Tumblr: New home for Look to Learn

From “All Rights Reserved” to “ReBlog?”


When I first heard about Tumblr, I had little interest because I thought, “why do I need a more limited version of WordPress (of which I am a long time fan and user)?  Read this as “slow to get” emerging technologies or cautious in frittering away my and other educators’ limited time.  I’m hardly a “bandwagon” figure in the Ed Tech arena and am often a voice in the wilderness or ICT Cassandra sitting in my little Australian corner of the world (see The New WWW – Whatever, Whenever, Wherever).  But when I see a new tool or platform make teachers’ jobs easier and their students’ learning better – I can get pretty vociferous.  And now I “get” Tumblr – so WATCH OUT!

To get started use the detailed Tumblr Tutorial, but read on to see why this is so great.

A bit of background in case you’re even slower than me.  In a New York Times article Tumblr’s “media evangelist,” Mark Coatney, describes it as “a space in between Twitter and Facebook”  because it promotes minimal-click uploading and sharing of images, videos, audio clips and quotes in addition to Twitter’s short text bursts.  Like Twitter, Tumblr users also “Follow” other “tumblrs” which appear in the familiar “follow quilt” of icons in a member’s sidebar.  Like Facebook, Tumblr also promotes social networking.  Neither of these are a really big deal to me.  Here’s what is: Perhaps fear of missing out on “the next big thing” – and Tumblr’s popularity with the sought-after youth market – has prompted many media giants to post all or some of their content on their own Tumblr accounts. Big Media seems to go through split personality swings of protecting their content and joining in the Web sharing fun: at present, many major media players who publish significant images on their main “All Rights Reserved” Web sites also have Tumblr sites that share the same images.  At present this list includes Reuters, Time / Life, Newsweek, Aljazeera, The Guardian, PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio and The New Yorker (see the more extensive list below).  Why this is important to us – developers of learning?  In a word, “Reblog.”  When you are logged in to Tumblr and view content from another Tumblr site, all you have to do to transfer the content of the post to your site is click the “Reblog” icon in the top right corner (as seen on this screen grab from the Time Magazine Tumblr site).  This immediately opens your Tumblr dashboard, embeds the content, links back to the original source and enables you to add further text.  For me this means a Looking Prompt in order to turn plain old engaging rich media into a creative thinking activity that can shift the entire culture of a classroom, school and student’s life of learning.   To make this process even easier, I have created a Look to Learn Tumblr site as well as the Sample Prompts page from which you can copy / paste / edit some Thinking Routines straight into your reblog. While copying prompts or visiting the Look to Learn Tumblr site for posts to reblog, also explore the “Follow Quilt” for content providers you might be interested in.  The benefit of following is that each time you go to your Tumblr site, you’re welcomed with the latest content from those you follow.  At the first instance, it makes sense to follow the Look to Learn Tumblr site because it shares everything I’ve considered valuable from those I follow and to which I’ve appended an appropriate prompt.  This way, a steady stream of potential activities arrives directly to you for use in your classroom and that you can share with colleagues in your school and professional online network.  This is a perfect example of how – in the Digital Era – we can work smarter and simultaneously help students become smarter.

In summary, every so often a new tool comes along that positively changes how we can “work the Web for education.”  Before that tool we could do the work, but it took a few clicks too many to really make it part of our daily lives.  Tumblr is such a tool because with it we now have one platform that easily sources content, posts it and enables sharing and community.  Previously, this required email or RSS feeds, a blog and a social network.  For the keen among us, working across these three platforms was no barrier because we knew the real challenges we faced before even they existed when we had to scan images, write in HTML and disseminate through email lists.  What’s great about Tumblr is that it erases the obstacles so that all every teacher can not only participate, but create!

What about WordPress?

The incredible wealth of great content and the ease with which you can both discover and create new posts may make some consider switching to Tumblr as the preferred platform.  For me, no.  There’s a lot more I like to do with a Web space (see ClassPortals and WebQuests to name 2), but the advantages offered by Tumblr have prompted me to switch to it as the medium for the main Look to Learn Web site.  In just the past week I’ve increased my creation of new “L2L”s tenfold so the decision was easy.  I look forward to sharing this approach with participants in upcoming workshops.

Tumblr Archives (all of which allow Reblogging)

The list below are my favorite “Big Media” content providers with Tumblr accounts.  This means that every one of them allows – even encourages you – to embed their content in your own Tumblr stream.  Amazing how quickly things can change from “All Rights Reserved” to “Reblog.”

For Content on Current Events & What’s Buzzing Virally

The first link for each site goes to the account’s “archive” page that lets you see a thumbnail of their recent posts.  This way you can tell if you find the content valuable.  If you do, go to the “stream” and “Follow” the site once you are logged-in to your own Tumblr account.

For Fun

We’ll chat about how Pinterest figures in shortly.

As always, let me know what you think.