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Edublog Nominations

December 2, 2011

Ah, the edubolg awards. I’ve gone back and forth a bit about whether to go through with writing up some nominations. I’m not a fan of awards, and I’ve resonated strongly with some of the posts I’ve read criticizing them. But then I think back to my experience with all this a year ago, when I had barely started blogging. Honestly, I had never heard of the things. At that time, I really was still experimenting, I wasn’t sure if I could keep up blogging, or if it’d really be useful. I thought that maybe I would just go back to lurking and reading all the great stuff others were posting, and not have to write stuff for myself.

Then suddenly a lot of bloggers I respect started posting links to EduBlog award nominations. And at some point, someone nominated me (I think it was Frank); I was totally blown away. People were seriously considering what I had to say, and my voice mattered. So I proudly displayed my little “nominated for best new blogger” badge, and I think it was a part of the fuel that pushed me over the hump toward being a fully committed blogger. Ultimately, this let me get to the point where I could do the things that really mattered to me, like figuring out the physics of the Les Paul Google Doode, and hearing from the actual designer of the doodle on the very day I wrote the post.

That’s the sprit in which I’m going to write my nominations—to hopefully use them to give a bit of kudos and fuel to some of those bloggers out there who are just getting started and wondering why they should stay up late typing up posts no one seems to read.

Most influential blog post: Khan Academy is an Indictment of Education

Last year, I nominated Frank Noschese’s $2 Interactive Whiteboard post in this category, and I’m proud to say he won this much deserved award for the post. This year, I’m going back to Frank’s blog for my nomination. For the past year, Frank has led a campaign to courageously point out the shortcomings of Khan Academy, and in this brilliant post, how all the praise the media and public lavish on Sal Khan and video instruction really is an indictment of the poor quality of our education and a tremendous failure of imagination.

Frank takes a lot of heat for his criticism of Khan Academy, but I think it’s incredibly valuable. At the the most basic level, I’m convinced that Frank’s pointing out serious errors in physics understanding in many of Sal’s physics videos have forced him to go back and fix them. Frank also helped to publicize an excellent study by Derek Muller to expose the ineffectiveness of science videos for helping to teach science concepts, which Sal Khan even acknowledges but then fails to comprehend (along with the mountain of other educational research and good pedagogy he chooses to ignore).

I don’t mean for this nomination to be a rant against Khan Academy, but I do think Frank’s post, and his efforts in general are a guiding light for all of us, and may be critical to avoiding a future of education where kids spend their time watching videos to memorize procedural tricks without any understanding, mindlessly earning badges as they go.

Breaking blog news:Frank completely hits it out of the park today with this must read post explaining just how badly Sal Khan fails to understand or apply the latest and most important findings on how students learn: You Khan’t Ignore How Students Learn.

Best teacher Blog: Superfluous Thoughts

I nominate this blog because it blows me away with honest, open and deeply thoughtful posts like these, The Hardest Things I’ve Learned, where the author reflects beautifully on the real lessons of life she (and we) never learned in high school about how to live mindfully, fully engage a community, rest, and prioritize. And if you want to see courage in action, watch this 10 minute video she put together explaining her grading system to her parents. This blogger is a friend and of colleague of mine, and her passionate devotion to learning and her students comes through in every post.

Best Administrator Blog: Re-Educate Seattle

While I love both Jonathan Martins 21K12 and Bo Adams’s It’s about Learning, the blog that really pushes my thinking, and gets me to re-conceptualize what school could be completely is Steve Miranda’s Re-Educate Seattle. Steve is the admissions director at Puget Sound Community School, a uber-progressive school of 38 students that completely redefines the notion of what a school is. Why shouldn’t scheduling of classes just be as simple as having teachers and students sit together in a room and talk about what they want to learn and teach for the upcoming year? Yeah, for a teacher at a school of 2000, where everything has to be fit nearly into a rigid schedule of 6-55 minute classes every day, that seems impossible, but this blog provokes me to find a way to scale the incredible things that are taking place at his school.

Best Student Blog: It’s about the Journey

This student, a 9th grader at my school, is someone I almost never see (we’re a big school), but I am constantly reminded of her incredible passion for learning, her deep desire to change the world, and her commitment to growth through practice. Here are a few of her more profound posts:

Best Educational use of a Social Network: edu180atl

Around this time last year, a group of Atlanta area teachers had an idea to create a project where Atlanta area teachers, students, administrators and citizens could share stories of their everyday learning, similar to how the the 3six5 project asks showcases daily 365 word reflections by authors from around the world. From this, a prototype and then the edu180atl project was born. Little could we know that shortly thereafter, the Atlanta cheating scandal would burst onto the scene, and suddenly the importance of this project became all the more clear. Today, as 88 Atlanta residents have posted 250 word answers to the question “what did you learn today?” I this we have created a powerful counterpoint to the shadow of the cheating scandal that reminds us that there are beautiful stories of learning taking place all around us, everyday.
Full disclosure: I am a founder, editor and author of 1 reflection for the edu180atl project.

Best Open PD/unconference/webinar series: Global Physics Department

The Global Physics Department was started in a flurry of tweets between some physics teachers who wanted to create a new space, in addition to Tuesday night #scichat. What was created became the Global Physics Department, a weekly gathering of physics teachers in both college and high school to talk about physics teaching, led by Andy “SuperFly” Rundquist (@arundquist, blog: SuperFly Physics). Now, 40 meetings later, GPD has has become the very best professional development I’ve ever experienced. The Global Physics Department has featured talks from many of the authors of leading physics researchers, some of the biggest names in physics education research, and pre-eminient scientists such as Sean Carroll discussing the latest findings in physics. Now, it is embarking on a new experiment—coaching. Participants are filming their classrooms, and on December 14, we will gather online to share and discuss our teaching. It should be incredible, and I hope you’ll join us.
Full Disclosure—this is a group I participate actively in, and had a small role in founding.

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