Read, Written, Resigned

It was a little over a year ago when I left my job at the ed-tech non-profit ISTE to become a freelance writer. Lots of folks said I was crazy. But I worked my ass off, and I've been more successful at this than I could have dared imagine. I've written for a number of publications, including ReadWriteWeb; I've been quoted, cited, lauded, lambasted, shit-talked, Techmeme'd, retweeted with the best of 'em.

But now (go ahead, call me crazy again) I'm leaving ReadWriteWeb.

the road more travelled, ForÍt de Bouconne

Writing for the blog has opened a lot of doors for me, and I'm thankful to Richard MacManus for offering a PhD Candidate (dropout) in Comparative Literature a chance to write about Web technology. (Although in some ways, wrapping your head around Derrida or MapReduce, it's the same damn mindfuck.)

During my stint at ReadWriteWeb, I've met amazing entrepreneurs; I've learned a lot about the tech world -- the technology, the business, and the business of tech blogging. Over the course of my time at the publication I've penned 1200 some-odd blog posts.

Among those posts, no doubt my favorite -- and my best -- have been the ones on educational technology. In fact, the first piece I wrote for ReadWriteWeb was on the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan. At the time I remember thinking, "I can't believe none of the other tech blogs have covered this story!"

What I learned -- and what I continue to be reminded of with unfortunate frequency: the tech blogosphere really doesn't notice education stories. Not really. Not unless teachers do something untoward on a blog. Not unless a tech CEO, past or present, makes a major education-oriented donation. Not unless there's an rumored iPhone 5 angle involved.

When it comes to education technology, I'm often told that it's just a "fringe" interest. It's just "my personal passion." It's actually a $88 billion a year industry... but hey, who's counting. It's something that impacts each and every one of us -- whether we have children in K-12 or in college or not. It's an area where there is a tremendous amount of innovation happening right now -- teachers, technology, startups, students. And it's an area that continues to be plagued with a number of political and structural problems. That means there are tons of great stories, and because this is the metric that seems to matter to some folks, it's an area that when I cover it, tends to get a lot of page-views.

As a technology journalist and -- as I say in my Twitter profile -- a recovering academic, I've tried to shed some light on the good and the bad in education technology: Web filtering, learning management systems, digital textbooks, educational apps, cellphones in the classroom, open educational resources, programming languages for kids.

It matters. It all matters. The stakes seem higher than ever -- with the explosion of consumer technology, with the gutting of education budgets, with the renewed interest in the part of the private companies and investors in the space.

Rest assured: I will continue to cover the education space. Hopefully now I can devote more energy to it, beefing up my writing at Hack Education. (I did recently hit Techmeme with a Hack Education post, and I was cited in Wired as "Hack Education's Audrey Watters.") You'll still find my education reporting at KQED's ed-tech blog MindShift and my tech coverage at O'Reilly Radar.

Tim O'Reilly once told me he saw O'Reilly as an education company. That's not really surprising. After all, how many of us have learned various programming languages and the like from O'Reilly books? And see, that's the thing: teaching and learning isn't something that just happens in the classroom. The Internet has torn down the walls of the classroom, whether teachers or ed-tech companies like it or not. Ed-tech needn't be the ghetto'd products that could never make it on the consumer market. And luddite educators just won't cut it any longer. With the explosion of information and knowledge and data and such, "education" plus "technology" is something that all of us -- technologists, writers, educators, students alike -- should take seriously.

Regardless -- and apologies for the digression. I didn't mean to write a rant, just a resignation notice -- as of the end of this week, you won't see my byline at ReadWriteWeb. Maybe there will be new publications where you'll find me. We'll see. Such is the life of the freelance writer. And so with that, it's back to the hustle to get my stories out there. Because there are a lot of important stories to tell and there couldn't be a more committed person to tell them.

Photo credits: Flickr user Simon G


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