In Further Praise Of Kate Nowak

Kate Nowak put herself in harm’s way this school year, teaching directly between:

  1. the edublogosphere’s Leading Thinkers, those insisting that little else stands between Kate’s students and meaningful 21st-century learning except Kate herself, and
  2. reality, where Verizon doesn’t cover her school, where her digital natives don’t have cell phones, where few have encountered a blog in the wild.

It’s impossible to have been a bystander in this struggle and not share her elation in her recent post titled I Finally Used the Cell Phones for Something, that “something” being a school-wide scavenger hunt, with students using cameraphones and MMS to verify their checkpoints.

Kate doesn’t claim this is any kind of monument to 21st-century learning. But she is slowly and deliberately recruiting her students’ personal technology for academic use, introducing them gradually to implementations of that technology that our Leading Thinkers assume need no introduction.

That struggle has come at considerable cost to Kate’s morale, as is fairly obvious from her grim, recent tweets. Let’s applaud her efforts, therefore, and encourage her to seize the rest of winter break for recovery. Education doesn’t have enough pragmatic adventurers to spare.

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. Maybe I should be posting this comment on Kate’s blog, but I feel compelled to share a classroom moment.

    My students are creating a website (using Google Sites) for our ancient civilizations unit. I spent almost an entire class period with one of my 9th grade “digital natives” showing her what a url is (“the web address with the http://“) where it’s located on her computer screen (“at the top of your internet browser…. the thing you use to browse the internet”), and how to copy and paste it into a word document (“you don’t have to retype this whole thing letter for letter”).

    She said she didn’t get on the internet much.

    Welcome to the 21st Century! Yay!

  2. Such a touch spot.. case in point for a great pln… or as seems obvious in Kate’s situation… guts.. and more guts.

    Bravo girl. Your transparency on twitter has been an inspiration to many..

  3. It feels very good to be recognized, thanks. But just to clarify- I’m not actually homicidal, I was talking about a video game where you play an 11th century assassin. :-).

  4. @Kate, it’s basically the perfect tweet to take out of context.

    @Chris, I didn’t want to set up any straw men but I stripped all the hyperlinks from the post because I didn’t feel like picking any fights either.

    It isn’t surprising any more how much contempt the Michelle Rhee-style reformers have for the public school teacher. A little more surprising to me, though, is how thick that contempt runs in the edublogosphere. Leading Thinkers grandstand mightily about how schools should be, blithely placing the blame for that frustrated vision at the doorstep of these stubborn, recalcitrant public school teachers, casually dismissing a) huge institutional challenges as well as b) the fact that digital natives are distributed *ahem* rather unevenly across the K12 student population (cf. Gina above.).

    Kate, at various points, in posts that aren’t hard to find, has gently noted that disconnection from reality. She reaches for a scalpel in those instances where I find the chainsaw pretty irresistible so I’m glad she’s on the case.

    (And yeah, I’m totally aware I once posted this. Hazards of growth, I suppose.)