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A little while back, Terry Freedman wrote an excellent analysis of the NotK12Online situation. I agree with him on many of his points and concerns, and have had similar discussions with other members of our committee as well as other colleagues. Better yet, he models quite nicely the kind of constructive critique that I wish I saw more of online.

I get the sense that folks have made their minds up about what we hope to do with NotK12Online, which is pretty frustrating, because the little bit of information that’s out there doesn’t really match up with, or support, people’s assumptions.

But you know what they say about assumptions, don’t you?

In an attempt to set the “record” straight, as well as to push our thinking and open ourselves up to some feedback and constructive criticism, I thought I’d share some unofficial thinking about some of my and my committee’s plans and hopes for what NotK12Online might look like.

To begin with, NotK12Online is, ahem, not a conference for rejects. I regret that it was even mentioned in the letters that went out to K12 proposal submitters, and I understand the feelings of folks who took that mention to be a statement of intent or purpose. That said, if you believe your ideas to be worth sharing, I hope you’ll share them, whether or not you do so via NotK12Online.

NotK12 isn’t a separate conference, either. It’s an attempt to host an unconference-ish extension to the main event that continues, extends, and further problematizes the entire metaphor of an online conference. In addition, I hope it will serve as a scaffold for folks who need one to help them begin to share their learning online. For those who don’t need such a scaffold, I hope it will provide a needed push to publish good work that would otherwise not get shared, as well as a channel or two of compelling content.  For still others, it’ll be a distraction.  That’s okay.  Feel free to exercise your filter.

I don’t need to tell many of the readers of this blog that such a scaffold or structure is completely unnecessary and contradictory.  What I feel I do need to say, though, is that in my work with other teachers, some folks would find value in such a structure; they may well need a stepping stone into online reading, writing and thinking.

So what will NotK12Online look like? Well, it’s pretty much an aggregator populated by user submissions. If you have a piece of content that you think matches our guidelines, then you’ll publish it elsewhere, perhaps via your own blog, perhaps somewhere else, depending on the kind of content you’ve produced, and come to the NotK12Online site and tell us about it. If it fits our criteria, published on the site, it gets shared. Folks who want to respond to the content will be directed back to the original site of publication. Content shared via our site will be available via RSS. That’s pretty much it. (For now.  But we’re always interested in suggestions and ideas about making it more useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.)

We’re supporting two types of content at NotK12 so far this year, presentations and critiques. Any material that fits into the categories of the conference is fair game for the presentation channel. The critique channel is the one, though, that I am most excited, and worried, about.

One of my biggest complaints about conferences and online conversation in general is that most of the dialogue is usually cheerleaderish in nature or completely inflammatory. It’s too easy to just ignore or write off ideas and people with which or whom we disagree. My hope for the critique channel of NotK12Online is that we can help promote the idea that we can and should all attempt to be, at least from time to time, critical friends for someone. (Terry, by the way, modeled this quite nicely in his post.  So, too, has Sharon Peters – with Terry – in a recent podcast conversation about NotK12Online. )  Critics of events like K12Online have valuable points. K12Online presenters are not the be-all end-all experts on the content of their presentations.  Can we mix it up a little and productively extend the conversations of and about the conference in a way that’s useful?

I believe we can.  And maybe NotK12Online can be a piece of that progression.  Then again, maybe it won’t be.  But it’s worth it to try.

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