Making access to technology a reality via Shape the Future

One of the initiatives I'm most proud of is the work we do around Shape the Future.  It's really all about making access to technology a right and not a privilege for every student on the planet.  And increasingly this is a priority for governments and schools throughout the world.

As we think about the opportunity for technology to play a role in business, and certainly to play a role in access to information and the way in which it can empower the classrooms…there's a lot of things that I would put as reminders as schools think about one-to-one computing.  I've been working with school districts for the past decade or more on thinking about one-to-one models and the aspiration to move, and I have a couple pieces of advice for folks to consider… and this is regardless of what hardware or even what software you want to use in the device…hopefully some helpful thoughts as you think about the program.

Resist the temptation to acquire first.
The first thing I would say is we've got to start with thinking and resisting the temptation to think acquisition first.  Typically, when schools think to change, they start with a device and once the device comes into the classroom in many cases if you've not done the right thing upfront, the battle is already lost.  School leaders need to start with thinking about people, the implications of learning, and how the device will really be used.  In many cases you want to ask questions about what you're trying to accomplish with regards to transforming learning in a broader way without the restrictions and the limitations of understanding for a teacher on a device or doing things around deployment, etc.

Think about sustainability.
Two, you've got to think much more about a sustainability approach.  So, you've got to think not only around how funding on acquisition exists, but how long-term projects will be sustained with regards to ecosystem.

In many cases we're seeing schools really shift away from providing devices from a one-to-one perspective, and governments being more responsible for thinking around creating sustainable funding models, tax structure models, etc.  In many cases, those are much more viable long term, both to expand technology access to all folks who need it, but also to sustain it long term.  The days of actually buying technology as a project or a limited initiative with special funding increasingly become less sustainable and really should change.

Delivery of the device matters.
The third thing I would say is where you deliver the device matters.  From all of our pilots and the work that we've done around the world we've learned that giving a device to a student in a classroom has the least impact with regards to the long-term life of the device.  It's better to give the same device to a student via the parent/caregiver or via a retail location outside of the school walls, because the device will be embraced by the families more broadly. It will also be respected much more by the students, as opposed to putting the burden on maintenance or support, and really the respect of the device will be decreased if it's delivered inside the school.

Think about the ecosystem.
The fourth thing I would say is the ecosystem matters.  So, partnering with banks, telecommunications companies, and NGOs to make sure that these projects are not only more sustainable but also include a broader range of services and support.

Training is imperative.
Fifth is obviously critical access to make sure that training is provided for families, both students, teachers, and parents, everything from online safety to digital literacy training to integration of ICT with regards to training and the curriculum is important.

I think those are the key things to think about before jumping into a one-to-one initiative.  To learn more and to see about some of the projects that we're doing around the world to help shape the future and provide access to technology for students in education…check out our Shape the Future Facebook page and like our Facebook page. There’s a lot of great videos that explain our vision for the Shape the Future program and sum up some of the work that we are doing around the world.

Comments (1)

  1. Sam Morris says:

    Hey Anthony,

    Great to meet you at ThinkTank last week.  I thought your keynote was great.

    Just FYI: the link to Shape the Future needs updated to…/index.aspx

    Take care.

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