Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Over Two Million Served

(Note: this post has been kicking around in my head for quite a while, but I was finally spurred to write/publish it as a result of this post by Will Richardson, which was – in turn – spurred by my comment on this post by Will. If you haven’t yet read through the comments on that one, they’re well worth your time. This is going to be an extremely long post, so bear with me – I will eventually return to Will’s post.)

Does everyone remember when McDonald’s used to put up so many millions (then later billions) served on their signs? Well, you hopefully won’t be surprised that I’m not referring to Happy Meals in the title of this post. That’s my current estimate for how many folks have now viewed the Did You Know?/Shift Happens presentation. (And, to be honest, I think two million is a low estimate, more on that in a few minutes.) So, let me take some time to bring you up to date on how we got here – and how I got to that estimate – and then I’ll talk a little bit about the presentation itself and what I’ve learned.

How We Got Here
Here’s the chronology (as best I know it, although as you’ll see it quickly moves beyond my direct knowledge).
  • Early August 2006 – My administration asks if I want to speak at a beginning of the year faculty meeting, I decide to create a presentation instead to start the conversation, so I created the PowerPoint (see original post for more details on that). I show the presentation in a faculty meeting and they liked it.

  • August 15, 2006 – I make the seemingly innocuous decision to post the presentation on The Fischbowl. Why? Three reasons. First, some of my staff members wanted to show it to their families at home, so it was an easy place for them to get to it to download it. Second, while face-to-face conversations were happening in my building after the presentation, I wanted to continue the conversation on the blog (which, after all, is the purpose of The Fischbowl in my building and I wanted to encourage that), as well as receive some feedback from my staff. Third, I thought there might be one or two teachers outside of my building that might find the information interesting and want to use bits and pieces of it (I might have underestimated that just a smidge). Please note that at that time, The Fischbowl did not have a very large readership (or at least I wasn’t aware of it, but I’m pretty sure it was small at that point).

  • August 17, 2006David Warlick blogs about it. I’m guessing he found it because I linked to him and talked about his idea of Telling the New Story, and that he has a blog search set up looking for those keywords. (I linked to him because I felt I was trying to help tell that new story to my staff, and because his ideas were part of the genesis of the presentation.) The comments and emails begin.

  • August 23, 2006Bud Hunt blogs about it.

  • August 25, 2006Will Richardson links to it in a post. I’m not sure how many of the folks that read Will Richardson and Bud Hunt don’t read David Warlick, but I think some more folks that maybe didn’t follow David’s link to it took a look when Will and Bud also linked to it. (Are David, Bud and Will Connectors or Mavens? More on that in my next post.)

  • End of August and throughout the fall - It spreads fairly quickly and widely through education circles, starting with education bloggers, but many of them show it in staff meetings or to other influential folks that show it in meetings. There’s some spread outside of education (educators shared it with spouses, who then shared it with others) – places like Chambers of Commerces, and some non-education specific bloggers also link to it. I get a slow, but steady, stream of emails and references in other blogs throughout the fall and as 2007 arrives. My guess is that somewhere over 100,000 people have seen it at this point, but that’s a very rough guess.

  • January 19, 2007Scott McLeod, who had been using it in some of his classes and presentations, posts a remixed version of the presentation, which removes my school-specific slides (more on that later) at the beginning, adds a MySpace slide, and improves the look quite a bit. He also posts it in multiple formats. While many, many folks had modified it for their own uses before this (typically replacing my school-specific slides with their school specific slides, or replacing U.S. statistics with their country’s statistics), this is the first time I know of that somebody posted just this part of it.

  • January 19, 2007 – Sacretis posts it to YouTube (he’s a student and knows Scott).

  • February 8, 2007 – Vipeness posts it to YouTube (for some reason this is the one that takes off first).

  • Late January/Early February 2007 – Somebody, somewhere, starts sending an email that goes semi-viral with a direct link to Scott’s WMV version. I would guess this precedes Vipeness’ posting on YouTube, but I don’t know.

