Reputation Grade

Shelly Blake-Plock mentioned me in his blog at TeachPaperless earlier this week.

Almost instantly I doubled the number of daily visits my blog received. And unlike the usual event where I get a single boost to my site for a day to read a single post, I suddenly had a hundred visitors a day for three days.

If this were a student blog, how would I grade this?

I mean, it’s not like the student did anything differently.  He’s just writing, after all.  He’s just producing content.  It’s the link, the mention, in someone else’s blog that led to my student getting all the attention.  And schools have literary magazines for that, don’t they?

Don’t they?

Well, the truth is… our literary magazine has languished for a few years. We did not have the budget for it, it was hard to get kids to submit work to it, and it did not get much notice when it came out. For weeks after, the school would be littered with abandoned, torn, half-destroyed copies.  Alas.

But consider what a bunch of regular readers means — as I’ve said before, it makes me more likely to post regularly.  It makes me want to keep and hold the attention of the readers I’ve got, and make them want to pass my words on to others.  I want to write stickily, in the sense that I want what I write to stay with you and make you think about the nature of teaching and of learning.

But more than that… Shelly’s vote of confidence translated into an endorsement of my writing skils, and my thinking skills.  And about fifty people agreed with him, right away.  Three or five or ten years from now, hundreds of people thinking that sort of thing may translate into a book deal for me, or some magazine articles, or the chance to be a principal of a school, or … well, the possibilities are all just possibilities.

For a student, it’s no different.  Assume I was a student:  I wouldn’t have gotten Shelly to read anything by me if I hadn’t met him at NECC, if I didn’t comment on his blog, if I didn’t read his words regularly and let his thinking inflect and inform mine.  Shelly wouldn’t have endorsed me if he didn’t think I had something worth saying.  And I wouldn’t have a worldwide audience without the writing practice, without the reading practice, and without the connectivity practice.

Think about it: if I were grading this student, I’d have to acknowledge that this student did work beyond the core assignment; that he read outside the assigned reading; that he consulted with other experts; and that other experts endorsed his work as of sufficient quality to cite as a source for their own work.

That’s got to be worth more than “just a B+”.  Doesn’t it?

So then the questions become: what does a reputation grade look like? How do you assess it?  How do you note it in a gradebook? How much does it count for? What data is used to determine it?

We tend to think of digital technologies as clean, just all ones and zeroes. Of course, the tech itself IS clean.  But the effect that it has on our profession is such that it’s no wonder so many of our colleagues want to hide from it.   The world of digital learning is messy, and it doesn’t fit into orderly categories.

But none of it WILL fit into orderly categories until we experiment and play with it, and determine what’s useful and empowering data, and what isn’t.  But you can’t know until you try.

Liked it? Take a second to support Andrew on Patreon!


  1. Once you find those orderly categories, use them instead of arbitrary letters and +/-‘s.

    I can’t wait until we’re done with grades. Your connections are how we know your reputation. Shelly linking you is part of your reputation. The RTs this post gets are part….you get it.

    I know some people grade the actual blogs of students, but that just doesn’t make any sense to me. The blog is just a repository for student products. It’s your content that Shelly digs. Your blog just happens to host it.

  2. Interesting perspective, Andrew. I would argue that including grades in this conversation misses the point. You do not blog for a “grade” or for pay for that matter.

    I am guessing that the reason that you blog is for the connection that you get from your readers (at least that is why I blog). I have my students blogging right now. When I was the only one reading (and grading) them it was just another boring school assignment.

    We have signed up to comments4kids wiki and now we have people commenting on the blogs from around the world. My students are answering their comments and writing more posts without me assigning anything or grading anything. They are writing because they are getting the authentic, intrinsic reward of audience. That is the true reward of blogging-connecting with your readers.

  3. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night. I always revert back to the feeling that the grade will likely take care of itself. As a teacher, I am not interested in the following or the number of followers that a student may or may not have. I am much more interested in the thought and effort put into the work above all else. But then again…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.