Without Risk there is no Reward
There is a great article in today’s Los Angeles Daily News entitled Don’t let fears stop necessary technology reform in L.A. schools: Guest commentary by Frederick M. Hess, Director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and John E. Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hess and Deasy counter the negative press surrounding the recent iPad roll-out by describing the potential of leveraging technology to provide greater and improved opportunities for teaching and learning. They write that “it creates new opportunities for students to learn and grow; these opportunities should not be driven by community politics, grand promises or state procurement deadlines, but by helping students learn and teachers teach.”
However change is a messy process. Technological innovations don’t happen overnight. The Wright brothers began their experimentation with flight in 1896 and were not successful until 1902, no doubt after many many failed attempts. Thomas Edison had “1,093 patents for different inventions“, however many failed to see the light of day. There are many, many examples in nearly every industry, but we know in hindsight how technology has had a transformative effect.
I am not advocating to enter foolheartedly without sufficient planning for a 1:1 roll-out. To the contrary, we must develop clear expectations, identify, measure, and reflect on frequent benchmarks, and what I have not seen done enough, apply practices developed by change process sociologists and experts. When done with sufficient planning and visionary leadership, we can avoid simply layering technology upon existing classroom practices and achieve the true transformative potential of technology.
In summary, schools and districts need to adopt a change process theory model by treating the pedagogical shift to fully leverage a 1:1 environment to empower the learner to move beyond digitized worksheets and $1,000 pencils. However as with any innovation, leaders and stakeholders must also acknowledge a willingness to embrace some level of ‘mess’. We must attempt to plan for the 99% of what can/will happen and acknowledge that there will be unknowns along the way. Without risk there is no reward.
As Hess and Deasy state, this “should not hold students back from a 21st century learning experience”, and I couldn’t agree more.