Dear School 2.0: Please Stop.

Please, this has to stop. You have to stop reducing your ideological opposition to its most loathsome members. It’s an easy way to gain sympathy and traction but you’re undermining yourselves and you’re positively driving me crazy.

Right now, as I type this, some School 2.0 blogger is pasting up a poster on her blog’s brick wall denouncing the lazy, lecture-driven, intellectually-abusive, technologically-ignorant teacher. Happens every day and shows up in my feed once a week.

Happened a few days ago, in fact, and it’s intentionally going unlinked because the author is typically such a class act:

“Sit down, shut up, and learn,” is no longer an acceptable model for effective classroom instruction.

Maybe some of the teachers who consciously (or unconsciously) parrot that ethos have yet to retire. Maybe their ranks are still thick but, if they exist and if they’re as obstinate and stupid as you School 2.0 bloggers have established them to be (over and over and over again) then you will not change their minds. Even sadder, none of them read your blog.

The time is past due to chalk them up as loss and move along but you haven’t. You haven’t because it’s far easier to demonize than engage.

In the meantime, after throwing your back out trying to provoke a thoroughly intractable and uninterested opponent, you’ve alienated the middle, the patch of gravel where I and so many other teachers stand.

This is School 1.5 territory, where we’re willing to put in long hours to do right by our kids. Where we’re easily excited by, often obsessive about, but unattached to any methodology simply for ego’s sake. We aren’t toking up on power, as you tell us we are (ad freaking nauseum). We aren’t frightened by obsolescence or adaptation nor are we afraid of technology. We had Flickr accounts before you did.

We are few things you tell us we are.

We simply aren’t convinced that the best way to prepare our kids for their futures is with a wiki, a blog, or a podcast. We aren’t convinced that wikis, blogs, or podcasts are sufficient in areas of extreme poverty or during primary education. We aren’t convinced that lectures are terrible learning tools per se. We aren’t convinced that granting students complete autonomy over their education will result in anything better than the dietary analogue of a plate full of Cheetohs and a lava cake.

Disappointingly, when we put these questions to you, they go unanswered, maybe because you were too busy to reply, but almost certainly because it’s harder to write meaningfully than it is to rouse rabble. And then, either by implication or by association but always by slander, you tell us that we haven’t adopted 21st-century technology because we want our kids to sit down, shut up, and learn.

Please read Chris Lehmann or Kim Cofino (first blogger on my ‘roll to carry two X chromosomes, incidentally) or Scott McLeod if you want to see how it’s done, how to write about School 2.0 in terms that we School 1.5 types can recognize and appreciate and embrace. I’m willing to guarantee each of them spends one-and-a-half times longer on a given post than their peers do. Scott is kind of a freak but Chris and Kim, not uncoincidentally, post one-and-a-half times less often than their peers do. Also not unrelatedly, they are some of the only bloggers I feel like reading when I scratch my head over this whole School 2.0 thing.

Please do better. Here in School 1.5 territory, we’re interested in your methods but we find your company unpleasant. Keep on chasing that low-hanging fruit if you must, but, as for my reading habits, I’m done with you. My classroom and I are moving towards the 21st century slowly, incrementally, in ways that are oftentimes imperceptible. You must know that we’re doing this in spite of you.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Dan —

    Powerful piece. A piece worth giving a lot of thought, in my opinion. That being said, I’m assuming this makes it official. I’m off your blog roll, feed, and “low-hanging fruit” list. Won’t expect to see you leave a comment at my space again. Shame that. Doubt you’ll be the worse for wear minus my writing in general, nor any School 2.0 banter I may represent. But I’ll miss the engagement.

    Before I take a header off of the dy/dan plank, I’m curious.

    Assumption: I’m assuming I’m off the list because of your effort to identify ONE School 2.0 blogger (directly) that fails to live up to your expectations. Why? You linked straight to me to drive home the point: “…when we put these questions to you, they go unanswered [linked to my blog here at “unanswered”], maybe because you were too busy to reply, but almost certainly because it’s harder to write meaningfully than it is to rouse rabble.” On the one hand, as a School 2.0 proponent (in spirit and in inquiry), I’m honored. Glad to be in the midst when a friction of ideas takes place. On the other hand, I’m confused. But I’m sure that’s because I don’t spend enough time developing my writing/posts as I should (using the “one and half times” rule, from what I gather).

    Mmm. Help me here, Dan. Sincerely.

    Curiosity #1: Funny how the vast majority of times — not sure even a math teacher would require a to-the-number count here — you’ve left comments, I’ve answered you directly — via emails, choosing conversations directly. But I suppose you expect/demand more. Or perhaps, it’s easier to choose “slander” (am I getting the word right here, Dan?) and “rous[ing] rabble” instead.

    Curiosity #2: Additionally, I’m not sure how to take “we find your company unpleasant” or “I’m done with with you” when in fact you commented on my blog 2x yesterday alone. Perhaps there is an irony here. Perhaps something else. Either way, I’m waiting for insight.

    Curiosity #3: Perplexed by another thing. Trying to consider the following. You also wrote in your comment on the aforementioned/linked example on my blog: “Interesting long-tail comparison, Christian. I’ll hafta ponder that one.” Perhaps I’m a luddite, Dan. You’re quick with words and reaction, so I’m sure you can illuminate. But in the little town in Central Maine where I grew up, far, far, far away from anything that smelled of technology or new ways of thinking about schools, we took such a phrase as a statement of respect, not anger. Perhaps we were simply feeding off of “low-hanging fruit” and lacked the cognitive abilities to read between the lines there.

    Cont. In your second (of 3) comments to that single blog post of mine (all 3 comments I valued, although I didn’t comment on it directly), you wrote: “Thanks for getting back on this one, Jeremy. In my ongoing consideration of this paradigm shift to letting student self-select their learning, I wonder a) what keeps students in the game who don’t want to learn, and b) as much as I want to acknowledge the end of the industrial age, I’m not sure how freeform blogging and style-less wiki-ing is going to keep our kids literate at early ages. Or is this just a high school ed thing? Thanks in advance to anyone willing to take those up.”

    Seems like a healthy discourse here, even if it came to an end. That happens. Blogging moves on.

    Curiosity #4: I’m assuming because someone didn’t respond directly to your final question when you commented on my post — a good comment, BTW — that it leads directly to an assumption of a refusal to speak in detail or integrity to the School 2.0 question? Curious, if one person had left a follow-up comment there, would this post of yours not been written? Would you have blog-linked to another post other than mine as the key example of all that is wrong with this School 2.0 paradigm? Or is it simply good enough to write passionately, write critically, write reactively, and write dismissively without offering key/specific examples that offend?

    Curiosity #5: But since I’ve been removed from your reading list “either by implication or by association” (I’ll leave the slander reference out here, although it teases the issue in a reasonably appropriate manner), I just wonder why there is the need to go at this with such fuel and flame to make the point, Dan. Your key points make a great deal of sense to me. You’d be surprised how much I agree with you, however, save that assumptions seem to get in the way. Your anger? This is where I find myself feeling a bit small-townish. Just not getting it, Dan. Even mystified.

    Curiosity #6: I wonder about being held up as the example. Am I really that successful? The ideal example? The top of the list? Mmmm. I’d find that unexpected, but a compliment nonetheless. But I do wonder about being the best example you could identify. Especially without the simple due diligence of being factual as to why to really drive home the point. Was it easier to lump it together in a drive-by labeling? Or did you want to be more specific about me in particular, but not have the time to go there when you first wrote? I’ve got time/patience. And I’m curious.

    Invitation: You’re welcome to dig through the posts and hang my School 2.0 laundry out for critique. Imagine I’ll learn a great deal in the process. Be a shame, otherwise, to just toss a quick blog link into the mix and not really flesh it out. For both of us. Even for anyone else reading along.

    Otherwise — and this would be a shame given the value you personally bring to the conversation (in my opinion) — someone might misread your post as being simply “the dietary analogue of a plate full of Cheetohs and a lava cake” (albeit covered in hot sauce tossed in for good measure). Which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    My take-away: Either way, you continue to be on my reading list, continue to be someone I respect and disagree with simultaneously, continue to be a valued part of my thinking process.

    Again, powerful post. Much to learn from it.

  2. For whatever it’s worth, a commenter named “Jeremy” opened up that particular thread with a caustic assault, not just on a teacher’s methodology, but on his motives for that methodology. Just lame. And hardly uncommon among School 2.0 types, who, from my experience, assume the most pigheaded motives for any teacher who hasn’t leapt aboard the wikis, blogs, & podcasting train.

    So the swift rebuttal to your multi-point comment is that I wasn’t talking about you. That other guy is the emblematic problem. His rhetorical technique sticks it good to teachers who couldn’t care less what School 2.0 has to say and alienates those who do.

    That quick link was easily misconstrued, though, and for that, my apologies.

  3. Dan, uhm, what is the significance of the …”(first blogger on my ‘roll to carry two X chromosomes, incidentally)” comment? For some reason it jumped out at me. Just curious.

  4. I really must have missed something here. I shared a story in a comment about my best friend’s recent teaching experience. He shared some of his joys and frustrations about assessment and I tried to pass it along, since it was directly related to Christian’s post.

    My friend’s motives have never changed — he wants to be a great teacher and he wants his students to learn as much history and geography as he can. He’s tried many different methodologies in attempting to achieving these goals. I was contrasting two that he’s tried, both of which have benefits and downsides. I obviously have a preference that is not shared by the education establishment, which is fine.

    I’m not sure what School 2.0 means, but it sounds like I’ve been lumped into some kind of club I’ve never heard of but would likely rather not be part of. I’m not sure what blogs, podcasts and wikis have to do with this and I couldn’t care less about whether students use them or not. I don’t think I ever raised any issue related to educational technology, did I?

    My two paragraphs about my experience in graduate-level education courses do sound like a rant, but in re-reading them, there’s nothing I would change. It’s something that has fascinated me in the context of those courses — maybe I overgeneralized about those classmates, but certainly didn’t lump all teachers into it.

    I responded over on Christian’s post before reading this, but now I’m thinking that I probably shouldn’t have bothered. I guess I’d still be curious to hear how any of this makes me “lame”, “pigheaded”, and “the emblematic problem”. I just thought it was about sharing ideas.

  5. Thanks Dan. I feel some frustration around the issue of “technology.” Tool to help some of us teach, not an end in itself. The teaching is central. Sometimes tech specialists seem to miss this last bit.

    (and hector good teachers, ironically demonstrating that you can know web apps without having a clue about how to teach)

  6. Dan — Before I get to the heart of your post (and the next chapter of our back-n-forth), I am a bit befuddled by the “xx” chromosome distinction as well. Glad that Jackie made mention of it. Is this a vital point or something not meant to distract?


    Okay, back to the original conversation. Thanks for clarifying that it was not my post that sparked the anti-School-2.0 response. I do think that you’ll find Jeremy’s recent response — who you had the problem with — to be worth reading. It was just added today after he saw our back-n-forth.

    Okay, to you and I. Here’s a portion of what I wrote as a comment back on my own blog, following up on what you sent me there as well. Figured I’d focus on where you and I agree:

    1. Lecture in of itself is not a problem. In fact, it often plays a vital role in helping students gain footing in an area that they are unfamiliar. I am a very happy teacher in a lecture setting, in fact. It comes easily and with it confidence, energy, and an ability to control the classroom where it counts at times. Traditionally it played a stronger role than I think the future of schooling should allow, but that’s not the same as reducing lecture to a worthless side note. We agree.

    2. School 1.5 is an intriguing construct. While only a quick response of sorts, I’m glad you’re using it. School 2.0 (at best) is a horizon line to consider, not worry about building perfectly. It’s not a template, nor a solution. It’s just a distant mark to consider, move towards, and explore. 1.5, semantically seems like a pretty great place to be today. We agree.

