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January 03, 2007


Will Richardson

Thanks for the pointer. Great blog, and yes, great example. That's one. ;0)

What niggles me is that this kid is at Exeter and is going to Yale and is representative of about .0006% of the student population in this country. I'm not worried about him making use of the technology in creative and meaningful ways. But I wonder about the less fortunate, less able kids that are the huge majority. Will this stuff work for them? Is it working for them? Seriously, out of the tens of millions of students in this country, shouldn't we be able to point to at least a couple THOUSAND examples by now?

Just pushing back a bit because I really want to be proven wrong...

BTW, I totally agree with your last graph. It's all about defining your stake...


Will – Fully agree on the quality of Sam’s blog (as you sensed from my blog post) and with your assessment that he’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the typical kid.

My last teaching position I ran an architectural design program for inner city high school students in DC. These were kids who took very basic ‘art’ classes at best, and knew nothing about architecture. Instead of ‘teaching’ it at their level, we turned the classroom into a viable design studio day one, connected them to professional designers around DC, had them do real projects way beyond their assumed abilities, and had them present at the end of the year to nearly 50 professionals and college professors. They nailed it.

And the ‘tools’ we had were pens/pencils, dumpster-dove-for cardboard, paint, and a few other basics. NO CAD or design programs.

It was never about the tools or technology. It was entirely about the attitude.

This is what I mean by teaching kids to use blogs to develop their ‘brand of passion’ rather than to just be ‘students’. If we can marry the subject – an element within it – with the larger opportunities to position them in the global conversational marketplace, we will indeed unleash incredible power.

But you are correct to say that we should have thousands of examples by now. I sense that even if we do get thousands of teachers blogging, they are replicating their pre-blogging assignments and simply putting them into blog or wiki or podcasted form. Lots of fluff, little cake. Like PowerPoint presentations that show 5 minutes worth of content but have 5 hours worth of gimmicks…instead of teaching effective speaking techniques. We fail to use tools as unleashing mechanisms…while also failing to recognize what our kids are doing outside of school already.

Thanks again for pushing back – hopefully we’ll find the 1000 soon. We have 1  so far! How hard can the next 999 be?

Cheers, Christian

Chris Craft

I took this post and went a little in another direction. Your post was sort of the catalyst for the gathering of the ideas that have been running around the blogosphere since Will's interview hit the "airwaves". I posted about my take on how foreign language and tech are both marginalized and how I personally need someone to tell me a bit more about how to create a better scenario.


Thanks for writing about this!


Chris Craft


Chris – I don’t have time to fully do justice to your post (mentioned in your comment) asking for tangible (no more theory – he smiles!) examples of how to get your kids to become effective bloggers, not just using blogs. But, I can tell you that I consider it to be one of the best posts I’ve read in a long, long time in terms of the honest questions you're asking as well as the request for tangibles…and you deserve a flurry of ideas in return.

I’m going to offer what I can over time, although I tend to get away with questions and theory now that I'm not in the classroom each day. I also forwarded an email to Will R. tonight suggesting that he respond to you as well. And I’m going to blog about you and the post at “think:lab” tomorrow when time allows, and hopefully help you get some feedback from others.

The key – no matter how the technical project is – lies in tapping into the ‘spirit’ of the class and asking your students to pursue an ‘essential question’ or ‘inquiry project’ of their own creation via blogging. With foreign language, there are so many topics to pursue in terms of history, culture, travel, politics, etc, that its more a matter of fine-tuning a specific entry point. But I’d look at it as if they are becoming an international journalist and expert on a segment of the culture or social element tied to the language they are studying with you.

I took a group of kids to Central America years ago to work at an orphanage. I suspect that from that 4 week experience that they could have each become experts in something and spent a year as a blogger pushing on that topic, connecting to colleagues (new and old) there, and tapping into a larger realm of experts/voices/ideas. The same thing can occur from inside the classroom, but it requires a more conceptual leap of faith. If I were teaching Spanish (for example) today, perhaps, I’d ask them to pick a topic central to a Spanish speaking country that has real implications for language, culture, slang, etc, and create an essential question around it that would guide the theme of the blog. And then just let it unfold. The key is to challenge them to become not just a good student, but a world-leading expert…and to not apologize for that!

Ex: Challenge them to develop a network of 100 ‘experts’ that can help them learn more about their topic over the course of a year. Help them become a great networker, to ask great questions, to figure out how to draw others into conversations. Have them see their blog as a major international magazine. Have them be the editor. And don’t look back.

Just thoughts off the top of my head without knowing the in’s and out’s of your classroom, access to technology, or the curriculum. But thank you again for what I think is one of the most striking posts I’ve read in the last year from in or outside the classroom.



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