Just Wait

Yesterday, John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog highlighted a blog post by Michael Mace entitled, “The Two Most Dangerous Words in Marketing.”  Those words are: Just wait.


Mr. Mace’s opinion is that many companies hurt themselves by introducing products or features that cause customers to wait for the next release rather than buying the current release–or by introducing products that never find their way to productions.

The exception is Apple (a company Mr. Mace worked for in the past), which introduces new products a few months before they are available, partially so that developers can create programs for those devices.  Additionally, with Apple, many of the pre-release press conferences feature products that seamlessly roll from a current device to the next.

I’ve been thinking about the folly of the “just wait” mentality in education, specifically in terms of technology.   I don’t know what your school or district has in terms of technology, but I know that our district has a system where computers are replaced on a 10-13 year cycle.  Like many schools, we’re running Windows XP on all computers, even computers that ship with newer operating systems.

Additionally, our district has traditionally (things are changing) been very slow to adopt any new technology.  We typically don’t act on an item until many schools have piloted studies, others have fully implemented the technology, and several research articles have been published.  This sequence typically takes several years, at which point technology has moved on to the next approach.  Sometimes this means that when you have “buy in,” you’re buying a “mature” device with few bugs and many resources.  Other times, it means that you’re buying in when the device (or form factor) is DOA.

I’m not advocating that schools should recklessly spend their limited funds on every new technology item on the market.  At the same time, schools should take limited risks on devices that show promise.  By this point, there have been enough pilot studies with the iPad to indicate that every school should be running an iPad pilot of some kind–to determine if the device holds promise for them or not.  The pilot could be teacher-based or student-based, and I’d recommend pilots in special education classes, general education classes, and gifted/talented education classes.  I’m not saying that every student in every school should have an iPad, but I am saying that schools should be doing the work to determine if this device is an answer to some of their problems, or if it just creates new problems.  And yes, every school or district has funds (or are supposed to have funds) set aside to run pilot programs–but they need to be judicious about which (or how many) pilot programs to run.

I’m obviously on the iPad bandwagon, and my guess is that many schools will find that the iPad has huge benefits in education.  I predict that we’ll begin to see reviewed research studies showing that students with iPads (of any demographic) achieve higher scores on standardized tests than students without iPads.  And although I don’t fear the “next thing” after the iPad, I fear that we’ll miss out on opportunities to help students now or in the immediate future because we adopt a policy of “just wait” to educational technology.



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