  • Late January through early March - Gets posted on a lot of other video sites, and lots and lots of links to it from blogs, mostly blogs outside of the education arena.

  • March 13, 2007 – Gets posted on
All those postings get noticed by some prominent non-education bloggers, who then mention it, which of course draws more attention. At the height of it, I was getting at least ten to twenty emails a day from folks outside of education (and those were the ones that tracked me down, since many of the online postings didn’t reference Scott or I, and Scott’s WMV version didn’t have any reference link in it, so folks had to be URL savvy enough to explore his site to find his blog).

The Estimate
Here’s my thought process on the estimate of at least two million views. First, the relatively easy numbers from online postings that list number of views (all numbers as of this writing, of course).
  • - 1,047,000

  • - 500,000+ (doesn’t list views on the site, but I emailed them two weeks ago and it was at 363,000+ views and 6400+ emails. It’s still listed on the “most emailed” list, so I’m assuming 500,000 is probably a conservative estimate.)

  • – It’s been uploaded many different times to YouTube (I stopped counting at ten), but this one is at 361,000, and this one is at 149,000, and this one is at 108,000 (update: in the day or so that I've taken to finish this post off, this one is now at 155,000 - it's now the "hot" one on YouTube - 47,000 views in the last 24 hours). When you add in the other ones, YouTube accounts for around 650,000.

  • MySpace – Again, uploaded many times, but this one has been viewed 122,000 times.

  • Then there are a bunch of other places that have it as well (not just linked to a YouTube or MySpace version, but their own hosted version).
So, those add up to about 2.3 million (not counting all those other places). Now, I’m aware that the number of “views” these sites report may not be completely accurate. I have no idea what constitutes a “view” to them, so 2.3 million might be a little high. On the other hand, at least some of those plays have been in front of audiences (some small, some large), so that probably boosts it back up closer to 2.3 million again, and then add in all those other places it’s hosted and posted.

But those are just some of the online postings that track the number of views. As far as I know, January 19th was the first upload to YouTube, but recall that the presentation was posted in August and received fairly wide distribution in the education blogosphere. That distribution included direct links to a PowerPoint, so there’s no tracking those numbers. And that PowerPoint (or a modified version) was then shown to quite a few faculty meetings Kindergarten through Post-Grad level, as well as some spread outside of the education arena. And then, of course, somebody, somewhere started sending that semi-viral email with a direct link to Scott McLeod’s WMV version, which we don’t have statistics for either (and is probably what ended up generating all those online postings).

So, given all those “untrackable” numbers, and that I know that it has been shown to many, many audiences, some quite large, my guess is that the number of folks that have seen it is actually over three million, but I chose to go with two million in the title because that’s much easier to “justify.” There are also many, many interesting stories that Scott and I can share about who has used the presentation and how it’s been used, but this post is already way too long – I may eventually get around to blogging some of those stories.

Some Things I’ve Learned
Embed an ad in everything you post on the web. Kidding.

Well, so what’s the point of this post? I’m getting there, really I am. Here’s part of the point. As I commented on Will’s post, I’m not sure that Did You Know? is the video/message I would’ve chosen to go viral. While I think it’s certainly part of the message, I worry that it’s often taken out of context or used in ways that I don’t think are the most helpful for the direction I think we need to go. For example, most of those two million folks that have seen it haven’t read the original blog post, so they don’t know what its intended purpose and audience was (high school teachers thinking about the world our students are entering and wondering how best to help them prepare). (Yes, I know I should’ve thought of that before I posted it, but I really, really, really had no idea it would spread like this. Now I know - pun intended.)

Also, keep in mind that the original version started with eight slides about changes at my school, then moved on to the China and India flat-world stuff, then on to the exponential times stuff. When Scott McLeod remixed and posted it, he removed those eight slides – which was the logical thing to do and is almost assuredly the reason it went viral (folks would’ve lost interest at the beginning reading about my school). But the effect of that was that it started with the China and India stuff, instead of that being in the middle, sandwiched between my school statistics and the exponential times stuff - which is a subtle change that I think changes the impact significantly. This leads many folks to focus on the China and India piece, and many of them have highlighted and criticized that (much of it valid, but also out of context). I was concerned about how that part would be interpreted when I showed it to my staff, but I think it’s exaggerated when those original eight slides are removed (makes it the lead, not just part of the story of change).

