Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Admitting Failure

I'm happy Mark Ahlness is having success with Sugar on a Stick in his classroom. However, it is important to keep in the back of our mind whenever we think or talk about students running their operating system off a USB key, or searching the web on cell phones in class becoming the default, or a school system moving all their documents onto Google, that these actions all indicate the failure of traditional IT in schools.

Sugar at least is designed for kids, and if fully implemented and widely adopted would be an unambiguous step forward beyond the status quo. But if you got in a time machine and went back to a technology planning meeting in 2002 and told the director of IT (if there was one...) that by 2010 the school district would just give up and throw all their documents on Google, you would get a pretty sour response. This is not the future they thought they were creating.

3 comments:

Cal said...

I hope folks don't see it as failure... I hope they see it as the natural evolution of the overall network, both in and out of schools. Sticks increase in size, portability encouraged by cellular and wireless, accessibility at lower price points; even if we couldn't necessarily predict it or plan effectively for it, isn't it great that it's happening? Do we fear too much the stock image of the over-controlling IT department?

Tom Hoffman said...

Cal,
My point is that everything we're excited about doing with USB sticks, cell phones, cloud computing, etc., are things we thought we'd be able to do with a school's comuters over its own network, features that were often promised (and purchased!) over the years.

Mark Ahlness said...

Tom, I'd qualify my ventures in Sugar on a Stick as something a little less than success, but more than abject failure :) Can't tell you how many times I was back to square one. But it is a puzzle that offers a very compelling window into the (maybe) future.

There is SO far to go, and the obstacles are so high, that I am amazed and in awe of those who are pushing. If the talent, drive, and vision of the Sugar Labs people had the financial backing of an even medium sized commercial tech company, well, there would be news and breakthroughs happening all over the place.

But then they wouldn't be open source, would they?

I will keep my mouth shut on school district visions.

As long as I am able, I'll keep experimenting with new things that hold potential for my kids. But you really have to fly awfully low and slow to stay under the radar. Can you say XO? :)