Are we insane?



Imagine it's 1991. A principal of a large school has students that are doing some really nice writing and art. Imagine of a large publishing company comes to the school and wants to try something different. They offer the principal a chance for every student in the building the opportunity to publish any or all works of their choice. They'll publish these books of writing and/or art and distribute them to libraries and book stores all over the world. And they'll do it all for free. The principal listens to their offer and says, "No thanks."

Now imagine you're a parent of children from this school and find out about the offer and the principal's decline of that offer. Would you be satisfied with that or would you be marching into her office and find out if she's gone completely insane?

Are we insane for not accepting that same deal that every school on the planet has been offered in 2010? I've heard a few arguments about publishing today but seriously, if your child, in 1991 was offered a chance to have their work published, would you not jump at that chance? I get that perhaps not all work is worthy of publishing but I can't imagine many students, principals or parents who would have passed up the offer back then.

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  • In the 1980’s when I began teaching middle and high school English “Windscript”, a magazine of student writing, was published annually. I remember sharing these stories and poems with my children. The good writers aspired to having their works accepted. Once one was and the school celebrated that with pride. Each year much is made of the winners of the Legion writing contests. A submission to the local paper is a familiar journalism project. I share your bafflement. Why not publish on the net?

  • I couldn’t agree more, Dean. I love this analogy. In fact, I just recently started a podcast for students in my district where I travel around to the different schools and showcase or “publish” student work via the podcast. It is completely student-driven and just provides a way for teachers to share the great things they are doing in their classroom digitally. Thanks so much for putting this in writing and hope it’s okay to use this analogy with teachers and administrators in my district.

  • Thanks for creating an analogy we can use to parents and fellow educators. An authentic audience is a key motivator to beginner writers. This allows students to create and control their own digital footprint. Instead of writing to an audience of one (the teacher), it is the audience of anyone. Thank you.

  • Dean, perfectly put. I will be sharing this one for sure. And I think, yes we are insane. How admins and teachers can fight what is clearly a perfect and free opportunity is beyond me.

  • Dean, I think that if this offer was made to a principal today, they would say yes. Even today, you would be crazy to pass up that offer. Until, of course, you tell them how it works. If all this work was published and put in a book or magazine, I have no doubt that they wouldn’t blink an eye before saying yes. As soon as you bring in the internet and the horror stories that we hear every now and then, the offer changes. Right now, paper publishing is more trusted than web publishing, likely because it is so new. As you’re implying, we need to educate these administrators further about this, so this deal no longer gets passed up.
    This was a great way of putting the issue into perspective!

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  • Dean
    Great post. As a school administrator myself I wonder why this would be the response so many educators would give when asked to publish all their student’s work. Your post really made me think.

  • Let’s back up a minute. What pedagogical value would this act of publishing have for the students? Would it help their learning? Maybe or maybe not. I can imagine this being of great value to high school students who could use an external audience and feedback. For elementary, I am not so sure. An anonymous, large audience of adults might intimidate an elementary student and lead to a poor experience. Let’s keep these initiatives connected to students and their learning goals.
    .-= Richard Kassissieh´s last blog ..Undergrads and IT =-.

    • Richard, I always appreciate some pushback.

      I guess I would argue that first off, the power of an audience cannot be underestimated at any age. Students will write better when it matters. This, I believe is true no matter the age. If you want to know more about the power of publishing for an authentic audience at a young age, you should investigate the work of Kathy Cassidy. She represents the power and the value of publishing for primary students.

      Audience is one thing but beyond that, my analogy fails to consider the power of feedback. Whether its a second grade student getting feedback from a grandparent who lives far away or a high school student getting feedback from an expert, you cannot deny that value. That’s why publishing online trumps paper publishing.

      The pedagogical value stems mostly from making learning transparent and open which affords students the opportunity to connect beyond the walls of the classroom. To me, this is appropriate for all students, all ages and all subjects.

  • Absolutely, but I find that individuals known to the student represent a much more authentic audience to elementary kids than faceless strangers. I’d also like to underscore the importance of additional planning and instruction required to do this well. One might interpret the analogy in your post to mean that all you have to do is publish student work online, and meaningful learning will happen. I think we owe it to teachers reading ed-tech blogs to affirm the subtlety in any learning environment design, electronic or not.
    .-= Richard Kassissieh´s last blog ..Undergrads and IT =-.

    • Very true. I’ll be the first one to admit that I have too often shown teachers how to blog and haven’t contextualized it well enough to show why it matters and how it impacts learning. Blogging is easy but hard to do and make effective.