Are the leaders in the edublogosphere “zealots,” as Tim Holt suggests? Are people being intentionally “not invited to the buffet” of conversations out here? Tim poses some good, challenging questions in these posts. Here are a few thoughts. I’ll be curious to read what you think.


Ideas are what really matter in the edublogosphere. One of the most beautiful things about conversations here is that they are open to everyone with access to an Internet-connected computer. In face-to-face life, which is still certainly important, your first impression of someone is almost always based on superficial characteristics. You can’t just look at someone and immediately interface with their ideas, in the way you can in the blogosphere. There is an equalizing power to the written word of blogs which I find both affirming and empowering.

Diversity is very important to me. I value diversity of perspectives in conversations and diversity of experiences. Life is diverse, and I think one of the things which makes life most enjoyable is being able to experience rich diversity in multiple forms. While I value and cherish diversity, I am also aware of the importance of not over-emphasizing biological characteristics to the detriment of a needed egalitarian ethic: To treat people on the basis of their ideas and the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin or the creed they profess. A late civil rights leader for whom I have great respect also held that view.

It is not enough to just have ideas, however, in the context of the conversations and potential to influence others that Tim references in his post. People also need to have access to digital tools, specifically an Internet-connected computer. (Where access to sites like blogs are not blocked, I might add.) Tim asks in his post:

Does everyone have at least a fighting chance to get the technology?

Clearly the answer is “not everyone” in many contexts, and this is a reason for advocacy. OLPC is opening the eyes of many to these issues. Advocacy to empower EVERYONE with digital tools as well as guidance to use these tools constructively to further ethical ends is extremely important. Yes, the digital divide is still very real, but there are exciting signs of it narrowing (especially via mobile cellular devices) which offer promise. (Dr. Paul Resta shared some of these at SITE in March 2007.) There is still a lot of need for informed advocacy on the issue of access, however.

Tim’s posts are not just about bloggers and access, however, he’s also referencing leaders on the educational technology speaking circuit, I think. He asks:

So who is leading the charge for educational technology?

I agree with the idea that it would be great to have more leaders like David Warlick on the scene in different colors and flavors. But let’s not ignore the multitude of voices who ARE speaking out in the edublogosphere and elsewhere, and do come from diverse backgrounds. And, let’s not forget to give thanks for voices like David’s, which can fall like a draught of cool spring water on a desert of parched earth in many school districts. 🙂

Tim says we don’t have many female voices blogging and leading this charge for educational technology. He writes:

We have to start looking to our education population to develop the leaders that specific populations will respond to. If you think that young Hispanics from low-socioeconomic areas will respond well to middle aged white guys with lots of money, then you are fooling yourself. If you think they will respond to people like Marco, now your getting the drift. Teachers are the same. Lot’s of white MALES talking about how wonderful the connected world is to rooms of females don’t carry as much gravitas as a woman who can share her experiences in the male-dominated world of the web.

Again, I certainly support keeping the conversations open and inviting people from all contexts to the podium. I want to be wary, however, of creating categorized lists of people based on skin color or ethnic background. Someone asked me the other day what my ethnic background is. I am vaguely aware of the roots of some of my Western European ancestors, but frankly that geneology is not very important to me in my current season of life. As a North American, I suppose I fit that stereotype of looking to the present and the future much more than I look to the past. (Although I certainly consider myself a dedicated student of history.)

Ethnic backgrounds are much more tricky to define than a person’s sex. So let’s talk a moment about male versus female voices in the blogosphere. Why do there seem to be more male voices than female voices? I don’t know. That is a worthwhile question to consider. But in considering it, let’s again remember that IDEAS should matter more than the sex of the source, which can be considered for many purposes an accident of heredity like hair or eye color. Certainly being a woman or man gives a person a different perspective on many things in life. Facts of biology are not what I find to be most important or intriguing in conversations about learning, appropriate uses of digital technologies, school change, or other topics, however.

