Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dr. Strangeblog, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Scott McLeod

Scott McLeod used to piss me off.

For example, stuff like this gets a strong response out of me.

I'm not alone - just look at the comments on that post. My impulse is to write all kinds of snotty retorts.

"This is the time of calculators; any educator who spends public money on paper and pencil should be fired!"

"Of course! Clearly the best way to teach a child about a sphere is with a flat computer monitor! I have been such an idiot!"

"Take out your laptops, kids! Oh wait, you're not allowed to bring your laptop to school! Now what?! I guess I should quit, and do a different job until conditions are perfect for 21st century learning!"

I have had a knee-jerk reaction to his rhetoric and apparent ignorance of the realities of day to day classroom teaching. I've unsubscribed and subscribed to his feed more times than I can remember. His tendency to call teachers stupid and declare they should be fired and their work sucks demonstrates a prickliness that doesn't make me want to snuggle up to him, either.

But while chatting with this guy (and, props, some of what follows are his words, not mine), I experienced a moment of clarity about Scott McLeod. All along, I have been reading him through the wrong lens. I wouldn't call him Dangerously Irrelevant, I'd call him Necessarily Irrelevant. (Although he claims the title refers to institutions' response to new technology. I think he is just playing with us.)

Because the thing is...his writing is a fantasy. Like big architectural fantasies that will never be built. Like concept cars that will never be driven. Like high-concept fashion that headlines a show but is never seen off the runway. Imaginative, visionary, blue-sky plans that are put on paper but never happen.

But! High fashion provides the raw material that gets processed by a collective sensibility and eventually becomes pret-a-porter. Concept cars test the limits and feasibility of bizarre ideas and drive innovation in mass market automobiles. Crazy architectural renderings show us how awesome our surroundings could be and their innovations show up in increments.

So that's how I choose to read Scott Mcleod. He sees the world as it could be, disconnected from on-the-ground realities, but influencing the direction of thought. His aforementioned prickliness, I speculate, derives from frustration that big, slow, school institutions have too much inertia to snap to his vision of what schools could be. But one day we will look around, and our schools will be delivering aspects of that vision, and we will have people like him to thank. And with that attitude shift in this reader, I'll follow his feed for a while longer.