Angus King, speaking to a group of Maine educators in April 2005, powerfully identified many of the reasons our school systems must radically change and broadly embrace 1:1 learning initiatives. The following is a slightly shortened quotation from his speech, from minute/second marks 9:55 to 18:20 on Bob Sprankle’s Bit by Bit Podcast from July 13, 2005:

Think of us [the United States] as a big, very successful football team, in the middle of a playing field, but we’ve won all our games for 50 years. We haven’t had any serious competition. And what would happen to that team? It would get overweight, out of condition, kind of sloppy, and not very well trained. All of a sudden there are new teams coming onto the field that are hungry, and aggressive and ambitious. And this book [“The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman] will scare you to death. Essentially Friedman says that every job in the United that can be digitized or that requires labor is vulnerable. Every job.

Radiology. They are now reading x-rays at night in India. Call centers….. They have classes in New Delhi teaching Indians to speak with Midwest accents….. The only jobs that aren’t subject to being exported are jobs where you touch the customer physically or something that they own. That leaves chiropractors and plumbers….. Two nights ago on 60 minutes was a story about people flying to India to have heart transplants and hip transplants at one-tenth the cost of doing it at Maine Medical Center, with the same level of care….. You see, the fiber optic stuff which we all built in the late 20th century, we overbuilt, has eliminated distance. It is free to talk to India, there is no cost…..

Guess what is the only hope? Education. Education is the only chance. We are not going to compete on wages. There are 3 billion people in China and India. Every job in America tomorrow could move to China and they would still have a labor surplus….. Natural resources can move anywhere in the world, information can move anywhere in the world, anything can be digitized…..

What is different and scary about the current situation is how fast it is happening, and how fast it can happen….. Loss of jobs is nothing new, but it took 35 years to go from 30,000 to 1500 [Maine jobs in the shoe industry]….. The only answer is education and technology….. All of this stuff involves technology….. The only thing that Americans have in the long run is innovation. And innovation comes from technology, from people who have the training and expertise to use technology. And that brings us back to MLTI and the laptops….. Yes it was important they [the laptops] can be used for content. It is a wonderful teaching tool, and that’s the real heart of it. But in addition to that is an X factor…. The X factor is the kids becoming totally comfortable with the technology itself. It is an extension of their arm. It is how they solve problems. It is the first thing they think of to solve problems, to work together, to collaborate, to communicate, to gather data, to manipulate data, to present data, and it is when those kids use this thing every day, all day, that then cool things are going to pop out. And you guys know this better than I.

I heartily agree with Angus King: Schools must change, and stop being stalwart defenders of education as primarily content transmission. 1:1 learning with laptops needs to be embraced with the specific goal of transforming teaching and learning, so students practice and experience the 4 C’s of learning every day: communicating, collaborating, and creating in context.

If you haven’t listened to Angus King’s speech for SEED that Bob Sprankle shared with permission as a podcast, do it. And share it with others. King is a great storyteller and leader, and more people need to both hear and heed his core message about 1:1 learning.

Are you acting as a positive change agent in the environment where you live and work? If not you, then who? It is up to us to carry educational banners including 1:1 computing into this present educational darkness in which we find ourselves. I guarantee you my kids are counting on me, and they need to count on you. Let’s not let them down.

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2 Responses to Schools must embrace 1:1

  1. Conn McQuinn says:

    I think the issue of innovation is absolutely critical. We need to get this concept in front of as many people as possible. In particular, we need to head off the impact that the standards movement is having in education. At a time when we most need students to learn to innovate, we are cutting off the ability of teachers to innovate by making them stick to standardized curriculum and learning goals. If the teachers can’t innovate, how on earth can they teach students to innovate?

    The only thing I would change in Bob Sprankle’s comments is the statement that “Innovation comes from technology, and from people using technology.” That’s backwards. Technology, and effective uses of technology, come from innovation. It’s not just semantics. We have to stop looking at technology as if it is just hardware and software that we get from a vendor. Technology is the whole innovative process of using tools, materials, skills, knowledge and creativity to solve problems. Sometimes that means using existing tools, sometimes that means adapting existing tools to new uses, and sometimes that means creating entirely new tools. The process of technology really is the same thing as the process of innovation.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    I think Angus King may be overstating the potential for technology to transform education also, but I still agree with the heart of his message. Here in Texas with our own statewide laptop pilot initiative, my sense so far is that on many (if not most) campuses, teaching and learning has not been transformed in large part because that has not been the goal of the initiative. The project has in many ways been striving to make the traditional process of education merely more efficient via technology. I agree that innovation and creativity are the keys. I had a great conversation with some charter school educators and leaders in New Mexico today, which I’ll be publishing as a new podcast soon. This offered some hope, for teachers and administrators who are empowered (since they are charter schools) to creatively teach. I don’t see much of that happening in public schools here in Texas.

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