Friday, March 30, 2007

What's Next?

Will Richardson asks, “What’s next?” After referring to a comment I had made about the Did You Know?/Shift Happens presentation being viewed by more than two million people (see my previous post for more about that), Will wonders how we can move past a “gee whiz” video and actually leverage these tools to effect change. (I may be putting words into Will’s mouth there – if so, then change “Will” to “Karl” in that previous sentence.) If, as Will says, it “sets the table for the ‘big’ conversation” we need to have, how do we get folks outside of our edublogging community to actually come and sit down at that table? And once they sit down and partake of the web 2.0/flat-world/exponential-times buffet, how do we make sure that they just don’t enjoy the meal, get up, leave the table, and schools go about their business as usual? (And how long can I extend the table metaphor?)

Well, allow me to think out loud here. This is by no means meant to be “the solution,” simply some BoB (Brainstorming on Blog). As I mentioned in the previous post, we are beginning to work on a “new and improved” Did You Know? presentation and would like to ask for your help with that (more on that in my next post). But, for the moment, let me focus on the possibilities. Let’s assume for a moment that a web video (or series of videos) is something we’d like to use to effect change. Please note that I’m not saying this is the only way, or that a video(s) in and of itself could accomplish the change, but it is a medium that – as we’ve seen – can reach a whole lot of folks fairly quickly. Let’s also assume that we (however you’d like to try to define “we”) could settle on what that video(s) looks like. (I’m skipping over this part because I think agreeing is probably the hardest part, but consider this “proof of concept” thinking.) So, after waving my magic wand, we have the video(s) - then what?

Well, I think we use our learning network. Think about the initial spread of Did You Know? through the edublogosphere. I post it on a relatively obscure (yet obviously brilliant) blog. David Warlick, Bud Hunt, and Will Richardson reference it over the next two weeks. David, Bud and Will are either Connectors or Mavens in this sphere, or possibly both. Therefore many other edubloggers (and some non-edubloggers) also reference it, and many of the folks show it in their buildings and districts and at various conferences. That all happened “accidentally” if you will (and also remember that our learning network was not as large then as it is now). Now, imagine that we had actually had a plan for trying to spread this. Imagine we had a “coordinated assault,” where we ask all edubloggers to post the video(s) on their blogs. While we certainly would make sure that the most prominent edubloggers with the largest readership were on board, we would try to get as many folks as possible to spread – and comment on – the message. Because every edublogger has their own local audience, and they are often the Connector or Maven for those folks. And, of course, we’d, and furl, and twitter, and digg, and whatever-else it. That’s step one.

Simultaneously, we would post the video(s) on YouTube, Google Video, Glumbert, Break, MySpace, [fill in your favorite video hosting service here]. In fact, I’d pick one – probably YouTube – to be the version that then gets put on all the edublogger blogs I talked about in step one. Why? It drives up the numbers and makes it more visible on YouTube. Each place that it was posted – including edublogger blogs – would include a short description as well as a link to a blog, a webpage, or a wiki (not sure which) that would provide much more detail than you could include in the video(s), as well as suggested next steps for the viewer to take to impact their local schools. As I mentioned in the previous post, I think that’s one of the weaknesses of the current version of Did You Know? – it doesn’t give the viewer any next steps to take to use that information to make a difference. That’s step two.

But our learning networks are larger than just the edublogosphere and the online video sites. Staying online for a moment, many of us have contacts with fairly prominent bloggers outside of the education arena – let’s try to recruit them. Heck, if you just took the contacts that Christian Long has, we could probably saturate the planet. And, of course, most of us presumably have large e-mail address books – both personal and work. Send it out with an appropriate context. But what about offline? I know that a lot of folks also write for print sources – we could utilize those. We all have contacts in our local communities, whether that be newspapers, television stations, Kiwanis clubs, Chambers of Commerces, school boards, places of worship, or companies that our family and friends work at outside of education. A combination of emails, phone calls, and flyers that reference the video(s) and the associated blog/website/wiki would be part of that “coordinated assault.” That’s step three.

Who else? How about legislators? Probably targeting the state level the hardest, but really at all levels. A coordinated email/phone call campaign that references the video(s) and the blog/website/wiki, along with a call to action. Step four.

Who else? How about students? Certainly at my level (high school), students would be a critical, knowledgeable and vocal piece of this. Step five.

Who else? You can probably think of some more, but you get the idea.

Then the blog/website/wiki – along with the “humint” of edubloggers – takes over. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but we can probably learn a lot from the efforts of the presidential campaigns to create online communities and social networks. We leverage the tools of Web 2.0 to create School 2.0.

Is this impossibly idealistic and hopelessly naïve? Perhaps. But I prefer to think of it as possibly idealistic and hopefully naïve. But if we believe in this – if we truly, whole-heartedly believe that we need systemic change in the way we teach and learn in schools – then don’t we owe it to our students to give it a shot?

Would it go viral? I don't know. Would it work? I don’t know. But if a fairly simple little PowerPoint that I almost didn’t even show to my staff can do it, then I don’t see why something that will be much better and have a coordinated plan of distribution and action behind it doesn’t have a reasonable shot.

End of BoB (errr, Brainstorming on Blog).

So, remember, this is just thinking out loud. There are probably lots of holes, things I haven't thought of, obvious ideas I've missed. Constructive comments are encouraged. What's next?


  1. Karl,
    Did you have an extra shot in your latte today? Perhaps you should stick to decaf.

  2. Lee - I wrote it last night, waited until this morning to look it over and post it. And, for the record, I don't drink coffee. I'm pretty much caffeine-free, except for chocolate of course :-)

  3. Karl,
    I'm in.
    I just finished Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture. You've got to love it when the ideas in a book present themselves in the real world. You're talking about a marketing campaign. I've been waiting for this, wondering when it was going to happen. (That sentence is certainly optimistic and naive.) After all, the only way education is going to change is if teachers stop complaining and start collaborating - scratch that - converging. My 8th grade students were immediately hooked on the presentation. I showed it just after you posted it to your blog.
    Thank you for creating something invigorating to education. It's the conversation I keep having before I can have the conversation that makes the change.
    I'm in.

  4. I think it is a great idea. If we all "do something" together it will more effective than if we all "do our own something."
    Pam Shoemaker