what was missing from my presentation

The crowd is standing room only as I begin.  I'm Icarus soaring up toward the sun.  I'm powerful.  I'm respected.  No spit wads or hunks of paper.  No airplanes.  Just me, backed up with my PowerSlides set up with the Edison Projector.

I offer a give and take, asking critical thinking questions.  I see a few college students taking studious notes.  Who knows? They could be using their tablets for the pen pal networks, but I assume these are learning devices and perceive the nodding of the heads to be agreement rather than falling asleep.  

I offer a few bits of humor.  It's an easy crowd.  People expect safe, campy, cornball humor and so my sardonic, cynical musings seem, if nothing else, like a novelty.  The laugher jars me, because I was always the serious kid who sat silently in class.  I was always a little too grown up for my age and now I'm comfortable in my own age.  

I explain the relationship between social context (the dawn of a Progressive era, urbanization, the rise of industrialization), current educational theory (and its practice) and technology.  I mention, as a historical example, the Guttenberg Press meeting the rise of nationalism and the early educational theorist Erasmus.  I lock my hands together to show the Triple Convergence and how it is a catalyst for change.  

After talking about a New Pedagogy (which I cleverly refer to as Learning 4.0 just to prove that it is two steps ahead of being 2.0 and all the while feeling, in my gut that I'm still teaching at the Beta level), I offer the question, "as we move forward, what will we do to retain the voice from the past? How will we avoid the pitfalls of perennialism?" 

I explain my seven steps and show examples of student work.  

*     *     *

Paul the Pre-industrial Poet attends for moral support. I assume that supporting one's morals means boosting one's ego.  Wrong.  Paul pulls me aside and asks, "Do you really want to know what I thought?"

"Yup.  Let me know."  

"The slides were great.  The points were well spoken.  You wowed the crowd with a folksy style meeting just the right high vocabulary to prove your points.  The information was solid, too.  I think it got people thinking. But there was one thing missing."  

"What's that?" 


"I'm not sure what you're talking about."  

"Look, seven steps.  These folks have had seven steps and four keys all day long.  Multiply seven and four and you have a perfect number and that's the problem.  It's all perfect.  But people are tired, real tired, and all the keys and steps are making them feel like janitors in a stadium and they're jumping on all these steps trying to hold onto the heavy key chain and watching the players strut around on the field. What are they supposed to do with all this?"

"So, what would you have done differently?" 

"Okay, you know how you say pencils are not the magic bullet? You just presented them as the magic bullet.  You showed the best student examples and told the most enlightening stories.  You advertised yourself and although the crowd felt entertained, where do they go from there? Fantasy land?  Tell some stories of failure.  Tell a story of a snapped pencil or a paper airplane.  Show a time when a student failed to get it and ask the crowd for advice. They might not be pencil geeks, but they are experts in some area." 
Paul is right.  So if I'm Icarus, I'm crashing toward the ground.  I'll be greeted with adoration from those who attended the workshop.  We might talk theoretical nonsense and I might move closer to the sun.  Or maybe I can stop pretending that I'm cutting edge and admit that the edge has cut me up pretty badly in the process.

Maybe I'll just be what I am - a guy who is lost in a quickly changing industrial world, a little scared and lonely and confused by the fact that I cannot see the stars a little too squeezed in by the sardine can compression of it all.  Maybe I'll tell a few stories of failure and engage in a conversation about being relevant without selling out.

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