So, this won’t make me rich?

The Learning Aloud site has been in operation for one year. I thought that some who follow this site may be interested in site activity. Learningaloud includes a blog, a microblog, a social bookmarking service, and a collection of content focused on educational uses of the participatory web (something like an ebook). Some of these services have not been available for the entire year. For example, the microblog has been in operation for 6 weeks.

I decided to move content off servers I operated at my university because I wanted to experiment with “monitizing” our content and it would be inappropriate to do so using university resources. There are costs to this transition. We now rent space on two commercial servers and utilize a couple more “pro” services. I estimate our annual expenses at approximately $225. As a hobby and for the time I spend on this hobby, this is pretty inexpensive.

So, I have added Google ads to these information resources. Originally, there was a Google ad on the front page of the blog. I later added ads to the individual pages because most viewers of my blog content locate posts as a result of search rather than via subscription. For example, I did a mini tutorial on Picasa3 that was viewed 68 times as an individual page. By the way, one of the negatives of moving my blog from its original address was that you lose your subscribers.

My primary interest in creating this “commercial” site was in experimenting with an alternative model of publishing. The commitment in writing an online book that also links to functioning demonstrations is significantly different than operating a blog. It seemed that adding ads to each page would be obnoxious so I included 3 transition pages (content directories) that included ads.

annualreport2009

So, the summary data for year one look like this – 12,261 page views (pages with an ad) that prompted 39 ad “clicks” generating $28.79. OK – I admit that I would not be a good investment.

Some specifics: Blog main page views (4731), microblog views (539), ebook content transition page views (2821), and other (blog individual page views and social bookmarking page views) (4171).

You can interpret this as you wish. One perspective – I would be money ahead to continue to use my on-campus servers (at least I would not lose money). What fun would that be? I could use free external services – the ads revenue would then go to the hosts, but I would not lose any money. Or, I could recognize that this is a hobby and understand that any revenue produced just keeps the costs down.

BTW – I have already paid the bills for next year.

Interpreting “Outliers”

Cindy and I have taken a couple of long trips in the car lately and I have used the time to listen to Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers. It is the kind of book that is interesting and invites interpretation and speculation.

The book consists of a series of stories that demonstrate that the reason individuals who we regard as extremely successful are so good at what they do is because circumstances have allowed them the opportunity to spend great amounts of time (10000 hours) on something. It is this combination of circumstance and time spent that greatly changes the odds of success.

The identification of what factors represent “circumstances” is what makes this book s0  fascinating. Circumstances range from birthdate in the example of successful Canadian hockey players to access to interactive coding opportunities when such opportunities were extremely rare (Bill Gates) to culture differences in how numbers are represented in language and the assumption that success requires personal commitment to lengthy periods of meaningful work (Asian success in mathematics).

One of the final chapters (chapter 7) considers the success of KIPP (Knowledge is Power). The analysis explains a major source of SES differences in academic performance as learning outside of the school day (summer and outside of school). In a way, KIPP intends to compensate for this difference by extending the school day, week, and year.

As a technology advocate, my tendency is to attempt to understand some of these factors within the environment I understand. Perhaps technology offers opportunities to extend the day, week, and year. This would require that ALL students have access outside of school and have the opportunity to use this access in meaningful ways. This reminds of the concern regarding high bandwidth access from home. 1:1 initiatives would be a start, but the most important applications would allow students to take the computers home and also keep them throughout the summer. Having a computer would be of limited value without Internet access. City wide wifi might be a solution in some situations. Finally, there is the problem of how access would be used. The KIPP expectations require intense activity (the descriptions from the book focus on math). I have less to say about the curriculum and I am not ruling out direct instruction, but I do note that the advantage of growing up in a family of means is not so much about formal instruction as it is about information rich activities (e.g., travel) and related discussion. Perhaps a place to begin would be to encourage a continued virtual connection to the school as a learning community through participatory web activities. Would a student with Internet access be able to find some interesting participatory activities during the month of July?