Stalking: or networking with your idols

My first opportunity to attend the NWP annual meeting came in 2005, when I was fresh from the Summer Institute and completely ignorant about the ways in which the writing Project functioned as a national program.  All I knew was that NWP coincided with NCTE and that Red Cedar was sending me to Pittsburgh with an iPod and a laptop for me to wiki, blog, and podcast.

It was the podcasting that began my stalking habit. The podcast idea inspired me to set out to interview someone amazing, someone who I had admired since I was a fresh-faced pre-service teacher: Jim Burke.  I was determined to hunt him down and interview him with my little iTalk/iPod set-up.  When I blurted out that I was planning to stalk Jim Burke in the car ride to Pittsburgh, I was met with howls of laughter from my fellow RCWPers.  But thanks to Paul Cryderman, I did meet Jim Burke.  And, reader, I interviewed him.

The word “stalk” always takes people aback, especially when I blurt to my stalkee that I’ve been stalking them. (because I tend to so admire the people I stalk, I get a little nervous when I get to finally meet them and talk too loud, too fast, and say something inappropriate).  But let me be clear: when I say “stalk” it is merely to indicate that I have dedicated myself to networking with my intellectual heroes.  Networking feels a little predatory anyway.  The social interactions are a bit awkward.  My intellectual idol has no idea who I am, yet I have read every word they have written, subscribed to their blogs, parsed every tweet.  How to start a conversation?  The situation always fills me with dread.  But in the end, the stalking always pays off.

So, here are my tips to stalking your idol:

  1. Identify a target by knowing who is going to be in attendance at the conference.  Check out programs and when you see a name that gives you a little thrill, you’ve got your target.
  2. Tell everyone you know that you are stalking this person.  Your friends and colleagues will help you. Strangers will catch wind and will be intrigued by your total geekness.  This will inspire them to help you, too.
  3. Eventually, someone will be so excited to introduce you, that most of the time you don’t have to make the approach yourself.
  4. In the event that your friends and colleagues fail in #3, try to place yourself in close physical proximity to the target.  Look for a moment when they aren’t surrounded.  If you’ve picked a good target, they’ll be popular and you’ll have to pick your moment carefully.
  5. Take your cell phone/digital voice recorder and ask for an interview.  No one has ever denied me an interview.  This can always be your in.
  6. Make sure you share your good news with everyone in #2.  After all, they are now invested in your experience, too.

Happy Stalking!

Alan starts to search

Alan states that every idea that’s about to be articulated represents a shift of control from the teacher to the learner.

Teaching technology is not difficult, but shifting control might take years.  Some teachers might never do it.  The entire culture we’ve inherited is based on a control model…not kids researching other student work from around the world.

All children are going to become education researchers. Alan mentioned that it was difficult not to answer the students’ questions.  He calls himself the smartest kid in class with all the answers (and even a special book with the answers in it).  He assigns a kid a researcher job during the class.  He discusses a history class where kids need to see the British point-of-view in the Revolution.  Gave an example of how to site search on Google using “” to get only the academic sites in the UK.  Love Boolean searching. Every day, we are building a search engine together!  The work of one child contributes to the learning of the whole class.

  • Discussed custom search in Google to describe setting up a search engine for your students in the classroom.
  • All children learn to write on the  web…he thinks the best tool to give kids in terms of writing on the web is to build their own search engine.  Every kids should have their own search engine to use at their houses.
  • The way we get to fun instead of boring is to put kids in charge of their own learning.  Using your own custom built search engine is more fun than using someone else’s.
  • Is there a reason not to do this?  It’s free!
  • A lot of work that children do in class does not benefit others.