Westward Ho! Chapter 1 – The Church of Polyglot


Ma Kettler looked on woefully as the team of horses strained to pull the wagon. After only three days on the trail, a rainstorm had made a beautiful ride into a living hell. Wagons continually bogged down in the mud made worse by the rutting of heavy wagon wheels. At least the other families were joining in the recovery process.

The pilgrims would not get far today. Scouts were sent out to find a nearby place to camp. Ma saw the children standing on the stopped wagon pointing to the West. What were they looking at? She only saw mile after mile of rolling hills melting into the mountain range in the far distance. But wait… “What is that forming in the skies?” she asked herself. She realized it must be a rainbow. It certainly did not look anything like the pictures in her books from school. “It is incredible!”, she gasped. “I wonder if it is a special sign?” she mused and she went back to the task at hand. But now she had a smile on her face as she tackled the mess.

Settler mindset… Church = School and administration

Settlers tend to think of learning and the power of learning as a massive building usually in the center of town. It is built to last. Strong walls with big rooms and few windows to distract the students. The clocks tend to not work which is OK because most of the activities and methods are frozen in time. The thick walls help to both keep the world and its distraction out and to keep the charges in. It can even be defended from the world and from those who would challenge the status quo.

There are rules posted throughout. Don’t walk on the grass, wipe your feet, no cell phones allowed, etc. Rules are a great comfort to the settler as they ensure that the students understand the game of life. If the students were left to their own devices, surely chaos would ensue. The blackboards and desks are firmly bolted down are rusty with age but continue to optimize the learning environment.

A few wires wander along the walls and poke in and out of ceilings. Evidence that the school can change to accommodate new technologies. It is limited though, as the structure itself was built to last a thousand years and cannot be changed too much due to cost. However, it is comforting that less change tends to keep things tranquil. It would be a shame if we upset parents, students and teachers with too many changes every year.

Deep within the school is a vault. Only the headmaster, curriculum development team and historian are allowed access. It is only opened once a year. The original curriculum and founding documents can be viewed here. Most do not know that the original school was set up by pioneers. It would be too unsettling if word got out. The original documents referred to the practical goals that the school and curricula was founded upon. The administration has maintained the letter of the law outlined in these documents.

The old staircase which serves all classrooms is blocked after the second floor. The third floor is where the insider’s offices are located. In general terms these offices are called “The Administration”. These officials are the real power behind the fortress called “school”. They guard the masses from information that would simply upset. They also know that outsiders are not really capable of understanding the intricacies of educating. Who are the outsiders? Virtually everyone; teachers, parents, townsfolk, students and the worst… pioneers and pioneer wanna-be’s.

Pioneer mindset… Church = Wagon Train or online community

The pioneer in modern technology-enhanced learning finds the church of education to be a wagon train. It is always on the move. It is constantly evolving with the changing virtual world it travels in. No place is home. The world of learning is experienced as a continuum of peaks and valleys. The circumstances encountered do not stay the same. Some paths are very hard, others seem a joy. The wagon master does not promise easy, only that we continue to head West.

The wagon train is a strange site to view. It is a motley crew of misfits and disgruntled professionals of all kinds. There are musicians, shopkeepers, farmers and ne’er-do-wells. The pioneers prefer diversity and value all within their community. They know that each is divinely endued with unique talents and skill sets which may not be needed on a given day, yet are irreplaceable when the situation/opportunity presents itself.

The problems for the wagon train are not what some would expect. The navigation of uncharted territories certainly present challenges. The weather and soils can certainly be vexing. But the real challenge lies in effecting open and respectful communications. Everyone has down days and can develop an “attitude”. The individuals and families are constantly challenged to stay positive and engaged with all wagons.

The wagon train is not the destination. It is where we eat, sleep, love, fight and sometimes die. It is our vehicle to get us where we are going. No one is foolish enough to make the train their goal and life’s work.

The pioneer cherish the land they have explored and the places they come from. They even plan visits back to favorite spots and the towns they grew up in. They love the past and even the schools from the settler towns because they are all part of what got them to the present. The present and the day’s situations are all that matter. They are thankful for the past, but live in the present. To live in the past is to give up pioneering.

This series is actually meant to help you interpret your experience through story. Your job now is to take a few minutes to imagine yourself in one of the roles. Try to imagine yourself making a decision to embark on a quest or not. What would be your arguments pro and con? What essentials would you take with you on the wagon train? Would you be taking a large wagon or just ride a horse? After the personal dream weaving, what metaphors relating to real learning paths can you extract?

Challenge: write a paragraph or two (in character) describing your thoughts as a pioneer (or settler) in the comment box below. Let’s make this quasi-collaborative.

Picture by cindy47452 via Flickr

  • sylvia Guinan

    Brilliant challenge George:)


    Come on everybody!!

  • Margaret

    My first thought as a fellow pioneer was to bring along 2 spoons, one very large (almost a small shovel) and one small… maybe 2 large and 1 small would be better…. survival and sanitary purposes.