Jell-O and Kevin Costner

Something in my brain went CLICK this week.

I had an incredible professor during my undergrad at Trent University.  Her class was THAT class.  The one that attracts a standing-room only first day and a waiting list a mile long.  She’s one of those people who seem to be able to seamlessly teach both her subject area (the history of the English language) as well as life lessons, all while being an entertainer at the same time.  Recent weeks have reminded me of one of her lessons that I have found most valuable over the years — the Jell-O principle.

This is not rocket science, or even a new idea.  The Jell-O principle (in her toolkit) simply referred to the fact that our brains need time to sit with a new idea or possibility for a time before we can fit it into our pre-existing thought patterns.  Sometimes we need to be exposed to an idea multiple times before we even register it as possible or worthwhile.  Dr. Keefer’s lesson had to do with writing essays and studying for exams.  She advised us to take in new content and then let it sit for a time before trying to force it into a defined shape like an essay.

In my current life, the Jell-O principle is informing how I do my job as ITi Committee Chair here at St. Andrew’s College.  I tend to get very excited when exposed to new teaching tools, especially when they have a technological base.  I am the one who rushes to try new things and although I temper my enthusiasm by testing new ideas before bringing them into the classroom, I am certainly one of those early adopters who makes my colleagues roll their eyes and say (or at least think) ‘here she goes again…’  Of course, I get it.  I know that my colleagues are stretched to their maximum capacities with teaching, coaching, family commitments and personal pursuits.  I, too, often feel that I cannot handle even one more demand on my time to learn, do, or try anything new.  But the Jell-O principle has taught me to be patient.

This week was a revelation.  I had recently begun to feel that I was becoming a bit of a pest when it came to introducing the faculty to new programs, apps and general IT awesomeness.  And though I have always recognized that this stuff isn’t for everyone, I was growing more and more disheartened at the lack of response and enthusiasm toward things like Twitter and Diigo (why can’t they see the power of it!?!?).

But this week it all changed.  I had a colleague stop me in the hallway and say, “Hey, you know I asked my science students where they were keeping their research resources and they said not to worry, that it was all in their Diigo!  They said that you made them learn how to use it in history class.  It’s amazing!”   The students had discovered its value and used it for the next research project, regardless of the subject area.  (Yes!  Score one for the good guys).   Then another colleague stopped me in the hallway and said “Ok, so check out what came through on my Twitter feed today.”  (Yes!  Yes!  Score two!).

So it seems there is a natural ebb and flow to the process of bringing EdTech to the faculty.  I need to remind myself to have patience with them and to trust in the Jell-O principle.  It has been a year and a half since I first introduced these two tools, and a good percentage of the faculty are just beginning to embrace them.   Many of them will come around to exploring what I’m presenting them in their own time.  And many will not.  And that’s ok.  Rather than grow disheartened again, here’s my new plan:

1.  Continue to enjoy discovering new EdTech solutions and pushing at the boundaries of teaching and learning with all of my enthusiasm

2.  Continue bringing my discoveries to my colleagues

3.  Be patient as they explore them in their own time, at their own pace

4.  Be there to support them and cheer them on as they do

5.  Have a smile ready for the one (you know who you are!) who will always push me to defend my use of EdTech, even though he does it in a jovial way

6.  Respect the Jell-O principle both for myself, and for others

7.  Trust in the Kevin Costner factor and build it, then be patient and trust that they will come.


5 thoughts on “Jell-O and Kevin Costner

  1. Thanks for sharing an insightful post. What a great comparison of knowledge and Jell-O! I must admit that I hadn’t heard this idea before. It represents a great way to maintain focus, especially when acting in a leadership role and as an early adopter of IT (or anything else new in a school). I will be thinking of Jell-O as I continue in my new leadership role this year!

    Your post was exactly what I needed to read after a long, up-hill kind of week…lol. It is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of something new, forgetting that it is not for everyone in the same moment that it is for you. This is a normal part of the implementation process and I agree, it can be deflating or disheartening at times. I am thankful for those moments when a colleague shares that they had an ‘a-ha’ experience in their teaching, or with their students. These are exactly what fuels each of us for the next day. Now I can add Jell-O to my list 🙂

    Congratulations on creating a great plan — I look forward to hearing more about how the next parts of the Kevin Costner factor unfold. All the best!

  2. Melissa,
    This post comes at a great time – leading up to our second F2F. During this one, we will be exploring different frameworks to help us explore HOW technology can make a difference, WHEN it is important or extraneous to use it, and WHO it can make a difference for in their learning. We will examine three models: SAMR, TIM, and TPACK. No doubt, your Jello concept will fit in perfectly as we sit and contemplate how these frameworks help us to understand our various roles in this ever-changing landscape.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. My Jello is cooling in the fridge!

  3. This is a great post and I see a lot of reflections of myself bringing new ideas from previous schools, PD, and last year’s cohort back to my school. The Jello analogy is a great way to remind ourselves that any teaching takes time. You also never know which one of ideas, or tools will make something click in for a colleague or a student.

    The frameworks the cohort will be looking at this weekend have been so helpful for me and the staff I’ve shared them with. They help staff see that the particular tool is not as important as the purpose that tool serves – the problems it can help solve. These frameworks can help early adopters temper their initial excitement with new ways to interrogate a technology and its usefulness for teachers. They can also help teachers who want to use more technology think more intentionally about the particular reasons they want technology rather than just a desire to increase the quantity of tech.

    Great post! Looking forward to officially meeting you on Saturday.

  4. Great title for a post! It caught my eye and made me read all the way to the end to find out how Kevin Costner was going to fit into this story about Jell-O.
    I agree that often times people need to sit with things in for awhile and let them sink in. Like you, I am a dive-in-head-first-without-checking-the-water kind of person and I know that I also can overwhelm my colleagues (and friends, and husband and family) sometimes with my ever-changing ideas. I like your plan to move forward and keep building it…because I think that you’re right…they will come!
    Looking forward to meeting you tomorrow.

  5. Fantastic post. The ebb and flow comparison is something I am going to remind myself of as my school attempts to move forward with technology. I had forgotten about the Jell-O Principle. Thank you for reminding me about it. It is also wonderful to hear about student initiative and student-led learning opportunities — especially when they result in teacher-learning opportunities too. (I always love when my students can figure something out in the newest version of AutoCAD faster than I can!! It enriches everyone’s learning, even my own, and definitely that of the class. It also models the kind of collaborative learning I think I want to see more of in my math classes.) Thanks! Looking forward to meeting you in the very near future!

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