The presentation was intended to be the start of the conversation, not the entire conversation, and that’s part of my concern with how it’s being used. If it’s just shown to educators – or others – without any context or opportunity for follow-up conversation, then it can leave the audience in a state of what Wesley Fryer termed “shock and awe.” If that’s the case, then not only is it not helpful, it’s actually detrimental. Only with context and conversation can we help move the audience(s) past the “shock and awe” stage and into the, “Okay, this is also kind of exciting and invigorating. What are we going to do about this?!” stage.

And while I think pieces of Did You Know? can be part of the message we need to deliver, I’m not sure it’s the right one in and of itself. I think pieces of The Machine Is Us/Ing Us, Animal School, the Inclusion Video, and, yes, even Did You Know?, What If?, and 2020 Vision could all be part of a better video that I would’ve wished had been the one to go viral. And, of course, throw in a lot of the ideas we’re all trying to get our heads around through our blogging, that maybe haven’t made it into a video yet. One of the problems (more problems below) with Did You Know? is that it doesn’t specifically ask the viewer to do anything at the end. For my intended audience – my staff – the last slide “Now you know . . . ” was an implied challenge. Now that “you” know, what are you going to do about this? It could be implied because I knew I would be having those conversations with my staff, both formally in our staff development efforts, and informally in the hallway and on the blog. But once the presentation went “into the wild,” that implied challenge ran the risk of being lost. When it initially spread through the education blogosphere, I wasn’t that worried – because I figured 95% of educators would know that it was just the start of the conversation, and would get the implication that now that their audience “knew” this, they should discuss what they should do about it. But once it spread much farther, I’m not sure that’s so true anymore. If I had created this video for that purpose to begin with, in the hopes that it went viral, then I would’ve approached it much differently – but it never crossed my mind. I think this is part of the “What’s Next?” question that Will was asking in his post. I’m going to try to address that in a future post for fear that it will get lost in this gargantuan one, but this paragraph has been a piece of that.

What About the Presentation Itself?
So, what about the presentation itself? Is it really that good, or is it reaching too far, or is it really bad? I think the answer to all three of those may be “yes.” If you peruse the comments on some of those online video sites, or read through the comments on some of the blog postings, they can be brutal. While the majority are complimentary, many are not – and many of them are also valid. Let me break down the slides myself and take a look. (Slide numbers refer to my modified original PowerPoint, not Scott’s version.)

Slides 1-8: These are about my school. Data is good, very relevant to my school. I’m completely okay with these.

Slides 9-18: Population statistics from China and India. Data is good, relevance is good. Intention of the slides was not xenophobic, but was certainly U.S. centric because presentation was intended for just my staff. Many folks have pointed out that not only is the 25% of the population in China with the highest IQ’s greater than the population of North America, so is the lowest 25%. For me, that’s not actually a counter-argument, that just reinforces the point. That’s that many more folks that are “competing” if you will on Friedman’s global playing field. Again, this was to be the start of the conversation, not the entire conversation, and I was not trying to minimize the very real issues that China and India have. The intention of these slides was to illustrate what a different world our students would be living and working in, competing and collaborating with folks all over the world, so should we be preparing them the same way we did in the 1980’s (or 1960’s, or 1930’s or . . .). I’m okay with these.

Slides 19-21: China number one English speaking country/ship every single U.S. job to China they would still have a labor surplus. Data is second hand and therefore shaky, relevance is good. The impression I was again going for was simply that there are a lot of folks out there who would like to work, a lot of folks that up until now maybe haven't had the same chance that students in the U.S. had. I wanted my staff to think about that and what it meant for how we were preparing our students. Even if the data turn out to not be completely accurate, I think it’s close – and the point and relevance remains the same. I give myself a pass on this one.