Tim mentions two women in his “short list” of edtech blogger leaders: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Vicki Davis. There are many, many more female voices (and male voices) in the blogosphere, however, than those listed by Tim and Brian Grenier. What other female bloggers immediately come to mind? I know if I share a “list” then I’ll undoubtedly leave many off, but here are several I either know or have had a conversation with via our blogs:

Cheryl Oakes
Jenn Wagner
Alice Barr
Cathy Nelson
Cheri Toledo
Mrs. Durff
Lani Ritter Hall
Cindy Lane
Sharon Peters
Kim Cofino
Lucy Gray
Sylvia Martinez
Rae Niles

With over 400 members of WOW2, clearly there are LOTS more I’m not listing and linking to here.

The issues of diversity, leadership, access to technology, and voices “invited to the buffet” which Tim raises in his posts are both important and thought provoking. In summary, I’ll go back to the original point I made about IDEAS. Whether these ideas are expressed by a man or a woman, by someone with brown hair or green hair, THE IDEAS are what are most important. The doors to conversations here in the edublogosphere, and the doors to leadership on local, regional, state, national and international levels for constructive school change, are open wider today than I think they ever have been before. Our responsibility is to keep inviting more people to walk through those doors, to share their ideas, mentor each other, and shape the conversations which will both change us and thereby empower us to help change our own contexts. The process of adaptive change in which we find ourselves in early 21st century schools is a challenging and long-term one. It is happening and will continue to happen, I am convinced, through the fuel of conversations and the power of IDEAS.

Thanks to Brian Grenier for bringing these posts to my attention. If you’ve read this far on this post, take a minute and complete Brian’s short survey he’s posted, to do some informal research about edublogger voices who have edtech advanced degrees. Hopefully my lack of one won’t exclude me from being added to or kept on your blogroll! 😉

Addition 6-18-2007: I’ve added a few more names and links to the above list. I apologize I am not including everyone I should…. this is challenging since I normally do not ask “which of these people I read, know and respect are “women”– I’m much more focused on the IDEAS of the person rather than their “wrapper.” Still, this is an important conversation, and I’m glad to be involved in it. Conversations change us, and I certainly have a lot to learn on many fronts. I don’t have all the answers.

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25 Responses to The conversation is open

  1. Vicki Davis says:

    Thank you for having this conversation about diversity in the edublogosphere and in online conferences. There are in fact, many women who are involved in the conversation — or perhaps I should say a growing number of women and others. I think it is important to intentionally reach out to them and encourage their participation in the conversation for although we try not to over emphasize race/ethnicity/gender — the fact is, people from differing backgrounds have differing viewpoints and it is that variety of viewpoints that is essential to our success in education.

    The thing about David as a leader — he reads a lot of diverse viewpoints (it seems) — so that makes him a bit different. I think perhaps the most important question is — how diverse is our own blogroll — are we reading people different from ourselves. Are we intentionally including those with differing viewpoints in the conversation.

  2. Vicki Davis says:

    I would also add another perspective — that of geographic diversity — Chrissy Hellyer from New Zealand is amazing, Jo McLeay from Australia, and Julie Linsday from Bangladesh (now Quatar) — I am also concerned about intentionally including geographic diversity in the conversations (and conferences) as well as gender diversity.

  3. Mrs. Durff says:

    Thank you for mentioning me and linking to my professional blog. It is an honor!
    Diversities in opinions and world views are what make the conversation interesting. Conversations with preservice teachers via social communities as well as inservice teachers via many means enrich the conversations. We all need to be conscious of this and intentionally include other paradigms. I would include Allanah King in Australia as well

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    I think your point about needing to look at our own blog reading, and work to read / listen to / learn from / interact with a diverse audience is a good one, Vicki. The international perspectives / global perspectives are vital as well. I see this as an ongoing need to broaden the conversations.

    I have been thinking some more about Tim Holt’s points about conference speakers, leadership, and white males. I will expand on this later in another post, but I have a quick response. I reject the idea that someone has to look like me or come from my same context/background in order to teach me, challenge me, or help me grow. I have been shaped to a large extent by the ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Paulo Freire, neither of whom share my ethnic background. Ideas matter, and we need to get beyond seeing people and making judgments about both them and the value of their ideas based on superficial things like skin color. As you point out, coming from different contexts gives us different perspectives, and that can make our conversations richer and more relevant– or horizon broadening. We need to encourage participation by a diverse array of people, but I don’t think we should perpetuate age-old practices of choosing to “see” someone (define them, whether at a conscious or subconscious level) by their ethnicity, sex, gender, etc. This is an important conversation to have and continue to have.

