This post marks my first anniversary as a blogger. I want to thank those readers who regularly read my twice-weekly posts, those who have dipped into them occasionally, those who have subscribed to the post, and finally those who have taken the time to write thoughtful comments. Over 56,000 people from around the world have clicked on to the blog since August 2009. Not exactly viral but, for me, most gratifying.
For the 114 posts I have written this past year, I have followed three rules:
1. Write less than 800 words.
2. Write clearly on school reform and classroom practice.
3. Take a position and back it up with evidence.
For anyone who blogs or writes often, I want to say that sticking to these rules has been no easy task. Yet after a year, it has been very satisfying. I remain highly motivated to write about policymakers, administrators, teachers, and students–all who inhabit the policy-to-practice continuum–and all who in different ways, with varied ideas, seek to improve schooling.
To me, writing is a form of teaching and learning. The learning part comes from figuring out what I want to say on a topic, researching it, drafting a post, and then revising it more times than I would ever admit so that the post says what I want it to say. Learning also has come from the surprises I have found in the suggestions and comments readers post—“Did I really say that?” “Wow! that is an unexpected view on what I said,” or “I had never considered that point.”
The teaching part comes from putting my ideas out there in a clearly expressed logical argument, buttressed by evidence, for others who may agree or disagree about an issue I am deeply interested in. As in all teaching, planning enters the picture in how I frame the central question I want readers to consider and how I put the argument and evidence together in a clear, coherent, and crisp blog of less than 800 words.
Because of my background as a high school teacher, administrator, policymaker, and historian of education I often give a question or issue its context, both past and present. I do so, and here I put my teacher hat on, since I believe that current school reform and practice are deeply rooted in the past. Learning from earlier generations of reformers’ experiences in coping with the complexities of improving how teachers taught, and how they tried to change schools and districts, I believe, can inform current reformers about the tasks they face. Contemporary reformers, equally well-intentioned as their predecessors, in too many instances ignore what has occurred previously and end up bashing teachers and principals for not executing properly their reform-driven policies.
Expressing my sincere gratitude toward readers for the blogging I have done this first year is a preface to what I will begin writing during my second year of posts. Beginning this week and continuing periodically throughout the year will be posts drawing from a two-year study of a 1:1 laptop high school.
I have not written about Las Montanas high school (a pseudonym) since 1998 when I and two graduate students did a study of computer use in that and a nearby high school in the Bay area of northern California. That study became Chapter 3 in Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom (2001). In 2008, I returned to Las Montanas because it had become a fully equipped 1:1 laptop school and I wanted to find out what had changed in teacher and student use over the past decade. Even though an application for research funds had been rejected, I was intensely curious about what had occurred so I decided to carry out the study by myself.* The next post describes the study.
*In 1998, I, Heather Kirkpatrick, and Craig Peck (both graduate students) completed the study of Las Montanas and Flatland high schools. In 2008, Craig, now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina (Greensboro) asked me if I were interested in replicating the earlier study and returning to both schools. I was. He drafted a proposal (he would be Principal Investigator) to the foundation that had originally funded the earlier grant. The foundation turned us down. We revised the proposal and tried again. Rejected a second time. Because of my curiosity about what changes had occurred in one of the two schools that had become a 1:1 laptop school, I asked Craig if I could do the study. So without funding and some help from Craig who came out for a week to help with the 800-plus student surveys–at his own expense–I completed the study in June 2010.