We’re Different – And Why?

How do we successfully navigate the chasm between “progressives” and “traditionalists”?  The RSA Report (March 2016) Creative Public Leadership suggests that creating a compelling argument is the first step.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 10.35.14 PM

For those of us who have been learning online for nearly 20 years, creating a compelling argument might seem redundant.

We wonder why it seems so hard to convince those higher up in the education hierarchy that change is an urgent need.

Perhaps the work of Roger Martin can help us understand the chasm more clearly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 11.00.13 PM


If I am an educator and/or education leader, and I believe that I am doing excellent work, I have no reason to look for new tools to change my practice.

If I believe that I am a learner, and that my practice can always improve, I look for tools to help me organize my thinking, to learn more about the world and to connect with others in like roles.  These tools include traditional learning materials like books and research papers, but they now also include digital tools and social networking opportunities.


How I see myself and my purpose influences my choice of tools.  If leaders use traditional tools like books and articles, they might insist that I do as well.  But if I am an innovative thinker, I will stretch beyond what my leadership team is modelling and engage in digital tools that might lead me to online conversations and learning – to building a powerful network of online learners who challenge my thinking and invite me to participate in a whole different level of learning.

This begins to change who I am, and my thinking about what tools are best for my learning.  We can see already how this begins to conflict with the thinking of education leaders who have not used the vast array of today’s online tools for learning.


Choosing digital tools creates opportunities for unique, personalized and deep professional learning, outside of what has been prescribed by education leaders.

This changes us.

Our thinking about our practice is now influenced by educators from around the world, not just those in our hierarchy.  And those “above us”  in our deeply hierarchical education systems may have no clue that this learning is possible, thereby devaluing its importance.

We liken this to coming out of a cave, realizing that the paucity of learning “in the cave” using traditional tools is not what we need in this *VUCA world.  We recognize that the vastly expansive and rich  learning opportunities and the tools that support and leverage them are critical to the success of our students today.

We are changed educators. But when we jump up and down and try to make others see this (invisible) world we have discovered, we are often met with disappointment (or worse).

David Truss, in 2012, described it beautifully here.

Seth Godin asks us today:

It’s far easier to worry and gripe about insufficient authority, about those that would seek to slow us down, disrespect us or silence us.

But we live in a moment where each of us has the power of influence.

What will you do with it?

Seth Godin, More Powerful Than You Know

*VUCA=Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

Featured Image by Carl Jones: CC-BY-NC-2.0


David Truss: The Lone Wolf

Heidi Siwak: The Very Strange World of Adult Problem Solving

Seth Godin: More Powerful Than You Know

Roger Martin: The Opposable Mind

The RSA: Creative Public Leadership

Canada’s Digital Talent Strategy for 2020

Harvard Business Review: What VUCA really means for you

5 thoughts on “We’re Different – And Why?

  1. Love this Donna!

    I know this post is focused on ‘educator as learner’, and this is what you specifically address, but I’d sneak in the students as learners too when looking at tools: “This begins to change who I am, and my thinking about what tools are best for my learning…” [And my students’ learning.]

    I think it is equally important for educators to think about how we help students with their stance, tools & experience and that this comes with the shift in our own stance.

    This helps us when we are met with disappointment or with cave dwellers because we can see we are making an impact with our own students! And it can help us see how the tools we use can be equally beneficial for students to learn with as well. I heard a podcast recently where Tim Ferriss said, “Technology is a wonderful tool, but a terrible master” and I think that when we think of the tools we use, we need to keep the end goal of student learning at the forefront of our minds… Even when we are thinking about our own learning journey as educators.

  2. Thanks for this Donna, you’ve helped me think about this in a different way. The people who have been open to listening and learning around me have been those whose stance began with their students: “I want to accomplish whatever it takes to achieve the best learning for my students”. I wonder if it is easier for teachers who interact and experience the “whites of their eyes” in the classroom every day to risk a shift than an administrator who think of things in the abstract “students in our system” way, ie system thinking. On top of all the other compelling reasons to resist the unproven changes, of course. Because “progressives” and “lone wolves” all know that it is even if testing data were to remain the very same, there are qualitative changes in the learning as well. And measuring improvement in student independence, self-regulation, co-operation and collaboration skills, etc. is far more difficult to accomplish, and let alone demonstrate in our current data driven systems. For myself, this change in my own Learning Skills is the very essence of my change as both a teacher and a learner, not the skills of using the tools. Even the definition of what these terms mean to me has changed.

    So my question is: How do we provide compelling evidence of improved learning skills, and how do we demonstrate its importance, when trying convince educational hierarchies that change is urgently needed?

    1. We demonstrate its importance by making our students’ efforts utilizing their Effective Learning public via their presentations / demonstrations based upon their outcomes!

  3. Such a great graphic! It all must start with the stance! And, yes, there will be situations when the educator / facilitator / leader will push a direction counter to what the learner believes to lead to Effective Learning – useful in addressing meaningful situations. Therefore, there will be times when the agenda-setting learner must recognize the two responsibilities: outside-controlled learning AND Effective Learning. The good news is that the Effective Learning will only improve the outside-controlled learning – unless one insists ‘A’ and the other understands that ‘B’ is really better. The ‘guides’ and ‘informs’ on the graphic are both right on target and so very important.

    This post needs to be the foundation of serious Considerations within PLCs and across social media. Another source, I firmly believe will be the case (I’ve only begun my Considerations based upon it) is the following MIT report recently made available.


    And I’m expecting relevance for K-12 for sure!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *