Sometimes you hit a home run, sometimes you strike out

As a blogger, it’s sometimes hard to anticipate how folks will react to your content. If you’re striving to reach and dialogue with others, hopefully your blogging is of value to them and your audience and interactions grow. Occasionally, of course, what you write will strike a wrong chord or turn off your readers. All you can do then is keep plugging away and hope that what you write next will resonate better with your community.

My slide of the other day is a good example of this. I got almost universal (and quite visceral) pushback on it, which meant that folks weren’t buying what I was selling, particularly since my language for the slide was a bit over the top. That’s okay; I’m not going to hit one out of the park with every post. I still appreciated the dialogue and the opportunity to further explain some of my thinking in the comments discussion. It may that I’m completely wrong on this one, or that I’m the only one willing to take this stance. It wouldn’t be the first time and probably won’t be the last.

I am extremely grateful for the community that revolves around this blog. The dialogue, affirmation, concurrence, feedback, pushback, and downright disagreement that occur here are very valuable for my own thinking and bring out a variety of viewpoints that I never could provide on my own. I hope all of you will keep sharing your thoughts and feelings about the things that I write. I believe that we all benefit from the conversation.

I tell people who are considering putting themselves out there into the blogosphere that they will need a thick skin. Just like corporations, government officials, or celebrities, we bloggers must be prepared for public criticism. Sometimes it stings; no one likes to be labeled as unwise or ‘dangerously innumerate’ or ‘ho hum.’ But I think you have to embrace the criticism as feedback. Universal affirmation doesn’t foster growth.

So thank you, Kate Nowak, for your extremely thoughtful post about how you feel about this blog. I’ll be thinking about what you wrote for a very long time, I promise (and I hope that someday we get to talk with each other). You’re correct that I sometimes use overly strong language to push for schools to move in what I believe are needed directions. And sometimes, as you point out, my stance is simply too one-sided or ‘out there,’ partly because I’m a pretty strong believer in this dialectic (can I blame it on my law school training?):


I don’t claim to know the truth on all of this ‘what should the future of schools be?’ stuff. But I do feel that together we can figure it out and make it happen in ways that work for the benefit of students and society.

Many (most?) school leaders are running on autopilot in the sense that they rarely think about how the day-to-day decisions that they make get in the way of doing what’s necessary to create schools that are relevant for a digital, global age. Every day they do things that reinforce and strengthen the status quo rather than build the new, necessary educational paradigm. My writing on this blog is meant to shake things up a bit, to stir the pot and hopefully get folks to at least THINK a bit about their actions and decisions. I try as often as I can to be aggressively skeptical, not just willfully ignorant. Usually it seems to work; sometimes it doesn’t. I do know, however, that we’re never going to get to where we need to be if we don’t push the envelope with both our actions and our rhetoric.

Right now most of our schools are ‘dangerously irrelevant’ to the current and future needs of our students. That’s why I continue to push on the existing paradigm. I also work extremely hard on this blog and in other arenas to provide thoughtful (and thought-provoking), useful resources and training that help school leaders move themselves and their organizations forward. I hope that there will come a day when I and others are dangerously irrelevant, when half of the educational technology and school reform blogs disappear because there is no longer a need for us. Until that day occurs, however, I hope that we all will continue to read each other, share with each other, and critique each other so that we may collaboratively build the thought space that’s necessary to create the schools that our children and grandchildren deserve.

Thanks, everyone.


Photo credit: anthony selonke vi

18 Responses to “Sometimes you hit a home run, sometimes you strike out”

  1. One of Deming’s 14 points for change was to “drive out fear”. Being fired is fearful. Understanding consequences of the status quo is probably a better method albeit slower than using fear.

    How about a contest? Keep the idea, but re-word the slide.

  2. Okay, I’m in! Best rewording wins a slide remake and a CASTLE mug. Send to me at by August 22.

  3. Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Steve Jobs

  4. None of the tools you named allow you to program maps of your own worlds, or share with others. Where is the discussion of map design software for roleplayers, writers, landscapers, or terraformers of all ages? Heck, where IS nice map-making software accessible to kids and non-geeks in general? I want to get to that “creating” level, and so do kids, and right now, paper and pen is what they have in accessible map making tools.

  5. Oh, Lord, I never called you unwise, and I’m not just hiding behind semantics.

    Yes, your words can be a royal pain in the bollocks, and I think you box yourself in at times (as people with ideas will) but I come here to be provoked, to think. I rarely speak aloud of people I do not know, but you’re one of the few.

    If my words stung, I apologize–I wrestled with the word “unwise” because of its implications, but I did not mean to impugn you. I’m too old to waste time with fools. If I thought you were truly unwise, I’d’ve not seen your post today.

  6. How about: “This is the time of GIS, GPS, Google Earth, and Yahoo! Maps — Any administrator who isn’t working on spending public money to get these tools into our schools should be fired.”

    I just didn’t like the assumption in the slide that these educators had a choice, or that the digital tools are the only answers. I used Google Maps last year with my 4th/5th graders to plot the cross-county journey of characters in a series of novels. It was awesome. Our servers can’t handle Google Earth downloads, though. And there are so many different kinds of maps, that it would be silly to use only online ones.

