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In praise of pragmatists

Easy to do is easy to say.

Earlier this week I gave the talk  "If You Think You Can Do a Thing."  The presentation's focus is on assessing and changing teacher attitudes toward technology, arguing that attitude plays a major part in any change effort.  (I know, 'Well, duh!")

One of the points I try to make comes from Geoffrey Moore in his book, Inside the Tornado. He neatly divides people  implementing new technologies into visionaries and the pragmatists, and suggests we need to work with each group differently. He writes:

Visionaries are intuitive

Pragmatists are analytic

Visionaries support revolution

 Pragmatists support evolution

Visionaries are contrarians

Pragmatists are conformists

Visionaries break away from pack

Pragmatists stay with herd

Visionaries follow their own dictates

Pragmatists consult with colleagues

Visionaries take risks

Pragmatists manage risks

Visionaries are motivated  by opportunities

Pragmatists are motivated by problems

Visionaries seek the possible

Pragmatists pursue the probable

After years of living in denial, I am coming out of the closet here. Yes, friends and family, I must come clean. I am a PRAGMATIST.  Perhaps I was once a visionary, but having worked with real people, contended with real technologies, and been employed by real schools for the past 30 years, I am now a full-fledged pragmatist.

pragmatist.jpgAnd instead of being ashamed, I am proud! We pragmatists should hold our heads high. Sure, it's exciting to hear those exciting pointy-heads pontificate about how things "really ought to be," but putting vision into practice is where we pragmatists shine - where the vision is practical, of course.  And when it actually makes sense and if others are doing it. Of course the chance of success must be pretty good. Oh, the change must be demonstrated in other schools to have actually improved kids or teachers lives.

I would argue that making something work in th real world on a broad scale takes as much or greater genius than thinking it up in the first place.

In a recent School Library Journal article, Will Richardson uses an innovative teacher as an example of how using tags within can facilitate the collaborative problem solving process. Visionary! Very cool! But when I demonstrated to a group of teachers this week, one excitedly raised her hand and asked, "Do you mean students could store their research paper bookmarks there so they keep them even after the tech director re-images the lab?" Pragmatic! Very cool! Bless her big practical heart.

Let's hold our heads high, fellow pragmatists. We're doing good things. It just takes us a little longer.

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Reader Comments (2)

"Outed" at last, Doug. ;-) We need visionaries. We need to read their ideas and listen to their speeches. We need to catch the excitement when they dream aloud of ways to use new technologies in teaching and learning. In the end, however, we cannot forget that only in-the-trenches educators can make those tech dreams useful. Visionaries without pragmatists are just queen bees without drones. (Or would the correct term be worker bees? I'd better review some basic biology here.)
March 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMary J. Johnson
Hi Mary,

You're right - it takes both the visionaries and pragmatists. It's just too bad the visionaries get all the glory!

All the best and keep up the good work on Primary Source.

March 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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