Tim has a post about the goodness of the “Long Tail,” but as I read it I was thinking about how it highlights the issues from yesterday’s post. He says:

So letís bring this back to the world of educational technology. The most obvious point is that there are a lot of great thinkers out there blogging and working in the long tail. If you restrict your students to using a traditional textbook they will never find the gems out there in the tail where so many fresh perspectives and new ideas can be found. We donít need to wait for information to show up in dead tree form anymore.

True, but it’s more complicated than that. Here’s the problem. If we are going to help teachers see blogs as “research safe,” we’re going to have to give them some tools by which to assess those blogs. Right now, I would teach teachers and students that they should

  • try to find out who the blogger is, what her profession is, what her specific title is, what her background is etc., and in doing so attempt to establish her expertise on the topic. I’d also ask them to try to verify the background that might be listed on the site.
  • find out who is linking to the site by using Google or Technorati (or others) and try to establish the authority and/or bias that might be present in the ideas. (This process obviously needs much more detail.)
  • spend some time reading a range of posts from the site in an attempt to discern the scope of ideas presented.
  • spend some time looking at the comments and commentors to ascertain the types of readers the site may have.

    Each of these methods needs to be fleshed out much more…there could be rubrics that we establish for each. And even with such standards, the weight we give these catagories may differ depending on the circumstance. But the general point is that many very reputable blogs written by reputable authors that currently live in the “long tail” probably would not rise to any type of standards that we might create.

    Back in the old days, you found a byline on a dead tree, you found a source. Not so easy these days.

    UPDATE: I should also have linked to Stephen Downes’ essay on the topic from last month. Ultimately, much of this comes down to trust, but unfortunately, trust is not tangible enough for many teachers to accept a source as “research safe.”