Goal: Cause a Ripple

Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 14

Touch the SkyWhile studying in college, I came across the Ripple Effect Theory. I was so enthused about the theory, I adopted it as a life motto. When we’re young we do that. Recently, I discovered that this theory has been applied to education. According, to Wise Geek, Jacob Kounin coined this term in 1970 in reference to classroom management. As Wise Geek describes,

“When you throw a pebble into a pond, you’ll see a splash and hear the resounding plunk of the pebble. You might notice concentric circles rippling out from the locus point of where the pebble hit the water. The thrown pebble might also have other effects… You are connected to the pebble, the water and the effects of throwing by the ripples… You have caused change through a single and simple act.”

I believe the ripple effect can be applied to the current movement occurring in education through social media networks. I believe that educators are being inspired by their Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to cause ripples in their schools and local communities. Steve Moore’s post, Is Twitter Just Window Dressing?, made me reflect on this ripple effect theory. Here’s my response:

I think because the numbers are there people will naturally look at them. However, every field has its community builders and with community building comes numbers. If every member is actively participating then real change is inspired. That is what we need in education. We need each educator to go into their schools and cause a ripple. Even a small ripple makes such a lasting impact with a student, parent, educator, or administrator who in turns sends a ripple. I love that about social media. I believe PLNs inspire educators to cause ripples that are making a difference in a field that has been bombarded with bad policies and overrun by politicians who never were educators, do not have their own children in public schools, nor have spent enough time at at-risk schools trying to figure out why there’s such an enormous achievement gap that hasn’t closed for decades.

Preventing a Ripple

Ironically, the original intent of the theory by Jacob Kounin was preventative. Kounin believed teachers should deal with negative behavior at the onset to prevent a ripple effect of this behavior. In a recent Skype conversation with Tom Whitby and Steve Anderson we discussed why lecturing is still heavily used in many schools and why many teachers cling to ineffective instructional methods. One aspect is that student teachers who are getting into the field are trained by those who use traditional methods. Tom Whitby will be discussing more of these topics in his new blog, which should be coming today! Tom discussed how getting new teachers the right type of mentors would encourage them to use effective instructional strategies.

Considering this information, I want to make a long-term goal of causing positive ripples and preventing negative ripples. Everyday is an opportunity to stir the water, but are we actually making conscious efforts to do this? Do we really reflect on the consequences of all our actions before we make a move? I don’t, but this year I plan to reflect before I act.

Challenge: Teach your students about causing positive ripples in their community! Help them develop a PLN, start a club, volunteer, and so forth.

You may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

This is goal 14 of this series! If you’d like to join the challenge, please visit the 30 Goals Facebook group!

Don’t forget to leave a comment that you accomplished this goal using the hashtag #30Goals!

What are your thoughts? How can we cause and prevent ripples?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. Another teacher and I will be taking this on in the next few weeks, as we seek to engage students more completely in the events of the world. Perhaps a way of connecting them to the concept of creating a ripple is to view the film “Pay It Forward”- a related concept that, again, involves students in taking positive action in their world on a local level to see global change.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this response Shelly! It disproves the question in my title when you and many others have generated and engaged in conversations about the topic.

    I think that mentoring is the most important part of a new teacher’s development. I have learned from failing and trying new things, but those are both very individualistic acts. I would not be where I am now if it weren’t for the mentors that I have searched for and connected with.

    • Steve,

      I think it was a valid question you asked on your blog. Your wonderful and brave post started an important discussion. Moreover, it caused many of us to reflect on how we use social media.

  3. Nice analogy. I think so often I want to create BIG waves. I long for the change to happen quickly and right now. I need to be better about being purposeful in my ripples. It may not happen all at once or in as big of a way as I would hope. But I need to remember that I am not the only one stirring up the water. I have a wonderful PLN who is doing their part to make ripples as well. Purposeful and patient are my words for the week!

Leave a Reply to Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas? by Marti Sides #30Goals | Teacher Reboot Camp Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *