Saturday, August 9, 2008

Off the Windowpane

Exhausted, I leaned back to the uncomfortable airline seat. Going home after a quick, but invigorating technology conference, I hadn’t slept much. A gnat had somehow joined me on the ride and was also staring out the window with me. He might have been lost, but his pace and determination didn’t show it all. Starting at the bottom of the window, he steadily moved up the pane to the top. And then he turned left. He moved across the pane with ease and forethought. Then the plane started. We began our ascent, and moved faster and faster. The gnat turned downward and began running as fast as he could towards the bottom of the window, as if there would be safety there. We lifted off the ground and he froze. He had made it three quarters of the way down and was frozen.

He was dead.

I watched for over ten minutes, he remained still. Pathetic, I thought, a little altitude change and he cannot adjust. Not that a gnat lifespan is so long any way (2-4 months), but he should have at least fought for it a bit.

Then to my surprise, he moved! He slowly crawled into the dark space between the window and the sill. And he rested some more. A few more minutes passed by and he emerged, I think he was smirking at me.

He drove up the window with more determination then ever, even flew a bit, he went back and forth making incredible designs with his lines. Then he did the unthinkable, he moved off the windowpane. He explored the wall, up and down and all around. And he was faster than ever.

He managed to make it onto my Educause Review magazine I had on the table. I stopped reading. I just watched.

He disappeared into the pages. It was a sign.

I fetched to grab my laptop immediately. This story was born.

I have recently told a few of my good friends, I don’t know what I want to do, I just want to change the world in my own way. But some unknown trepidation has kept me from starting a blog sharing that vision, as I was wondering what I would ever have to share. Today, that little gnat changed my mind. Funny, how it always the little things that move us.

The altitude change in my life recently, has certainly stunned me. I was determined before, I knew where I was going. At least, I thought I did. When the assent of change happened, I ran, not sure of where I was going, but I ran. I ran into all of the creative and crazy things I could possibility do without too much effort. But then I froze. It wasn’t a bad thing. It was a necessary thing.

I rested. And I’m finally starting to breath again. I’m moving and I don’t know where I am going, but I know I’m going to go off of the windowpane. I cannot sit on the sidelines and just watch, I need to be in the game.

Hence, the beginning of this website. I am Crista D. Copp, a leader who is searching the right time, right place and right space to be who I am. That time will be right now, this moment and it will also be tomorrow, and the day after. So, welcome my friends and strangers, to the public me. No looking back now.

The metaphor continued…

My little friend, the gnat, not only brought to life my own journeys as of late, but it also highlighted the way that we look at education. As leaders in the complicated, bureaucratic system, we have to stop looking at the world from through the windowpane and live off actually in it. We talk great visions of a different world, but we are too scared to make the hard decisions to get us there. We let small things like, money, resources, and politics, get in the way of change. And more discouraging, we continue to live and think the same way.

At the conference I attended, they incorporated more technology than I have seen in a long time and much of it was good. The part that is discouraging was that we continue to talk about technology in education as if it is a choice, as if we were deciding whether or not to add a particular topic to our curriculum. The debate continues as to whether or not to get on the train, although, the train actually left the station years ago. My friends, we don’t have a choice.

We need to stop separating “analog” and “digital” (and by the way, a question asked in person is no more analog, than a question asked on a website is digital). We need to stop using language that is exclusive to those who do or don’t use technology. We need to stop creating ways for our students to use technology, and just make our curriculum better. There is some sense that we have to come up with all of the answers today, but we cannot and should not. Standing still is not an option, and continuing to believe that the education of tomorrow will act like the education of yesterday is not only incorrect, it is sad.

As the gnat entered into my Educause Review book, I was reading an article by Jack McCredie and I nodded in agreement with the statement that if Socrates "were to go down the hall to a typical classroom, he would certainly understand what was happening, althought he would likely be disappointed by the size of the class and the quality of the teaching." Then I realized that Socrates would be embarrassed. Socrates believed in educating everyone, disseminating knowledge and letting people (alright, just men, but that cannot be helped) come to their own conclusions. He wanted to challenges others’ thoughts. He believed that people should live virtuous lives, looking to have great self- (but selfless) development. Unfortunately, our educational institutions do not do this often. We teach to rote-learning, to the test, to whatever is qualitative that we can measure. The entire system of higher education is based on making sure the student conforms enough so that he can be in an elite club of those with the degree, and the higher up you go, the worse the hazing (as a fairly recent doctoral grad, I’m sure I’ll blog about that from time to time).

We keep talking about how “different” our students today are, and it isn’t about meeting them where they are. It is about leading them to where they need to take us. They want to trust us with their education and their lives, and yet, they want to make up their minds about things. We have to trust that if we lead them, they will make the world a better place for us to live in as well.

Thus, concludes my first blog entry. Come back for more soon.


  1. I'm glad that gnat was your impetus to start writing this blog... whatever it takes. I share your hunger to affect the world. And to live fully ALIVE.

    your lifelong friend,