Take That, 20th Century

History was the talk of the day today.  It all started with Barack Obama’s inspirational late-night victory.  It evolved into a lunchtime chat with the Apple folks about an educational technology revival in our district.  The icing arrived in a conversation about writing and publishing in the aisles of a local grocery store.  I don’t know… if yet another dose of motivation comes my way, I might just just pinch myself for a bit of reality check.

CHANGE

I don’t know when I’ve seen so many Americans so happy on so many television stations.  I didn’t realize what a breath of fresh air this would really be.  There is power in inspiration.  There is power in promise.  There was a snap in the step of a real majority of Americans today.

Lunchtime brought conversations of revival.  However, this was a revival of purpose surrounding the implementation of rigorous technology-integration standards within our school system.  I attended an Apple “21st Century Learning Leadership Institute” in Omaha.  I was a member of a team of three.

Our technology curriculum specialist, building principal and I spent two days learning about Omaha Westside High School’s journey into a 1:1 computing environment over the past five years.  We could have certainly used a few more members in our study group, but the trip was an overall success in learning.

I capped the evening in a conversation while grocery shopping at the local HyVee.  Near the frozen foods section, I ran into a retired communication arts instructor who worked for years in my building.  I never did get the opportunity to be a true colleague of Donna Jean Boyer.  Her career in education ended at about the time mine was beginning.  She is a beloved teacher and was a well respected member of the Benton High School faculty for 38 years.  Donna Jean has since been a St. Joseph Councilmember since 1998.  She is now the senior member on the current city council.

Donna and I know one another, but mostly from afar since there was no real overlap in our careers in education.  So, you can imagine my surprise when shortly after “hello,” she greeted me with, “I have been reading your blog.”  Wow.  I have to tell you, that was weird.  I know my current colleagues at Benton read these entries.  I know folks in states and countries afar read them as well.  I have electronic data and warm commentaries to document those interactions.

However, running into someone local who “accidentally ran across” this blog and started to read, is not something that has happened to me.  How fun is that?

We chatted for some time about writing, teaching and technology integration.  It was a fun conversation.  Not only did I get to share the new technology staff development network at my school, we talked about the value of publishing.  In fact, Ms. Boyer related the past impact of simple computer-based word processing on writing education.  She explained how she saw a huge increase in student engagement when -all of a sudden- student writing could look instantly-professional.  The very act of seeing their own words and ideas in an instantly glossy format was empowering at a point in history.

Of course, there would never be a substitute for substance, but never discount the power of a nice sheen of gloss on a rigorous piece of work.  Paying $100 for a fresh coat of wax on a ’76 Maverick might be a waste, but it certainly looks compelling on a Ferrari.  There has been some discussion of these ideas in my community as of late.

Towards the end of our conversation, I explained to Ms. Boyer about how I believe I am seeing a very similar reaction to my students given the still-recent phenomenon of instant publishing.  The fact that web 2.0 features are now being used to leverage student empowerment via publishing is exciting.  The novelty of on-screen writing has likely worn away long ago, but this next edge is always just around the corner.  I ended our chat by relating my enthusiasm toward professional writing on this blog.

I starkly remember the stinging feeling of the rejection letter I received in response to the first poem I ever submitted for print publication.  I can be a pretty stubborn person, but that hurt.  I am a biologist.  I am a teacher.  I am a colleague.  But that experience pointed toward the fact that I was not a writer.  Rejection was tough.  I didn’t feel any less of a person, but I certainly didn’t feel like a writer.

Driving home from the store, it hit me:  post it, Sean.  You tell people every day about the virtues of today’s instant web publishing.  Yep.  I’ve been writing here since April and this one never occurred to me.  I think I will post it after all.  Who cares about its merit?  It meant something to me.

So here’s to healing.  Here’s to healing myself as a creative writer-for-fun.  Here’s to a potentially nation-healing election.  Here’s to the birth of true technological pedagogy in our school district.  Here’s to swallowing your pride and giving a nod to the century of the everyman…

AND YOU ARE SO SMALL
I bathe in the pale silver moonlight
I smile as it looks
Down upon me
The moon feels my mood
Tomorrow I celebrate the burning of the sun
As it casts its radiant glance
Down upon me
Largest of all things
And you, you are so small
Yet when your smile burns
Its way into my heart
You seem larger than the heavens.