    3. “…put in long hours to do right by our kids.” I think you and I have talked in common on this before, so I’ll just say, amen, brother, amen. We agree in spades here. And BTW, there are plenty on both sides of the 2.0 fence that do this…and plenty who do not. The tools matter little if the heart isn’t there, right?

    4. Whether poverty or little bitty kiddos or the wealthiest and most plugged in kids around, I think it comes down to connecting passionately with the kids…both about what you value and what engages them. Again, it’s not about tools. But we agree it heart. But I would say that little kids are becoming more and more digitally savvy, so the ‘age’ will be less and less critical in time. As for poverty? This is the million dollar question that can be answered in as many ways. Having worked with those kids many times over…I’d say that ANY tool I can find for them it is my moral responsibility to put in their hands. BTW, look at Chris’ school. And look at most of his kids. And then ask the poverty question again. But we agree in spirit here.

    There you have it. Lots to agree on. I think the School 2.0 vitriol is a red herring, however, but you are entitled to be disappointed if it’s mention appears to slander the best parts of the teaching profession. Heck, I’ll be there with you. But just because the phrase is used doesn’t make it an attack on teachers or schools. For what it’s worth.

    In any event, thanks for being part of a larger conversation and holding this forum. And for challenging me as well.

    Cheers, Christian

  7. BTW, Jonathon — For what it’s worth, I’m hardly a “tech specialist” – in fact, I dare say Dan is 10-fold the tech guy than I’ll ever be. Not sure it helps to force web guys in one camp, teachers in another. This just fuels the same either/or misunderstanding. The coolest thing about this read/write 2.0 world is that you don’t have to be either to be the other. You just have to be curious, passionate, and willing to explore. The tools are democratized…and only as complicated as you make them. Cheers, Christian

  8. Jackie & Christian, I took some heat awhile back for turning my blogroll into a boys club. Kim is the first girl blogger whose writing I’ve cottoned to closely enough to recommend. Not sure if you two are digging for some latent sexism or if I was just too obscure with my “xx chromosome” remark.

    Jonathan, I’m glad you stopped by. I think of you and TMAO when I think of fantastic teachers (by all available evidence) who haven’t embraced blogs, wikis, and podcasts, and who don’t deserve the shabby rep offered them by the School 2.0 crowd.

    Jeremy, first, I’d retract the “emblematic problem” remark if I could. If this was about one guy’s commentary on some other guy’s blog, I wouldn’t have spent the time. This is larger.

    Still, your evenhanded tone here (“I just thought it was about sharing ideas.” Nice.) is at odds with both your tone at Christian’s blog and your subsequent disinclination to take up some curious, completely uninterrogative questions about your educational philosophy.

    You aren’t pigheaded. On the evidence of that exchange, you were quick to ascribe pigheaded motivations to me, a teacher unconvinced by (but not ignorant of) your methods, and then too [fill in the blank; I don’t want to presume your motives here] to answer some surface-scratching questions thereabout.

    (Thanks, by the way, for answering them now.)

    Christian, too much agreement there really to do much with.

    My only issue with your comment is semantic. If “School 2.0” simply means a two-way conversation between learners then, fine, I don’t want to lump it into this pile I’ve created. But these terms are what we make of them and, for better or worse, it has been co-opted by a crowd of people that, in many places, are smug and self-righteous.

    This ogreification of one’s idealogical opponents, this transmogrification of those who disagree with oneself into stupid caricatures isn’t a phenomenon restricted to those indicted by this particular post. That vilification is an unfortunate tendency of any marginalized group. It just feels particular intense with The Crowd Formerly Called School 2.0, and particularly personal.

    The best analogue here is Christianity, a noun which like School 2.0 means vastly different things depending on whom you ask. I think that Christianity, by its strictest definition, has some great stuff that can irrevocably improve lives, but its most fervent practitioners have damaged themselves and others by demonizing the unbeliever and adopting an either/or turn/burn mentality. I don’t like this tendency no matter what the ideology.

