Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Encouragement for prime movers and catalysts

I used the analogy of developing new cognitive maps for the information and communication landscape of the 21st century in the conclusion of my spotlight presentation at MacWorld back in January. Like the European explorers of the 15th century, we’re moving into uncharted waters. I really like that analogy, because it communicates this idea of a bigger world outside our own personal experiences and even comprehension that we’re continuing to discover, explore, and better understand together. Web 2.0 and our digital world overall closely parallels this metaphor of redrawing maps for an uncharted world.

map of SW United States from 1680

While it is certainly true that I, like many others, get frustrated at times with the slower pace of change in schools relative to other parts of our society and economy and even rethink the ways I’m challenging others to think about those changes, I remain extremely optimistic overall. School 2.0 IS going to happen, and it seems likely that all of us have important roles to play in this transformation.

Along those lines, David Truss has done some wonderful synthesis from many voices in the blogosphere in his post from today, “The Web2.0 Prophecy: An Adventure.” Of the nine insights he offers, my favorite is the eighth:

THE EIGHTH INSIGHT . . . THE INTERPERSONAL ETHIC We can increase the frequency of guiding coincidences by uplifting every person that comes into our lives. Care must be taken not to lose our inner connection in romantic relationships. Uplifting others is especially effective in groups where each member can feel energy of all the others. With children it is extremely important for their early security and growth. By seeing the beauty in every face, we lift others into their wisest self, and increase the chances of hearing a synchronistic message.

We need our ‘guiding coincidences’ to be ones that are nurturing and powerful.

We need to collaborate, empower one another, and see potential rather than roadblocks. This is important for our children/our students, but it is equally important for us. Our ‘synchronistic message’ can’t be “impatience, frustration and dissatisfaction” as I mentioned earlier.

Our message must be uplifting. But an uplifting message isn’t enough!
We need financial support, visionary leaders, moral compasses, inspiring role models, enriching professional development, and meaningful collaboration. We also need minimally restricted content and unlimited access… these are all building blocks that ‘increase the frequency of guiding coincidences’… these are the things that inspire us, fuel us, connect us, and allow us to see the potential in ourselves and each other. We truly can ‘Be the change we want to see in the world.’

Uplifting collaboration is what the K-12 Online Conference in 2006 was all about for me. As I prepare for a panel discussion about K12 Online with several others for later this month at the SITE conference in San Antonio, I am reminded of the valuable experiences, new connections, and powerful lessons which the participants in K12 Online gave me last fall.

Alone and isolated, it is easy to feel frustrated, unempowered, deflated and pessimistic. Connected to others with similar educational goals and vision via face-to-face relationships and the edublogosphere, it is much easier to feel empowered and be filled with hope. Our best advocates are the students themselves. As Miguel Guhlin wrote in his post Saturday, “Kindling for the Flame:”

let their voices, that of the learners, ring throughout our schools, voices that speak of relevance, authenticity, and human connections…in ways that cannot be denied.

Projects like International Teen Life and YouthBridges, which Lee Baber and others are helping coordinate, are BIG pieces of the conversation that is changing and will change the perceptions of adults in decision-making roles for schools. I’m optimistic that the ongoing conversations we are having here, along with K-12 Online in the fall of 2007, will constructively contribute to those conversations as well.

Ultimately, it is conversations which change us. How do you redraw your map of a rapidly changing information landscape? By gathering around the campfire, and telling stories with your friends. It takes a spark to get a fire going. We’re living amidst big changes, and we each have potential to serve as prime movers within these changes in our own communities:

The driving force within an individual or group of people or a state of being is sometimes named with the latin term of a primum movens or “primum mobile”. Prime Movership stands for the quality of being a prime mover, i. e. the first to move, to create or to reach a state, which has not been reached by many or others at all before. Prime Movership has been specifically defined as “the mind-set of value creation.”

