Monthly Archives: December 2011

If I Were A Pompous White Man

I know a lot of people have already responded to “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” but no one did it in quite the mocking way I’d hoped for so, as usual, I gave it a shot when I probably should have let it go.

I started off angry and just became more depressed the more I broke it down. There were some possible points in his article but it’s wrapped in such stupidity and arrogance that they’re not worth delineating.

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I am not a pompous white man.1 So life is easier for me. But that doesn’t mean that prospects are impossible for pompous white men. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that the pompous white man should be content with saying obnoxious things to the people in his general physical location. I believe the pompous white man should broadcast his ignorance to the far corners of the globe so that no one is in doubt. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

It takes egotism. It take banality. It takes an online site dedicated to other pompous white people. It takes the help of people who should know better. It takes the arrogance to enjoy coming across as a pompous jerk who knows little about education and less about technology.

If I were a pompous white man writing about poor black children I would first and most importantly write my article in the whitest online site I could find. Forbes would work if I wasn’t good enough to make it into the Wall St. Journal. Whatever the site, I really want to avoid any actual poor black children reading what I wrote. I would make it my #1 priority to have no real knowledge about what I wrote about. Not only would I not be involved in education, I’d also have no experience with poor children of any color. I wouldn’t care that even my title had grammatical errors. Writing like you have simple answers to complex questions is the key. With enough arrogance, you open all sorts of possibilities. You might even run for political office.

As a pompous white man, I would make sure I didn’t actually know any black children. Or any poor children. I certainly wouldn’t know any actual poor black children. I’d make sweeping generalizations based off of things people I knew told me.2 As a pompous white man even my pity (sadly) would be parenthetical and condescending. I’d make sure to reference an online retailer or two because I care enough to do a Google search for these poor black kids. I’d chalk that up as one more barrier knocked down. Access to technology- check!

If I were a pompous white man I’d reference a bunch of technology that is popular right now. I’d mention Google Scholar, although if anyone pressed me on how one becomes an “expert at Google Scholar” I’d be fairly puzzled. I’ve never used it for much of anything but it sounds good. It has both “Google” and “Scholar” in the title. I’d make sure that I reference a bunch of sites that have Gates funding. If you’ll recall, I already solved the computer problem, I’ll just figure the Internet access one is solved as well. I’d string together a few decent resources and pretend they would somehow solve core literacy problems. I would also, when possible, forget that if I got free digital books I’d probably need them in school and most schools aren’t too fond of BYOD (despite all the press).

I’d mention two tools (Backpack3 and Diigo) which could possibly be used for some homework and call them “homework tools.”4 I’d be out of touch enough to think that homework is somehow related to researching and collaborating on the Internet with groups of people. I’d ignore the fact that many schools would consider this cheating. I’d call Evernote a study website. I’d suggest paying $5 a month for Study Rails instead of using something free.5

Is it easy to be this pompous? No it’s not. It’s hard. It takes a special kind of arrogance and hubris. Even with these tools it’s much harder to be this pompous without being an actual politician. But it’s not impossible. The ego is there. The pulpit is there. The Internet is there. The blinding hatred of others is there.

In my head, I’d pretend I knew something about schools. I’d mention a few schools I’ve heard on the news or something and then I’d condemn the whole school system. I’d come up with an elaborate path that virtually no student would do and then I’d condemn them for being lazy if they didn’t follow my advice. As a pompous white man, I’d make sure I ignored the fact that by the time a student could take charge of their learning to the extent I’m talking about they’d likely be so far behind that it’d be nearly impossible. To advocate and pursue a “good” education, you first have to know what “good” education is.

Now on to the vast bastion of whiteness- private schools. As a master of pomposity, I’d pretend that exclusive private schools offer a legitimate way out for poor black children. Every bastion of whiteness needs multicultural fund raising brochures after all. Sure it only takes three or four PBKs6 to round out a brochure but I’d focus on the advantage of being removed from your community and friends while hoping to get a scholarship for bus fare. If you’re really lucky a pompous white family will adopt you!

As a pompous white man, I’d suggest that guidance councilors at rich private schools would be experts in financial aid for minorities. After all, those guidance councilors probably practice up on that stuff with the 99% of their students who are rich white people. For a pompous white man, these kinds of things just make sense.

As a pompous white man, I’d say something cool like “get technical.” Remember when I got you that free computer and then made your Internet work? Yeah. Now I want you to learn some real specific things like “software”. Also “write code”. In pompous white man land everyone writes “code” and we certainly learned it on our own. That’s just how pompous white men roll, at least when we aren’t polishing our communication skills.

President Obama was right in his speech last week. It’s important that a pompous white man let you know this so that you don’t have to worry Obama’s speech wasn’t properly validated by real experts. As a member of the winning side, I’d make sure you knew the biggest problem isn’t inequality because that would imply I don’t deserve everything I have. Instead I’d say the problem is ignorance. If only those PBKs knew the path I’d propose for my kids if they were black. Or poor. Or black and poor. While my own kids will never do any of these things, I bet I could write a bunch of half-formed ideas and ill conceived notions down and write the time off as a donation on my taxes.

Finally, as a pompous white man, I’d let everyone know that it’s really the fault of these poor children that they aren’t doing better. They must not want help otherwise technology would help them. Or if they want help but don’t “go for it” in the ways I’ve prescribe they are dumb. Either way, it’s clearly their fault.

There’s still plenty of opportunity in the good ol’ USA and don’t let any reports using data get in the way of the gut feelings that allow me to sleep the sleep of smug superiority.


