But! … Don’t Screw Up!

I’ve mentioned before here that I would be doing a better job overall if instead of being somewhat the “Lone Ranger” in my school district doing project-based learning with access to laptops for every student and many others pieces of technology, there were others involved to network with and plan with and mainly get feedback from.

I get great support from the teachers and others I network with around the country and world, but that’s not the same as having others taking the journey with you that deal with the same parameters and policies you do.

I love what I am doing and we have been getting lots of attention and kudos for what we are doing, but with that comes a sense of responsibility that on the one hand helps motivate you and pump you up, but on the other hand makes it hard to say NO to trying things and taking on everything that comes your way.

Lisa Parisi ranted and unloaded about her recent frustration under the weight of trying to make the case for changing how schools work and being a change agent in her school district.

I’ve had several conversations recently about this very subject including one with Lisa, Kim Cofino, Kevin Honeycutt, and Ginger Lewman on Lisa’s “Teachers are Talking” online show on EdTech Talk. The gist of those conversations is this:

Education needs to change! Schools and teachers need to see the value of trying new ways and incorporating new tools in their classrooms.


You! Yes you! have some experience with doing that … and you are excited and maybe passionate about it and at least somewhat articulate … you’ve had some great successes doing that in fact, so we need you to keep on doing new things and using new tools and innovating in new and innovative ways because so few teachers have access and knowledge and experience with these new ways and tools that you will be a beacon that helps guide them!

BUT! … Don’t screw up! Or you will cause others that don’t even know what tools are out there yet to lose access to those tools because of YOUR one bad experience …

BUT keep using these tools and methods yourself in “cutting edge” ways so that people take note and others will see the value in using them and maybe even try or think about trying themselves …

BUT if you screw up that will be a message to them not to try or someone might get in trouble … 

BUT making these tools available is very valuable to students who will be left behind if they don’t have access and that will be on your neck for not using them and showing others “the way” …

BUT if even one student does something inappropriate that might mean you’re out of a job and other teachers will be blocked from using these powerful tools … 

BUT it will also be on your neck if you have the knowledge, and the tools, and the ability to use them so that your students can be all they can be, and have a chance to make it in this evermore networked world where not having a network is probably going to be a problem, and you choose not to because you are afraid or don’t want to sacrifice the time …

BUT you need to be the example of how to do these things as safely as possible …

BUT remember bad things can happen out there if your kids network with the wrong people … even by accident … and that will be on your back …

BUT you also need to make yourself available to present to other teachers, and administrators, and parents, and media, and the school board, and state administration, and politicians, on your time, usually for free, to give the examples and make the case so others can follow your lead …

BUT you take the chance of alienating people on your own staff and in your own district and called a glory-hog for getting all this attention and creating a stir …
BUT if you don’t bring attention to what you are doing then… You get the idea.

Learning is messy!

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8 Responses to But! … Don’t Screw Up!

  1. mrsdurff says:

    This Lone Ranger is starting to use more and more project based learning in traditional courses and the engagement of students is enough to sell me. The disconnect is the curriculum that still demands individual work and in some cases paper tests. This is not the future, why are we preparing learners in this way? I gave a test on Friday-they had to find and communicate with their group online. Yes that was the test. They possess the tools, they knew the class blog of the students in their group, they were familiar with wikispaces, & they met the others online in a videoconference. I just don’t like paper. I probably will use multiple choice or yes-no answers for the final survey completed on cellphones. Yeah, I’m a Lone Ranger….where is that Tonto (how does one spell that name?

  2. Lisa Parisi says:

    Great post! I think you brought out the point well in the conversation during my show…screw up and everyone loses. It’s a difficult position to be in when you are the Lone Ranger. But, we must keep going and keep trying to get others on-board. There is strength in numbers.

    And, Durff, I’ll be your Tonto any day!

  3. Chad L. says:

    What you say is very valid. When trying new things, there are risks involved- perhaps the lesson won’t turn out as well. Perhaps the tech doesn’t work as well as you’d like or there are some other unexpected obstacles – no matter what happens, good or bad – it all falls on you. Your comment about one student doing something inappropriate is on the money. You could have everything planned our perfectly, have all of your bases covered, only to have one student do something unexpected and ruin it for all. I guess we have to decide if it’s worth the risk – I say yes!

  4. John Howell says:

    It is a tight rope we are walking rather than a sturdy bridge, but I gather in times of great change there are risks involved. You are blazing a path into the Wild West with many other great educators as well, unfortunately some will falter. However, it’s all worth it because there are great lands to discover and new territory to develop. So I say, let’s keep on keepin’ on and in the words of David Crosby, “Let our Freak Flags Fly,” and others will indeed follow.

  5. Louise Maine says:

    It is a tough and lonely place to be…out there on the front…Some people will still listen to what I have to say but far too many are skeptical. I feel that I am out there on my own and they are just waiting for it to fail. I am sorry to hear others who are in that same place (though I do not feel it is just me).

  6. I don’t know if we are the Lone Ranger or Christopher Colombus. It seems that many people who are pushing for change are really trying to convince that others that the world is not as they perceive it to be and, will bring great riches to those who are willing to explore. You’re right about doing it alone, messing up and being on the “edge” whether it’s the edge of new ideas or the edge of employment!

    As an administrator, I am more convinced that the time will soon arrive when we will not be able to ignore the possibilities. At this point, we are still using the same curricula and same standards to measure students who need a new curricula and new standards. This isn’t because we don’t want students to know about such things as history or confederation or immigration or …. but we have new ways of learning about them and new tools to use so students can gather information and create their own response to the questions we ask. Teachers need to be able to change their way of doing things. Actually, not all teachers. Many primary and elementary teachers need very little change. In fact, they probably need a little assistance in organizing or setting up the technology but their methods of learning and teaching strategies are very condusive to the introduction of technology. No, it is the middle years and high school teacher who needs the greatest shakeup. To move from constantly dispensing the knowledge to asking the right questions and helping the students find the answers. They can do it in the primary grades but somehow it changes and by the time high school rolls around, they are not looking for answers but waiting to be told what to do. They come in learners but go out test-takers.
    It’s not the curricula, which I hear most often, but the strategies used to access the information. If you use the textbook and don’t go beyond with anything else, you’re assuring that students will get but one point of view and will not be able to question or explore any other tangent ideas. You may get through the curriculum but at what cost? We need highschool classrooms that look like elementary classrooms where students are excited and into the learning that is going on, participating and exploring and challenging themselves and their peers. The technology is but a tool and schools must be willing to reshape their learning capacity.

  7. Kim Cofino says:

    I wonder if some of the stress of being this type of pioneer could be relieved by having a clear and detailed Acceptable Use Policy – even if you have to design one that’s just for your class (and get administrator approval) combined with parent education to ensure that if anything does go “wrong” the parents of those students are confident that they not only understand what you’re doing in class, but that they agree that this is the right thing for their children to be doing.

    Personally, I like to think of mistakes and failures as an opportunity to learn, but I certainly understand the risks at stake, especially in the US. I consider myself very fortunate to work in a very supportive international school, but am always conscious of the need to “protect my investment” so-to-speak. Sadly failures do tend to speak louder than successes and if we are not working in a culture where it’s OK to fail, we do end up putting everything on the line. It’s a Catch 22.

  8. Mark Ahlness says:

    Brian, thanks for sharing this. I have felt some of what you describe – but not nearly as much. It takes some pretty broad shoulders to carry the weight you do. Thanks for leading so well! – Mark

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