Just Call Me a Zealot!

The other day I received a bookmark in the update I receive from Diigo from one of the online groups I am a member of to the edublog entitled, “Betchablog” authored by Chris Betcher. I was reading the post, “You say that like it’s a bad thing“. He shared an anecdote from Will Richardson who was speaking at a conference that I found astonishing. As I reading the post, I made an assumption that most teachers would feel the way I did and would have responded as I would have regarding the student’s assignment below.

“In particular, one of the stories that seemed to rankle a few listeners, including my colleague, was the one about a student who was given a research task by his teacher and how he approached this task.
The student found very little information about the topic, not even on
Wikipedia. What would you do if you were this student?

Here’s what he did. He created a Wikipedia entry using the limited information that he did know. Over the next few days and weeks, the Wikipedia entry on the topic was edited, amended, added-to and improved by many other people. All of their individual little bits of knowledge gradually built up the topic until there was quite a comprehensive article written about it. The student then used this article to submit for his research project.

Apparently, the student’s teacher discovered what had happened and the student was awarded an F – a failing grade.”

Prior to sharing this anecdote, Betcher shared a definition of a ‘zealot’ and went on to describe his views after sharing with his colleagues:

“One of my colleagues from school also attend the event, and when I got back to school the next day I asked how he enjoyed it. His reply was fairly lukewarm, with the comment that he thought a lot of the things Will was saying made him sound like a zealot. Google says that a zealot is a “fanatically committed person“, or “one who espouses a cause… in an immoderately partisan manner.”

I don’t think my colleague used the term zealot in a particularly positive sense – I’m sure it wasn’t meant as a compliment. Personally, if a zealot is a fanatically committed person then I think we need more zealots in education. I also have strong beliefs about the nature of school and learning and think that we need to act quickly and radically if schools are to maintain any sort of relevance in today’s world. I also think we need to be fairly drastic about making these changes, so I guess that makes me a zealot too.”

Similar to Betcher’s response, I too would not have given the student a failing grade. I would have commended him on his ingenuity and tenacity of seeking information on a topic that had been sparsely documented. I would have had a conversation with the student regarding the accuracy of the information received and ways to verify the validity of the information. If all of proved true and his sources were properly cited I would gladly have given him a superior grade.

If we want students to employ and utilize the many web 2.0 tools, we must model and support those strategies in the classroom. Misguided teachers or administrators that do not believe in their students or staff must be shown there are secure, safe ways to instruct students on using blogging, wikis, etc. If that makes me a zealot for tech integration, then please call me a zealot! In my world flattery gets you everywhere.

You can find the UStream recording from Will’s talk here, and his conference wiki here.


One response to “Just Call Me a Zealot!

  1. Hi Kim, thanks for the kind mention.

    I’d be interested to get the real, true, full story, as I’m sure there’s probably more to it than maybe meets the eye. But in principle I can see it happening, and we need to prepare ourselves for how we deal with situations like this when they inevitably happen to us. It really is all about the mindset we take as teachers and how we define learning and what we see our core role as… this situation, as described by Will, is a great starting point for some of these conversations that we need to have.


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