From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 11|No 1|September|2001


Once the large posts for the first section were cemented firmly in place, level and carefully squared, it was time to construct the ladder frames that would rest on top of the posts and hold the grape leaves and vines.

© 2001, J. McKenzie, click on picture for full size.

A really complex idea or proposal may contain within it hundreds of details and particulars that must be organized and structured in ways that contribute to understanding. The glory may lie in the bold strokes because they seem dramatic, but real triumphs sometimes rely upon carefully orchestrated campaigns involving many small steps.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference -- by Malcolm Gladwell (2001) tells of many campaigns that relied upon the little things to make a huge difference. He gives as an example the ending of turnstile jumping in New York subways as the intervention that led to a vast decrease in the violent crime rate. Buy The Tipping Point from Amazon.

If we ask students to solve the problems of the Snake River, it may be tempting for them to grab the simple, sweeping solutions. Take down all the dams! Leave all the dams up! End all fishing!

But the most powerful solutions may involve much more subtle campaigns that require adjustments of fishing seasons, permitted catches and retraining incentives, campaigns that involve modification of certain critically important dams instead of all dams, and campaigns that invest in alternative sources of water and energy to reduce reliance upon Snake River sources.

How do we teach young people the value of patient work with complexity? We give them practice with real problems so they can see first hand the benefits of complex programs of action. We ask them to study the lives and actions of those who have modeled this kind of problem solving.

Brick by brick, we teach them to build a wall. We also teach them, brick by brick, how to dismantle a wall.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.

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