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Two Updates

In my most narcissistic moments (which are frequent), I imagine that lots of folks are sitting around thinking, “Why does Jon Becker drop the ball on so many projects he starts?” Then, in my saner moments (which are less frequent), I remember that few people beyond my immediate family actually think of me much (or, even, think much of me…).

So, for the both of you out there that are wondering what I’ve been up to, here’s a quick update on a couple of projects:

1. To What Effect? You may remember this blog post which turned into this Educon discussion which then spawned an idea for a massive, distributed action research (or teacher-research) project. You may have even attended a virtual planning meeting. Well, it didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that coordinating the action research project was a big task. It was not something I (or anyone else, really) could do “in my spare time.” So, I figured I would attack the challenge inside a box that’s familiar to me. That is, I figured I would try to find some funding that would allow me to devote the time and effort it takes to really, deeply examine the questions I have around the effectiveness of social media-mediated informal professional development. To that end, I recently submitted a letter of intent to apply for a grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). More specifically, I intend to write a proposal to the Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching program at IES. I had a good conversation about my ideas with the IES program officer yesterday, and I’m equally excited and overwhelmed by the proposal idea. I have asked Dr. Alec Couros to be a partner in this effort, and I dragged Dr. David Timony into the effort as well. I’m certain we’ll need more help from others as the proposal develops and I’ll reach out as need be. If you would like to get involved and think you could add value to a research team looking to examine the effectiveness of #edchat, #edcamp, #edthisorthat, etc., please be in touch.

(Oh, and one other note on this: education research funding program officers love a good acronym. So, the best I can do to this point is this: Social Media-mediated Informal Learning in Education (SMILE). Cheesy, right? Got anything better?)

2. Hacking Schooling – you may also remember that Audrey Watters and I called for submissions for a book/collection/somethingorother called Hacking Schooling. Well, we received 77 submissions in one week. I did expect more, but that’s pretty good. And, there are some really good posts/articles/artifacts that were submitted of which I was totally unaware previous to this call. So, that’s something.

Audrey and I chatted last week about next steps. Here are some of those next steps:

  • Audrey has purchased the domain She will get a shell of something up there with lots of “coming soon” language. We may also temporarily link to the Google spreadsheet with all of the submissions so that you all can see what’s there.
  • I will begin looking through the submissions and coding them for major themes to see if it makes sense to create “chapters” or “sections,” or if there’s a better way to organize whatever material we choose to include.
  • We may be calling upon some of you to write “invited” pieces, and we might think about asking folks for permission to include posts/articles/artifacts that are already out there that we think would add value to the book/collection/etc. Stay tuned.
  • We will explore all of our publishing possibilities. We need to consider the pros and cons of various platforms and outlets. If we totally self-publish this, we’ll look at Anthologize, self-publishing with Amazon, etc. Audrey and I agree that Apple’s iBook is not a viable option for us. If you have any thoughts on these or other possibilities, please let us know!
  • Related to the last bullet, I’d still like to find a university press or an innovative publishing house to partner with us on this, much like The University of Michigan Press did with Hacking the Academy. If you’re reading this and you have a connection to anyone associated with a publishing outlet, please pass along the information. My interest in this partnership is mostly selfish; I will be applying for tenure, and to have this project attached to a university press or a publishing house would give it credibility and/or legitimacy in the eyes of those who will be judging my tenure portfolio. I would add, though, that I believe that to do this project really well requires a partner with publishing chops that neither Audrey nor I have.

So, I haven’t entirely dropped the ball on these projects. I’m still dribbling…

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