  5. Jennifer W says:

    HI Wes —

    See you in a week —

    In reference to your comment —
    “With over 400 members of WOW2, clearly there are LOTS more I’m not listing and linking to here.”

    Here is a link to our del.ici.ious hookup of all our blogging WOWsers — both male and female — (127 in all)

    And — I want to thank you for opening up awareness. The K12 conference is not the first to have a dominant male voice — in fact NECC last year is why I started WOW2 in the first place. And also know that I am not a Woman’s Libber at all — so be prepared to open doors and pull out my chair at NECC!!

    Cyber Hugs to you!
    Real Hug next week.

    Jennifer Wagner

  6. Noah Goodman says:

    I remember reading this story about a coach of a cheerleading squad who was lamenting about the fact that, although her school had a large percentage of minority students, her squad was entirely white. While she wanted to include the minority students, she wasn’t sure how to go about doing that, so she consulted a friend to see if they might have any insight about the situation.

    Her friend asked her how they went about recruiting. Whether there were posters with pictures of the squad and if so, whether those pictures had any minority students in them. She responded that yes, they did have pictures and no, those pictures didn’t have any minorities in them. So they went about creating a new campaign with pictures of a diverse group of kids.
    What happened? The next round of tryouts, the coach started to see minority students showing up. When she asked them why they hadn’t previously tried out, they answered that they had just assumed it was something only open to white students.

    Sometimes its not enough to just assume that we offer an open invitation to diversity in our conversations. Rather, we need to realize that inclusion may need to involve proactive engagement of underrepresented groups. We need to make it known that our goal is not to have this conversation controlled by white males, that not only do we value diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints, but we encourage it.

    That this conversation IS dominated largely by white males is a reflection of our society, a history of exclusion, and one of haves and have-nots. While the internet and computer technology do offer some very exciting opportunities for offering up new forms of democratic leveling, as Tim Holt states, “the world isn’t flat, its lumpy.”

    What is important to remember is that School 2.0 isn’t just about technology. Its about technology and society, and implicit to that is access to technology in society. School 2.0 may get us all excited and hold beautiful implications, but if our classrooms are still 1.0, or specific segments of our population go to school in classrooms that are still 1.0, then its just a dream.

    We need to recognize that we DO have an achievement gap in our society that is closely related to race, class, and gender. Of every 100 white kindergarten students 91 graduate from high school, 62 complete at least some college, and 30 get at least a bachelor’s degree. Compare that to Latino students where 62 graduate from high school, 29 complete at least some college, and 6 get at least a bachelor’s degree (source: US Bureau of Census, Current Population Reports, Educational Attainment in the United States; March 2000, Detailed Tables No. 2.)

    When segments of our population feel that the opportunities aren’t granted to them, or that those in power don’t speak for them, they are less likely to feel like they have a stake in society and that affects all of us (not to mention the fact that we should just want inclusion for inclusion’s sake).

    So we need to ask ourselves whether this is important to us, or even better (because I would assume/hope that all of us would answer yes) how important is it to us and why is it that this gap exists? Things are never black and white (no pun intended), and societal problems like this can never be boiled down to one factor, but we have to address the major root causes of this.

    Some might argue that this gap is the product of an inherently racist/sexist/classicist system, but I would argue (without discrediting the existence of these currents in our society) that a lot of the time it is much less malicious and rather the product of the fact that those who largely control our public agenda lack the personal experience of being excluded.

    If you read literature geared towards teaching in low-income/minority communities (and especially when the material is geared towards teachers that don’t share that background), there is much talk about being aware of any unconscious prejudices in dealing with the students (ie not expecting the same from the students as one might from students in a more wealthy [whiter] school district).

    I think this is very important. Each and everyone of us has a world view that is subjective. Our perceptions are based on our experiences, which in turn inform both our actions and our thoughts in ways that sometimes we recognize, but most of the times go undetected.

