Open Thinkering


Tag: Hugh McLeod

Good ideas, sheep and wolves.

Have you ever read an article or blog post that feels like it was written just for you? Hugh McLeod, he of ‘cartoons drawn on the back of business cards’ fame (like the one above) wrote a post just like that a few days ago. Entitled Good Ideas Have Lonely Childhoods, I urge you to go and read it in its entirety.

For obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into detail, but I’ve had to deal with two or three frustrating workplace situations recently. In one I lost my cool a bit as my interlocutor just didn’t seem to get it. Hugh’s post made me a bit more philosophical about it. He makes six very good points in his post, but the two that stand out for me are:

1. Good ideas have lonely childhoods

Given 20:20 hindsight, anyone can wise. There’s a quotation I put up on the walls of the History department at my school that reads, “A historian is a prophet in reverse”. It’s easy being the historian; what takes talent and effort is being the prophet.

Ideas have gestation periods. There’s a time and a place for them to be ‘born’, a time for them to be ‘nurtured’ and a time for them to reach maturity. Think of the green movement, for example. 20 years ago they were considered part of the lunatic fringe. Now, such ideas are mainstream and seen to be ‘the future’.

So we should expect some banging of heads against walls from time-to-time in frustration. Especially in schools – those most conservative of institutions.

2. Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships, that is why good ideas are always initially resisted

I’ve seen this on a cartoon by Hugh McLeod before, and it makes me smile. For someone to take on and accept other people’s ideas they must themselves be confident and secure in their own position. It’s obvious when this is not the case. Things become increasingly centralised and bureaucratic. It’s interesting that Google, for example, one of the world’s largest and most successful companies, has 20% time. This is, as you would imagine, one-fifth of an employee’s time which can be spent on projects they are especially interested and motivated to see succeed. The key is that these people are being trusted to have, organise and carry through ideas. That’s how successful innovation occurs. 😀

So, as Jenny Luca stated towards the end of her response to Hugh’s post, I’m going to keep plugging away. In fact, I liked her metaphor so much I’m going to finish with it:

I feel like I’m in the playground, sitting in the sandpit pretty much alone right now in terms of my thinking. Friends will come, they always do, they’re just hanging around the fringes of the sandpit. I need to draw a few more lines in the sand to attract a crowd. I’ll keep at it.

Thanks Hugh and Jenny!

(also love this discussion about whether that means that, conversely, lonely children have good ideas…)

Help me write my job spec. for next year!

(The response I hope not to get come September…)

I’ve mentioned this in passing in a couple of blog posts previous to this one: from next academic year I shall be E-Learning Tutor at my school. This new post (solicited by me, it has to be said) involves me spending 50% of my time (15 periods of 50 mins) per week teaching History and a bit of ICT. The other 50% will count towards the E-Learning Tutor role.

I’ve a meeting next week with my Head to flesh out my actual role. He mentioned today that I’ll have to do some “mundane” stuff, but that I will be free to push a few aspects of my choosing and accelerate perhaps one thing I’m really interested in. As you can imagine, with my Ed.D. thesis exploring the ‘Digital Literacy’, that’s the latter taken care of. 🙂

I’m expecting the mudane activities I shall have to undertake to be things like:

  • Interactive Whiteboard training (the really basic aspects)
  • How to use the new VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)
  • Using the internal Microsoft Outlook web-based email system
  • Ways to use Powerpoint and other presentation tools in the classroom
  • How to transfer digital video from digital cameras/camcorders to staff laptops

Whereas what I really want to be pushing are things such as:

  • Creating a blog to make resources available outside the classroom (I’ve already run a couple of staff workshops on this, with some success)
  • Basic podcasting and digital storytelling for non-written assessment, leading to e-portfolios for students.
  • Communicating with other educators worldwide (i.e. getting staff initiated in the edublogosphere – perhaps through the K12 Online Conference?)
  • Giving staff the confidence to take students into the ICT suites more often to use the Internet as a publishing tool.
  • Transferring schemes of work and programmes of study into an electronic format (perhaps in a wiki-like format using Google Sites within Google Apps Team Edition or the new VLE?)

Some context to help you understand where we’re at: my school has a plethora of RM One machines, Interactive Whiteboards in almost every classroom, and relatively unrestricted access (we can access Twitter,, Google Video, etc. but not YouTube, Facebook or games websites, for example). There’s a real mix of what I would call ‘digital literacy’ amongst staff. We range from those, like me, who use educational technology in some way in every lesson, to those who only use their laptop to help them write reports, and who certainly haven’t turned on their Interactive Whiteboard yet… 😮

What else should I be looking to include in my responsibilities? How should my success and impact be measured, given that it’s a 1-year trial role? Suggestions in the comments section please! :-p

Image credits: Hugh McLeod @ (top one censored by me…)