2011: A Retrospective of Me

(Cross-post at techgypsi.es)

audrey_greendragon2011 has been a phenomenal year for me, both personally and professionally. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

I began the year as a technology journalist, agitating for more and better and smarter coverage of education technology. And rather than just grouse and grumble, I finally took the steps necessary to provide just that. I quit writing at two major publications mid-year (this one and this one) so that I could focus (almost entirely) on education. I put a great deal of energy into Hack Education, trying to create the sort of site I'd want to read.

I can talk at length about the economics and politics of this decision: freelance employment and contractual, intellectual labor; self-employment and no benefits as a single mom; no "stake" in the company that your pen has created; whatever… It was a weird year for technology blogging, as Ben Parr rightly point outs. He would know; he (like a lot of us) quit.

And so what did we learn from all this? My lesson for the year: doing something, writing something that matters matters. Following your passions, writing your passions makes for more passionate writing obviously. But it also makes for smarter writing. Readers do notice. Readers do care. In the words of situationist Raoul Vaneigem,

"Ceux qui parlent de révolution et de lutte de classes sans se référer explicitement à la vie quotidienne, sans comprendre ce qu'il y a de subversif dans l'amour et de positif dans le refus des contraintes, ceux-là ont dans la bouche un cadavre."

(People who talk about revolution and struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, those that fixate on page views, those that sacrifice passion for stock options, those without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.)

Pretty sure that's what he said. Then again, my French is super-rusty. And it's been a while since I studied or translated situationist texts. Dissertation stuff, ya know.

Me, I did choke on the corpse this year and found that my writing flourished -- particularly at Hack Education -- when I spat out the gristle of tech blogging.

As such my work also appeared in a number of new places this year: O'Reilly Radar, Edutopia, Inside Higher Ed, e-Literate, and MindShift. I also helped my boyfriend edit and published a book. I began a weekly ed-tech podcast withSteve Hargadon, one of the people I have long admired in my field.

I spent the year on the Interwebz, true, but I accessed it from a lot of different locations, traveling as much as possible -- mostly between Eugene, Oregon and San Francisco. Strangely, I found myself frustrated with both cities -- the Ducks and the Valley -- and their vision of education, technology, community, accreditation, football, money, whiteness, privilege. I was happy to go/be elsewhere. In 2011 I went to: Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, New York City, Manhattan Beach, Berkeley, Lansing, Seattle, Portland, St. Louis, Washington DC, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Monica, Ashland Oregon, Cave Junction Oregon, Blue Hill Maine, Casper Wyoming.

Press!I attended the following conferences/events: Educon, Opencourseware Consortium's annual meeting (and MIT OCW's 10 year anniversary), THATCamp Great Lakes, ISTE 2011, LEGO Education STEM Roundtable, Google I/O, Strata NY, Where 2.0, Startup Weekend EDU (Seattle, SFx2, and DC), Startup Weekend Philly, RWW2Way, Imagine Cup Finals, OSCON, Glue, Maker Faire, Web 2.0 Expo, ASCD, Launch Conference. I got a press pass to hear the President speak.

I saw the following bands: Deer Tick, Widespread Panic, Janes Addiction (at Google I/O no less). (Wait. What. the. Fuck. That's it?! I worked way too hard this year.)

I won an award! Media Predicts. I was nominated for an Edublog award and MindShift was nominated for an ONA award. I also hit Techmeme and the front page of Reddit for the first time with Hack Education -- no, those are not awards per se. But the Internet voted. And I won. (Except when my site was unreachable due to traffic; then I lost).

I turned 40 this year. And that's an odd thing in a culture that really privileges youth -- "don't trust anyone over 30" is no longer just a hippie maxim. (See: The Higher Ed Bubble.)

And with that, thank you, Steve Jobs, for countering the prevailing notion in Silicon Valley that younger is necessarily better. Thanks for demonstrating that you can be your most creative after 40. Thanks too for arguing that the "intersection of technology and the humanities" matters -- with all the emphasis on science and engineering, we neglect art, creativity and beauty.

I won't lie: my heart broke a little when Steve Jobs died this year. It broke for all the beautiful technology today and all the touch points Apple (and Pixar) provided throughout my life (the Apple IIe, the iPod, the iPhone and so on).

My heart also broke because I fucking hate cancer. I have watched Steve Jobs become skeletal over the past few years, and I've recognized the symptoms: liver and pancreatic cancer. I've seen its devastation before.

DiplomaOn that note, Isaiah graduated high school this year. Considering everything that he and I have been through over the course of the last 6 years, holy shit, this was a huge accomplishment. I am infinitely proud of my kid, and I'm excited to watch what he decides to do -- now, as an 18 year old, sure, as well as in the future. Right now, it's not college. (Again, see: The Higher Ed Bubble.)

My education and his education: this colors most everything that I do or say or write about our education system at both the K-12 and the college level. That's my big disclosure, I guess -- in a year of very odd tech blogger disclosures.

With all the hullaballoo that comes with that, I'm grateful that I was able to cultivate a strong readership this year. And I'm very grateful that Tina Barseghian was one of my readers. When she offered me the opportunity to write for KQED MindShift (an NPR blog on how technology is shaping how we learn), she was the first person -- other than my boyfriend -- to really validate my writing about ed-tech. Bonus: she paid me to do so.

And ah, the boyfriend. Without Kin, very little of this would be possible. He supported me with the tech and the travel. He put up with my demands for burgers and beer. He's been the best possible travel companion and intellectual sparring partner. He understands what it's like to be from a small town, and he moves with the same determined hustle that I do to make it big and -- and this is crucial -- to make change. I feel like I've really started doing both with my writing this year.

And with that, I can't wait for 2012...


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