So take that, 20th Century.  You hold us all back less and less as the days go by.

Artwork thanks:

Reece, David. “Time For Change.” David Reece’s Photostream. 12 MAR 2008. Flickr. 5 Nov 2008
<http://www.flickr.com/photos/spursfan_ace/2328879637/>.
Perry, Dawn. “Change is Easy.” Dawn Perry’s Photostream. 10 DEC 2006. Flickr. 5 Nov 2008
<http://www.flickr.com/photos/dawn_perry/318923932/>.
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Sean Nash

District Online Learning Coordinator (eCampus) in a large public district of over thirty individual schools. Most recently, a district instruction coordinator. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at http://nashworld.me

7 Comments

  1. I really liked the way you brought up all the great things going on in the world. I agree it really is great to be able to create something that you see as great and have it instantly published where you can grab great feed back on it. I enjoy the new tech we are using at Benton now and it defiantly makes the learning experience unique.

  2. Hey Ricky… thanks for the feedback. I spend a ton of time trolling through student blogs and forums, and it is pretty fun when one of you decides to kick back a little in my direction. Feedback is powerful.

    I am thrilled that you are enjoying the tech bath this year. I think the reason you are finding it valuable, however, is the fact that in the classes you have… it is being integrated in a deep and rigorous way. Technology tacked on top of learning is cumbersome at best. Technology being used to deliver, support and facilitate learning is very powerful.

    Thanks again,

    Nash

  3. As a lemming in the world of web 2.0 educational change, I am thrilled to be counted among those following in line to embrace the jump off this precipice and into the deep pool of pedagogy that I feel deep in my soul will be the impetus of change in our world so mired in tradition.

    The CHANGE that our nation embraced on November 4th is one I embraced with trepidation — not for the leadership of country, but for the hope of a timely message that always seems to find me in the right moment and one I have now come to expect —
    “There is power in inspiration.
    There is power in promise.”

    This new powerful, appropriate symbol of hope for change that could deeply affect all students now and forever more. This new change in education that is dawning in my very own corner of the world.

  4. @Jeanette – You DO know the lemming legend, right? That’s a bit scary. CLiffs. Death. Etc. Heck, perhaps “sheep 2.0” would work as well. We just usually harvest their wool. 😉

    You are right about change in our little corner. What will really be amazing is next year. I really thing we have just come up to the edge of the hill on this one. We won’t even start downhill until all are onboard at their own pace. At that point, we may all be at our own pace… but the general velocity of all of us will quicken.

    Reference: http://virtualsouthside.ning.com

  5. I share your sense of wonder of someone local finding your blog by accident; while I am not local, I did find you by accident as I perused post-election blogs. You are right about a participatory culture that embraces the revival of hope, of change, of a “snap in the step of a real majority of Americans today.”

    What I really enjoy about your post is your enthusiasm that spins change in a variety of directions, acknowledging along the way your right to celebrate as “Everyman” in the collective healing, moving forward.

    And your poem–good for you for publishing here. Interesting how rejection impacts us, how it lingers, grows a life of its own, until we tell the 20th century, figuratively speaking, in all its negative aspects, to “take that.” Good for you. Great post. Kept me thinking all afternoon; better yet, it motivated me to view the election differently (and I needed that).

  6. @Rita – I see that you too are following 30D2BBB. I must honestly say that you seem to have connected to this post in the way I had hoped for. You truly honed in on what drove my writing that day.

    I am flattered by your comment. I must say the fact that these words put valuable thoughts into action on your end pretty validates the work I put into this page. Thanks so much for contributing here.

    I voted blue to begin with. However, I was struck by the actuality of the win. I didn’t realize it would produce such an interesting “bump” in positivity. I hope, for our sake, we can keep that flowing.

  7. @Nash: If we didn’t engage in that conversation of commenting, then you would not have know how much you impacted my thinking and helped me move in a positive direction. As bloggers, we post our reflections but need from time to time, something affirming that tells us we are connecting. You took me beyond my vote to a place in childhood when a teacher did not believe I was the author of a short writing piece. It stayed with me from eighth grade and taught me a valuable lesson: never to do that to my students. You taught me to let it go. Nice job for a single post.

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