The Pencil

The Pencil


Okay. I know I write a lot about weird convergences in my life and it’s probably getting boring. BUT, this week….

1) I was with our state K-12 CIOs. We began setting a project scope and timeline for the transition to a new student information system. (See earlier whine about need for new SIS.)

2) I was with an amazing group of people talking about hybrid models for education. Specifically, we talked about using face-to-face and online courses for richer curriculum options in schools.

3) I listened to the Planet Money: Cappuccino Reconsidered podcast on the drive between these meetings.

I read I, Pencil and Free to Choose for my high school senior seminar class (they factor in the Planet Money episode). They’ve informed the way I think ever since (thanks, Mr. Goodwin), although Free to Choose did not turn me into a Republican overnight as it did some of my classmates. Mr. Friedman’s fundamental message made me realize the beauty of a well-balanced system, one which wouldn’t come about at the hands of Republicans or Democrats, or even Libertarians, but a blending of all of the above. The intrinsic checks and balances of multi-party friction are as important as the ones spelled out in our Constitution.

The reason all this matters to me this week is because of our current information needs in our state education system. For schools and teachers, we need usable data systems for the business offices and bus barns and the classrooms. For students, we need better access to information. We need all this in a time of severe budget constraints.

It’s tempting to try to do both by coming together across the state, pooling our resources, and buying one-size-fits-all products for these needs. It’s really tempting. For many reasons. But I drove and listened to the Planet Money guys. And heard the reminder about central planning v. the free market. The pencil story and the cappuccino story have a simple beauty.

All those years ago in high school, I felt the best system was a blend of many. Natural checks and balances. I think I’m leaning that same way in my thoughts about our current project needs. Small pieces that can be snapped together or apart, like Lego blocks, may allow us to achieve greater success than an all-in system.

More thinking ahead….