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The Paradox of the Tipping Point

As we gathered for what was an extraordinary gathering in June at Point Lookout in Maine, for the Big Ideas Global 1 to 1 Summit, I was struck by both the enthusiasm and energy of those who attended, but even more so by our diversity.

We came from many different countries, cultures and communities, and yet now, in 2010 we were realizing what for many has been a dream; that there were now millions of young people in K-12 all around the world who now had an unprecedented freedom to learn.

But while we were celebrating achievements and sharing experiences, and (some) Big Ideas, I was also struck by the irony of the situation. Here after now more than 20 years, we had reached that “tipping point” where now people spoke about the inevitability of students having 1 to 1, yet we were faced with a set of unintended consequences that are rather paradoxical.

It’s one thing for us to believe in the possibilities of what 1 to 1 might enable, it’s another for that potential to be realized; for it is simply the case that for too many, providing every student within a system, state, district or school with their own personal portable computer has been the single goal-an end in itself, rather than that simply being seen as a strategy, or means to a greater goal-i.e. the learning it could make possible.

Such an outcome has always been possible, given an almost natural predisposition to be distracted by technology, however in the case of ubiquitous computing we simply cannot afford to let such a shallow interpretation of the goal of universal access to become the predominant model. Despite many years of protestation about the challenges of 1 to 1, when it comes down to it, providing the personal portable computer to each child is actually the easy part; the real challenge is what happens next? Who is going to build the necessary supports and processes to ensure we don’t just see “more of the same” but with a screen instead of pencil and paper? Who is going to provide the leadership and provocation to ensure this “freedom to learn” provided by the laptop, is not manacled and limited by a lack of leadership and vision about what it makes possible? …and who is going to have the courage to “let go” of redundant practices of the past to embrace the re-conceptualization that is necessary for us to maximize the benefits for our students?

Our tipping point therefore, must reflect the scale of the transformation in learning experiences our young people are experiencing as a result of ubiquitous access, NOT the access itself. We must be looking for this “transformation tipping point” as the only real sign that 1 to 1 has been worth the journey, and that our focus, energy..and BIG ideas are making it possible.

Thanks again to everyone who gave up their time to share their thinking and ideas with us in June; we look forward to building on your wisdom and insights in the coming months.

As always, I’m very interested in your thoughts…
September 14th, 2010 @ 12:30PM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment