Mac and cheese

I have three young kids, so macaroni and cheese is a staple in our household. But the box drives me bonkers.

Mac_and_cheese

To open, push here.‘ Are there any more dreaded words for mac and cheese lovers? You know it isn’t going to work. You know you’re going to have to rip the entire top off the box, and yet you try it anyway, hoping against hope that this time the little cardboard button will work the way it’s supposed to. But of course it doesn’t and you have to rip it open with your bare claws, or use kitchen shears, or a chainsaw…

To open, push here‘ is a classic example of design getting in the way of purpose. I mean, let’s face it, the mac and cheese box only has three purposes:

  1. to entice us to buy it,
  2. to protect its contents while shipping, and
  3. to allow us access to its contents so we can eat them.

The box fulfills the first two functions pretty well, but fails miserably at the third.

Now, let’s extend this metaphor to our own technology (and other) initiatives in our schools. Like the mac and cheese box, what elements of our design and delivery get in the way of us achieving our purpose(s)? Lack of adequate training? Insufficient support? Failure to allocate appropriate time? Unreasonable expectations? As school leaders, if we don’t want our initiatives to fail (‘To open, push here‘), we have to attend to these issues if we want to get to the yummy goodness inside.

Is your school organization aligned to get the results it says it wants to achieve? If not, what’s getting in the way and what are you going to do about it?

13 Responses to “Mac and cheese”

  1. Is this post a joke? It far eclipses the meaning of the phrase ‘dangerously irrelevant’. What value does it offer?

  2. I, for one, enjoyed the levity in this post and found the message very relevant to my work. I have a few thoughts of my own posted at: http://snipurl.com/1bhvg

  3. LJL, my cute mac and cheese analogy aside, the hard truth is that most school (and other) organizations have processes, structures, and belief systems in place that get in the way of the results they say they want to achieve. This post was intended to be a reminder to clear the path for any technology or other initiatives that are being implemented. Of course this is easily said, but not so easily done.

    Sorry you didn’t find any value in this post. Maybe next time!

  4. LJL is completely wrong… great post today. Our school district struggles with the minutia of technology breaking down which burns people from using it in the future.

    For example, our laptop cart is not recharging the laptops properly. Several teachers have had lessons that fell apart because they were unable to get them working. One of them already suggested she will not try them again! She is taking at least a year hiatus from using them in her classroom….

    Why can’t we just open the box easier? I hate that box… just push here… please… if it was just that easy sometimes!

  5. And here all this time I thought it was just me that had trouble with the Mac and Cheese box. I thought it was some kind of personal failing, something I was doing wrong.

    I wonder how many of our teachers – and students – think the same thing about their “failings” in teaching and learning?

  6. Scott,
    I think this is a great post! By the way, Kraft has come out with a new version of their M & C that you add water to and pop in the microwave. It does taste similar to the box version, but it is just not the same thing.

    So let’s extend your metaphor a little bit. Learning to integrate technology into instruction takes work and effort, just like opening and cooking the box version takes a little more work and preparation.

    Unfortunately, there are educators who want only the “microwave” version of how to teach new technologies. They want quick and simple instructions, and they want to “eat” the food right away with out the added effort. To do it right (to make it taste great) we need valuable inservice and training time, we need role models showing others how to do it, and we need to push teachers to change, without speeding them through the process.
    – Dave

  7. Hi Scott,

    Just have to give you a real mac and cheese tip – I use the pointy end of a letter opener to do the ‘push’ part of the process. It makes the whole things easier.

    As for technology implimentation – when you are in the classroom and its got to work becuase your 28 grade threes will be hanging from the ceiling and you had to work through your recess to set up the digital projector but it won’t work without access to the network and for some reason when you disconnect the desktop and reconnect the laptop something is quite right and then your principal bawls you out for missing your recess supervision, leaving him alone on the playground…it didn’t stop me from using the technology but I am committed to the process and I have had the joy of teaching part-time in the last few years. I know others who simply don’t want to add that kind of stress to already busy days.

    I believe that is what the teacher librarian position is evloving to be, the person teachers can go to when the technology is new and daunting and they aren’t ready to tackle it alone.

    I can’t wait!

  8. Hmm, I thought the analogy was clear and offered value. The visual support was also great. This is both a higher level version of the sort of analogies that I’m supposed to teach my students, and a great comment on what either our education systems, or we ourselves may be missing in our instruction to students (not to mention communitation to parents).

