Get Your Hair Wet

I’m a person who likes to observe others. I usually observe people’s idiosyncrasies but through that I learn more about them. This week I was at the state technology conference. Now last 3 “conferences” I attended were TN Teach Meet, Educon, and Edcamp Bham, so I almost had a hard time adapting to this conference. Not that it was a bad conference by any means, just different. So as I watched the attendees in my sessions and other sessions I attended I was noticing that you could almost categorize everyone into 3 groups. We talk often about life long learners and that is how we all should be as educators, I think everyone was there learning but the different levels of passion is what makes the difference.

The “Sprinkler” Learner: Remember summers as a kid and getting to play in the sprinkler? You would run though it and hope to get wet as the drops dripped on you. Is was a weird thing because you ran so you would not get wet, yet you wanted to be wet. This is the chick in my session talking on the phone in the back row of the session. (Actually this happened twice as I started sessions, gave them the teacher eye, works on adults btw) Sprinklers are at conferences, some PD, mostly for CEUs or because district sent them. Some may go technology conferences because they know education is changing, yet still intimidated or resistant. Some times conferences are overwhelming and there is a shut down mode. Either way, not a lot of learning or passion is happening here. It’s like the kids running through the sprinkler, going to sessions and Hoping information or new tools “fall on them” without getting them too wet. I am sure I really do not need to share the negatives of this, mostly there is a lot this person is missing. Not much growth is happening.

The “Wading” Learner: When kids and I go to pool, I’m notorious for begging them not to splash me and get my hair wet. I like to wade in the shallow or lounge on the floats. I’m cooling off in the water yet not making the commitment to look like a drowned rat. So the wading learner goes to conferences because he/she really want to learn something. They go in, take notes, focus mostly on sessions that teach tools they can turn around and immediately use. Nothing wrong with this at all, this is just the type of learner. Focus on the what can I use now. The problem with this, especially in the technology area, things change at a fast pace. It’s almost like ice cream for dinner, great at the moment but growling belly later. There is some passion for learning something new but that is the end of it. They will be at next PD or conference to learn something new – which is great – but no learning in between.

The “Cannonball” Learner: “And I need all of you to stop what you’re doing and listen. Cannonball!! *splash*” Everyone needs a visual of Ron Burgundy in his maroon skivvies. Cannonballs are fun, you not only get the jump into pool but you get to splash everyone else. This is the learner who goes to the sessions that focus on not just tools but how they increase student learning. Or stay after the session to ask how to get a twitter account, when the session was not about twitter. Or asks questions that get people thinking. Cannonballs love conversations on student learning, not griping about students. Their convos are on how to change things, not how things suck. These are the people who are at unconferences, on twitter, my PLN! This is what I am used to, biggest reason this conference threw me for a loop. Cannonballs are looking for ways to continue learning. This is where passion takes over. They cannot turn off the desire to become a better educator, learn more and more each day. This is where “life long learner” has real meaning.

I think I can pin-point a time in my life where I was each of these learners. Luckily I am pretty sure I am a “cannonball” right now. I have found my passion and love to jump in! My mom tells me every time we are at pool “Life is too short, get your hair wet!” I think that is a good motto, with education changing the way it is, it’s time more teachers get their hair wet!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol McLaughlin says:

    I love this blog post. I was wading until I was introduced to creating a PLN via twitter. I was then re-emerged at edcampBham. This was a great way to explain what I see at conferences as well!

  2. missroomw says:


    I love this post and couldn’t agree more! This year I have transformed into a cannonball with the creation of my first class blog and the development of my PLN on Twitter. I love the huge learning curve I’ve been on and find it has reignited my career. I have always loved teaching and learning but now I am looking at education through a different lense. What I like about it is that I am taking responsibility for my own learning and I can take my learning in the direction I want to go. The benefits of all of this are hugely evident in my classroom which drives me to keep on this path. Thanks for posting!

    Sue Webster.

  3. Dorene Bates says:

    I really liked your post. Got me to thinking about how I am as a learner. I feel like I have been all three and hope that I am on my way to being a “Cannonball”. Great comparisons, like you I see all three in my workshops.

  4. What a great blog post!!! Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I can also see myself at each of these stages. Thinking about the changes and options for growth make me want to push somebody in the water … but you have to let them make that choice.

  5. Dvora says:

    I am hoping to be a cannonball learner at ISTE coming up. Seems like many ways to be a learner and experience the conference. I definitely know I have changed types of learning over my years as a student and a teacher.

  6. I am still in college working to obtain my undergrad in education. We here a lot about being life long learners. I have always felt this was important but you bring life back into the term. I want to be a cannonball throughout my career and life 🙂 Thank you for inspiring me!

  7. Gail P says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with earlier comments. I too am a cannonball but I admit to being a bit frustrated by the sprinklers, grumbling about admin that makes them come and making you feel like your wasting your time participating.

  8. dunsiger says:

    This post is fantastic, Amanda! I think that I’ve been all of these types of learners too, but I’m definitely a “cannon ball learner” now. Your post really has me thinking about the types of learners I’ve seen at conferences too. I don’t think that I’ll ever “see” conference attendees in the same way again!:)


  9. Sheree says:

    This is one of the best learning style typologies I’ve read, Amanda. Useful for categorizing and approaching students, too, especially college students.

    For any given course, required or elective, some students are sprinklers, some are waders, some are cannonballs. And occasionally, some don’t want to be at the pool.

    As a teacher, the key is figuring out how to reach each student, whatever his/her type.

    Great post. Hope some of my professor-friends will see it via my tweet.


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