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?