Keep a Straight Face: They Might Not Mean to Ask a Dumb Question

question markImage via WikipediaThis funny set of “operating system” jokes is a great one to pass along to your IT department including:

Customer: “Do you sell Mac OS X for Windows?””


At least three people from our company have come to me panicked, almost crying. They all say, “I think I just erased a program!! Help!!” In reality, it turns out they just minimized the window. When I open it again, they gasp, “What did you DO?!?!?””

 Why do I bring up the “dumb question?”

Well, really my journey that has culminated in this blog and many other blessings really started with a  dumb question.

“What is a blicki and how do I use it in my classroom?”

I asked David Warlick at GAETC in November 2005. With kindness he corrected my portmanteau of “blog” and “wiki” but then said something I've kept with me:

“It depends on what you want to do.”

It always starts with what you want to do.

And in this case, my dear, intelligent IT friends we want to take technology into positive uses throughout the entire school. We want to improve education.

Behind every “dumb” question is a pretty smart teacher who probably doesn't know they've asked a dumb question. 

They have guts for asking it so respect that.

How will their future self see you?
Their future educated self will always look back upon their uneducated self and the question with a lopsided smile and their opinion of you, oh great conveyor of IT knowledge, will largely be determined by the respect you show them as a person when (not IF) … when they ask that question.

Asking questions is a good thing. It can open the gate for many more good questions or it can forever shut the gate on questions and the transformation that can happen when one really starts asking good questions.

Respect the person even if they are emitting a question worthy of inclusion on a joke page. Build bridges with your facial expressions.

Technology Change is People-Centric
This is hard because so many of us IT people are SOOOOOOO direct and so incredibly easy to read. But in this case, technology change is people-centric. Treat the people with respect and they will treat your technology with respect.

Teachers remember your noble calling. IT department remember you are teachers as well – teachers of teachers and your calling is thus, noble as well!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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EdTechSandyK January 19, 2011 - 1:09 pm

Vicki, I love your blicki/Warlick story! What an important, and humbling, reminder that we all start somewhere and we all need to seek and give compassionate help in moving forward in our educational practices. I am going to share this with my colleagues in the instructional and technical support sides of my department. :-)

Yolan Mistele January 19, 2011 - 10:18 pm

Thanks for the great reminder about how to treat others.

coolcatteacher January 20, 2011 - 1:24 am

It is funny – we want mercy for ourselves but also are unwilling to give it to others.

Samplequestionnaire Com January 20, 2011 - 4:39 am

The question was awesome. but the answer was not perfect. need a better on. anyways this is my first visit and had to add this to my Google reader..please keep updating!

Computer Software Engineering Resume

John Woodring January 20, 2011 - 10:13 am

I always thought the dumbest question is the one that is never asked.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere