Let’s just go ahead and propose this as one of the newer laws of nature: Anything I think or write about anything having anything to do with Clay Burell’s thinking and writing has a tendency to EXPAND. By that I mean: I end up thinking bigger. . . and usually shamelessly digress in writing about it, following a tangent to an unexpected end. Which amounts to the same thing, I guess. Give him an inch and he’ll make a milestone.

In his excellent post reflecting on the Students 2.0 experience, sort of a state-of-the-project speech now that it’s reached the creaky, venerable old age of three weeks, Clay offers three propositions:

1. We can create more spaces like this, with similar visibility to
motivate quality, through similar means. You come up with the idea, and
I’ll certainly return the favor you’ve given s2oh by blogging about it,
helping you push it to del.ico.us’ hotlist, etc.

2. It doesn’t take a lot of work to make things happen.  It does take doing, though.

3. We shouldn’t forget what this whole enterprise taught about the power of network marketing for education.

I embarked on a comment responding to his first point, and, according to Burell’s Law of Expansion, it took on a life of its own. It has now taken up residence under the Higher Edison roof and is demanding regular bottle feedings and a room of its own, so I may as well post the damn thing here. But before releasing the beast, let me issue a plug for reading the rest of Clay’s post. Among other thingsHere, he crunches some startling numbers
generated by Students 2.0 since its launch, directs us to Steve
Hargadon’s podcast interview with some of the S2Oh bloggers, and discusses his hopes for S2Oh as pushing toward Web 2.0’s promise of authentic learning—what Mr. Winton calls "the thin end of the wedge." Particularly pay attention to his third point about the power of network marketing and its implications for education. We’ll be hearing more about this in days to come, I suspect.

Now, my overfed beast of a comment:

Since you’ve boldly thrown down the what’s-next gauntlet, I’ll take
a crack at your first proposition. I agree: similar spaces, similar
means. When we first started talking about student voices, there was no
blueprint. You took the skeleton and hung some serious musculature on
it, and the s2oh “staff writer” model sprang to life. Now, how about a
complementary “digest” model, something along the lines of the Utne
Reader? Regularly find and feature insightful/relevant/challenging/just
plain good posts by student bloggers from all over. Could be a good way
to expand the pool of s2oh writers.

Another idea has been rattling around in my head since we started
this conversation. I haven’t fleshed it out enough to know it has legs,
but here’s the rough thumbnail: a blogging project pairing professional
mentors with motivated students with a passionate, live-and-breathe-it
interest and well-down-that-road knowledge in whatever field it may be.
We’ve recognized the need for student voices to season and enrich
edublogosphere conversation. So if it’s powerful learning across the
board to have student voices in the mix, imagine extending the idea to
other professional/creative -blogospheres. Civil engineers mentoring
and blogging with bright lights of the next generation of bridge
builders, for instance. Ditto with medicine, theoretical mathematics,
social work, you name it. Really, it’s about getting. . . beyond
school. How’s that for a novel idea? I envision a mentor/student
relationship playing out as equal parts job shadow, shop talk, Socratic
method, and modeling a kind of discourse for the rest of us that takes
place on an equal footing, where knowledge is age-blind and ideas are
weighed by their merit. Certainly the students would learn from the
relationship; even more certainly, the mentor would learn something
about his/her work, whether reinforcing, challenging, or pointing to
the need for radical change. And less certain but almost more
intriguing from my seat are the untold overlaps, juxtapositions, and
synchronicities that could emerge from such an interdisciplinary stew.
And I suspect most fields are even more deaf to student voices than
education. Frank conversation between confident, mature professionals
and bright students could be like smelling-salts to take back to those
respective fields and spheres. I guess this idea really springs fully
(well, maybe not FULLY) formed from the teeth you’ve sown many times
about creating authentic, unschooly spaces. Connecting students with. .
. well. . . colleagues, right?. . . in whatever field their rockets are
pointing them toward seems like a good step. And that’s an exciting,
egalitarian, unschooly idea. But even more exciting is that the
unschooliness could spread to other arenas, and that those other arenas
could in turn teach us a lesson or two about going beyond school.
Because isn’t “beyond school” really a signifier for getting beyond
anything institutional and bureaucratic? Where the walls outnumber the
windows, where gray is the color du jour, and where conformity trumps
imagination?

.
Thanks, Clay, for being at the thin end. 

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