    A male teacher may not notice that he is excluding females from the discussion because he has never felt that exclusion and therefore is less sensitive to it (although unfortunately often times female teachers fall into the same pattern). A teacher in a wealthier district is likely to be more concerned about new collaborative techniques of School 2.0 at the expense of worrying about access to resources because that doesn’t play a significant part in the teacher’s immediate reality.

    While it is and should be ultimately about the ideas, if we don’t encourage diversity (and be proactive about it), the ideas that are on the table (or which ideas on the table get real attention) will be limited and we will all suffer from it.

    So I think we need to ask ourselves whether we’re throwing up recruiting posters with a bunch of white guys or whether we’re willing to take that extra step to change our tactics.

    Thanks for having this discussion, its important and something that I have noticed an unfortunate silence on.

  7. Tim says:

    Wes, Thanks for continuing the conversation on diversity of leadership.
    It is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, and I really started when Kevin Honeycutt started talking about how students are “disinvited.” I began to think that perhaps the teachers may be disinvited and that flows to the students.

    There are a lot of ways one could measure these type of things. It would be nice to pretend that the world of WEB 2.0 makes us all one color or colorless, but indeed that is not, and can never be the case.

    Your mention of MLK Jr. as an inspiration to you neglects to mention that he was a leader of the African American population long before the white community accepted him, (Mainly because he was not as threatening as say the Black Panther movement)

    Look at the keynote speakers to NECC: White guys.

    Look at the leadership of ISTE:

    Yes there are a few minorities, but dang, it looks pretty white bread to me.

    Look at the leadership of say, TCEA: White women and men ina state where 52% of the population is hispanic.

    I think this is very important.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

  8. Cheryl Oakes says:

    Since this is a conversation we will be sure there are changes. I think this conversation speaks to how inclusive we are in our words and conversations. I think this conversation is about opening doors not closing them. I think this conversation speaks to those of us who are “here”, wherever that is, and mandates that we bring along and include as many others as we can. I don’t think of myself as one who has a membership into an exclusive group, rather I think of myself as one who is encouraged by others and seeks to include more and more people. We are all part of the journey. Cheryl Oakes

  9. Alice Barr says:

    Thanks for the mention Wes. I agree with Cheryl that the conversation has to be about opening doors and including everyone. To be honest I never really thought about the ethnicity or the gender of a blogger. I read blogs for their insights, conversations, and professional development opportunities. The common agenda among them is improving teaching and learning using technology.

  10. Tim says:

    Actually, I think that if you say something like “you reject the notion that race has nothing to do with where you get your ideas from”, then you are discussing from your own POV, which happens to be WHITE MALE EDUCATED MIDDLE CLASS.

    How can the leadership of say, TCEA, discuss the needs of the Hispanic education community, when no one on the board is Hispanic?

    It would look like Mr Whitey telling me what to do. Sorry, but perception is reality.

    I am simply saying that not everyone is represented in the community of Web 2.0 in education.

  11. The OLPC is a waste of resources for many developing nations. Imagine what $100 million in investment toward infrastructure would create? The OLPC is a white elephant – a well marketed white elephant, but a white elephant nonetheless.

    There have been signs that the digital divide is decreasing, yes – but people reading those signs have failed to recognize Moore’s Law, and the fact that the digital divide is partly based on the reactivity of people to technological advance. The digital divide is not about the haves and have nots. It is about the rate of change of technology acquisition.

  12. “I am simply saying that not everyone is represented in the community of Web 2.0 in education.”

    Especially the students.

  13. Hi Wes,
    Martin Luther King, Jr. had more to say on what’s now called “affirmative action” — not just his famous line from the “I have a dream” speech. One of the articles cited in the Wikipedia article, “Misreading the Dream: The truth about Martin Luther King Jr. and Affirmative Action” ( ) provides further quotes from MLK Jr. on the subject.

    Personally, I feel it’s not as simple as declaring that everything should be equal from now on, and expecting hundreds, if not thosands of years of cultural, racial and gender inequalities to magically fade away. Yes, Ideas SHOULD be the only thing that matters, but it’s simply not true.

