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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolve to Help a Kid You Love

Resolve to Help a Kid You Love
Help them create a free lifelong learning blog

This fall I gave a talk at TEDx Beacon Street to kick off a campaign to help families support kids personalize learning by setting up Lifelong Learning Blogs.  All the families I know who have done this have had a great experience.

If you are interested in learning how to support a kid you love in this way, click on the link below, watch the talk, and help spread this idea by forwarding this message to other people who might be interested as well.

If you need help setting up the lifelong learning blog or want to share your families experiences with others, send me an e-mail at gregnadeau7@gmail.com.

In case you prefer reading to viewing, the script for the talk is below:

I’d like to share with you an idea which I believe will help shape the future of personalized learning.

This is an idea that you and everyone can put into action today, for free, and will never be taken away.

I call it a “lifelong learning blog,” in that, different from other blogs, the goal is not to compete for a large audience, it is to help young people learn.

To start is simple:
· First, think about a kid or kids who you love
· Next, set them up with a Google account or equivalent and Blog. If they are too young and you are not ready for them to have their own Google account, they can use yours
.· Final set up step, and this is the key, make sure that the e-mail subscription widget is in place and sign up your self and at least 4 other adults who also love this child.If your family is like mine, then you share a secret weapon: grandparents. There is an obvious synergy to between older people and younger people. They provide what last year’s TED Talk Prize winter, Sugata Mitra calls the ‘Granny Cloud,” a responsive, nurturing presence that motivates kids to do more.

If your family is not like mine, as more and more are not, particularly in urban environments like where I live, then there may be only one parent and relatives may have language and technology barriers.

However, with almost every kid, there is a team of adults who care about that child. It could be someone at the Boys and Girls Club, or a distant relative, or a social worker, or teacher.

With all that said, it only takes about 20 minutes to set a kid up with a blog and I have some free step-by-step instructions at a website blogsandbadges.com.  The next step is harder, but where the fun begins.


With my nine-year-old son, Charlie, it started like this: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.Charlie had seen first-hand the impact that blogging had on his older brother, Max, over the last year and he did not think he was ready yet for that responsibility.

Max had unenrolled in 6th grade last year and pursued personalized learning for six months in a “semester abroad in Geeklandia,” as we came to call it.

His experience and blog, “Postcards from Geeklandia”, showed my wife, Kerri, and I, both lifelong public educators, the power of blogging as a lifelong learning tool.

Unlike MOOCs and Khan Academy, kids blogging is fundamentally about learning by doing.
Writing in a rich media form like a blog, harvests all three of the key skills and characteristics kids need to develop to prepare them for the future:
1) Communicating in writing with power and creativity to other humans
2) Communicating with computers and other devices logically
3) Developing independence and perseverance, the engine in the brain that motivates us to interact with other humans and technology and persist to completion.  


I struggled a bit to figure out how to explain what I am talking about because it is an idea that both exceedingly simple and infinitely extensible.

The starting point to motivate kids to blog can be as simple as getting them to post an existing homework assignment or to write a few sentences as captions to pictures from a recent family trip or after school activity. It can be three times in a year or it can be near daily.

A little is good. A lot is great.

Each post from a kid brings a burst of encouragement from grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and friends.

By subscribing to the blog through the e-mail widget, the post arrives in my in-box so, even if I don’t have time to post a comment, I am aware of their work and I am much more likely to look at it during the day and talk with them about it at dinner or breakfast.

While the blogging platform is not dissimilar to Facebook, there is a critical difference between:
· the Facebook peer culture and· the on line culture created with grandparents, parents, and special family friends in a lifelong learning blog.Blogging to a team of trusted adults brings back that multi-generational village that we are losing to shepherd each child into adulthood.

When they complete high school and go onto higher learning and work, Max, Charlie, and other kids I know with lifelong learning blogs will have assembled a rich, hypertext indexed, scrapbook of their work.

They will be able to use their blog to:
· reflect on the progress of what they have accomplished and
· easily create portfolios of their best work, badges, honors, and certifications.


Many kids go through a phase in which they learn to love reading, but still hate writing.

Both take practice and are hard at first. Unlike reading and speaking, where we spend endless hours, from birth, practicing with our kids, writing gets scant attention and is mostly outsourced to the schools to do for us.What happens when you outsource writing to the schools, and I say with total respect for teachers, is that kids write assignments that go into the black box for teacher feedback and come back some time later with red ink.

I say that figuratively to make a point, but the math is simple. My wife is a public school 7th grade humanities teacher. I see her incredible workload grading papers ever weekend.An elementary school class has roughly 20 kids, so each kid gets roughly 1/20thof an adult’s attention.With a learning blog, if there are five of you, your kid now gets 5 adults attention, 100 times what kids typically get.Now I’m not saying that a grandparent’s comments are the same as a teacher’s written feedback on a paper. The time and timeliness are different. Teachers are professionals paid to work full time with kids. The rest of the adults in a child’s “digital village” may not be as skilled, but they bring love, encouragement, and long-term perspective that is invaluable in other ways.

In high school, where teachers typically teach 5 classes, the improved ratio of attention from a learning blog becomes 500 to 1, and that assumes that no one other than the 5 original adults sign up or visit the blog.
This is a profound system improvement.   No other education initiative I am aware of offers the same return on investment for time and money.

So,if you believe:
· that learning is most effective when doing, not passively receiving;

· that writing powerfully and creatively is a central skill that all kids need;
· and that the motivation to write is deeply influenced by the feedback from trusted loving adults;

Then you see the profound system breakthrough. Kids blogging to a team of loving adults creates a 100-500 fold improvement in one of the core, most important cycles of learning: writing and reflecting with others.

This is exactly like reading to your kids. Everyone here knows to do it. To neglect it would be to put your child in peril. Writing is the same and there is something free and simple you can do to improve this key variable by several orders of magnitude.

So I ask you, will you help a child set up a lifelong learning blog?

Please raise your hand if you are ready to put this idea into action.

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