But will it blend?


January 24, 2017 by readlisaread

Alt title: confessions of a guerilla teacher

I’ve learned a few things, even recently, despite being of such an advanced age that were this the Middle ages I’d be long since dead, but I digress… in the past few years I have received lessons on what it means to me a part of the machine. My thinking has shifted from being a spanner in the works to being a cog on a wheel.  And I don’t even feel like a sell-out! It’s all about which lens you are looking through.

Now, there are a lot of half-metaphors up there, gentle reader, but I’m going to bring them all together, worry not.

The title of today’s piece comes from this fun little website of the same name: “Will it Blend?”

Essentially, the site investigates how items will respond to being dropped into their blender– everything from whole pineapples to cell phones. And the item is presumed to have merit if it does, in fact, blend– which also proves the blender’s superiority (all if this in nonsensical good fun, of course). The similar question that I now ask on almost a daily basis is “Will it scale?”.  Something I didn’t care about when I was only concerned about my classroom, in my school. Thus, guerilla teaching was born– I was less concerned with protocol and more determined to get use of good tools. Now, I never went so far as to climb up into the ceiling and string Cat 5 cable to a new server and switch, say, (you might be thinking: ‘what an oddly specific example’…..another day, dear reader, that’s a post for another day). As a Guerrilla teacher, however, I fully subscribed to the notion that, basically, the rules were for other chumps, I needed what I needed, screw the rules.  This is maybe more of a thing in Tech than in other subject areas– I suppose it would be akin to English teachers teaching banned books (totally something I would do) or talking about dinosaurs in a religious studies class (also…).

But here is what I have recently discovered. Now that I am responsible for more than just 30 or so individual characters at a time, and that I have to fit my support for 600 or so teachers AND their learners into the system I work in, suddenly, the guerrilla methods are unsustainable.  A work-around in a classroom of 30 doesn’t scale to a system of 8000. Managing 4 or 5 devices on a home network does not– and cannot– inform managing 2000 devices across a multi-server, multi-building, multi-user enterprise. One of the most heeby-jeeby-inducing tales (yes, that’s a thing) comes from a comparably-sized school district that managed their 1200 iPad deployment by hand-entering individual Apple IDs, each with a unique and individual email address and password. The initial exercise is one thing, horrifyingly mind-numbing to contemplate in itself, but the realities of the roll-out are equally tragic– responsibility for updates and management, lost passwords and screen locks… the list is endless… and note how it scales.

It is hard to see the bigger picture, while still advocating for your program and your charges. I get that. When it’s hard to think of the greater good, I think the way to reframe that is that we are smarter together–and that’s how it scales.


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