Every Kid a Publisher
Gary S. Stager
Curriculum Administrator Magazine November 1999
The ongoing Internet explosion has large corporations and publishers excited about future profits. While these companies work to deliver their products via the Internet, the media and publishing worlds may be rocked by an exciting revolution led by individuals.
Much has been written about the future of broadcasting versus narrowcasting. In the past, TV, radio, newspapers and books were profitable by reaching the largest possible audience. One can see the impact of the Internet on traditional broadcasting by looking at the exploding number of web sites designed to add value to television shows. Newspapers are expected to offer online editions.
Radio profits will explode when an available audience is no longer limited by geographic proximity. Wall Street is excited by the recently proposed CBS Viacom merger, not just because of the synergy created by owning a massive variety of content production and distribution, but because anyone in the world may now tune-in to a specific radio program.
Cable television, specialty
publications and the Internet have seen the rise of narrowcasting.
Narrowcasting succeeds because production and distribution is cheaper
than ever before. Advertising may now be targeted to specific demographic
groups. CNBC, Animal Planet and Bravo are good examples of narrowcasting.
Media convergence now possible due to the Internet makes possible
a multimedia "channel" where fans can listen to Howard Sterns radio show, watch his television program, discuss "the King of All Media" and
trade products and news about their favorite entertainer 24/7 anywhere
on the globe.
A multimedia studio in every garage
All of this captures the promise of the 500-channel landscape. I would like to suggest that we are really on the verge of the billion channel universe.
A recent C.A. article, WADIO, explained how low-cost streaming media now makes it possible for kids of all ages to produce and broadcast (or narrowcast) their radio and television programs. Small groups of students have been producing school radio and television programs since the 1960s, but their audience has always been limited. The net produces a potentially limitless audience for their creative expression. Audience is an incredibly important motivational factor in the learning process.
School newspapers have gone global too.
provides tools and free web space for any K-12 school newspaper. The
best stories are selected each week for the National Edition. U-Wire
is a cooperative online wire service for college newspapers. Bolt (www.bolt.com)
will publish articles banned by school newspapers and features all sorts
of activities for communities of teens.
MP3 technology is reinventing the way music is sold and provides unprecedented opportunities for local musicians to find an audience. Every garage band and school ensemble has a record deal thanks to the net, inexpensive CD-burners and MP3 compression.
So, what does this have to do with school?
Fred DIgnazio is fond of saying that "teachers are paper-trained." Schools love text. The textbook industry views the Internet as a vehicle for delivering customizable textbooks to schools to print locally or "beam" to kids personal computers thereby
reducing the cost of distribution. This
is a great example of how new technology is often used to perpetuate
an older one.
Textbooks are a nineteenth and twentieth century innovation designed to make teaching and learning uniform. A premium was placed on every student in the land being taught exactly the same thing in similar ways at similar times. The one-to-many information delivery model employed by textbook publishing may be in for a challenge in the new millennium.
The Internet offers opportunities for learners of all ages to deal with primary sources, whether they are documents, multimedia clips, books or live experts. Research is no longer limited to predigested summaries created by anonymous experts. Synthesis and higher-order understanding are possible when kids make sense of timely and abundantly available information themselves.
Rather than asking kids to
write dreaded book reports read by the teacher and student author
alone, enterprising educators can have kids post reviews of books
they have read on the web. These web pages may contain illustrations by the reader or streaming
audio narrations of the books themselves.
It only takes a few minutes for a teacher to sign-up to be an
affiliate for Amazon.com
or Barnes and Noble (www.bn.com)
and a class web site can sell the books reviewed
the students. Now, not only is every first grader a literary critic,
first grade classroom is a bookstore. The
profits from your web site may be used to purchase additional
books for the class library.
Online technical bookseller, Fatbrain.com,
has just announced ematter. Ematter will publish anything by any
author of any length on any topic. This was impossible for traditional
publishers who had to worry about printing, marketing, warehousing
and shipping costs. What you publish on ematter may be a book,
technical manual or poetry anthology, but it doesnt have
to be a text at all. Ematter will publish a graphic image, recording
of a speech or musical composition too. Any digital media will
Ten Tips for Online Publishing
Schools, teachers and students
are all potential publishers. Parents,
the local community and outside world may
be the audience for the ideas and information
you wish to communicate. Once you get comfortable
with sharing text-based documents online,
you can learn to create and publish multimedia
as well. Here are a few simple steps you
can take to get started.
