You can’t get to outer space with a rowboat


You can’t get to outer space with a rowboat. You need something with a little more oomph.

Neither can you get to genuine 21st century learning environments without putting a computer in every kid’s hands. Not just some of the time. All of the time.

Is 1:1 computing sufficient in and of itself? Will magic happen if every kid gets a laptop or a netbook? No, but it’s a necessary and essential condition without which the true magic never will occur.

Why aren’t you moving more quickly to get a computer into every student’s hands? (Yes, I mean you.)

Photo credit: Woman in rowboat

13 Responses to “You can’t get to outer space with a rowboat”

  1. Getting them is the first step, as I’ve discovered. Moving a faculty to action is a bigger step. Our session in Council Bluffs stirred up the ideas I’ve had into, what I believe is a workable change model with an already establish metaphor to drive it. I just posted a blog about it at

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Because they aren’t free? Because they are a finite, non-renewable resource? I can’t figure out if this is rhetorical.

  3. Because your head of school says it’s unrealistic and too expensive.

    Because your colleagues have no idea how to use them.

    Because you sat on a train with a half-dozen other educators coming back from Washington, and heard them asking the most god-awful trivia questions downloaded from the Internet of their students.

    Because the kids have their own, sometimes.

    Because the future is not evenly distributed.

    Because your colleagues don’t have them.

    Because your school doesn’t see it as a priority.

    Because your board of trustees doesn’t like the idea.

    Because your parents don’t get it yet.

    Because you can’t convince any colleagues to start blogs, or even to vote for yours for “best teacher blog of 2009”.

    Because everything — photos, text, podcasts — has to be “perfect” when it comes to computers with your faculty and staff, not “good enough”.

    Because you are afraid.

  4. Andrew great comment. Please add…
    Because the your school does not have a tech aid fulltime.
    Because the network system cannot handle that amount of use.
    Because the school system does not have back up space for the amount of computers needed.
    Because the legal aspect of student home use and school liability is so complex.
    Because there is not enought PD time to prepare staff.
    I can think of lots more and I am sure you have thought of even more additions to your original list.

  5. A rowboat IS a rowboat
    No more gentle streams but rapids
    Listen to learners’ voices

    -You can’t be my teacher

    -An open letter to educators

  6. Most high schools already have computers in the hands of every student right now–those devices are sometimes called cell phones. Buy a virtual keyboard and “presto,” you have a one-one school.

    My high school still uses laptops for each kid, but I truly see cell phones replacing laptops in the next 5-7 years.

  7. I think it’s a great thought. However, in order for this to work teachers have to be trained how to facilitate the learning so that students use the laptops to actually learn and not just play racing or pac man type games all day. My students love their laptops and I would love more training on how to maximize their learning!

  8. The problem is not funding – we spend lots more on textbooks that contain information available on-line for free. (While the teachers complain that the students won’t read the book!)

    The problem is not infrastructure. Networks can be expanded, tech aids can be found, Professional development can be offered. (Lots is already out there or in the school already and it is free!)

    The problem is not even getting the technology into the kids hands. (It is already there in most cases! We just don’t want it disrupting our classes!)

    The problem is us! (Educators)
    We chose not to change. (Or most of us)

    It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory. ~W. Edwards Deming

  9. What about doing away w/ bricks and mortar and having high schools go virtual? I am still young at heart and dream great visions. Now, if I just could find a donor or two, or three…:)

  10. Gee, and maybe we should get them all ponies too! A computer is a tool, not a magic wand. Where I teach the money that you advocate spending on computers would have much more effect making sure that the students had quality food to eat, early childhood education programs, and summer programs to help students who are behind. Thankfully the administration has chosen that route, so the teachers coordinate who has the mobile laptop labs on any given day or class. I’m currently looking for grant money to fund laptops that students can check out of the library like books, so that the ones who don’t already have them at home will have them available when needed, without wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  11. Your rowboat analogy hit the nail on the head. I’m actually wondering why more people don’t see it that way. Technology is affecting every aspect of our world exponentially on a daily basis, and I wonder how long those who think we don’t need technology to help our students learn and grow to be prepared digital citizens in a global market will continue to hang on to that frame of mind. You’re so right that the “magic” can’t happen without the right tools, which is also going to have to include professional development for teachers who don’t know how to use those tools. Because the net generation are digital denizens, I think the magic of learning and those awesome teachable moments will happen on a more regular basis—students will learn better because teachers will be catering to the new “learning style”: technological intelligence.

  12. As a future educator I would like to believe that the education institution has moved toward a more technologically advanced way of doing things. The amount of information accessible through a computer is infinite. I strongly think that most teachers, board members and parents are simply afraid to hand every student access to that information. Of course, I understand the financial aspect as well, but it shouldn’t hinder us from considering how a change that this could permanently better our students’ education. I loved this post, very insightful. My name is Lauren Germany and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama. If you would like to see the comments I’ve posted about your blog post, feel free to check out my blog.

  13. It’s interesting to me when I talk to folks in a 1:1 district and I ask them what their vision is for it, they often don’t know. They often don’t know what it will look like when every student has a computer. Yet, they’re willing to invest a TON of money to make it happen.

    If they don’t know what they’re aiming for, how will they know if it’s successful? If they don’t get teachers properly trained then all they’ll get is what they always got – but with a lot of computers.

    Let’s put together a website of questions that they should be asking themselves before they venture down this road. Questions like, “Describe how your lessons will be different.” “What skills will your students need to have in order to truly use the computer as a personal learning tool?” “Where will they learn those skills?” “What are some look-fors that will indicate that you’re truly transforming education in your district?”

    Too often they’re more concerned about the insurance and the logistics of imaging, and whether or not they’ve got adequate staff to support it, etc. But, the questions about how their classrooms will be transformed go largely ignored.

    I’ll gladly help with that website, if you want to do it.

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