Friday, September 6, 2013

Pioneer or Settler?

Are you a pioneer or a settler?  An odd question?  Not at all.  Hang with me.

I heard another great message at church, and it applied so well to technology integration.  (If you want to watch the message, you can do so here.) In case you're wondering, I'm not trying to convert you. I just wanted to integrate something I heard into the ed tech conversation. 

Chuck, one of our pastors, talked about how any major changes take both pioneers and settlers.  The message started with a stirring video of Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech. From there he talked about the great men and women who were part of the Civil Rights Movement.  I think most of us would agree that Dr. King was a pioneer of the movement. One man I did not know about was Whitney Young, Jr.  Mr. Young was not on the front lines of the movement. Instead he was leading the National Urban League and influencing presidents and other politicians along the way. Mr. Young was a settler.  He was quoted as saying that, "Someone has to work within the system to change it." 

Pioneers bring vision. Settlers bring infrastructure.

Chuck mentioned a few other examples, but one of them was the land runs of the 1800s. People would line up on the border of a new territory and at the appointed time would go and stake their claim.  In 1893 100,000 people lined up with the goal of gaining free land in Oklahoma.  Pioneers who ran out to stake their claim certainly got the best land.  However, those who survived had settlers follow behind with wagons full of supplies.  The settlers provided infrastructure. Those without settlers to support them lost their homestead within 12 months. On the other hand, some settlers didn't team up with a pioneer and missed out on the best land. Teamwork was a necessary aspect of a successful land run.

In order to be a successful agent of change, you need a team with pioneers and settlers.

My wife poked me in the ribs and leaned in to say that she thought of my friend Mike and me. Good point.  Mike and I worked at camp together ages ago.  I was the pioneer. I dreamed up all sorts of crazy ideas with no real plan how to make them work.  Mike was the organizer.  He determined the ones that would fly and the ones that would sink. He then organized the plans and got the machine rolling.  Of course, I was there to add enthusiasm for my great and awesome plan.

Do you have a team like this?

At my school, I am the ed tech pioneer. I read the blogs and the tweets. I find new and exciting things to try at the school. I try the great ideas out in my classes or filter them out to my colleagues. The rest of the IT team are the settlers.  They They understand the networking.  They know what will work or how to make my crazy ideas work.  I push. They add stability. We grow.

In the overall world of educational technology, though, I think I'm more of a settler. There are others who are doing more, pushing more, and pioneering more than I am. I am merely looking at what they are doing and gleaning from them. I help add infrastructure and stability to the great pioneering work that's being done.

Let me ask you again.  Are you a pioneer or a settler? Knowing your role in the growth process is a key element of effective change. Embrace that role and join a team that complements your strengths and weaknesses.

Who is on your team? Who is bringing new ideas to your school? Who is helping to keep things stable and organized? 

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