Slides 22-23: Number of babies born in next 8 minutes. Data is good, relevance is good. Certainly there are definite downsides to the population issues in China and India – and I’m not trying to minimize that. But what if China and India do a great job of reforming and fixing those problems? This is presumably what we all want – and what the U.S. Government’s policies supposedly support. I think that a whole lot of people are actually taking comfort in and counting on China and India’s problems continuing. I think that’s not only morally wrong, but could also be a huge miscalculation. I’m okay with these slides.

Slides 24-28: How long folks in U.S. have been working at current employers. Data is good, relevance is good. I’m okay with these.

Slides 29-33: Top 10 in-demand jobs/preparing students for jobs that don’t exist using technologies not invented, to solve problems we don’t know about yet. Data is third hand and shaky, although the source is good. Relevance is good. I really have no idea if this is true or not. I would hope that Richard Riley has good data sources, but I don’t really know. But even if this is not true, I think the point of these slides is still valid – we don’t know a whole lot about the jobs our students are going to have, the world they are going to live in, the technologies and problems they are going to encounter. We live in a rapidly changing time (see Kurzweil’s book, or this article), what does that mean for our students? That was the point of these slides. I’m okay with the implications of these slides, but uncomfortable with citing something that could be completely false. As I’ve stated on other folk’s blogs, this was not meant to be “scholarly” or “authoritative,” simply a conversation starter for my staff. That allowed me greater leeway, but I obviously lost that leeway once it was on the web. So I’m okay with the end result of these slides, but I’m not sure that the Riley quote slide should still be there since the data could be inaccurate.

Slides 34-37: England. In 1900. Data is second hand, but source is good and data appears to be correct. Relevance is good. I’m good with this one – other than it should read Great Britain instead of England. I kept it England because that’s what Angus King used, and because it “flowed” better in the presentation then Great Britain would’ve.

Slide 39: Luxembourg just passed us in broadband Internet penetration. Data is good, relevance is good. I’m good with this one.

Slides 40-41: U.S. Government spent less than half as much as Nintendo on research and innovation in education. Can we just skip talking about these? I guess not. I thought data was good, but not so much. These slides should be removed. But wait, maybe they shouldn’t. Instead, slide 41 should be changed to something else with better data that relates, and we’re working on that (see my next post for more on that). But for now, these are bad.

Slide 42: 1 out of every 8 couples married last year met online. Data is second hand, but source is good. Relevance is iffy. I’m okay with this slide, but not sure it belongs. But it provided both some comic relief in the middle and I think is still relevant in terms of how our world is changing. I mean, think about it, 12+% of the folks who got married last year in the U.S. met online? Wow.

Slides 43-44: MySpace statistics. Data is good, relevance is good. Lots of people have pointed out that registered users does not mean the same as active users. Point taken, but it’s still a huge number and – much like married couples meeting online – points to the changes in our world. I’m okay with these.

Slides 45-53: Searches on Google/text messages/words in English language/books published. Data is good (except for text messages which is probably good), relevance is good. I’m okay with these.

Slides 54-55: Week’s worth of NY Times compared to 18th century. Data is iffy – based on a book, I have no idea how accurate it is. Relevance is good. I’m still okay with these, because even if it’s not completely accurate, the point is well taken.

Slides 56-64: Unique new information/technical information/fiber optics. Data is good on exabytes, other data is second hand. Relevance is good. I’m reasonably okay with these, but don’t know how accurate the technical information doubling times are. Again, for me, the trend is what’s most important and relevant.

Slide 65: ePaper cheaper than real paper. Data is second hand and possibly non-existent, relevance is good. Here’s what I wrote as a comment on Tom Hoffman’s blog:
I still think this is something worth thinking about. I certainly don't know enough about paper production versus nano-technology of ePaper. . . Yes, I imagine a single piece of paper might be cheaper than a single piece of ePaper for quite some time. But that "single piece of ePaper" could conceivably hold hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, who knows how [many pages of] information compared to real paper. So maybe a better phrase would've been ‘cost per bit of information’ or something, but that just doesn't roll off the tongue . . .
I still like the concept of this slide, but the wording should probably be changed.

