Friday, March 30, 2007

Did You Know - The Sequel?

I mentioned in the previous post that we were working on a new and improved version of Did You Know?/Shift Happens. Scott McLeod and I have had contact from some folks at XPLANE. What’s XPLANE?
We use visualization to convey complex ideas, processes, and services, and know the discipline of visual thinking is a key enabler to improve clarity of thought, better decisions and faster action.
They contacted us via email (excerpt):
We’re a global information design and consulting firm, and we specialize in visualizing information so it’s more easily and quickly understood. We’d be interested in working with you to produce your presentation into a more visually-charged event. The addition of some compelling information graphics and data visualization could add impact and help the presentation cross more language and learning boundaries that it does in words alone. With your content and our visualization, we’re pretty confident that your work would reach a much broader audience, furthering its mission.
XPLANE has done great work for some very large corporations as well as government agencies (including the U.S. Department of Education). They are currently brainstorming and gathering more data to clean up and repackage Did You Know?/Shift Happens into a more polished production. Now, I’m not saying that this is “the” video that I talked about previously, but it is something real and tangible that we can be working on.

As part of this, we need to address what steps viewers should take after watching the video. When the XPLANE folks first brought that up, I was pretty stumped, because this is such a complicated issue to try to narrow down to a few bullet points. And the next steps might look different in different places (while the themes we are talking about are universal, all education is local). But then Scott McLeod suggested for me to think about it in terms of questions. Now you’re talking – I’m good at questions (not so good at answers, but good at questions). What questions could we suggest that viewers ask of folks that would spur action and change? Scott McLeod is also thinking about this from his perspective at the higher education/school leadership/data-driven change level, and I’m focusing on K-12. I have some of my own ideas for what those questions/actions might look like, but I figured throwing it out to your collective wisdom made much more sense.

So, here goes. You’re not limited to the way I’m framing this – feel free to go in any direction you’d like. But, to get us started, here are some categories for the questions that could appear at the end of this new version of Did You Know?. I’d like you to fill in the ellipses for each one.
Now that you’ve watched this presentation, we would suggest the following:
  • Ask yourself this question: . . .
  • Ask your child(ren)’s (school’s?) teacher(s) this question: . . .
  • Ask your child(ren)’s (school’s?) principal this question: . . .
  • Ask your child(ren)’s (school’s?) superintendent/school board this question: . . .
  • Ask your state representative/senator/governor this question: . . .
  • Ask your congressperson/senator this question: . . .
  • Ask your employer this question: . . .
Maybe this is too many questions, or maybe not enough. Or maybe there should be one series of questions that gets asked of all these folks. Or maybe questions are the wrong way to go. You tell me.

Like many bloggers, I enjoy getting comments. But – this time – I’m practically begging you for them (constructive comments, of course, either on this post or Scott's). If you have suggestions for the questions I proposed – or if you have a better way to frame this – please, please do so. As I tell my staff all the time, if you think some (or all) of my ideas are nuts, then you better join the conversation, because how else is your voice going to be heard? Please help us develop this. XPLANE is actively working on this and we hope to have it completed fairly soon. Our target – NECC in Atlanta. Let’s change the world.


  1. I defer to Covey's 7 Habits: "Begin with the end in mind.". I think we kind of have that on a massive, philosophical scale. However, do we have it in our worlds (school, home, community). Once we do, we set out a plan of steps, what we can do about it. At our school (, we're starting with a small but significant paradigm shift: separate content from media. That is, don't make a kid write a paper if they can make an incredible movie or animation. Let's try and do that a little bit at a time. In addition, we're going to provide "professional development for students": classes they can go to during lunch, or after school, to learn technologies, so the teacher is no longer the master of all. There are bigger ideas after, but my point is that we have a big plan, and are going after these small but committed steps first. Keep it up Karl, looking forward to NECC!

  2. Ask your child's teacher--What will my child need to know in 2020?
    What can you do now to help them?

    Ask your principal this question--What is your vision? What is step one?

    Ask your school district--How nimble can you be? Do you allow innovation?

    Ask your state legislator--How innovative can you be? How can you support teachers?

    Ask your federal legislator--How can you support change in education? How can you support educators?

    The primary question --

    What is your vision?

    Vision comes from the Latin, "to see." If we don't have a sense of looking forward, of "seeing" ahead, then change won't occur, or at least not the kind of change we want.

  3. Just came across this "stylized" version of "Did You Know?" on slideshare:

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  5. I haven't had time to process and produce a polished response, and I am hoping that I and others will give you deeper thoughts later.

    But I was thinking about the quandary the language "shift happens" gives me--I could show this to some middle schoolers, but for that (and their parents' responses) and for some parents, let alone students, that phrase is enough to turn them off, if they are thinking it is the substitute for sh** happens.

    HERE's what just occurred to me, and I think would fly in both audiences, and have a great appeal. "Shift" is what you do to GET IN GEAR, and in higher gear...I am thinking of that car commercial from years ago when Leonard Nemoy and his daughter (Leonard=Spock of Star Trek) shifted through a landscape...

    SO, my question would be something about how do we "gear up" or, how do we learn to drive THE STICK SHIFT OF THE FUTURE? (I leave it to you as to whether it is a car, or a space craft, we are visualizing).

    I hope I am making some sense to you -- I think the metaphor (shift happens) is powerful, and the next step being described in such terms will help us bring the message to people with many different levels of understanding...they all need to be spurred on to the "next gear" from where they are, where-ever that is, and to keep accelerating until they reach the future.

  6. “Wow, we really need to be addressing these ideas and changes as we work with students,” was my first thought after viewing an adapted version of Did You Know? I knew that it would be a good starting point to begin the discussion of technology infusion with the staff of the two elementary schools I work with.

    The buildings are part of a large, technologically rich public school district. The responses surprised me. Once the majority of the staff in the two buildings got past the initial “Wow” I began to hear the “Yes, but…..” responses.

    “Yes, but it is more important that I teach reading, writing and math.”
    “Yes, but I am already overwhelmed with what I have to teach.”
    “Yes, but how is this going to help my students meet standards.”
    “Yes, but I am accountable for how well my students test on the state test. It doesn’t cover technology.”
    “Yes, but they don’t test my students on their ability to use technology. When they do then I will include it in my curriculum.”
    “Yes, but I heard that too much exposure to media negatively impacts brain development in young children.”
    “Yes, but…..”

    My question is how do we spur people to action who are 1) comfortable with where they are; 2) frightened by how fast things are changing so prefer to ignore them; 3) are uncomfortable with the changes finding them overwhelming; and 4) are just plain overwhelmed?

    Small, incremental steps are good if in the end we aren’t further behind then when we started. We don’t need reform, we need revolution.

  7. Karl, this is so exciting and such a tremendous compliment to your thinking, wondering, challenging...

    I love how Carolyn Foote added to the questions. Excellent. It really gives specific questions to the audience, but also leaves room to make considerations of their own. I think it would be powerful to have some sort of email box that could pop up where people could immediately add an email and ask these questions. The water buffalo site had something similar.

    I love the immediacy that the slideshow creates and it would be so empowering to really ask an administrator, a politician, my son's 2nd grade teacher, such questions.

    I did think Sue's question regarding the title "Shift Happens" is one to consider. I think that her idea of Shift Gears...with a great visual to go with it is a nice way to keep the essence of the title, but in a way that is maybe more p/c for school audiences. If that is the intent to really change educator's ideas and to have our students think about their future, then I do feel that it is worth thinking about the word choice.