Awards, prize, polls and virtual pats on the back

2013 was the tenth year of the annual Edublog awards and when I began this post (in December) voting had just opened for nominees. I remember when the awards started, back in the day when it was just about conceivable to regularly read all of the major edublogs, and I also remember being thrilled when my podcasting blog (now defunct) was short-listed for an Edublog award in 2005. Then, the awards were generally embraced by the educational blogging community as a way of recognising and highlighting the ground-breaking work that educational bloggers were doing. Blogging wasn't the mature form it seems to be now, and it was both exciting and necessary for the edublogging community to have something that brought us together and which drew attention to what individual edubloggers were doing.

This year, as in the past, the awards have attracted both valid criticism, but also cynicism and cheap jokes from a growing number of people. This is a wave that has been growing for some time. Back in 2008, Dave Cormier criticised the awards for the following reasons:
  • Fostering competition rather than collaboration and co-operation
  • They are promoted by people with vested interests
  • It's very easy to rig them
The main criticism of this type of award is that it is little more than a popularity contest, but I suppose this is true of many awards. It is probably true to say that there is no awards system which is not flawed. It would be fairer to judge it another way, maybe. A group of experts selected by the awards, perhaps using the Delphi Method? This is the way the winners of the British Council ELTon awards are decided and the identities of the judges are kept secret. But, then who selects the judges? Generally, past winners of the awards, along with ELT luminaries and British Council staff are are invited to be the judges (as far as I can tell).

However winners are decided, it is certainly a thrill to be nominated, and even more so to win an award. I remember being very excited when Digital Play was nominated for an ELTon in 2011, and it was totally unexpected honour when the book won - I really did not expect it (which was why I was in the Gent's loo when we were called up to accept the award and to make a speech). My second book, Language Learning with Technology (CUP, 2013) has just been awarded the English Speaking Union's HRH Duke of Edinburgh Award, and I have rearranged my travel plans to make sure I can attend the ceremony on 25th February. One of the reasons it is important is it makes you feel it all worth the effort. Methodology books never sell enough copies to make you feel the enormous amount of time and effort that you have invested in the writing and editing was worthwhile, so you have to find other reasons to justify the time you spent on them. Winning an award is recognition that you spent your time well, as is reading a review of the book and hearing from colleagues and friends that they are using the ideas in the book.

Writing a blog and sharing your thoughts, ideas and reflective practice can also be hard if nobody drops by to comment - if you feel there's an audience out there reading and appreciating what you write, however, then it feels that all is worthwhile. If nothing else, initiatives such as the Edublog awards encourage readers to blogs and draw people's attention to blogs they may not have otherwise come across - I always make sure I check out the winning and short-listed blogs and so I'm firmly on the side of these virtual pats on the back.


  1. Anonymous6:15 am

    Too wary to leave my name, but just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog and how it has inspired me to write mine in a more professional manner. Keep the good work up!

  2. Thanks very much, Anonymous - this is great to hear


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