Some good conversations…

I got nearly nine and a half hours of sleep last night.  I must have been tired.  Gary Stager isn’t tired.  Traveling around in Europe must be energizing because he’s been doing a lot of talking on my blog.

Gary is the, in my opinion, the consummate skeptic — among many other things.  He challenges much of what I say and I hope that it isn’t just me, but that doesn’t matter.  He and others are a critical part of what blogging is.  Yesterday, he asked why I would value a college instructor who reads blogs.  The reason is that…

Well I’m not going to write it again.  Just go back to Another Question for Interviewers… and Miami Rocks.  The conversation is the reason.

9 thoughts on “Some good conversations…”

  1. Being critical is great so long as, at the same time, one is open to a different perspective. My only encounter with Gary was here on your blog a while ago…

    Gary asked questions, and I provided answers. At first, Gary claimed my arguments for FOSS in education to be “political” and “religious” and when I provided my explanation, he fell silent. This is unfortunate. Perhaps my explanation was an expression of confusion and Gary could enlighten me. Instead, he was critical yet absent.

  2. May I step in a moment and add something for Gary to think about?

    Gary, I have been teaching for 11 years. I have recently received my Master’s Degree. I have complete year one in the National Board process. I not only read the paper and journals and countless books, but I strive to stay current on whatever will help my students engage in the classroom. I am an excellent teacher because I try to live in the world I am preparing my students for.

    I read blogs (and have started writing my own) because this is a two-way conversation with other professionals. I am networking in ways I NEVER thought possible. South Dakota does not offer itself to a lot of opportunities, but the Internet does. I have learned more in blogs in the last few months than any journal or book I could read.

    My students are using the Internet to network in their own way and I need to stay current on that as well. I will proudly go back to school and tell staff members I belong to FaceBook, MySpace, Bebo and that I read David Warlick, Will Richardson, John Pederson, Heather Burleson, Vickie Davis….. on and on. I will show them Twitter and the numerous other things I have found. There can never be enough resources for those seeking knowledge!

  3. Sherry,

    Having people to talk with is terribly important. I personally use this blog and others as what Piaget might call, “an object to think with.” David provokes me to think about various issues and test out my responses based on personal experience and my knowledge of the field.

    I would love to be able to have some of these discussions live f2f with David and others at some of the conferences we frequent.

    Everything you said is good and admirable. I just think that in a day and age with various intractable crises facing education, like the Supreme Court codifying segregation, mind-numbing soul-killing classrooms and NCLB, using scarce time in a teacher interview to ask which blogs someone reads seems over the top.

    I really wish that we could bring great conversations and events to you and your colleagues in the South Dakotas of the world. If it were possible, I’d print plane tickets for every teacher to attend at least one conference per year out-of-state. Boeing makes my favorite educational technology.

    Nobody has responded to the political risk associated with this question. Can you lose a job or not get a job because of your choice of blogs? Teachers and other professionals face career jeopardy because of what they publish on their personal blogs. Kids don’t get admitted to colleges based on them and Congressmen are embarassed when their half-naked drunken daughter turns up on MySpace. This may not be fair, but it is real.

    Let’s say that I’m a principal or HR director who doesn’t agree with the educational philosophy of a blogger frequently read by an applicant. Should I deny her employment?

    Add a teacher shortage and the fact that lazy districts are not even interviewing candidates who apply online and you see how precious the nterview time is.

    I find it hard enough to get a school principal to name an education book they would recommend while the rest are reading pop business self-help tomes. David agreed with me in this blog that his child has read hardly any primary source education texts during her (I apologize if I got the gender wrong) teacher preparation. This is a much bigger problem than asking which temporal medium he/she is reading.

    I also wonder which education books the participants in this community are reading. I’ve asked David this question in the past. I’ll go first. I think this is called blog tag.