Slides 66-67: Laptops/$100 laptop project. Data is second hand, but source is excellent (Negroponte). I’m good with these.

Slides 68-72: Future computers compared to human brain computation capability. Data is not universally agreed upon, but source is extremely solid (Kurzweil). Relevance is outstanding. Along with the China and India slides, these are the ones that get attacked the most on the web video sites. It’s amazing, because these are the most well-documented of all the stats – even if not everyone agrees with Kurzweil’s calculations and conclusions. But most folks just assume that this couldn’t possibly be true, and so therefore dismiss it – which is certainly a huge part of the point here. I’m good with these and – while it’s not an easy read – I recommend anyone who’s interested read Kurzweil’s book.

Slides 73-75: What does it all mean? Shift Happens. Now you know . . . I’m still very comfortable with these, except for the aforementioned point that the challenge to do something about this is implied, but that was okay for my original audience. Could definitely be improved upon for a wider audience, and I’ll talk about that in my next post.

So, scorecard please? Overall, I think it holds up okay for the original purpose and audience for which it was intended - if you’re willing to give me the benefit of the doubt on my intentions, and if you’re willing to acknowledge that I didn’t anticipate the spread of this thing. Note that I certainly knew that anything I posted on the web could spread like this, but I think most reasonable folks would agree with me that I couldn’t have really expected that it would. While I liked the presentation, that would’ve required a huge leap of ego to think it would resonate like it apparently did and go viral. I have a healthy ego, but not that healthy.

Would I Post It Again?
That’s a really tough question. I think that if I could’ve foreseen that this was going to happen, I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to post it. It’s very hard to believe that it’s only been seven months since I posted this – it’s been a very long seven months. Having spent the last seven months replying to thousands of emails (in addition to the ones I already get as part of my job) and trying to keep watch on thousands of blog postings about the presentation to make sure my school isn’t negatively impacted, all in addition to the staff development role I’ve taken on in my building, plus my regular job duties supporting technology in my building, and – oh, yeah – being a father, husband, son, brother, friend, etc., has been a bit much. I’m exhausted. I don’t write this to invite sympathy (or wrath!), just trying to be honest here. I’m glad my fifteen minutes are about up.

As far as the bigger and more important picture of whether this has done more good or evil in terms of our “cause,” I’m just not sure. I’ve been trying (most of the time) to take the optimistic view when discussing all these challenges and opportunities. If I do that with this presentation, then I have to say that it certainly has accomplished one of its goals – it sure has started a whole heck of a lot of conversations. But the question remains, will those conversations move beyond talk and into action for our students? As Will says, What’s Next? Please see this post and this post for some more thoughts on that. Oh – and if you’ve read this far – then let me quote Will once again. Oh. My. Goodness. You deserve a medal.


  1. Karl,
    I'm just one of the millions who saw what you created and was moved by it, was pushed to think harder, think world, not city or neighborhood. One of the many teachers who went back to think about whether yesterday's math lesson had relevance to anything at all... and showed it to my colleagues. It's all about thinking bigger, pushing us out there. Thank you! - Mark

  2. I too was moved by it and used it with the teachers I was teaching-what are we going to do for our students? My students' parents-why am I teaching this technology/literacy to your students?

    Sometimes a picture is better than a million words. I believe that the message began to get across that we need to use our computers for something more than testing. It was so powerful that is made the needed impact.

    Thank you for putting it together. By the way I adapted it and put relevant information about our school district on the first few slides so then it was personalized to our needs, of course giving credit to you for the main body of the PPT.

    Many people need to have the same information re-visited in other ways and that is what I think is next step. Until they see a need for these tools/literacies we have keep showing them why.

  3. First of all, welcome to the "If I'd Known" club. I'm a charter member.

    Second, there's no doubt that the video has started tons of conversations. And I would think that's great on a general level as long as the conversations do get stuck in the nuance of the numbers. It's the shift happens part that's important.

    Third, isn't Creative Commons a wonderful thing? The personalization that Diane talks about can only make the conversations more powerful.

    Fourth, so now what? This is one of the few things that has reached a large audience that is outside of the current online edublogging community. How do we follow up on that? To me, that is the big question right now, and I'm looking forward, as always, to hearing your thoughts.


  4. Karl,
    Like Mark said above, it is all about thinking bigger….getting out of my backyard and going global. It reaffirms the importance not only my teaching, but also my learning. I am currently a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction, taking an Ed Tech course this semester. I have learned so much about new technology and the Web 2.0. Hadn’t heard of it prior to January, and now I can’t imagine life without it! Shift WILL happen…it already is happening. I’ve shifted. I am encouraging my students to shift. Eventually, the world will shift those who don’t shift themselves.
    If anything, your presentation and the “controversy” surrounding some of the slides totally displays and affirms the beauty of technology and the Web 2.0, and the importance of it all in education…..what and how we teach. People are out there, reading, learning, collaborating, reflecting, etc! Isn’t that what education is all about! Moving people to think! Getting people to “shift” outside of their box and explore new ideas, worlds, and possibilities. Thank you!

  5. Karl, it's been quite a wild ride. I, for one, am very glad you posted it (despite all the time and money it's cost me since I modified it!).

  6. I'm rather late posting about your HUGE post. I enjoyed reading it and am so happy that your wonderful presentation has gone viral. It is so gripping. Everytime I watch it, chills run down my spine.

    I got a huge kick out of the hundreds of comments the kids on MySpace made. In fact, I read hundreds of their comments. They were so amusing--so typically "adolescent." I especially enjoyed the witty play some of them started making with "shift" and both the amazement and the ennuie they expressed. Teenagers are such a tough audience--so opinionated and so blunt. That's why I love them. They humble me every day.

    Good work, Karl. Thanks for challenging the world.....

  7. Karl, as a fellow instructional technology colleague I too was deeply moved by your presentation. I have shared your presentation with our administration and they in turn shared it with their staff. A colleague of mine often uses the phrase "it's tough to move a dinosaur" when referring to attempts to change peoples beliefs. Thank you for helping us to begin to move the dinosaur!

  8. This would be a very helpful presentation but doesn't work here in Edinburgh without opening up a bigger discussion about Scotland - England, Great Britain issues and American imperialism. Glibly getting the name of a country wrong might work for el presidente Bush but we expect better from intelligent Americans.

    The England rather than Great Britain worries me but worse than that is the excuse. Ignoring accuracy in order to get something to flow is for pop singers. Also you are then left with the niggling question as to how accurate is the rest of it if the one bit you have personal knowledge of is wrong.

    When something is broken it needs to be fixed and if it is fixed it will be a great piece of work.

  9. Brendan - point taken. But, as I said, I was quoting Angus King and didn't want to change his quote. And, while this won't mollify you, please remember that this was designed just for my staff, and - whether it should be that way or not - the distinction between England and Great Britain would've only been noted by about five folks.

    In subsequent versions that I've shown, I've changed it to Great Britain.

  10. Hi Karl,

    Very impressive video, indeed. Would you autorize me to adapt it in french?
    Many thanks,

  11. I was shown your presentation at a meeting and I was blown away by the facts. I had to give a presentation to all the staff in my school about new technologies and I could not have done a better job than show your presentation. Even some of the most IT phobic teachers came and saw me and said how inspirational it had been and asked if I could store it in a central area so they could view it again. Thank you

  12. Karl, just came across your shift happens wiki and followed the trail back to your blog. I've been in a few presentations where different remixes of your original presentation have been used (in Australia) and always wondered about the origins of it. One presentation got the drift of your aim to start the conversation about preparedness and hopefully did you presentation justice. I am going to actually use your story, as posted onto your blog and wiki, as an example of preparedness to communicate within the social media sphere. I think your story and how your shft-happens presentation got pushed, pulled and squeezed into many disguises is an example of the need to be prepared for your message to take on a life of it's own so think before you leap - but leap as far as possible!!! Thanks for your contribution to the 'conversation' with a well reserached and considered presentation.

    Todd Wright