Thursday, March 10, 2005

On the pace of implementation

I made my proposal that Vermont Academy move to the Tablet PC platform in March of 2003. I had used the platform for a number of months, thought about pen computing for over 10 years, and realized that the TPC OS was very well done, the hardware was finally ready, and the combination had tremendous potential for education. In retrospect, that document clearly and accurately outlined a good view of the capabilities of the Tablet PC and many of its ramifications for education.

It was also audacious and unrealistic in the timetable as I proposed it. While I had what seemed to me at the time very good arguments for such an aggressive timetable, I forgot or ignored a large number of people and technical issues that have been the death of, or at least a hindrance to, any number of technical projects in academia and business.

As a consequence of this enthusiasm (not to mention my hubris) I have met with frustration time and again as the pace has been so much slower than I had originally intended. If I had had my way, we would have Tablets in the hands of all faculty and students already and a multitude of programs and practices based on them.

We might also be on the verge of a spectacular failure by now.

Our forced slow pace has achieved a lot of things that wouldn't have happened otherwise. Our infrastructure is much more complete and robust. We have learned a lot from our early adopter students and faculty. The faculty has not been forced into using a technology that they don't understand yet. The platform has matured, both the hardware and the software, in real and important ways. We have had time to begin thinking more about the many unforeseen ramifications of this whole thing. We have seen some of the adjunct pieces that need to be handled for this to succeed, but which weren't obvious at first. We have seen the problems and mistakes elsewhere (for example and have the opportunity to learn from them.

We have made some mis-steps along the way. The pace has allowed us time to deal with them. With fewer users at this stage, problems are more easily addressed.

If you are thinking about a program for your school, think about taking your time. Ultimately success, however it is defined, is the goal. Maybe the tortoise did have it right after all.

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