Published on: October 7, 2013by Kevin Coupe
For parents, teachers, and educational administrators, this is the kind of situation that you hope won't happen, but inevitably does.
It happened in Los Angeles, where, as the Associated Press reports, the LA Unified School District spent something like a billion dollars to put iPads into the hands of some 650,000 students in 47 schools., with plans to expand the program by the 2014-2015 school year.
The iPads came equipped with security settings that were designed to prevent the students from accessing unapproved social media sites and games. Except that, of course, it didn't take long for about 300 of the students to hack the tablet computers and disable the security settings and start playing games and posting on Facebook.
"That incident, and related problems, had both critics and supporters questioning this week whether LAUSD officials were being hasty or overreaching in their attempt to distribute an iPad to every student and teacher at the district's more than 1,000 campuses by next year," the story says, adding that the district needs "to spend extensive time drawing students into a discussion on using iPads responsibly before handing them out. And, of course, installing a firewall that can't be easily breached."
Now, I get why this is a problem. But there is a part of me - and this is the part that almost certainly is going to be criticized by Mrs. Content Guy, who is an elementary school teacher - that thinks these kids should get commendations for original thinking. (Sort of like if they had managed to figure out a way to survive the Kobayashi Maru test, if you get my meaning.)
Sure, we want to teach kids discipline, in addition to math. But I think the ability of these kids to figure out how to do things that their teachers probably weren't able to do also speaks, in no small measure, to their ability to navigate a 21st century competitive environment.
While it is entirely possible that the initiative wasn't fully thought through, it is more than possible - indeed, it is a certainty - that old fashioned paper-and-ink textbooks are an obsolete concept. Because of how fast information changes, they are out-of-date almost from the time they are printed, and tablet computers are going to create an environment in which organic, interactive and potentially more relevant learning can take place.
The solution to this problem isn't to scrap the program. No, the solution is to do it better. If it were me, I'd start by hiring each of these kids to help me figure out how to make it work more effectively, and put a letter of admiration into each of their files. I'm not sure the old command-and-control approach works in education anymore, simply because so many of these kids are so smart about so much. (Smart. Not wise. And not able to think clearly, objectively, and critically. That's what a good teacher will help them achieve.)
I do think there is a business implication in this story, because so many of the people you are hiring, or are going to hire, are going to have these same impulses and knowledge set. And it is incumbent on businesses to figure out who these people are, and take advantage of them. You may have a kid stocking shelves who could be your next IT director ... if you are open to the idea that there are always possibilities, and part of your job is to nurture and allow them to flourish.
It can be an Eye-Opener.
- KC's View: