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EdTech Update





Poking the wasp nest


Above is a list of a portion of the e-mail/comments I've received on the last couple Blue Skunk blog posts. When I feel overwhelmed by comments, I describe it as "poking the wasp nest." And even after three years of writing here, I am poor at predicting where those nests might be.

I DID have an idea that my dissing blog awards and rankings might cause some disagreement. Since the objections both in comments and on Twitter were significant, I thought I would reply to some here, rather than just in the comment section of the original post...

1. My objecting to awards and rankings is just sour grapes.

Not really. The Blue Skunk has been nominated for a library Eddie. And I appreciate it.

I'm in Scott McLeod's list of top 50 education blogs - sorta in the middle. My Technorati ranking is 22,604 when I checked just now. Now that sounds pretty bad until you consider there are over, what, seventy million blogs being tracked. Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed, right at the top of the educational popularity list is ranked at 9,292. Now before I start weeping in my pillow with rank envy, I'll do some math. At 22,604 out of 70,000,000, the BS is in the top .0003% of blogs. At 9,292 Will's blog is in the top .0001%. I am not sure if a .0002% difference is even statistically significant (or that my math with that many decimal points is any good.) For me, I am just amazed at being in the top .01% of blogs. Heck, I'd be amazed to be in the top 50%. (As I like to remind my son, I WAS in the top 90% of my high school graduating class.)

2. The Powers-That-Be recognize awards as a tangible accomplishment.

I suppose. Awards and rankings could be used to buff up the vitae, tenure app, or grant app, too. But do people really blog with this purpose in mind?

3. So, would you turn an award down?

I suppose I should turn any down now that I’ve been snarky about it. But probably not. But I honestly have to say that I value comments and compliments from individuals far more than any award.

4. Awards are a means of making "discoveries" of new blogs and bloggers.

Point taken. I don't know that I've see many new bloggers on the nominations, however.

5. The awards are just done in fun.

Fun for the winners; possibly dispiriting for those not chosen. (As Mom said, "Sure it's all fun til somebody gets hurt.") Kohn says that rewards also punish.

6. It's important to be aware of your ranking in order to strategize for maximum readership (and resulting impact on the educational community).

Peter makes my argument for me in his comment left on the post (go back and read his whole comment):

One makes change by acting and speaking in a way that captures people through reason and their conscience. Caring about how many people are listening is a distraction. While it's true that more people listening *may* mean more influence, to set raising readership numbers up as a concern/goal is totally misguided ... If you want to make change, then why not spend time doing something that's actually effectual, rather than spending time being concerned over one's own popularity ranking? Hell, doing nothing is more productive.

7. Doesn't ClustrMaps also invite competition and comparison?

I'd not looked at ClustrMaps in this light before, but I can see the possibility that it might be used in this way. I’ve kept it on my site more as a reminder to myself that I do indeed have international readers and to be aware that I am always writing through a US-centric lens. Oh, ClustrMaps gets wiped every now and again - sort of humbiing to start afresh.

8. Don't we fundamentally "reward" people at the deepest level with our admiration and respect? Even in our writing, aren't we arguably competing for respect for and dissemination of our own ideas? Isn't that a good thing? (from Elizabeth)

To me, competition will always mean winners and losers. I don’t see that sending one blogger a note of admiration or respect in any way makes losers of those to whom one does not send such notes. Are we competing for the acceptance of our own ideas? I’ve always thought I was adding to a pot of ideas from which really good ideas could be formulated. I guess I just can’t get the blood lust going here. In the wild kingdom, my DNA would not have had a chance...

I am going to go back to some of Kohn's arguments about extrinsic motivation via rewards...

Rewards can punish those who do not receive them - See #5 above.

Rewards can rupture relationships - If I link to or comment on your blog, might I be pushing your rank above mine, make you more popular, more award-worthy? Am I cutting my own throat if I help you make your blog better?

Rewards ignore the reasons for a desired behavior - Is blogging about improving education, having fun, and debating the issues .... or winning fame and recognition?

Rewards can discourage risk-taking - Might I be less likely to take a controversial or unpopular stance if it might mean losing readers? Might I avoid trying a different style of writing or type of post if it would cause people to drop a subscription?

Rewards can actually discourage desired behaviors. -  There must be something distasteful about blogging if it is only about rankings and awards.

So awards and ranks probably won't bring about the end of the world as we know it. But let's not grant them any more importance than they deserve, either.


Strategic planning for libraries

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.
Woody Allen

John Crowley asks on the TeacherLibrarin Ning (and to me in a personal e-mail):

I would like to start a discussion around the ways you approach the need to develop a plan for your Library. I have been asked to update my book Developing a Vision: Strategic Planning and the Library Media Specialist and would like to write a book that would offer suggestions for in-depth and "dirty and cheap" planning for your library. I would be willing to share my experience with four different iterations of strategic planning. More important, I would like to see what others do to prepare their libraries to thrive in these turbulent times.


My response

I wonder if the term “strategic” is intimidating to many practicioners? I know it is the accepted term and an important concept, but it does sound pretty scary, formal and labor intensive. Anyway to combat that perception?

My own writing about planning doesn’t use the “s” word and is probably less formal (and less effective) than your approach. You can find my writings on the topic at:

I’d suggest addressing these important questions in your revision if you haven't done so already:

  • How do we tie library planning to building/district planning and goals?
  • How do we work with the technology folks to design coordinated plans?
  • How do we make the measurement our impact on student learning part of our planning?

Not sure if this is helpful or not, but there you go.

All the very best and good luck with the re-write.



OK, readers, please leave John some suggestions about what you would find helpful in a book about strategic planning either here or on the TeacherLibrarian Ning.


Nearest book meme

A few other changes were made to the 1855 plate, but this map's primary purpose was to record for posterity the political decision associated with Minnesota taking its place in the Union, an event long predicted by the series of morphing territorial maps.

Minnesota on the Map: a Historical Atlas by David A. Lanegran.

* Get the book nearest to you. Right now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write this sentence - either here or on your blog.
* Copy these instructions as commentary of your sentence.
* Don't look for your favorite book or your coolest but really the nearest.

It's the book I keep on the coffee table - a beautiful, fascinating history of the state of Minnesota told through maps made of the place. It only sounds boring.

Thanks to Stephen Abrams of Stephen's Lighthouse for this rather interesting (and easy) meme.

Bloggers, you're it.