I have always loved this quote by Woody Allen. It demonstrates the gross nature of success by first going after the lowest hanging fruit. Show up. Get started. Pay attention to the feedback. Adjust.
But what about moving from merely successful to superior or world class performance? I propose the quote be amended and expanded to the following:
Eighty percent of success is showing up and doing what we already know. Fifteen percent of success is improving what we already know. Five percent is learning new things.
With our propensity for neomania, jumping on a bandwagon for the newest and shiniest, especially new technology, we never get proficient or exceptional at proven skills before abandoning them and moving on to another skill or technique. This phenomen, always worshipping the newest thing, is epidemic in education. Need proof? Just read education journals of the past couple of years that proclaim how teachers need to embrace new ways of teaching. Everything you knew was wrong.
But education is not the sole example. Neomania, especially when paired with improving performance is a cultural malady. An entire sports industry, golf, depends on its least proficient and novice participants’ search for the newest gadget to improve their golf scores.
As a means to continuously sell more new equipment the voice on TV asks, “Do you want to hit longer and more accurate shots?”
Rest assured the company has an answer. You need to buy the latest club that incorporates the latest technology. You already have the latest clubs? Maybe you aren’t using the proper ball.
You have the latest equipment and you still aren’t hitting the ball as long as you would like? What else could you do?
Do you have the proper shoes? When you bought your new clubs did you have them fitted properly?
Heaven forbid the problem is not your equipment at all. But, rather you need some lessons to correct problems with your swing.
The most sage golf advice I ever saw was written on a sign in a used sporting goods store. It read:
You don’t need $1000 clubs if you have a $40 swing.
Does this mentality infect the field of education? Yes, but only if you count the multibillion dollar education-industrial complex.
How many of you remember Promethean boards at $1,500 to $7,000 a pop? It was imperative that the hardware and software be installed in every classroom. Teachers were required to attend multiple days of in-service to learn how to use the equipment.
If you had the Promethean board you also needed to have a class sets of student responder systems for another $1500.
Did all this investment in the most current technology improve student learning?
That question is difficult to answer because right smack in the middle of this infusion of technology in the classroom a funny thing happened on the way to higher achievement. First, educators were introduced to the new standards, i.e., Common Core. And, second the technology in the classroom advanced in the very same way it advanced outside of the classroom.
In 2005 Apple sold the first iPod. In 2007 the iPhone was introduced. In 2015 it was BYOD in the classroom.
The teacher’s refrain changed from, “Put your phone away or I am taking it away.” To, “Take out your phone I have a question.”
Like all other digital technology in the past 30 years, the price is coming down and the performance is getting better. What used to be a major investment on the part of the school has been outsourced to the students and their families.
Educators, now that you have good equipment, how is your swing? Have you focused on the 15%, improving what you know that helps students learn? Or, are you worshipping at the altar of the shiny and new technology chasing a 5% that will probably be obsolete by the time you are finally watched all the instructional videos on You Tube?