Hey, Chris, let me ask you a question. Your teachers and kids are starting to blog. And you're starting to give them a larger audience. So, for a School 2.0 oriented administrator-n-educator in the virtual trenches type, here's your question: To blog-link or not to blog-link? That is the question!
Heck, if my previous post about the currently-anonymous 16 year old blogger who contacted me to be blog-linked has already managed to grab the attention of at least one "think:lab" commenter, than I think we might be onto something. Neil wrote this tonight in defense of "E":
I think you should cut the kid his break... I like the snippet you've posted, and in my more cynical mode, think it's good to know the enemy...
Being realistic, I think it's encouraging to hear the views of a younger blogger, especially when they can make us think. We are too quick to put down what they have to say, while trying to find new ways to make them think the way we want them to think...
I hope he takes the bait!
Couldn't agree more. Not sure "E" is the enemy. More that he's the future, perhaps. But I agree.
But tell me what happens if I just blog to a site -- regardless of the best intentions -- just because someone asks. Because he's a good kid. I'm not putting him down. Heck, I'm spending a great deal of time talking about the things that inspire me in what he's writing. But in the open economy of ideas, just emailing a request to be blog-linked without establishing a relationship or without tying it specifically to the work you're already doing is a bit of the old press release economy. And I'm gaining too much respect for him to reinforce that skill for him. But should I still blog-link "E" just 'cuase'? Looks great on the surface. Heck, free publicity can't hurt. Google doesn't take it personally. It just fires up the algorithm a bit more. But if you really want to help, what good does handing out fish (old proverbial joke added here) do in the end?
My gut tells me the stakes are higher than a single blog-link. And this kid deserves it.
Let's say the kid (nicknamed "E" by me, BTW) has something worth writing about (which I now know he does because I've been reading his site in more depth now that I'm invested because of the very challenge I sent back to him). How many people will spend real time swimming in his blog waters just because I link to him once? A few polite, do-it-for-the-kids types, perhaps. But a sustained effort? Mmm.
So, I figured that the more that "E" plants his flag legitimately in the virtual sand, establishes a 'brand' if you will, demonstrates why he wants attention and what his blog is really about, and eventually shows that your time/curiosity will have a solid ROI for stopping by, then we have something potentially wildfire valuable here. Otherwise, it's just a sticker and a "Good job!" on the top of the handout he turned in. And he's seen as a kid at the end of the day. Just a nice student with a pat on the head. Someone we are to 'guide' rather than someone who can inspire...inspire us, frankly! And the hard, brutal and gloriously beautiful reality of this Web 2.0 world is that a 16 year old kid CAN grab a legit web presence alongside someone of the A-Blogger ranks like Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin (who was kind enough to email me a month ago, but would tell me that this post is already way too long to be of value!) and Robert Scoble as long as he is a) passionate, b) able to hold a conversation (markets and conversations being equal in this Cluetrain Manifesto driven world), and c) can inspire others to act/move/create/collaborate in real time.
If he wrote Scoble, would Robert blog him? (Psst...Scoble, hint, hint..., he smiles) Robert's a crazy cat who might do anything -- esp. if he has his camera in hand, is roaming some Montana hot springs trail, and thinks this kid might be a Silicon Valley CEO one day (next year, "E"?). Seth might see it as a symbolic story to write on his own blog, but he's a busy guy and it probably won't get much notice given his schedule. And Guy? Well, Guy might wait until E is at Stanford first, or has his first round of VC in hand, and then it might be better to grab him at a conference where he's giving yet another inspired talk that is worth every second.
[BTW, I note each of those 3 because if my hunch is correct, "E" may have sent them a similar email. Each is on his new site's blogroll. No, not the obvious Artic Monkeys or some Second Life or XBox users group link. Front edge tech/business guys, instead! Crazy. Each is inspiring him to be creative. And each is far beyond the typical MySpace link list that most teens have. Hey, Scoble, if you and the PodTech crew are watching, why don't you ask me for "E's" email. If you have a 16 year old kid who is already cranking up his knowledge circle to include these guys and contacting his virtual mentors directly and beginning to establish his own blog voice and tech/design/Internet paradigm up while his peers are worried about homecoming and what Urban Outfitters is selling this week, maybe this is a kid to take under your wing. A gamble? Maybe.]
So. Should I blog-link "E" just 'cause he wrote? Or should I wait to see if he takes the bait? Seriously, what would you do? Think teachable moment. Or better yet, think big picture implications. For him. For other students. For all of us.
Oh, and yet another thing caught my eye in the blog written by "E", something that also has the "future of learning" written all over it, and a great call-to-arms for edu-bloggers, technology-heads, curriculum/content providers, and all the rest of us shouting into the kettle of ideas. Again, something like this tempts me to hand over my keys to him. And follow his lead. Just a snippet from a 10.26 post of his that questions whether a viable educational web site could be doing more to inspired kids and their evolving learning quests:
Coudal Partners have done and have been doing a wonderful job with their website since I started reading it about a year ago. If you are interested in design and creative work then this site is an excellent learning resource for you. But what if you are interested in Physics, US History, Algebra, Writing, or Spanish. Wait a minute. Did I just name all of the classes I am taking in school. I did.
What if there was a site out their like Coudal.com that was for science. It would take a student and show them more then their text book. They would be able to see other websites and resources about physics. They would be able to see submit links from different experts in the field every month. They would be able to participate in contest that would challenge them to think and apply their skills. They would be able to be part of a community just about physics.
I feel that this is what we really need in today’s education system. Textbooks are great but real world examples, online communities, and collaboration is the way to go.
Mmmm. Do I love this. Truly. The kind of thing I'd love to have written myself, to be frank. Or to be "E" (he smiles). A textbook that begins to be a community. A collection of content that also points to other collections of content (even if --- yikes --- by another publisher? Oy vey!). Educational sites that don't just offer contests for the sake of being cute or marketing oriented...but to actually inspire the kids to step boldly into the fuutre. I think "E" is onto something here.
So, if you were "E"...would you take the bait? If you first voice who left a comment, would you demand that I link to him right now? Or would you take another path altogether?
And in the classroom tomorrow, if you are blessed enough to be an educator and teacher and mentor and guide and sherpa of today's digital natives (and all of their peers), do you plan on petting them on the head when they turn in a PowerPoint slide set on time that follows the rules but inspires nobody, or are you asking them to stake a flag in the stand, to fight hard for their ideas, to blend their passions outside of school with the assignments given out inside the classroom, to reach out with a 'brand' of their own (think Tom Peters and Fast Company a few years ago, if you're so game)?
And which will matter most in a few years long after they've turned in their last worksheet and are out there in the real world? When it really begins to matter if they can share their voice, sell their idea, provoke a response, inspire collaboration, and in essence demonstrate that they have a game worth watching?
Again...are you game, "E"?
And if the "My, Oh My!" photo at the top won you over, go check out that shot and many others by Diyosa in a marvelous Flickr set. As a new dad, I can't wait to see my own kiddo hit that many expressive marks in the future.