Change of Time - Josh Ritter (mp3)
The evolution and progression of civilization requires evangelists. Ideas cannot reach enough ears and eyes without the unwavering passionate commitment from these kinds of people.
I am not an evangelist.
A close relative of the evangelist is the early adopter. They’re the eager guinea pigs of the technology world. These are the goobers who camp out overnight so they can be the first to own an iPhone. They’re the ones who pay attention to when a new version of Photoshop is released. When the Zune debuted, early adopters actually purchased those goofy things. They’re the soldiers at the front of the group in the U-boats from Saving Private Ryan -- you know, the first ones to their brains blown out.
21st Century progress depends heavily on evangelists and early adopters.
In the world of education, you would be hard-pressed to find a larger collection of passionate evangelists and early adopters than collected in Philadelphia in January at a sold-out convention known affectionately as EduCon 2.3. These people drank so much of the Kool-Aid that the damn thing was sold out roughly eight years ago.
I wasn’t there, so everything I say now about EduCon is pure speculation based solely on reading the Tweets and follow-up blogs of many who did attend.
EduCon is the Jesus Camp of teachers who are early adopters and evangelists. They all pack into a finite space, work one another into a fervent lather, speak in techno-tongues, and then disperse with a fiery passion powerful enough to stay lit for days if not a whole week in the face of the pitiful skeptics and realists who were stuck in their classrooms back on the home front.
I mock them because I love them, these wild-eyed iPad-toting preachers who use words like “wiki” and “ning” and “hashtag” and “techno-pedagogy.” Watching them get all wide-eyed and teenage-girl-giddy when talking about something like Pixton is to see the embodiment of hope and conviction and optimism and urgency. Sure, it comes with a dose of negative scary cult vibe, but that’s the price of human nature.
My role in the process is equally essential. My type weighs costs and benefits. We consider risks and rewards. We observe the plights and trevails, the glories and successes of the early adopters. We talk to them. We challenge them. And, over time, we allow them the possibility of convincing us to get on the boat with them.
Our pushback hones an evangelist’s message. It shaves down the brainwashing and forces them to prove their claims. We don’t make the products and beliefs you buy; we make the products and beliefs you buy better.
You know who I don’t love? You know who I don’t understand? Luddites.
Case in point. Our IT director sent out what was intended as an innocent email. Our school needs to figure out how to use text messaging to reach students, and she was curious as to how many teachers and coaches and dormitory advisors were already doing this. How, what software or program, et cetera.
Three of the emails she received back were sent solely to decry the horror of a school that would discuss using text messages. The level of cleverness and degree of indignation varied, but the theme was constant: “F**k Text Messages and the iPhone they rode in on!”
The goal of the Luddite is merely to freeze time, freeze assumptions, freeze change. And they seethe and growl at those who attempt to move things forward.
The Republicans I struggle most to like are those who seem not to argue for a cause so much as for a bygone era. They romanticize an earlier America and long for us to return to it. They refuse to discuss social change because if it wasn’t like grandma used to make, they want nothing of it. Period.
Text messages, Facebook and XBox are not the enemy. They’re not the devil anymore than automobiles or rotary-dial telephones or the Gutenberg press. They are merely vehicles, means by which and through which both good and evil can be accomplished... albeit usually at a much more efficient pace. Anyone paying sufficient attention to the revolution in Egypt should not so quickly dismiss Twitter as child’s play. It seems 140 characters can play an astonishing Best Supporting Actor role in history.
Educational evolution (or revolution) need not be lightning fast. It need not be dictated and forced through by evangelists. But the longer the Luddites are allowed to stay at the table and scream out their own edu-Palinisms, the sooner it feels an edu-Armageddon is inevitable.