John Pederson – of whom I had never heard until this graph caught my eye – makes an interesting point about schools.  But what he says seems just as relevant to other ponderous organisations, such as government departments.

It doesn’t matter how much <Insert School District Here> grows (or plans to grow) over 5 years if everything outside that school is changing 10x that speed.
Internal and external rates of change
2006: My Tasks With Computer
1. Instant messaging (In Game & Out of Game)
2. Audio (Music, Streaming Audio, Podcasts, Conferencing)
3. Gaming
4. RSS Feeds
5. Web Publishing
6. Word Processing
7. Email

1996: My Tasks With Computer
1. Email
2. Word Processing

Most schools ban instant messaging, audio, gaming, web publishing, and email, leaving computers for a) word processing/productivity and b) research. Roughly the same stuff we were doing in 1996.

In DSS, I got access to word processing in 1989 by dint of making a nuisance of myself and breaking a number of rules (primarily one which said that any text over a hundred words had to be typed by a typist).  The first emails between the two main head office buildings were sent in 1992, just in time to make election briefing a lot easier than it would otherwise have been.  Access to the internet from networked PCs came around 2000 (on which, curiously, my memory is less clear – though I vividly recall the shock of returning to the Department with dial-up access in a locked cupboard at the end of a long corridor, complete with a book in which to write down the names of all sites visited).  The intranet became a recognisable ancestor of the thing we see today at about the same time.  Since then, the only serious increase in functionality has come with RM – which not everybody sees as an unalloyed triumph.

That’s all frustrating, but not really the point of this post – which is more that if the tools we use leave us too far behind what is possible and in other contexts is seen as normal, our ability to connect to and understand the world beyond our boundaries will diminish further.  And that understanding does not start at so high a level that we can afford to lose much more of it.