  9. I’m apparently too dense (maybe even pigheaded?) for this exchange. I still must be missing something.

    Sharing my friend’s story on Christian’s blog was certainly no attempt to “ascribe pigheaded motivations” to anyone, least of all my friend. Can I emphasize yet again that this is my best friend and probably the best teacher I’ve ever met? It had nothing to do with you (I had never heard of you), except an apparent similarity between the assessment approach you’re using.

    It sounds like that assessment approach is innovative and helps you do your job better. Good for you. You are welcome to disagree with my preference for a different approach, and I won’t take it personally unless you start calling me names in a public forum, which has never been too cool.

    As far as my tone goes, I thought it had been the same all along. Your tone, on the other hand, seems to be polarized between conversational and angry. My grievous mistake seems to have been that I missed your hanging question by forgetting to check back on Christian’s site…but I have since answered it anyway.

    re: “a teacher unconvinced by (but not ignorant of) your methods”
    I’m not sure what my “methods” are, or how they would convince anyone of anything. I shared a story contrasting two methods of teaching and assessment that my friend had tried and told me about. I thought it was a pretty interesting contrast, and it got me going on some of the ideas I’d love to see tried in school more often.

    Nobody has to try them — I just think it would be cool, especially for my own kids. In my most recent response, I linked to a school that is doing similar things and it sounds fantastic to me. I have no idea if they’re building School 2.0 or School 0.8 (Beta) and I don’t care. If you think they’re stupid (or that I’m stupid for liking their approach), I guess that’s fine.

    And you’re right: “…it’s far easier to demonize than engage.”

  10. Christian,

    I didn’t mean to address you in particular – I don’t know your work and I don’t know the exchange that Dan hasn’t linked. But my experiences with tech folks sound a bit like what Dan is talking about.

    I have had issues with
    1) tech for tech’s sake arguments
    2) we should be teaching kids tech arguments
    3) treating tech as the major goal (remember teaching in a content area?)

    If you do these things, then yup, I have issues. But if you don’t? Really, truly, my comments weren’t aimed at you.

  11. Dan,

    Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t “digging” for anything – just trying to determine your intent before I jumped to an assumption. I’d read your previous post re: boys club – I thought that was the reason for the inclusion of the “XX” comment, but it wasn’t clear (to me at least). Now it is, so thanks.

    As for the true meat of the conversation, I right now fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t know how I’d label myself – 1.0, 1.5, 2.0? Nor do I feel the need to put a label on myself. I read your blog (and Christian’s and Chris’ among others) to find ways to enhance my teaching (and my learning). Do I want my students to be engaged, of course. Do I want them to be literate? Yes, in many different mediums.

    What I’ve learned from my recent descent (ascent?) into blog reading has inspired and refined much of what I’m planning next year, so I thank all of you. Most importantly, it has allowed me another venue in which to reflect upon teaching and learning.

    Also, I just like to state that I am impressed by the conversation that has unfolded here and on Christian’s pages.

    (BTW, I need to learn HTML, so I can “properly” take part in this conversation – be patient with me, this is one of my projects once summer school ends).

  12. Dan, thanks for calling me a freak! It’s true, so true… I’ll take it as a compliment! Glad you’re enjoying my blogging – I greatly enjoy yours too.

    I see you’ve caused yourself some controversy again. =) Part of what makes you such an interesting read. You’re provocative, which of course sometimes provokes people. Your sentiments and underlying intents and willingness to upset the apple cart are fabulous – sometimes your language gets too strident and gets in the way of your message. There have been a few occasions where I thought you were heading down the path toward a Robert Downey, Jr.-esque implosion but you’ve always managed to pull yourself back out…

    Keep up the great work. Stand up for those teachers who rationally reject much of the technology snake oil that comes unaccompanied with the proper vision and support structures. If leaders did a better job, we’d have fewer concerns. That said, I rarely blame the leaders either because very few have any kind of tech-related training or experience. They’re just winging it.