  14. Cheri Toledo says:


    Thanks for the link to my web – it’s an honor to be among those you listed. Like Alice, I read blogs never even thinking about the gender or ethnicity of the writer – I’m looking for the ideas, the tips and tricks, and the latest and greatest stuff that I can share with my students. That’s my focus, being up enough on best and bleeding edge practices so that I can try things out and keep my students up on it too.

    Hmmm, the common thread: my students – preservice and inservice teachers, even college faculty – and their students. Like you said, I don’t think about their skin or hair color, their social class, or level of education. I’m trying to effect a couple of generations toward smart choices with educational technology.

    Thanks for the conversation and thanks to everyone for their consideration.

  15. […] There’s been an interesting discussion going on in some educational technology blogs about women and minorities being left out of the discussion going on in the edu-blogosphere, and as leaders in educational technology. Tim Holt (Not Invited to the Buffet) explores the issue, as does Lucy Grey and Wes Fryer (The Conversation is Open) . […]

  16. I’m sure this is a great conversation with lots of gravitas and moral significance, and that my contribution, in spite of my exalted status at the buffet table–yeah, that’s me stuffing food in my pockets–will suffer as a result of this post but…here’s an invite to read….


    Take care,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

  17. Vicki Davis says:

    NO, Wes, I am not defined by my gender, bias, background but I am certainly shaped by it. Noah, your words are very true. WE do not understand others until we’ve walked in their shoes.

    And in the infancy of this great educational transformation — we must remember that appearances to outsiders are important. We have so many people that do not wish to see these transformations happen, that giving them additional reasons to ignore what needs to happen in education is precisely what we do not need to do.

    Leaders know what the right thing is to do and understand that appearances are important. While I do not consider the race/ethnicity/creed as I read people, I do look at my bloglines list as a whole and say, OK, am I including everyone that I should — am I missing a perspective? It is about perspective and including as many as possible so that we may make the best decisions possible.

    When you meet me at NECC (hopefully), you’ll see that like Jen, I too do not consider myself a “Women’s Libber” in fact with my views on marraige, many would consider me the opposite. But I will say this —

    I believe in the importance of intentionally including people. Reaching out to others intentionally. Looking at things and saying — are we welcoming to outsiders, do we make them “insiders,” do we listen to them, do we understand their unique perspective? Are we best representing what can happen in education if we learn to cooperate and reach INTENTIONALLY across gender, geographic, racial, and creed lines. And the intentionally is the operative word there.

    It is more than about conversations that happen here — of course we’re all included based on what we do — I comment and it is posted– it is also about conferences, it is about presentations, it is about F2F, it is about who is on your Skype list and email list — and in those cases, people are SELECTED — it is up to those in power who SELECT to pull from the diversity in the CONVERSATION to best represent this amazing transformation happening in education so that we can bring more people on board, not repel them.

    And often failure to choose to be diverse in these things, is in fact, a choice. One that such a movement in its infancy shouldn’t choose.

    I know Terry Freedman intentionally went through Coming of Age and included people. I also know that George Siemens planning the Future of Education intentionally worked to include a variety of people/genders/countries/organizations. I applaud them for that, it is something we all have to do.

    Diversity is not something that is going to be solved any time soon but it is important to have these conversations.

  18. Ric Murry says:

    Wes, Vicki, and Mrs. Durff,

    I have been reading the conversation here and elsewhere. One thing of interest to me has become the use of the word “intentional” (and it’s derivitives).

    First, no where in the conversation starter does Tim use the word “intentional.” You might assume it is being implied, but it is not used.

    Second, this is a conversation about discrimination. As Tim and Sylvia allude to in the comments above, though the word “discrimination” is not used either.

    My point is that there are many people, of all colors who believe that the worse type of prejudice is when one does not recognize they are offending. It is as if the prejudice is a part of a person’s nature, not their choices (or intention). Historically, these are the people one must guard against. Prejudice is committed without intent, but it is committed nonetheless. [Just a small addition to Noah’s comment]

    Vicki, I think, is trying to make the point that the edtech leaders must be (or become) intentionally diverse in their thinking, otherwise the buffet is going to be a North American, white, middle-aged, male feast. There may be a few who do not fall in this category, but why? Is it the intention of the buffet hosts to show that they will have “tokens” of diversity (as Miguel Guhlin called himself and Marco Torres elsewhere) so they cannot be considered elitist? Or is this done unintentionally as well?

