"The person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck"


by John Watson

“The person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.” What a great quote from Seth Godin’s recent blog post.

Innovations bring new possibilities, improvements, and advances of all sorts.

They also bring new ways to crash and burn. And certainly, the crashes tend to get more attention than the successes.

It’s a cliché but true: Nobody ever wrote a headline saying “100,000 planes landed successfully today.” But delays in the second busiest airport in London result in global headlines. (Granted part of the allure of those headlines is the drone aspect, but still—nobody died or was even injured.)

In K-12 digital learning, sometimes the crashes get more attention than the landings.

Millions of students successfully completed online courses last semester. Hundreds of thousands of students will successfully graduate from online schools this year. Those events will create many satisfied students and families, but few headlines and none that go beyond regional coverage.

The headlines instead go to the failure of Los Angeles Unified’s iPad program, or the recent protests over some schools’ use of the Summit Learning Platform.

In fact, the article about the Summit protest notes that 380 schools are using the Summit platform, but the headline goes to the one school in which students are protesting.

We will have more to say about the Summit Learning Platform situation in upcoming posts. The point here is that innovations invariably hit turbulence. Just as the typical flight hits some turbulence but lands smoothly an hour later, in most cases the instability of innovative programs is addressed and corrected. But that fact is too often lost in the headlines that create a sense of permanent turbulence and that highlight the crashes instead of the landings.