when the “lone nut” meets the “what have you done for me latelys”

A thought-provoking part of my experience in the Gamification Teacher Learning and Leadership Project (TLLP) has been the opportunity to observe various leaders and followers in their response to ever-changing technology.  In my role as an IT teacher in a K-8 school, I’m able to observe everyone from those who want to be on the cutting edge (including my friends and colleagues Adele Stanfield,  David Bradbury and Greg Holohan) to those who are approaching technology like a passing fad; the Rubik’s cube or ICQ of this decade.  What’s even more interesting is to observe how the leaders accept the challenge of supporting these staff members.  Can the “lone nut” who created the most recent app or video game relate to the staff member who liked it best when they wrote their report cards by hand and enjoyed teaching the apple unit every fall; long before “THE Apple” was invented?  Is the individual who created the most successful  regional social media site really the best person to share their program with the staff member who is 3 years from retirement; “…and if I have another class next year like the one I do this year, I’ll be going sooner!”

My approach is to meet people where they are and support them in their progress, at their own pace.  I’ll admit, I’m not always the best at it but I can see why the “at your elbow” approach works better than trying to explain the benefits of Evernote to 15 people in a 45 minute session, at the end of the day.  After it’s determined we all need to bring a device, 2 don’t know how to create a password and 3 have forgotten their already.  Even if I did have a box of wine to share, it would be a challenging task.  We’ve all experienced the instructor who wants to share their excitement about a concept or a product who speaks over our head or the individual in a workshop suggested by an administrator and can’t see any purpose in another word-processing software program when there’s already so much paper in the school.

A memorable experience for me was with a group of educators who had to attend a technology workshop.  Arriving with expectations of leaving early, a great lunch and a day out of the building, the participants are faced with a trainer who thinks their topic is second only in importance to the invention of the computer.

I’m curious to know about your experiences.  Are you the lone nut (and would you admit it?)  Have you experienced the staff member who is just learning how to turn the computer on and can’t “deal” with the challenge of learning how to adjust the sound, in the same month.  How did you meet the challenge of supporting that person or how did they support you.

Level  Up,


P.S. No need to determine whether I’m writing about anyone in particular.  Most of the examples are fictional and meant to be light-hearted rather than critical.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences…experiences I am sure resonate with many!
    Reflecting on your comment made me realize that our “classification” sometimes depends heavily on the environment we are in…I recall starting in one environment where I was the more passive observer – early majority adopter…and in a different environment where I was more of the lone nut.
    I think it depends also on the “innovation” that is put in front of us too….I’m more of the lone nut when it comes to integrating technology in an ed space…yet when it comes to my personal use of devices (like a cell phone), I’m more in the late majority category…
    Regardless of our “classification” I think your insight is bang on, “meet people where they are and support them in their progress, at their own pace.” Any time we are put in a position to help others adopt something new, our success and the speed of our success is dependent on how well we are able to reduce uncertainty for those that are adopting. Sounds like you are well on your way with doing this, congrats!

    • While I was writing the post, I was trying to consider each of the factors involved; software, device, leader, follower, etc. In doing so, I completely forgot to include the environment. Thanks for mentioning the environment and the context in your reply. There are so many factors to consider when exploring technology comfort level.

  2. Well put Derek. You certainly had me nodding a few times, (not off to sleep), when reading your comment. I am in a nether world of having a little bit of knowledge and not knowing what I am getting in to when I say I want to know more. Some people approach me thinking I know what to do tech wise but I’m only as good as the last inservice or lesson that I received.
    (and by the way, I only have 3 years left!)

  3. I’m also the lone nut in my building. We have teachers at all levels of tech comfort and use and all making progress. Personally for me, the progress is so slow which is why posts like this help me remember that we can’t all be lone nuts. I keep looking for evidence that they are progressing because that keeps me, and I’m sure them, going. We do need to differentiate, which is why I agree that the same inservice, using the same tool, taught in the same way for a whole staff isn’t the best way. As for moving people along faster, I’m willing to try the “just above them” model because I haven’t been able to move my staff along very quickly. I’m not sure they can go quicker even with a different model. Once Sept rolls around it’s full speed ahead with very little time and energy for learning, much less implementing, new things. Add to that new standards, news assessments, and new teacher evaluation system and teachers feel very overwhelmed. Bring up tech and all they see is something more they need to find time and energy to do. It’s going to take time.

  4. Derek, I love this post of yours! Yes, I’m definitely the “lone nut” — or possibly one of many lone nuts at my school. 🙂 I’m okay with that though. As with every school, I think that there’s a variation of people that feel very comfortable with using technology, and those that don’t. There are some people that want the newest tech tools, and others that are starting to discuss pedagogy. Everyone seems willing to move and try something though.

    I’m also a fan of meeting people where they’re at. I’ve had many people ask me for “tech support,” and I’ve given it in different ways: from after school inservices to 1:1 support. I try hard to resist the urge to just do things for people, and instead, slowly walk people through the process. Everyone needs to feel comfortable enough to ask questions. I also try to get people to commit to next steps (no matter what those may be). It’s good to set goals and then move forward from there. And I try to follow-up about these goals. The more we talk, the more that seems to help.

    I also wonder though if it’s best to have people across the spectrum of “tech comfort” support others along the way. While I love working with teachers and am always happy to run inservices or offer support, I know that some people get the “deer in the headlights” look, every time I start talking. I share lots because I’m passionate about this topic. Sometimes that becomes overwhelming for people though. At a conference once, the keynote speaker said that everyone needs support from that person that is “just above them.” I’ve thought about that a lot, and I think I really get it now. Maybe if this was always true, we’d always move people along faster. What do you think?


    • Thanks for your comment Aviva! I always enjoy reading your posts and completely agree that everyone is able to make some progress. Setting goals and continuing a dialogue are two strategies I’ll definitely use more often. I appreciate your time and your thoughts as a leader.

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