A Message From The Future (For The Principals of Today)

Last Monday I led a technology workshop for administrators. Specifically, this was the Orange County Department of Education’s AB 430, Module 3, Day 2. Among other things, this day now includes an introduction to the read/write web for administrators. This was added when I re-wrote the OCDE version of the curriculum in early 2006. Last week was the first time I significantly updated the segment since that time. Day 1 with this cohort was my favorite administrator training yet, so I needed to step up day two to match.

As in day 1, I moved the introductory slides into a Google Docs presentation and invited folks from around the world to participate (via a post on twitter). In order to engage any potential visitors I created a “discussion prompt” based on one of the introductory anecdotes I usually tell on Day 2. One of the anecdotes is based on excerpts from Lary Cuban’s (2001) “Over Sold and Over Used” – but that tends to generate some negative responses and is beginning to be a bit dated. So, I turned to the other segment, “A Message From the Future.”

And it’s time I tell this story here on the blog…

I begin by telling the participants that I’m a big U2 fan and that back in 2004 the band released the song Miracle Drug on their latest album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. I explain the history of the song in person, but the wikipedia article captures it well:

It was written about Irish writer Christopher Nolan, with whom the band attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School. Bono said of Nolan:

“We all went to the same school and just as we were leaving, a fellow called Christopher Nolan arrived. He had been deprived of oxygen for two hours when he was born, so he was paraplegic. But his mother believed he could understand what was going on and used to teach him at home. Eventually, they discovered a drug that allowed him to move one muscle in his neck. So they attached this unicorn device to his forehead and he learned to type. And out of him came all these poems that he’d been storing up in his head. Then he put out a collection called Dam-Burst of Dreams, which won a load of awards and he went off to university and became a genius. All because of a mother’s love and a medical breakthrough.”

There’s a line in the song that says “with science and the human heart, there is no limit.” That line, and the suggestion that positive social good can come of the marriage between these two things, captures much of the reason behind why I am involved in educational technology.

But the following story captures it even better…

I saw several of the shows from the following Vertigo Tour, and I was lucky enough to hear bootlegged recordings of a few others. In many of the shows Bono would use the introduction of this song (while Edge, the guitarist, played a beautiful and echoing guitar riff) to express his appreciation for doctors, nurses, and others in the medical field. In one particular show (in Toronto, if memory serves), he told a story instead. He said that the beautiful riff was the sound that Edge’s spaceship made when they first met him over 20 years ago. Bono seemed to make up the story as he went along, sort of chuckling along the way. In the story, Edge descended from the sky and stepped out of the space ship. Larry Mullen, the drummer, asked him where he was from and he said “the future.” Adam Clayton, the basist, asked him what it was like there, and he said “it’s better.” At that moment the band launched into the anthemic song about science and the human heart.

It was an emotional goose bump raising moment for me. And it also perfectly captured why I’m in educational technology. I believe that brining new technologies to bear on education can make the future a better place for our students.

This segment was much better fodder for inspiring edubloggers to share with principals! I decided to ask them to share “a message from the future… for the principals of today.” I was thrilled to have a few edubloggers drop in and give thoughtful responses to the question. David Warlick gave his two cents, as did Darren Draper, Chris (Betcher I believe), and Susan from Virginia (I didn’t catch her last name). A few others popped in and out. The messages really had an effect on the principals and inspired their own answers when I turned the question to them next. After the fact I went back and used Jing to capture the Google chat in the side bar. Click here or on the picture to watch the screencast.

We usually spent our discussion time on the Larry Cuban material, but this turned out to be a much more moving discussion. I plan to focus more on this segment in future AB 430 Module 3 Day 2 workshops… and I expect I’ll use it in other workshops as well. I’ve told the story often, but never asked for others’ “messages from the future.”

So… if you had a message from the future for the school principals of today, what would that be?

7 Responses to “A Message From The Future (For The Principals of Today)”

  1. Chris Lehmann Says:

    My message… in the future, we won’t remember the paperwork you did, but we will remember the difference you made in the lives of your students.

  2. Kristin Aul Says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. As a fellow fan of U2, I really liked reading your story. I’ve always liked “Miracle Drug”, but you just gave me a totally new perspective on it. I couldn’t agree with you more that the line “with science and the human heart, there is no limit” defines how we should view educational technology. We can only imagine what the world will have to offer us in years to come.

    I like the idea of the message from the future. While I think the possibilites of what lies ahead in the field of educational techonlogy are endless, I think it is safe to tell them that the educational world as we know it today in 2007 will be non-existent. Technology is going to revolutionize the way we think, speak, teach, and learn. Thus, educators need to stay on top of all emerging technologies and be prepared for what is to come. I would also suggest that teachers continue to try to incorporate as much technology as possible to help keep up with the fast pace of change.

  3. Pamela Livingston Says:

    Mark, what a great approach to p.d. and it seems it went really well. Message from the future: students are thoroughly involved now with curriculum, governance, and nearly all elements of school and have representative seats on committees everywhere.

  4. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Be Subversive: A Message From The Future Says:

    [...] It was great to read the wide variety of perspectives in my colleagues’ responses, and though I can’t share all of those here I realized that my response might make another good blog post. Obviously, I’m indepted to Tom March for this response, too. Hi, all. I’m thrilled Dr. Nolan decided to use this question. It comes from a welcome activity I started doing with principals (in a technology training for administrators). I finally put it down in a blog post a few months ago after a particularly powerful version of the discussion. Here’s a link to that post, which also tells the story behind the question and includes some others’ messages in the comments: http://edtechlife.com/?p=1889 [...]

  5. My Message From The Future « Constructing Meaning Says:

    [...] My Message From The Future I was having my morning tea, reading my feeds, and following my Twitter stream when @markwagner linked to a blog post he wrote in ‘07 and asked what message we would send from the future to the principals of today . . . paused a moment and decided to give it a shot. I logged into the Google doc that @markwagner was using and shared: School is no longer passive, learning and technology have converged allowing students the power to guide their learning. This has created a myriad of new degrees and avenues for creativity that weren’t even imagined when you were directing your student. Please imagine . . . the wild. Visualize . . . the unknown. Remember that vision is the art of seeing the invisible. Create new places of learning that don’t resemble the “tried and true.” But, rather, open the windows to the art of possibility. (With appreciations to both Emerson and Benjamin Zander for having vision.) [...]

  6. Kevin Says:

    Hi Mark:

    Thanks for a great class last week! The technology moduls of the AB430 trianing program is my favorite by far and it truly reminds me how much I still need to learn regarding tech advancements in the educaitonal world. I am motivated to incorporate more technology use and data anaysis on my site, which brings me to my question to you.

    After our class on Monday, I rushed back to school and informed our principal of these great new ideas. I also emphasized how impressed I was with the website “Just For The Kids” and how easy the site could be used for data collection/analysis. He has now asked that I conduct a 30-minute presentation on this website to our entire staff of 150 individuals, this FRIDAY; I am thrilled to do so. My question to you is: What three elements of this site are going to be most influential to our hgh-performing teaching staff? is there something special that I can illustrate oto them on Friday, which will motivate them to dive-in? Thanks for any help you can provide me!

  7. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Effective Professional Development Says:

    [...] Message From The Future More: http://edtechlife.com/?p=1889 & [...]