Circle of Life: the technology-using educator edition

Stage: A whole new world
You hear an inspiring keynote at a conference, read a book, or see a colleague use technology in their classroom. It clicks with something inside you.

Stage: Connection
You try to understand the role of technology in your life as an educator. Coincidently, you start to see this topic pop up all around you. It seems to be haunting you. You set up a blog reader and add a few feeds. You find a guru whose words help you make sense of the murky picture.

You read books, start your own blog, or change something in your everyday life. You go to an educational technology conference and attend every session.

Stage: Stepping into the void
You implement a project you never would have attempted before. You get more and more into the subject and are amazed that there is such a vast network out there. You add more blog feeds, listen to podcasts, buy books, start a wiki, subscribe to magazines, and join other networks and conversations. You wonder why grad school never felt like this.

You feel renewed as an educator and lifelong learner. Your colleagues wonder what’s gotten into you.

Stage: Firehose
You try too many new tools and join too many networks. You start to resent it when someone introduces something new. You hate your pile of unread stuff. Your blog feeds start to overwhelm you. No one comments on your best blog posts. It seems there is just too much to keep track of, and it never stops.

You get a bit depressed that you are so late coming to the party.

Stage: The big picture overwhelms
You wonder if what you are doing is just a waste of time. You find analogies to the failure of school in everyday occurrences. Your regular friends look at you funny when you start using words like “pedagogy” and railing about the “factory model of education” in everyday conversation.

You find that it’s not just technology-using educators who feel this way, that education reformers have been saying things like this for decades, even centuries.

You are sure that “school” cannot be fixed.

Stage: Ennui
You commiserate with your network about people who don’t “get it.” People who are coming late to the party annoy you. You tire of the clichés that seemed so fresh at first. You say things like, “If I hear about sage on the stage / guide on the side (or digital natives/immigrants, or anything 2.0, or insert your own pet peeve here) one more time, I’ll kill someone!” You meet your gurus and find out they are just human, and maybe really wrong about some things.

You stop going to conference sessions. Someone accuses you of being in the “in” group.

Stage: Renewal
You accept that you won’t ever be able to keep up with the hype machine and stop worrying about it. Your project goes well and your plans expand.

You start to narrow down your areas of interest and explore them deeper.

Stage: Building expertise
You attempt something on a wide scale, collaborating with other like-minded educators. You find renewed energy as you work with students or teachers and see things change. You find books, even some written decades or centuries ago that support your beliefs. You become better able to articulate the “why” of all this. You think about going back to school. You find experts outside of your newly constructed network.

People look to you for advice and expertise.

Stage: The circle of life
You connect with new people in their own early stages and give them guidance as they figure out what you have figured out. You mentor someone. A student says you’ve changed their life. You learn something new and feel that spark. You rededicate yourself to changing what you can. You think that if these ideas can take hold, even if it has to happen one person at a time, there is hope for the concept of school after all.

You use the phrase, “sage on the stage vs. guide on the side” – see someone’s eyes light up and forgive yourself.


PS Of course, this is not a recommendation, aimed at any person in particular, or suggests a linear path. Sometimes I feel like this all in one day! Hope you all take it in the spirit it’s intended and get a chuckle out of it.

8 Replies to “Circle of Life: the technology-using educator edition”

  1. I did get a chuckle out of this and am somewhere between renewal and circle of life (can you be in all three at the same time?). Throw in teenagers of my own and failing health of family members and you start to question and withdraw even more. Continual questioning can lead to increased growth. I am thinking that everyone goes through a fall and surge of energy and that is definitely human.

    I enjoy all you write! Thanks for a great start to today.

  2. Sylvia, I’ve been living offline and off-network for, oh, a good six months—black box transcripts show the crash took place somewhere in the rocky terrain of the firehose/ennui stages—and lately feeling the need to rejoin the party. Dip the toes back into the water, if not take the full deep-end plunge. So what happens? I fire up my Twitter feed and the first thing I see is your post link like a neon sign welcoming me back to the circle of life. How did you know? Thanks. Now, just gotta remember to keep the toes IN the water. . .

  3. Sylvia,

    You’ve captured it! Now if there’s some way we can express ride to the second Circle of Life stage and bypass some of the misery. Or if we could help our colleagues jettison to where we are and not feel the pain. I know, the pain and misery are part of the process where there is light at the end of the tunnel and our students benefit.

    Another well written, enjoyable post! (and “creative” too – you need to share these with Dan Pink!)

  4. There is a lot of truth in this post. I’m bookmarking it for the future. When I spoke with the teachers in my building at the end of June, one of the teachers thought is was funny (but felt comforted) by the fact that I kept saying I know it feels like a lot of information, just choose one thing that interests you and go from there.

    I’m so happy to have been able to learn all that I have over the past year or two. It’s the second circle of life that I’m enjoying now while I swirl through fire hose days. Very well put!

  5. Sylvia,

    This was an amazing post! I honestly could think back and remember myself at many of the stages. Each stage seems to be an integral part of the journey.

    This is a great piece of work. It should be required reading for all who are in education technology.

  6. This was perfect and I will be sharing this with others. You captured the big picture perfectly. I think it would be good for people to see that what they are feeling is natural and we have all gone through most of these stages at different times as new stuff comes out. I felt much better after reading this because it made me feel like – hey, it’s not just me! Thanks for this wonderful post!

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