It takes a catalyst to start a chain reaction:

In chemistry and biology, catalysis is the acceleration (increase in rate) of a chemical reaction by means of a substance, called a catalyst, that is itself not consumed by the overall reaction…A catalyst decreases the activation energy of a chemical reaction. Catalysts participate in reactions but are neither reactants nor products of the reaction they catalyze…They work by providing an alternative pathway for the reaction to occur, thus reducing the activation energy and increasing the reaction rate. More generally, one may at times call anything that accelerates a reaction, without itself being consumed or changed, a “catalyst” (for example, a “catalyst for political change”).

Accept the mantle of leadership as a prime mover and catalyst for constructive educational change in your own locality. Among my favorite quotations to which I often turn when I’m in need of some inspiration, the following words from George Bernard Shaw (in Maxims for Revolutionists) resonate with me:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Is it reasonable to expect the educational system in which you are now embroiled to transform itself anytime soon? Perhaps not, if you were working alone.

But you are not alone. We are together, here in this virtual space but also in the real spaces we share on this planet. And together, especially when we collaborate and use our available technologies as powerful amplifiers for the appropriate and persuasive voices of our students, we have powers that can extend beyond any of our individual imaginations or dreams.

We need to continue to collaborate. We need to continue the conversation. Individually and collectively, we need to continue to serve as prime movers and catalysts for transformative conversations which are and will continue to change the world.

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5 responses to “Encouragement for prime movers and catalysts”

  1. Mrs. Durf Avatar

    With new exploration, we need to be teaching ethics for dealing with influx of information. BTW, I interviewed on Monday for a summer job and was disappointed when I was told a) they don’t have student computers or internet b) blogging is not writing. You can probably figure how I feel about these statements. I guess summer school is not for me (sigh).
    You quote Miguel:
    “…let their voices, that of the learners, ring throughout our schools, voices that speak of relevance, authenticity, and human connections…in ways that cannot be denied.”
    But I am hearing from kids, give me the grade, get me out of here, and let me get on with my life. Somehow, we need to work really hard to move beyond this Web 1.0 mentality. I find it to be a roadblock…Not only does it take a spark to initiate a fire, but it takes fuel to keep it going. I’m having trouble fueling that which I spark, although a few sparks have taken so far. Just not enough.
    I appreciate being able to connect with your thoughts, even as I am stuck away from home in PA on a friend’s computer….

  2. Dan Wilson Avatar


    I’ve been checking out your posts promoting novel collaboration practices and web 2.0 in education, and wanted to let you know about what my startup is doing. We think our web application, Coventi Pages, has serious potential for educational use.

    It’s a full-featured online word processor with discussion features that go way beyond current “comment” offerings and have the potential to change the way people work together on documents. At Stanford University, we’re finding that instructors really like it for giving feedback to students, and that students find it useful for peer reviews and group projects.

    Coventi was founded by Stanford Computer Science students and is advised by Stanford Profs. Terry Winograd (Advisor to Larry Page on the “Page Rank” paper) and Fred Gibbons (Founder, Software Publishing Corp.).

    Here’s a link to a quick demo video:

    Accounts are free right now so it’s a great time to give it a try. If you do, please let me know what you think!

    Thanks so much,


  3. Wesley Fryer Avatar


    Thanks for the link to Coventi Pages, I watched the video and looks really powerful, especially the commenting feature which organizes conversations. I’m in a project now where we’re using Google Documents, and I don’t think it supports that type of comment and conversation function. I signed up for an account and will use it for the next collaborative document I need to edit and share with others! Then I’ll report on what I think on my blog. I appreciate the link and background info. Nice work!

  4. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Mrs Durf: The sentiment you hear from those students is common, I think, that’s what we condition students to think school is about, esp by the time they get into high school and college. Where is the passion, and where are the questions? All too often we’ve squashed their curiosity and learning passion from them early on. I think that is what many people sadly call “getting them ready for high school” or “getting them ready for college.” Sit and get learning, with little interaction: a transaction of time and minimal effort for a grade on a piece of paper that says you’ve learned. This is why we need school 2.0!

  5. Miguel Guhlin Avatar

    Mrs. Durff, there is a simple answer to the fuel problem. Set yourself on fire…while you may think your source of creativity is exhaustible, it’s not…your creativity, your spirit are inexhaustible.

    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

    P.S. Wes, thanks for highlighting that quote. I’d forgotten I wrote it!