A new story + a BHAG

David Warlick has blogged often about our need to tell a new story. A story about the technological shifts that are occurring in our society. A story about the impacts that digital technologies are having on our lives, the workplace, and, indeed, our very economies. A story about the future of eduation and what our kids need to know and be able to do in the New Economy. A story that helps people make the move from an education system designed for yesteryear to a system that is designed for tomorrow. This story needs to be told in a compelling way so that it resonates with listeners.

I agree with David. We do need a new story. We probably need multiple new stories, told in different ways to different people at different times in different settings. We need to tailor the new story for different audiences to ensure maximum reception. But I’m also thinking that a new story is not enough. A new story alone will not get us to where we need to be.

I think we also need a BHAG: a big, hairy, audacious goal. A tangible, concrete target that lets us know when we’ve reached some crucial point. A new story (or three or four…) is a necessary component, but I don’t think it will be sufficient in and of itself. I think we need a new story and a BHAG, because the BHAG will help drive action and allocation of resources. A new story tells us what the issues are but it doesn’t necessarily help people know what to do. The BHAG helps people understand where we might go and how to get there. Together a new story and a BHAG will help educators, and parents, and community members, and politicans create the will and the action to move us forward.

I think we’re starting to wrap our heads around what a new story might look like. For example, I know that the presentation set I’ve been delivering lately, which combines diifferent resources and quotes and materials from the blogosphere and elsewhere, is resonating well with folks here in Minnesota. But we still need a BHAG.

So what might a BHAG be? What might be a big, hairy, audacious goal, a target that makes us gulp a little bit but also is focused and achievable? What might be something that would help us accomplish our goal of moving schools, students, teachers, and classroom pedagogy into the 21st century? What might be a goal that is tangible and yet energizing, a goal that grabs people in the gut and serves as a unifying focal point of effort?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I can’t come up with anything better than this:

  1. ubiqitous nationwide high-speed wireless Internet access, and
  2. a wireless-capable laptop for every student and educator.

I’ve previously blogged about variations of the first component (both here and here), and I think we’re starting to see the revolutionary impacts of giving every kid and teacher a computer, even when those impacts weren’t foreseen or desired at the outset. I think these two in coordination (and you need them both, I believe) are a BHAG worth rallying around. Now of course the question is… what do you think?

This post is also available at the TechLearning blog.

9 Responses to “A new story + a BHAG”

  1. The “problem” is that the BHAG is OLPC, the design of which more or less takes care of #1 AND #2 (if the density of access points in my urban neighborhood is any example, a mesh of student laptops would easily cover the city in bandwidth).

  2. BHAG…I love it! Moreover I agree with your point. The story is important it helps build buy in for the vision but the BHAG drives the action and serves to unify our efforts. I need to think a little about the the concept but my first thought is that this is the difference between a teacher or even some teachers embracing web 2.0 and systemic change that transforms a school or a district.

  3. Hi Tom, would the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) mesh networking concept work in rural areas? We might still need some towers / satellite capability?

  4. When I think of this stuff, I think there is nothing more important than making sure this is bottom-up and not top-down in terms of where the drive is. Also, the biggest selling job here has to be with parents and teachers, or in terms of politics, the voters. And if we think revolutionizing school is not a political issue, just read some of Chris Lehmann’s posts concerning setting up SLA.

  5. Scott, you’re sounding more like a leapfrogger each day! I believe it’s not enough to shoot for a big, hairy, audacious goal. A BHAG needs to be tied to a Noble Quest — to which many BHAGs are associated with as part of an ongoing process that will lead us to success in our big, hairy, audacious futures. Long live BHAGs! Long live leapfrog!

  6. Hi Scott,

    Here is a simple BHAG – to make sure every student has an individualized education plan, an learning experience customized to his/her gifts, interests, needs. Give the technology available, it’d doable as well.

    All the best,


  7. Scott,
    Yeah, mesh wireless won’t work so well in rural areas, although any wireless won’t work so well some places.

  8. My BHAG would include:

    1. Space
    2. Money
    3. Uninterrupted Time
    4. Mentors
    5. Technology

    Per Child.


  9. tag: we’re all it

    The calls to action are coming fast and furious: Will Richardson is calling for political action, harnessing the power of the read/write web to impact educational policy. To me, there are three questions. First, what, exactly, does this community as

Leave a Reply