Beware the Buzz

Excitement isn’t unusual at KCS. Those who witnessed last week’s ‘Free Hug/High Five Friday’, then joined us for an unforgettably heartwarming assembly of student leadership and achievement, know what I mean.

Imagine having an extra dose of excitement heaped on top! Most readers may not have noticed, but much of the education world is aflutter over Apple’s recent announcement that its iPad division is now in the e-textbook business. Teachers, parents, one Head of School  and assorted others in the Twitterverse made sure this announcement didn’t escape my scope.

Rest assured, this is being followed with interest.

Events like this remind me of a favorite book, a ‘rudder’ in my career: Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t (2001). Collins led a team of 21 researchers in the pursuit of what makes sustained greatness possible. Analysing over 1400 Fortune 500 companies, the team sought to identify the common features among those that have significant success for a period of at least 15 years. Only 11 companies made the cut. In this select group, the common features that seem to make them great are as interesting as the features one might assume make them great, but are absent.

Being the first to adopt new technologies is among the conspicuously absent.

Collins and his team identified seven features that contribute to greatness. If they can be summarized at all, it could be to say that great companies are exceptionally mindful of everything they do. How would they respond to the Apple announcement? When faced with new technologies, the approach of great companies is to “Pause – Think – Crawl – Walk – Run.” Their example is to beware the buzz and proceed with prudence until it is clear that the new technology is compatible with company strengths and objectives. Sober advice for seductive times.

The iPad’s interactive textbooks are exciting. They offer a number of attractive features. Maybe when the buzz settles a bit, we’ll remember that there is much more to education than textbooks, in whatever form they take. Then it will be time to crawl.

Andrea Fanjoy
Assistant Head, Academics

2 thoughts on “Beware the Buzz

  1. Andrea,

    I fully agree… we shouldn’t confuse bedazzlement with student engagement when we hand our students and iPad… but at the same time, as an organization we need to have thought through how our schools will work when (not if) utility books (like textbooks) as we know them become obsolete, replaced by e-versions that have reduced publishers distribution costs.

    The same thing has happened in music… hard media (CDs have moved from mainstream to niche).


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