    On the second, this is very germane because I’m doing parent conferences now so thank you.

    On the first, if we can’t understand analogies used to make an analytical point, how can we teach them to our students, hmmm?

  9. I disagree with your take on Mac & Cheese (http://www.wbir.com/news/archive.aspx?storyid=30155), but agree there are things that schools do that inhibit teachers from using technology effectively. I agree with Meech that technology needs to be made easier. The teacher who eschews computers for a year because a day of instruction is more the norm than an aberration. I don’t think teachers need more training, I think they need computers that work (http://learn.occ.utk.edu/node/14).

    I set up some Linux terminal servers in a school, regretting that I didn’t have time to do “proper” training. The computers work. They’re easy to use. Kids use them every day. And you know that hippie who always refused to fool with computers? He’s the biggest fan.

    Dave Sherman: I agree that microwaved manufactured food is no substitute for the real thing, but arguing that the only technology worth using is that which requires lots of training to be able to use effectively is just wrong, and, worse, gives us geeks a bad name. Millions of people don’t blog every day because they got the appropriate training; they do so because THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO GET TRAINED.

    Here are some quotes to ponder: “People who don’t know how to overhaul a transmission just shouldn’t be allowed to drive.”

    “To be any good at desktop publishing, you really have to tweak the Postscript code by hand.”

  10. Michael Beresford Reply March 1, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I think you are missing the point here. Education. Who taught the engineer that came up with this method of opening a box? Was the engineer last in his class? Did he miss a particularly important day in class because he has a hangover? What about peer review? If you are going to use technology, then make sure the instructions work before unleashing them on the masses.
    I couldn’t help agree that the box doesn’t work. I hate the box. Education is much the same way. I hated most of my education. I didn’t fit in the box. I wish I had of had a better education or at least someone that understood the way I thought or needed to learn. Now that I am older, I teach myself and learn more and try to share it with others. I am not a teacher, but I still teach. I’m closer to retirement than I am to starting a new carreer, but I worry about the new employees we hire. What were they taught and who taught them? How did they get here? How did they get here and not learn to turn on a computer? How do they open a box of Kraft dinner? I’m surprised they can feed themselves at all. The person that designed the boxes used by delivery companies was taught right. “Pull here to open.” It works. Lets find that person and find out how they did that. Lets find out where they were educated, and who taught them. Lets emulate the teachers who taught that person to design something that works. They did something right. Lets not miss the point here. It’s not the box. It’s the person who designed the box and the history behind that individual. It’s a little more encompassing than a box. The box is the warning sign, and the fact that Kraft hasn’t changed the box is even more scary. I hope the other box designers can have some influence.
    It has been my experience that you must continuosly improve upon your lot in life, educate yourself, keep connected, stay focused and persevere. Anything less is unacceptable. What is getting in the way? You yourself are in the way if you are not doing this. I am astounded at some of the comments in this blog. “I don’t think teachers need more training, I think they need computers that work”? If you can’t get over that, or the fact that someone won’t train you, we are lost. If you can’t own (the responsibility) or get yourself trained, please back away from the children and stop pretending to train them.

  11. I too always thought I was the only one who had trouble with the mac and cheese box, and I agree with the comment above (Scott Meech) that many students and teachers think they are alone as well. The thing is that I still open the box, just my way…but I don’t think that is the answer. In my classroom I attempt to have several methods to open “the box” (whatever topic I am teaching), but I believe there will always be someone that I miss, or some obvious method that I never thought of. Continual and valuable professional development, whether it is in the form of formal district training or reading blogs of other professionals, is crucial. Teachers need to be responsible to find the way to that knowledge that benefits them – without that, knowledge will not pass to as many students as we hope.

  12. Great analogy, Scott, and excellent connection to “fast food” Dave. So true that some teachers want to just get the requirement finished. Don’t we all have places in our lives where we do that? It’s our challenge as technology leaders to meet their resistance with a solution that engages them and buy into our excitement.

    P.S. I have a similar problem with those fridgepacks of soda?!

  13. Thoughts on mac

    As I logged into my Google Reader account this morning, I thought Scott may have been sleep-posting while on a hunger-induced midnight run to the kitchen, but I read the rest of his post and wanted to briefly throw out

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