Possibilities 2.0

Give me potential or give me death.

~Sean Nash


A Patrick Henry moment

Yep, I just quoted myself.  It’s OK, I’ll take that one.  In fact, I think I’ll take it and run with it for a bit.  Check it out.  See, I don’t deal well with what one of my science department colleagues refers to as the “Negative Nelson.”  These are folks who jump quickly to the most negative outlook possible to begin any task, discussion or debate.  Now I’m certainly not talking about people who exhibit the valuable skill of being able to ferret out potential pitfalls in any new endeavor.  Karl Fisch, in a recent workshop at MICDS in St. Louis, referred to those elements of a system as the “yeah, buts.”  His willingness that day to confront potential snags head-on is one of the marks of any successful project manager.

That said, negativity used as a strategy to push back from the table (whether conscious or unconscious) in order to avoid change or conflict is a very toxic thing.  Life is too short and too difficult as it is.  Stirring up extra negativity in such a challenging career field is more than a waste of time.  In my 18 years as an educator I have had the benefit of working in environments that were so positive and supportive that I was constantly inspired.  I have also had my years where “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” is about the most polite way I can put it.  Negative Nelsons. Thanks, Jennifer.  That one is elegantly simple.  It made me laugh, and it made me reflect.  So obviously, I haven’t been able to get in here to write very much as of late.  Please excuse the rapid-fire unloading of thought here.  I’ll get back to succinct when I get more time.

“I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.”

~Blaise Pascal

Why the “2.0?”

Now that I think of it, I probably could have just entitled this one “2.0” because this is now what this phrase means to me.  I’m not going to go off into the history of the quirk of using “2.0” to signify the newest iteration of…..  something.  Heck it is now used for pretty much anything:  Web 2.0, School 2.0, Library 2.0, Government 2.0, and on and on and on.  Tack a two at the end and instantly whatever you are talking about, planning, or selling becomes better, newer, shinier.  From my personal perspective, what at one point meant something to those pushing the envelope of using the Internet in education, now means means less.  The more you use something, right?  I get it.  I know.  After a while of having “2.0’s” ping-ponged about in the echo chamber of online communications… the meaning does tend to get stale.  If you subscribe to the tweets of some of the more connected edtechers out there, you’ll find more than a few who are just plain ol’ sick of the term.

Web 2.0 will save us

Why it doesn’t bother me

Let’s just get this out of the way first:  According to Global language Monitor, “Web 2.0” is the  1,000,000th word added into the English language.  So there.  It means something.  For the “How’d they figure that?“, click here.

I’ll be honest.  I hate it too by now.  It is the height of cliche’ in my head.  However, I think I am just sick of it considering how much I actually feel the need to use the term in my current job as an instructional coach in the middle of a constructivist reformation/technology integration pilot.  I try to use a ton of helper phrases to describe this entity as well: read/write web, social web, participatory web, and other.  Those are great, and do help, but I still need two-oh.

In a recent technology summit in our school district, an administrator actually started out one of the segments declaring that in terms of education, Web 2.0 “doesn’t really mean anything,” and that people really can’t agree on whether it will have an impact or not.  This is one statement I had to disagree with point blank that day.  Really, I get why it might seem less-than-concrete on the surface.  With utmost respect, to an educator not using the participatory web in the classroom (or anywhere else professionally) “Web 2.0” must look a bit like the wild west compared to the pricey and packaged comfort of a content management system like Blackboard, WebCT or E-Companion.  But think about it-  a constructivist classroom probably does look like Dodge City to the vast majority of people who were educated in the neat and tidy rows of desks in the American schools of our past.


What it means for me is that frankly…  I don’t have to wait for anyone any longer.  When I want to go, I go.  When my students are ready for something better (that fits good pedagogy) we go.  With a robust and lightly filtered network-  no longer did I have to wait for more software to be decided upon, purchased, server space to be allocated, or passwords to be doled out.  With Web2, I was able to immediately make a go at what I, my administrators, my students, and my parents thought was the right path to follow.  I could hone a web tool to my liking in a weekend.  I didn’t need to wait for a comprehensive plan filled with multiple opportunities for job-embedded professional development and one-on-one coaching.  I was ready, and I rolled on.

All of a sudden, more than at any time previously in my career, I was able to model myself as a learner in the classroom right alongside my students.  I was able to show them what it looked like to be a connected learner in the digital world of current information and communications technology.  Now I am ready to go back and help build that comprehensive implementation plan for our teachers and students.  I hope I am continually able to model those experiences in the other direction as well…  still as a learner modeling the navigation of our newly-digital terrain, though not only for our students but also for those who make far-reaching decisions for each of the students in our town.

We are climbing...