1) Start now
Unless you have a support staff it
may be too time consuming to transform
all of your old paper documents from atoms
into bits. Commit to creating future documents
in web-friendly formats.
2) Archive later
Once you get the hang of web publishing
you may choose some of your classic documents
and publish them online.
3) Use a computer
All documents shared with students,
parents, administrators and the wider community
should be created in a word processor,
page layout program or web authoring tool.
Print the documents for conventional "delivery."
4) Export the documents in a web-friendly
Most document creation applications
allow you to export the document in HTML
format (the language of the web). Be aware
that fancy formatting and graphics integration
may suffer during this process of "dumbing
down" your document.
5) Exchange your documents
Use Adobe Acrobat Exchange (available
at significant academic discounts) to turn
your documents into PDF (portable document
format) files. PDF files maintain the formatting
of the original document and may printed
from a web browser or downloaded via the
6) Talk to your network administrator
As painful as this sounds you may benefit
from establishing a relationship with your
institution's network guru. Find out if
you have available web space for publishing
the documents created by you and your students.
7) Ignore your network administrator
The distributed nature of the web affords
all sorts of opportunities for free web
real-estate. If cooperation or communication
between you and the tech support folks
is impossible then find free web space
to suit your needs (http://www.stager.org/free.html
is a good place to start). 5 mb here. 20
mb there - all linked together can create
quite a large distributed web site. Your
home Internet Service Provider (ISP) may
already provide you with unused web space.
Here's the trickiest bit for most people
- getting your files uploaded to a web
server. Try saving all of your files in
one folder and uploading the folder at
once via an FTP program or the FTP features
in popular web publishing tools. Make sure
you type all of the account/server information
correctly. Try checking your links and
documents on a different computer just
to make sure everything worked properly.
Ask a buddy to run through your site too.
An extra set of eyes never hurts.
The web is public. Your published work
should meet professional standards of grammar,
spelling and punctuation. Use the web to
build support for your school. Avoid giving
critics of public education further ammunition.
10) Information wants to be free
Intranets are great for financial institutions
needing to keep billion dollar wire-transfers
secure. Little security is needed to protect
the secrecy of fifth grade writing assignments.
In most cases, consider making the work
of teachers and students public - even
mundane things like cafeteria menus and
homework assignments. Parents might want
to read them from home and other children
around the world might enjoy learning about
what goes on in your classroom.
Ematter stores the material, lists it in
a searchable index and keeps track of downloads. You maintain your copyright
and are not restricted from offering your creation in other forms elsewhere.
Marketing is the responsibility of the author. Just tell people where
they can find your work.
Oh, did I mention
that the creator of the intellectual property
is paid a fifty-percent royalty on every download
and that ematter processes credit card payments?
Say fifty-percent royalty to most authors and
be prepared to resuscitate them. Best of all,
the author may change, add to or update the
work at any time. Not only is every person
a potential publisher, but the work is no longer
dead on the printed page. "Books" no
longer have to sell for $25. They may cost
a buck or two.
Back to school
with terrific policy manuals or curriculum documents
can now share them with other communities without
the costs associated with filling orders, shipping
and duplication. Teachers with imaginative classroom
ideas can make those ideas available to other educators
in ways never before possible. You
no longer need a book contract or high
production values to disseminate great ideas. Recordings of school
concerts, plays and poetry readings can be made available to grandparents,
friends and the wider community into perpetuity. This makes the
business of school communication much more convenient.
And everyone gets paid for his or her
Every student paper, research project,
painting and literary magazine now has an authentic audience. Folks
across the globe may enjoy hearing stirring commencement addresses.
Best of all, this work is archived for future retrieval. Dont
just share your work with a teacher and classmates when the world
Perhaps students will have a digital
portfolio maintained on the ematter site where they can add work
as its created and improved over the course of their education.
Does this mean that students will be
selling term papers online? You betcha! This practice might actually
be encouraged some day soon if we shift away from a mindset relying
on end-of-the-term live-or-die term papers towards an evolving
cumulative body of individual and collaborative work. Ted Sizer
and the Coalition of Essential Schools suggest that students prepare
exhibitions of their knowledge. I suspect that many of you will
help lead this exciting transition.
Let us know about your schools
online publishing ventures and we will feature them in a future
Curriculum Administrator article.