Monday, March 4, 2013

The idea is the easy part

.......and access is not a goal.

The idea is the easy part......
Audrey Watters and John Spencer both have articles up talking about the problems with TED. There is a lot there and worth a read. They hit on similar criticisms. Audrey says, "You are not supposed to interrogate a TED Talk." and John wrote, "TED Talks become a sort of Secular Scripture offering a script to fix humanity." Some of the TED ideas are bad. Some are good. That's expected.

I have a different issue. My problem isn't with TED. I happen to like quite a few talks. TED is simply mirroring our values.1

My problem is that we place too much value on the idea and not enough on the work.

Sugata Mitra has an idea. He wants to open a School in the Cloud.  Fine. Everyone has ideas. My question isn't about his idea it's about his willingness to put the work in to make it happen and keep it happening.

You've got an idea? So do a million other people. Let's stop celebrating ideas. Celebrate those standing waste deep in the muck with dirt in their nails and sweat on their face.

....and access is not a goal.

Bill Gates and Will.I.Am want everyone to have the opportunity to code.2 Ok. California wanted every 8th grader to take Algebra. They said provide access and achievement will follow. Those of us in California can tell you how that went.

Providing access is the absolute minimum that we can possibly do and still feel like we've accomplished something.

(edit: I should link this for a scholarly view on access)

1: Or at least the type of values that someone who would watch a TED talk has.
1.5: I avoided ranting about Alfie Kohn. Be proud.
2: I'm not a fan of the idea itself, but I'm talking specifically about access and opportunity as goals. Also not a fan of the School in the Cloud. Mostly seems like 'access' but with the computer. It's like opening a school with an infinite number of textbooks available and some of them talk and have moving pictures and most are focused on cats.  


  1. AMEN.

    i get tired of people whose only focus seems to be keeping up with the day's popular edu-trend and then doling out "ideas" or "inspiration" to those of us who are actually in the classroom like this job is so easy and we're just waiting for their words of wisdom.

    even with the best of intentions, talk is just talk. it takes a lot more work to DO.

  2. Thank you for writing this post. You hit upon something that has been bugging me a lot lately, but I've been unable to put it into words.

    What is hard about teaching — as opposed to yelling about it from the cheap seats — is that you have to show up and do it EVERY SINGLE HOUR OF EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL DAY.

    When my former colleagues from Silicon Valley ask me what it is like, I tell them that it is like running a trade show with a crew of thirteen-year-olds... except that this trade show lasts ALL YEAR.

    Ideas are wonderful, but they are the easy part. Implementation — with live human beings — is the truly difficult part. But it's also where all the treasure is.

    - Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf)

  3. All I shall say here in this case is "Ideation without execution is nothing more than dilusion." There is nothing bad in having ideas, but it is the implementation part that gives the real test.