According to one large vendor in the room, “Poway is in the leading 1% of districts nationwide who are looking at this.” According to several others, “90% of the bits and pieces are there; no one has put it all together.” According to almost all the vendors, “We can’t make this kind of investment with most districts because leadership turnover means we spend a lot of time and money on something that disappears from the radar screen.” Poway is a 35,000 student district with a history of stable, forward-looking leadership. Their top priority: getting past the point of no-return away from the factory model and to an adaptive learning model that serves the needs of each individual child.
A first for everyone in the room on Friday: about 25 reps from a dozen educational vendors and potential partners met with an equal number of educators from Poway USD to launch discussions on how to develop and implement an adaptive learning system. The district laid out their goals then got feedback, reflection, and a number of wonderful questions that will help guide next steps. All of that intellectual capital will be made public by the district in the near future, and much of it I will summarize on this blog.
Why were the vendors so open in sharing, with direct competitors in the room? One said “You have to look at this as a design innovation problem, not a product development”, and most folks in that room are savvy enough to know we do not innovate without linking with others. As I have said a number of times, what Poway USD is asking is much like the Defense Dept. saying to industry, “build us a better fighter plane.” There is no RFP to follow at the outset, only guidelines, some stakes in the ground, some expectations, a picture of where we want to be. Groups with shared interest and re-enforcing strengths will form. The teachers in the room are open-sourcing their own intellectual property and the district is providing the Skunk Works. The companies in the room got it.
No one in the room says this cannot be done. Adults modeling the innovation and learning we want for our students. Good morning; yep, you wish you had been there.