1 Not that pompous anyway, consider me semi-pompous.

2 Notice, I didn’t say “friends”. I don’t want to say anything that’d sound unreasonable.

3 Backpack is an easy intranet for your business. Store, share, discuss, and archive everything that’s essential for your team. Safe and secure.

4 I’ve also defined MTV as a music book.

5 Remember, I saved you all that money by sending you to Tiger Direct? Time to pay up cheapskates!

6 Poor black kids- Another tip, use acronymns when possible. Pompous white people love them.

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Daily Shoot Meets #VSTE

We were looking to do something to get participants more involved in documenting the VSTE conference this year. Essentially what we decided to do was create a random assignment generator and aggregate that content to a Posterous blog.

We’ll work on our Tebowing skills but all in all it feels like it worked pretty well. Given that we only had three people 1 tag anything with #vste2011 on Flickr we had pretty good participation.

The goal was to try to keep the assignments really small and quick. We tried to mix opportunities for serious stuff in with a fair amount of fun things. I believe this was originally worked in as part of a QR code activity. I’m not sure if that hurt things. I saw multiple people struggling to get QR codes to work at a few other sessions where a tinyURL would have done a much better job.

I’d describe how I used Google to find a php script or two that would allow me to randomize some text to make the page I used but . . . if I’d be thinking more clearly I’d have just used WordPress to do this. I also tacked on a Google Form to allow for the submission of additional project ideas (WordPress comments would have been simpler). No fuss, no muss, and I still hate code.


1 John Hendron, Tim Owens, and myself

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My Take on #DS106

I recently tried to present something on #ds106 and MOOCs in general at VSTE. It’s probably best it wasn’t filmed. I’m going to try to present something more coherent in writing.1 This will be a description of what made this course work for me although I believe it could be generalized at least some to the world as a whole.

My description of #DS106 was essentially an online course2 meets Woodstock. You take a guided online experience and mix it with both chaos and, more importantly, community.

At the core, this is all about community. I’ll play out a few of the things that seem to indicate that to me.

Mechanical Aggregation

DS106 seems to have the semi-mythical eduglu working. People are writing in all sorts of places with a variety of clients and it’s being captured in a way that encourages both commenting, community, and creativity. The synchronous aspect of this course is important and one that is encouraged and leveraged by being able to display both content and comments in one space with very little effort on the user. It’s a really interesting world when we can both have a “room of our own” and aggregate to communal place.

It doesn’t take a room of Java developers or a million dollar a year site license for the shiniest LMS ever. Martha’s work and her description of it makes it accessible to educators without the bottomless budgets or in-house development teams. That’s important, partly because that’ll probably be everyone after the next few rounds of budget cuts, but mainly because the idea that we don’t have to wait for someone else to build what we need is an important concept. Too often, I hear people waiting for things to be given to them- be it training, PD, or some tool or another. Don’t be passive participants. You are not helpless pawns.

The Ego Boost

Audience matters. Comments matter. Jim does an impressive job of encouraging and promoting the kind of work he wants to see. In another life, I’ll go and track pre and post publishing rates for the people he mentions on his blog.3 Guliaforsythe was kind enough to find some classic Jim Groom comments and pass them my way. Bottom line, people want to know people are engaging with their work. People want an audience. That’s, in part, why the synchronicity of DS106 is important. These comments and conversations have to play out in real time for them to impact what people do. Encouraging and modeling that kind of culture is good and important to building community online.

Shared Power/Responsibility

One of the main things that made DS106 attractive to me was that I could play something other than a subservient role. I’m a bad student for normal educational models. I don’t respect people for their degrees. If the assignment seems boring or stupid, I tend not to do it and I’m not really interested in being “assessed”. I’m an adult. I want a strong role in determining what I do and how I do it. DS106 offered me that ability. The fact that any student could submit an assignment was a big deal to me. The ability then to choose from those assignments which were presented as equals with the ones that were designed by the course creators was important.

A slight throw back to the mechanics piece, but a major part of what seemed to make the projects work was the aggregation of submissions under the project itself. Much like comments on posts, seeing that people really voluntarily did your assignments and watching them stacking up was a real motivator. Those kind of feedback cycles keep people engaged and participating.

Snowballs

Once again, the community would take an initial assignment and then start iteratively redesigning it, building on the work of other students and making something new. It be interesting to see if you could guide that without forcing it. One particular example of how it played out is below.

The initial prompt was to read and respond to Gardner Campbell’s “No Digital Facelifts”.

I remixed the talk with Nas and expected that to be the end of it. Another of a series of stones thrown into the vast abyss of the Internet. the song

Yet, Grant Potter took it and remixed it again.

There’s even a Neil Young version out there someplace.

Tim Owens built a whole kinetic text movie out of the speech. I recognize Tim’s work is not a direct outgrowth of the previous work but it is indicative of people gaining momentum in terms of how they might respond to the prompt with a variety of media in ways that probably weren’t intended initially.

Stop Talking

I think a number of these concepts could be integrated into how we do online PD for teachers, how we structure courses for students in K12 and HE, and just how we conceptualize what ingredients we need to build online community.

Anyway, probably enough for now.


1 I’ll skip my pitch about how there might be some lesser revenue streams in the model that would encourage HE institutions to start doing this more. Maybe I’ll do that later just to see Jim’s reaction.

2 I know the slide says OER. I’m still thinking about why I did that other than online course was too long.

3 Martha has some DS106 stats that are interesting but they’re broader of scope.