    In my heavy luggage I have the following books:

    Painting Chinese: A A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth by Herbert Kohl (brand new and spectacular – I can’t recommend it highly enough)

    Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol (brand new)

    How Kindergarten Came to America: Friedrich Froebel’s Radical Vision of Early Childhood Education by Bertha von Marenholtz-Bulow (new)

    Marshall McLuhan – The Medium and the Message by Philip Marchand

    I also have the current issues of Wired, MacWorld, MaciLife and several copies of New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Business Week and two issues of iCreate.

    I recently reviewed Daniel Pink’s a Whole New Mind here –

    I also recently read Standardized Minds: The Price of America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It by Peter Sacks.

    Waiting at home for me is a fantastic new book, Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade by Linda Perlstein

    I’m also schlepping a several hundred page doctoral thesis I’m examining.

    I of course read The Pulse (, several blogs, District Administration (where I’m Senior Editor) and several other education periodicals.

    By all means let’s increase dialogue, but let’s be careful about making Web 2.0 the metaphor or answer for every scenario.

    All the best,


  4. To: Peter Rock

    Dear Peter:

    I sincerely apologize for not responding to your final comment in the thread you cited above. I simply missed it. One of the things I hate about the blogging interface is that conversations get pushed down the pile when new topics emerge and that if you don’t respond quickly enough, nobody reads what you had to say.

    The religious reference may have been too general, but refers to the zeal with which I find “some” people express in regards to open-source software. There are serious limitations to open-source design, as well as strengths. That’s a whole different discussion.

    While I can’t remember the spirit of the conversation back in May, my major objection wasn’t to whether or not Office should be free or Open or whether schools should use one OS or another. I was reacting to the fact that David thought this was an important discussion educators should be having.

    I know that if you asked kids, they would shrug.

    Once again, please accept my apologies for a lack of clarity and for missing your final volley in the blog comments.

    All the best,


  5. David – Being cynical – I would at be happy with a ‘college instructor’ who knew what a blog was! As a principal in a system where we get to employ our own staff (new zealand) we often see teacher trainees who know very little of the Web2.0 world. For so called digital natives they can text without looking and use email, but most appear to have little knowledge of anything more creative than that. As for the possibilities of web2.0 tools in schools in the way they are discussed and debated in your blog …. no idea!

    I have advertised jobs in the past that could ONLY be applied for electronically. If people are not able to at lest send an email with an attachment (or have enough initiative to find a friend who can!) then I don’t want them on our staff. This has been pretty challenging for some of my principal colleagues and I have had occasional very angry calls from teachers about it.

    I agree with Gary in as much as in an interview situation I am wanting to understand the beliefs and practice/s of a teacher so I know how their pedagogy (etc) will fit with the culture of our school; and more importantly where I want the school to be going in the future. I want to know what they DO as a RESULT of what they read/learn/hear about, not just who they may have bookmarked or in an aggregator. Taking reading as an indicator of thought is a bit shallow.
    Staff appointments are the most powerful school culture management tool I have as a principal. I have to do them well. Certainly getting things wrong can be a disaster for change and improvement.

    Another thought for Gary – as a principal who is blogging I have been personally challenged by people from our Ministry of Education about things I have written on my blog. Flattering to know they read what I say I suppose, but interesting they don’t engage in any conversation in a public forum.

  6. Gary says:

    “While I can’t remember the spirit of the conversation […]”

    It didn’t get deleted so you are free to read it again. In short, the spirit was your questioning what FOSS has to do with pedagogy. My argument is that FOSS offers learning opportunities (due to the freedom inherent in its licensing arrangement) that are not typically available through proprietary software. I argue that this affects pedagogy positively when FOSS is adopted by schools (whose mission is to provide the best learning experience possible for students).

    So when you say, “[FOSS has] serious limitations” it is not a “whole different discussion”. I would like to hear what you consider those limitations to be. This is important to me as a K-12 technology teacher.

  7. Gary – I agree wholeheartedly when you write:

    By all means let’s increase dialogue, but let’s be careful about making Web 2.0 the metaphor or answer for every scenario.

    I also agree that certain elements of Web 2.0 – in particular those that promote collaborative learning through conversation like blogging or VoiceThread – will add to the richness and depth of the dialogue and I will go so far as to say that they are necessary components of dialogue in education today.

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