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.
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/>.