Positivity and possibility

I need positivity.  My engine thrives upon it.  I need open potential.  I need new possibilities.  Here’s why I decided today to “re-like” the terminology of 2.0:  It is just so full of possibility.  School 2.0?  Seriously, who isn’t interested in reforming the future for the largest open-schooling system in the world?  Don’t answer that.  Good point.  I’m sure there are plenty who aren’t.  But look how many really are.  Because of Web 2.0, the folks who want to step up and have a hand in the remaking of our outmoded schools, libraries and governmental participation models…   can.

Web 2.0 is still a novel and effective tool for democracy.  It is still a new way to interact via the Internet.  Why not let it remind you of the shiny possibility of doing something better the next time you try?  Sticking a two at the end of something doesn’t automatically make it better.  However, possibility is as contagious as negativity.  Spread some love, will ya’?


*Inspiration by h.koppdelaney on Flickr
*Web 2.0 will save us by Ben Sheldon on Flickr
*Web 2.0 is web 0.0 future by Will Lion on Flickr
*We are climbing… by Duane Romanell on Flickr

Sean Nash

Biology teacher in the great state of Kansas. Back at it in the classroom after a 30-year career in Missouri. Former District Curriculum Administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator, and Instructional Coach. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at http://nashworld.me


  1. Spot on, Sean.
    And the potential and possibility is there because you’ve seen it, grabbed it, used it and your students have done similarly with you. Some haven’t seen it. (But then, there are potentials and possibilities with chalk, and OHP’s, and posters and presentation programs – some haven’t seen them yet either!) The key challenge is to see the potential taken up and seen – students first, then colleagues.

    • @Ian, Not sure I fully understand the last sentence there… but yes, nearly every little teaching tool invented has been skipped over by someone. It just seems that the current exponential growth in interactive web technology has left more of us in the dust than chalk or PowerPoint ever did. I think somewhere about four or five years ago that growth passed a tipping point where it was really easy to fely “left off” the bus.

      Getting folks back into the fold isn’t always easy… but is IS a fun and challenging adventure.

  2. Life is like a smile. It can either be an exciting experience or a flat existence. I am with you on life being too short to take the dull, negative road.

  3. I still think another interesting aspect, taking the English teacher road on this one — the road less traveled — is the difference in the connotative and denotative meanings. That is where the love is truly spread — love you’d be gettin’ when you’re sort of like drivin’ a Volkswagon van heading for Woodstock — free and shared.

    • @Jeanette Westfall, Wow. As politically-conservative as you are, that last part about “free and shared love” while “driving a VW van headed for Woodstock” is particularly inspiring… spread the love!

  4. One of my colleagues told me the other day that I belong to the ‘green team’ at my school, which, I later learned, refers to the teachers at the school who like teaching and enjoy working with students each day. Thank goodness for that core group of colleagues who smile and laugh and have fun at the school each day, and thank goodness for my students who feed me with the positive energy of youth!

    Personally, I think to be a successful teacher, you have to like your job and really, truly enjoy working with students every day. It’s too difficult of a job to do if you don’t like it, and it’s too important of a job to do poorly.

    • @Errin, the “green team?” Seriously? That is the name for the folks who enjoy their work at your school? Holy…… I mean, hey- I have been in the middle of a pile of really negative, ugly folks before… but that is fresh sickness.

      Do you have any idea where that this name arises from?

      I agree. It is far too important of a task to do poorly. There are also far too many ways to get better in today’s world. The resources for this improvement are for more accessible compared to when I started 18 years ago.

      • @nashworld, Yes, it’s true! I don’t know where the name comes from or who made it up. Perhaps a good time for me to ask would be at the year end staff party later this week, preferably late in the evening once things are well under way…!

  5. As always, you’re a joy to read.

    My biggest successes started the same was as my most spectacular failures (and I’ve had a few). Jump in with both feet, keep an ear on the “yeah, buts…” long enough to throw a strut or two here and there at the stress points, then solve the real problems as they arise.

    (Solving the problems as they arise is a huge part of the fun when something works. Knowing when to toss in the towel is not nearly as much fun, but also a skill worth developing over a lifetime.)

    I work for/with a superb supervisor who does not truck with Negative Nelsons. That makes all the difference.

    • @Michael Doyle, 1) I am still laughing at this response… The fact that you have a supervisor who is not in favor of over-the-road transport is quite… quite hilarious and inspiring. For real- I enjoy the same situation here. That is why we are able to make needed reform moves fairly rapidly. Wow.

      2) Wish you were headed to NECC in DC.

      3) You’re certainly right about “knowing when to toss in the towel.” Have you seen “The Dip” by Seth Godin? It is an enjoyable and very short read about when to plow through an implementation dip and when to bail.

      4) The statement you started off with here made me day. I consider you one of the most talented, passionate and “unknown” writers on the web. That, my friend, is a huge compliment coming from you.


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