    And I still like globes!

    Thanks for the food for thought, as always.

  7. “In a time of computerized technology, any teacher who isn’t doing a cost/benefit analysis of manipulatives used in their lessons needs to retire.”

    manipulatives = not the textbook

    This supports teachers who make conscious, well thought out decisions in their classroom and bashes those who automatically reach for the next newest shiny thing just because it isn’t something they are already bored with. Remember, teachers, to our students, each lesson is new and exciting. It is we who get bored teaching the same thing year after year.

  8. PS: As a digital native, I’m a huge proponent of the “teach naked” (as in no technology) movement. I think sometimes we lose The PointTM in the (technology) toys. Your students, also digital natives, don’t find the toys as endlessly fascinating as you do. I promise.

  9. As long as you’re getting us to keep thinking about what we’re doing, without going too over the top, is alright by me.

  10. I often wish I was teaching now because I may not have ever gotten into administration. I had internet, computers and the rest, but they were just tools.

    I have given my teachers an open invitation to change; the have the permission of the school board as they have approved a one-to-one initiative.

    But it IS hard. Scrap the whole native-immigrant metaphor as the new websites are new to everyone…yes we still are immigrants to the technology, but not how to use it.

    The kids are as clueless as we are…so the teachers ARE the experts again if they can dive in and learn how to use the hardware.

  11. We can’t let the thought of striking out prevent us from going up to bat and hit those home runs- even if sometimes our ball ends up landing in left field. Batter up!

  12. I agree with you that many schools today are running on autopilot. I think it comes down to the fact that running a school on a day to day operational basis doesn’t leave a lot of extra time in the regular workday to think about long-term strategy and many administrators aren’t in the frame of mind that says, “We set time aside out of our regular worktime to work on long-term strategy, until we know where we’re going.” It’s a side-effect of the demands of the day, and it’s not because it’s public sector. I worked in a dental office for a time where we never talked about strategy because we were too busy with the busywork. But if we don’t put in the time to think about long-term strategies, then we just fall behind more slowly every day.

  13. Scott,
    Why are you apologising for making people think? Getting a reaction means they are reading what you are saying and actually have an opinion. YAY, I say!
    Too often we live in a professional and intellectual echo chamber … all we ever hear is our own beliefs (biases, misconceptions, falsehoods and all) mirrored back at us. How many peoples blogrolls are simply what they already say and believe.
    I for one subscribe to you blog BECAUSE I don’t always agree with you. That’s the point. Makes me think about what I have always assumed, challenges me to be better and explore possibilities for the kids in our school. Thats my role as a principal!
    Professional learning is not simply about confirming what you already know, it is about challenging yourself with the new.
    No apologies are due … people should be thanking you. Tell them to lighten up a bit. The edu-blogosphere is full enough of intellectual lemmings already.

  14. “we’re never going to get to where we need to be if we don’t push the envelope with both our actions and our rhetoric.”

    Yes, indeed. Agreed. It seems the friction comes from reconciling what we know, or think, we should be doing for kids with the immediacy of facing 30 smiling faces in the morning armed with current systemic expectations and available resources. I’m interested in shining a light on the space between “I should be doing X” and “I can’t because I don’t have Y”. Working within the scope of my classroom teacher capabilities what can I do today, in the next year, in the next five years to shrink that space?

    “I hope that we all will continue to read each other, share with each other, and critique each other so that we may collaboratively build the thought space that’s necessary to create the schools that our children and grandchildren deserve.”

    Me too.

  15. Maria Droujkova asked “Heck, where IS nice map-making software accessible to kids and non-geeks in general?”

    One I’ve used very successfully with elementary school kids is Neighborhood Mapmaker from Tom Snyder Productions. (They also make wonderful simulations… Rain Forest Researchers is one.) My 2nd grade kids loved making maps on the computers– AND printing them out, hanging them around the room, comparing them, and taking them home. My own 35-year-old son still has his huge plastic bin full of maps, from the souvenir maps of Disneyland to his Great Grandpa’s post-WWI maps of Europe, full of places that no longer exist. These treasures stretched his mind, gave him a sense of what changes (place names: is is Aachen, or Aix-la-Chapelle?) and what does not (location– but not always!). He has my dad’s 1934 globe, too. Yes, now he also has a GPS and a netbook in his car– but this is how it started.

  16. Keep pushing the envelope, your content resonates. While I don’t always agree, it gets me thinking which is ultimately why we write; to clarify our thinking and why we blog; to share. The more you push the envelop, the more autopilot gets disengaged.

  17. Who won this? Because, um, me and Scott Elias gave it a good faith effort.


  1. Week 4: Dangerously Irrelevant | Allison Fehr - September 20, 2012

    […] Dangerously Irrelevant was an interesting blog.  There were many different resources of different types of technology to use in your classroom, as well as different lesson topics.  Something that I learned from this blog was in an article titled, “Sometimes You Hit A Home Run, Sometimes You Strike Out.”  This article gave the idea that it is important for colleagues to give each other feedback.  When other people critique you in a positive way, you are able to gain from that. […]

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