Why McAllen ISD’s iPad Push is Just the Start

By Steve Ahlenius, McAllen Chamber of Commerce President/CEO

The last several weeks I have written about business models and the changing economy, and the challenges businesses have in competing in a constant state of change. Education is experiencing the same challenges. Things are changing and education is changing, whether we like it or not. The McAllen School District push in technology (iPads) is bold and important. The pace of change is being driven by technology. Ask yourself–are you using the same cell phone you were using five years ago? Why are we teaching kids with an education system that was created in the 19th Century?

Online education is taking off; cars are becoming rolling “clouds” and media hubs. Smart phones and social media have created revolutions and forced changes in government. Companies like Groupon and Red Spot take off in just months and create huge market valuation. Technology, innovation in mobile communication, and social connection are changing everything we do.

The old models of education are not working, and it is time to change. The same predictability and quantifiable analysis is not working because the models no longer work. We think we know the variables and, in reality, we don’t even know what questions we should be asking. The school district is doing the right thing. Maintaining the same 100-year–old business model is failure. Change is never easy and change in the 21st Century is going to challenge all of us in how we look at the world.

What is our community’s strategic position, what is our community’s staying power and what skill sets matter most in the 21st Century? Can we afford to discount what is happening with technology, mobile, social and other breakthroughs in our daily lives and in our children’s lives? I tell people that we need to get comfortable with chaos, because predictability is a thing of the past and answers in the future will never be “so clear” that they are obvious.

I don’t expect the school district to know all the answers. What I like is they are thinking and looking at things differently. The school district recognizes technology is driving change in our region, country and world. Our students will have to compete in a world where technology and innovation happen so fast and change is so constant that their careers may only be four years long. How do you prepare a student for that world? What skills they put in their backpacks start here with the McAllen ISD and technology, in whatever form it may take, is going to be part of their success.

We need an education experience that is in “agile development.” An education system that has new innovations, new releases, constant tweaks, upgrades and course corrections. We need something for today’s world. The iPad proposal is an opportunity, not a threat.

Charles Darwin said it best, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.”

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