I haven’t been blogging a lot of late but I’ve been commenting regularly across a broad range of blogs on a wide variety of topics. But as I dropped comments here, here and there, I began thinking about this beast we call the “edublogosphere” and how it cross connects and cross pollinates ideas and people. It’s hard for me to engage sometimes with some of the different themes because not all of the issues on the table are accessible or directly relevant to my educational reality. I began wondering why it’s hard to link into some of the exchanges going on or to understand the “perceived importance” behind some of the posts – and I think it’s because I’m Australian. Or more accurately, because I am not American. It’s hard to explain and I’m not trying to be offensive or get people’s heads swivelling Tim Holt style, but I’ll try and explain it this way.
I have a new theory.
Remember the Olympics back in 2000? Here in Sydney, Australia. Touted as possibly the best Olympics ever (even though the kids with Greek backgrounds at my school reckon that Athens in 2004 took that honour). It showed that a lightly populated country could put on a world class event and the Aussies even scored a few gold medals – I can never forget that run by Cathy Freeman.
What’s this got to do with my theory?
Well, even though the Olympics is an international event, several really big countries dominate the results of the main sporting events. And because they have so many athletes in medal contention, their media coverage can afford to focus only on their efforts. There’s hardly any opportunity to focus on the other countries’ efforts, no matter how noteworthy. My friend Tom, who lives in the US, said that his nightly coverage was saturated with Team USA and their prowess. Australian coverage was a different perspective – not enough home grown athletes to fill the non-stop coverage – so our TV schedule provided a smorgasbord overview of all nations in competition in between the all important races of Ian Thorpe and Cathy. So, if one was interested in the overall state of play of the Olympics, the Aussie TV coverage was more likely to tell the story but the US version would be the American’s version of the Olympics. And this despite the fact that the Olympics are an international event. Without any fault of their own due to their TV coverage, the average American could assume that the only important events happening in the Games were ones involving their athletes.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
Unless you live in a smaller country, you can’t see that many of the issues pushed as being important around the edublogosphere are actually focussed towards the biggest participating nation and its education system. This is not a criticism. Don’t get me wrong. But it is something to be aware of if you are a Stateside blogger – your view is not necessarily the world view. Just like the American public watching the Sydney Olympics. There are others involved, maybe in lesser numbers, but just as passionate at leveraging new technologies for learning. And some US edubloggers (people I read and respect) are influenced by my Olympics Effect Theory.
Need an example to understand what I’m talking about? Here’s one – the call for standardised tagging that has come out of the recent NECC conference in Atlanta, USA. Again, don’t get me wrong, no-one is more conscious of being international minded than Vicki but this idea ignores the different structures for schooling worldwide, different subject titles. (e.g US grade = Australia Year, US Social Studies = Australia SOSE, US Math = Australia Maths, US Elementary = Australia Primary). If the system is built, then my theory kicks in and what will evolve is something useful to North American educators but not for the rest of the world. Which is fine as long as it is acknowledged up front.
The Edbloggercon is another example where careful thought needs to take place so that people don’t get the impression that everybody who is anybody was there at that event in Atlanta. So plans drawn up there will only service those who can physically get to the next venue – unless someone steps beyond Olympics Effect Theory and remembers the smaller voices in the mix. I’m not saying that it won’t happen – just that when most edubloggers live in the North American continent, it’s issues emanating from those education systems that will dominate. Again, no problem, as long as it’s acknowledged.
If someone turns around and says in the comments, “Just get off your backside and organise your own Aussie Edubloggercon and quit whining and build your own momentum and stop showing us your green streak,” well, I’ll say fair enough, that’s a good point but the reality is that we are all talking global conversations and collaboration here. I mean, I was talking to Chris Harbeck from Canada the other day, for goodness sake but the reality is that an Edubloggercon here would attract a handful of people that could easily be hosted under my back verandah! But, the whole point of this theory is that the people affected don’t realise its effect until it’s pointed out to them.
So I guess my simple point under all this elaborate metaphoric play is that edubloggers truly interested in global perspective will be aware of their Olympics Effect Theory potential and consider adjusting their conversations accordingly. Darren Draper did that beautifully a while back when I tried to diplomatically offer an alternate take on his awesome video work. Just because you know what you’re talking about, don’t assume the rest of the world will nod their collective heads in agreement.
Hope this all makes sense.Image: ‘Olympic Station‘ by [andre]