crazier, making the whole discourse less and less sane.

The fact of the matter is that Will has maxed out how far this online community can take him intellectually. He's gone as far as he can without embarking on serious scholarship of the kind that just doesn't take place on blogs. And by that I don't mean that serious scholars don't blog (although few do in this discipline), but in particular they don't blog about the foundations of their discipline. We blog about things that are current, not fundmental (unless they overlap). It is the nature of the medium.

Essentially, Will needs to go to graduate school. Unfortunately, graduate school sucks in general, and in particular, graduate schools of education overwhelmingly suck. So you'd need to find the right one. Also, he is too old to go to start a new graduate program. On the whole, this is useless advice. But it is what ought to be the next step. Alternately, one could make a list of 50 not very easy books to read on education and plow through them on one's own, but it is not really the same effect.

I am always amazed when teachers write about how much more they've learned from the online community than their teacher education program. I learned vastly more about teaching and learning in my year at Brown than I have reading blogs. There is really no comparison.


Unknown said...

I'm not taking sides either way, but I am curious on a purely factual note. What is the highest degree you've earned and from what University?

This is not antagonistic, I am purely curious.


Tom Hoffman said...

I have a MAT in English from Brown. I also have a BA in Liberal Studies (concentrations: "Reading 20th Century Culture" and "Theoretical Foundations of the Visual Arts") from Pitt. Also three fruitless years ostensibly studying professional writing at CMU (but really studying R.O.C.K in the U.S.A. at WRCT).

DRS said...

You wrote: "I am always amazed when teachers write about how much more they've learned from the online community than their teacher education program. I learned vastly more about teaching and learning in my year at Brown than I have reading blogs. There is really no comparison."

Really? Brown must be an amazing place unlike any other or maybe I missed something. My learning via blogs is at least as powerful as my Masters and I dare say most blog readers would agree.

PS...I'm not Martha but Dean Shareski...since she's the main blog I use on blogger, I could only log in as her...some blogger sites allow me to enter my other credentials...Sorry.

Stephen Downes said...

I do save feeds for later, and sometimes read posts out of order. It's still a river of news - just not a nice neat linear river.

My issue with Twitter is a bit different. I could not subscribe to anything like a reasonable number of Twitter feeds.

It would mean that I have to select some people to listen to and others to ignore completely. Twitter chatter really would be unintelligeble taken all out of context. Especially when people are commenting to people I don't read.

Twitter creates group behaviour. It creates boundaries. It creates cliques.

I can't afford to lock my attention to one group rather than to the wider network. So I can't focus my attention on Twitter - I stay focused on the wider blogosphere and the web, however imperfectly.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

I read Will's success in the excitement he inspires in teachers everywhere. THe bottom line is that these tools such as blogging have not yet reached critical mass and we need people like Will who have taught in ACTUAL classrooms over those who haven't set foot in one and would be eaten for lunch by even the mildest of fourth grade classrooms.

We need more speakers like will -- who have been in real classrooms and remember it.

He does a phenomenal job. Although he's not inspiring to you -- he does inspire many teachers. And to write him off because you disagree on twitter is a bit like disagreeing over a gnat. None of us are going to agree on everything. We all want educational improvement and reform -- let's show how to do it rather than tear each other apart. It just leaves us all weaker and there is a heck of a lot of work to do out here. We haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg.

Tom Hoffman said...

I'm certainly not writing Will off because of Twitter, and I'm not writing him off at all. He has done a great job of popularizing blogs and wikis. He gives good talks, and I like his book.

But Will feels himself at an impasse, and he is at an impasse. He and I have talked about it. It is clear to me that for him to get where he wants to go he will have to back up and engage in some very intense study of the history and practice of school reform and design.

So far, I haven't seen that happen online. Heck, I don't even think people are reading edbizbuzz.

Tom Hoffman said...

From my point of view graduate degrees in educational technology seem pretty worthless. I got a degree which focused on classroom instruction, progressive education and school reform. How to fit that in with technology has always seemed straightforward to me.