Sunday, April 4, 2010

Are You a Tortoise, a Hare, or a Possum?

I have been thinking about Web 2.0 use in schools and Internet filtering, and also about hares, tortoises, and possums. In fact I am thinking about the topics daily due to an upcoming panel discussion at Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference in San Antonio, which is about filtering. I am, of all things, moderator. I plan to bring a noise maker and wildly wield authority over the session. In preparation for this I am conducting a survey on Filtering at Schools, and would appreciate participation at:

Meanwhile, back to critters. First of all I want to praise the hares. These folks are leaders, and I am constantly amazed at how far ahead of the rest of us they constantly range. The reason I love Twitter is because I follow some great librarians and technology folks who are constantly presenting and sharing about Web. 2.0 resources. If you want some great tweets, go to my site and pick up some of the same people. They are waay out in front of the rest of us and showing the way. Unlike the silly hare in the fable, these folks are not about to be caught napping. I am in awe of all the different things they do and have followed up on tweets that led to great ideas innumerable times. Hares are also writing, presenting, creating, experimenting, and exerting leadership in countless ways regarding the use of Web2.0 in schools.

Then there are the tortoises. Those are the rest of us who follow along, maybe a bit slowly and thoughtfully, but still very much in the race. These are the folks who recognize the value of new ideas and resources, but are not necessarily the early adopters. With so many new things to evaluate and try, these folks are more likely to follow along with ideas that they can see have demonstrated promise. They may be burdened with other duties and obligations both at school and at home, but are very much still in the race. Hooray for these folks! They can be counted upon to attend training sessions, collaborate with hares, and generally keep things moving along.

Then there is another group of people, I regret to say, who comprise a third anthropomorphic species. I am calling these folks the possums. Yes, these are the people that fall down and play dead. They are content to be uninformed, disinterested, and even antagonistic about technology in general and Web 2.0 in particular. Years ago there was a teacher at my school who said, "If you give me a computer, I will use it for a plant stand." Such folks are hard to reach, but at least some can be brought along. I enlisted my plant stand friend for an online project involving her students and she changed her tune! That was years ago, but I know that there are still educators that do not want to be responsible for supervising students using the Internet, who do not want to bother to try different things, and who may still be fearful and antagonistic regarding computer use.

I have asked for years how the possums can be de-possumed. Now I believe there is not an easy or single answer to that question. But one of the best instruments of change is one-on-one involvement. The deadly old staff developments where large groups are required to listen to enthusiastic hares whose language they may not even completely understand (tweets? wikis? Nings???) are not productive. I suspect tortoises may be better suited for the task. They are more likely to relate to possum-think and offer reassurance and timely as-needed support.

Finally I cannot resist mixing metaphors even more and reminding myself that "You can bring a horse to water but you cannot make him drink." There are some folks who are not going to change their ways. Frankly, while this is getting harder and harder, it is still true that some people can still be effective though possumish. All the same, I would strongly urge both hares and tortoises to extend paws toward erstwhile possums. Any ideas about how to do so will be greatly appreciated.


  1. I think you're right about the 1-on-1 approach. Also, help them with what they need and don't make them feel dumb. I worked with a teacher recently that was having trouble herding some folks for some staff development. She complained about the emails back and forth and multiple drafts. I gave her a quick overview of Google Docs and sites and now she's off and loving it. If I had tried before she had a need it would have been for naught.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head, when you said need. Isn't that exactly what we are supposed to be doing...meeting needs. I just became a librarian in a district where the librarians are definitely hares, so I caught on their tail wind by learning and teaching web 2.0. The most surprising thing so far, for me at least, is how much the students need and very much want help with navigating the web and using the tools that are available to them. I think it comes down to the question of do we as librarians really want to meet them where they are and provide every tool at our disposal to help them advance in their educational future.