    This conversation is needed for so many reasons. As David Warlick might say, “It’s not about the technology, it’s what the technology is allowing us to learn.”

    More thoughts on my blog forthcoming.

  19. On my very first blog post in November, I asked the question “Why there are so few ed tech bloggers that are women?” Bud Hunt directed me to WOW2. I applaud the efforts of Jen, Vicki, Sharon, and Cheryl, as I now feel more a part of the edtech blogging community. I feel that this conversation is important, and raising awareness of the issue is a good first step.

  20. […] Moving at the Speed of Creativity [Wesley Fryer] has a sound, sensible take on the issue. It is no wonder that his article generated such healthy discussion – and that discussion is necessary reading if you’re interested in this debate. Wesley includes: Again, I certainly support keeping the conversations open and inviting people from all contexts to the podium. I want to be wary, however, of creating categorized lists of people based on skin color or ethnic background. Someone asked me the other day what my ethnic background is. I am vaguely aware of the roots of some of my Western European ancestors, but frankly that geneology is not very important to me in my current season of life. As a North American, I suppose I fit that stereotype of looking to the present and the future much more than I look to the past. […]

  21. […] In the past few days, we have been challenged by Tim Holt and Wes Fryer to perhaps rethink some of our thoughts regarding who we read on our blogs?  I found it interesting to see, though I had not done it intentionally, that I was leaning toward the white-male-US voice.  (However, I do have international and female blogs — but predominantly white male!) […]

  22. […] Last week, I published a Blog entry that seemed to have touched a few nerves in the Education Blogosphere: “ Not Invited to the Buffet.” (Friday June 15) After Brian Grenier picked it up on his site and linked the message in that entry to the following entry, it gained some gravitas I suppose, because then it was discussed by Wes Fryer on his site. From there, the conversation took off in all directions. […]

  23. Miss Profe says:

    One’s perspective on the world is shaped by one’s experiences, and those experiences are informed by race and gender. Ideas are what connect us to each other, but to say things like, “I choose what I read for the ideas and not on the basis of race and gender” evades the point that Tim Holt is trying to make, which is that those in the edutech industry need to check themselves and their colleagues in order to determine if there is segregation and exclusion on the basis of race and gender going on. Perpetrating some sort of colorblind ideal and invoking Dr. King are not going to get people to engage in the dialogue in an honest way.

    BTW, Wes, race and gender are far from superficial, and that sort of moniker once again moves the discussion away from its authenticity: what roles do race and gender play in the edutech industry?

    Lastly, if we’re forming blog cliques by visiting the same blogs and not expanding beyond them, then what do we call that? Yes, shared interests connect us, but, does one really need to have 20+ edutech blogs on her blogroll? What is the diversity of ideas in that?

  24. JenniferW says:

    Grins — as one who has 20+ edtech blogs on her blogroll — I feel that it is necessary to respond to Miss Profe.

    Why I have 20 + EdTech blogs —
    #1 — it gives me something to dwell on each day since many of the blog writers do not write every day.
    #2 — each of the bloggers I read are involved in a variety of EdTech situations. If all of them were admin or teachers or IT, then perhaps it would seem redundant……..but my blogs both overlap in some ways and are quite different in others.
    #3 — It is a way to keep up with friends and people I respect. We travel in the same circles and I enjoy keeping an eye on their experiences.
    #4 — None of them live in the same state or locale, none of them teach the same students, none of them share the same admin, none of them have the same AUP, none of them teach the same way I do ………

    I feel that have 20+ Edtech blogs shows diversity in a MIGHTY way.


  25. Cathy Nelson says:

    Thanks for our mention in your writing too! (I say “us” because the SCASL Blog is being managed by five ladies including me.) I do believe it is my passion more so than theirs. But I also have to say that SCASL has a segment represented by men too, but I don’t know many in our organizations that seriously blog or follow blogs. I feel honored to get mentioned here, and didn’t realize i had until today (Friday, June 22). I’ve been busy at a conference geared towards K12 principals and administrators in SC–and yes, I did present about blogs and the power of blogging.

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