Nominations are being sought for the 2009 Edublog awards. The competition requires that nominations be made not just by blogs but on the blogs themselves. I’m not posting nominees in every category–and only one nomination per category is permitted–but this gives me a chance to issue some well deserved pats on the back to some of my fellow ed bloggers.
1. Best individual blog
When I started blogging two years ago, the first thing I did was spend a lot of time seeing what was already out there. When I found Joanne Jacobs I thought, “That’s the blog I want to be when I grow up.” She covers a lot of ground, is always interesting and on the news, and is not shy about telling you what she thinks. Neither are the myriad posters who comment and make it such a robust site (to my mind great blogs encourage discussion; it’s not broadcasting). She’s been very good for a very long time.
It would be easy to dismiss Public School Insights, written by Claus Von Zastrow as the voice of the blob, since the Learning First Alliance which Claus runs, is a consortium of major education organizations. That would be a mistake. Claus is an immensely talented writer who single-handedly puts the lie to the idea that anyone who opposes “reform” supports the “status quo.” Things are complicated, and Claus writes with intelligence and subtlety. He’s smart, he’s fair, he’s not doctrinaire–a one-man antidote for the false dichotomies that plague edublogs–and education.
My nomination: Joanne Jacobs, on volume. The woman’s a machine. Extraordinary output and dedication, independent and influential. A blogger’s blogger, and still the very first blog I look at every morning.
2. Best group blog
I have seen the future of education journalism and it’s called Gotham Schools. Not a sparrow falls in the New York City school system that GS doesn’t report or pass along. They’re up early, stay late and keep their audience well-informed. And they’ve been rewarded with an increasingly energetic base of posters. The best single-topic, one-stop shopping ed news site there is.
Reading Kitchen Table Math is like sitting down for a good meal with a boisterous group of really smart people. Lots of personalities, great conversation, and all of it smart, challenging and often very funny. It’s a true group blog, with many voices, all of whom are deeply well-informed stakeholders (parents, mostly) in public education.
This Week in Education shows why the categories in the Edublog Awards need a rethink. TWIE is really Alexander Russo’s individual blog, but with frequent contributions from teacher-warrior John Thompson, does it belong in the group category? Like Joanne Jacobs, TWIE has been very good for a very long time, but resists being formulaic. It’s still the best stop on your blog rounds to catch up on all the day’s news.
Also worthy of consideration: Fordham’s Flypaper, (Everything I said about Claus Von Zastrow, above, applies equally well to Mike Petrilli), Early Ed Watch, and Jay Greene’s Blog. Education Week as a news organization deserves recognition for the terrific job they’ve done in developing their blogs over the past year. I cited Stephen Sawchuk’s Teacher Beat in Best Individual Blogs. Most of their blogs are team efforts and cover their beats well; I particularly like Politics K-12, Curriculum Matters and Learning the Language. (Note to Edublog Awards Committee: please start a separate category for blogs from news organizations. Comparing well-resourced, reporting-driven blogs to amateur efforts regardless of how well-informed they are, is apples-to-oranges).
My nomination: Kitchen Table Math. I’ll admit this call is somewhat unfair. Gotham Schools and the Ed Week Blogs are slick and professional. Kitchen Table Math isn’t. Education journalism needs more reported blogs. But education needs more Kitchen Table Maths. It’s what parental involvement should look like.
3. Best new blog
Debra Viadero’s new Inside School Research is another good EdWeek blog. I will always miss Eduwonkette, but Viadero has stepped up capably, and is consistently interesting in covering the potentially dry world of ed research. I’m also excited about Linda Perlstein’s The Educated Reporter. The Answer Sheet, the new Washington Post blog written chiefly by Valerie Strauss has a lot going for it. Valerie posts often on a broad range of subjects, and her news judgment is terrific. She’s quickly become second only to Joanne Jacobs as the blog that I most frequently read and say, “Dammit, why didn’t I have that?”
The National Journal Expert Blog is to education what the New York Post’s Page Six is to gossip. Or ought to be, since it boasts an unrivaled collection of bold-faced names in education holding forth on a new question every week. It’s important, and I read it. But I don’t love it quite yet. If you’ve ever been to a panel discussion with great speakers who give their talks but don’t mix it up, you’ll recognize the problem. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.
My nomination: The Answer Sheet. The fact that it’s the new blogging home of Dan Willingham is reason enough to give it the nod. And a note to the Post: do education a favor and give Willingham his own blog.
4. Best teacher blog
How does NYC Educator find the energy to get up every morning, teach all day in his famously overcrowded trailer classroom, and still find the time to post so many tart, witty, and sometimes bitter cris de coeur? Always entertaining, his motto might be, if you can’t say something nice, come sit by me. But he writes from experience and the heart, so even his rants boast real heft. The addition of new sidekick Miss Eyre, who can be as earnest as NYC Educator is acid, makes for a perfect blogging marriage. If you’re a teacher, you know these guys.
Veteran teacher Nancy Flanagan’s Teacher in a Strange Land is a treasure. She’s been around the block, is a pro’s pro and writes with grace. She doesn’t post nearly enough, and when she does she breaks every rule in the book–thank goodness–with long, anecdote-filled pieces that ring with experience and authority. It’s a cliche to say that the voice that’s missing in education debates is the teacher’s. Hers is a teacher’s voice policy wonks should be listening to.
My nomination: A draw. NYC Educator and Teacher in a Strange Land.
5. Best educational use of video / visual
I’m not even going to go through the motions of citing more than one potential nominee in this category. Dan Willingham’s YouTube video Teaching Content is Teaching Reading should be required viewing for every teacher, ed school student and parent. It’s everything we’re doing wrong in teaching reading – and all the things we’re not doing but should – in ten minutes, and without narration. Not only the “best” use of video, but the most important.
6. Other Categories
Best individual tweeter: Larry Ferlazzo
Most influential blog post: Real Oklahoma Students Ace Citizenship Exam at FiveThirtyEight
Best educational tech support blog: Weblogg-ed narrowly over Dangerously Irrelevant.
Best educational use of a social networking service: Edutopia’s fan page on Facebook.
7. Lifetime achievement
Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier are the conscience of public education. As our elder statesmen at Bridging Differences, they have become the most effective counterweights to ed reform triumphalism. They’ve seen it all and they’re not impressed with your shiny new plans. Ravitch and Meier – and especially Ravitch – have drawn plenty of fire from other bloggers in recent years, but being right is the best revenge. Whenever someone takes aim at them, I inevitably think of the New York tennis fan at the 1988 U.S. Open who shouted to Jimmy Connors during his match with a then 18-year old Andre Agassi: “He’s a punk. You’re a legend.”