    Christian, you’re doing great work too. Hope you two resolve this minor dust-up.

  13. Anyone who gets too caught up in their way of teaching, who is not willing to consider the ideas of others (whatever those ideas might be, short of things that might land you in jail), should get out of the profession.

    School 2.0 can’t just be about the technology, and I don’t think it is. It’s got to be about taking the “old-school” ideas that have served generations of students well and remixing them in a way that makes them relevant to the 21st century. Whether that means using technology in new and innovative ways, rethinking the literary canon, teaching different kinds of writing, adding more global studies-type course, expanding foreign language departments beyond European languages, or anything else, the key needs to be openness and collaboration.

    Dan, teach the tech freaks in your district how to lecture effectively, since that seems to be one of your big strengths. Show them how to make great presentations. Let them show you some new ways of doing things. Find the middle ground. I sit outside a Civics class here on a regular basis and listen to a colleague lecture, and it amazes me how well he can hold students’ attention. I recently showed him how to have his students make wikis. It all fits together.

    Just serious, Dan, you need to drop the tone down a couple of notches. Let’s not have this thing blow up like it did a few months ago. Remember that?

    Six more days.

  14. A while back I went on an RSS-feed-adding binge and stuck about two dozen of the “hottest” blogs on ed tech into my feeds, hoping to put myself alongside some of the cutting-edge thinking about Web/School/whatever 2.0. The only one remaining to which I pay any attention today is Scott McLeod’s. My experience with the rest is similar to yours. Lots of assumptions about the motivations and experiences of both students and teachers; lots of generalizations about teachers whose enthusiasm about All Things 2.0 is more guarded than theirs.

    Most disturbing to me was a complete lack of understanding among some of these folks of the painfully obvious fact that every student is different and that when we talk about lecture, discovery learning, wiki–making, or what have you, we are talking about TOOLS for getting students to learn. These tools, like tools out in the garage, work well in some cases and work terribly in others, depending on the job and the context. It’s all-or-nothing with some of these people.

    All this to say that you have to consider the source when reading these blogs. I got tired of edubloggers telling me that I was a lousy teacher because I lecture and I don’t use [insert Web 2.0 app here] all the time, when in fact the assumptions they make about the so-called digital natives are often flat-out wrong and are never supported by real evidence. So, I just chose to ignore them. It’s easy to do, especially when you start looking and find that few of them have spent time actually teaching students in the last ten years. Some of the worst actually just hop from one conference keynote address to the next and wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do if put in charge of a real classroom with kids that could not care less about your flickr or wiki or blog or whatever.

    I only consume edublogs and ed-tech-blogs that offer consistently substantive commentary and have some verifiable credentials when it comes to teaching. That, sadly, narrows the field down rather a lot.

  15. I find it hard to turn away. This stuff is creeping up and, even if blogs (e.g.) don’t replace teachers, they’re going to become every bit the tool that the blackboard/whiteboard is now. I pay attention hoping to find some practical, classroom-oriented advice for assimilating. But too often it’s like you say, “lots of generalizations about teachers whose enthusiasm about All Things 2.0 is more guarded than theirs.”

    It’s been good reading your contrarianism over at your blog. Your skepticism isn’t universal. You haven’t advocated for “nothing” or even accepted that the choice is one between “all” or “nothing.” I wish I saw more of the same academic egalitarianism from bloggers who think we lecture too much.

  16. Jeff, your comment is pure gold: “School 2.0 can’t just be about the technology, and I don’t think it is. It’s got to be about taking the “old-school” ideas that have served generations of students well and remixing them in a way that makes them relevant to the 21st century.”

    We shouldn’t be focusing on trying to use blogs or podcasts or wikis; we should be trying to teach relevant material in a differentiated manner to students who are given some choices and who complete meaningful work designed for a real purpose and a specific audience. If it happens that we use Web 2.0 technology to do so, so be it.