After The Dream Phase

Over the years, I’ve observed that many ideas usually follow a progression that starts with what I call the “dream phase.” During that time, I think about a new idea, talk about it with people I respect, and give it enough time and oxygen to develop.

A lot of my ideas never get out of the dream phase; after rolling them around in my head, I realize the idea isn’t all that compelling or won’t work for some reason. But when an idea survives the dream phase and starts to become a reality, it’s very exciting for me.

Over the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how technology is remaking education and what that means for Opportunity Education and its mission. I can’t imaging a better way to spend my time, because I believe education will be the catalyst for breaking the cycle of poverty in both developing nations and the poorest parts of the United States. And as I’ve thought about all this, I’ve been dreaming about developing a digital curriculum, designed for a tablet, that Opportunity Education could give away to children in the areas of greatest need.

Well, I am very excited these days because Opportunity Education’s tablet project is moving from the dream phase to the reality phase. We’re starting in Tanzania with a 1,000-kid pilot program that will launch in January 2014. Based on what we learn from this relatively small test, we will expand the program. Over time, I hope it will reach children in all the countries where the foundation operates, and maybe further.

OE tablet team just got back from 10 days in Tanzania, where they tested an early version of the Opportunity Tablet. The idea was to see how the kids interacted with the hardware and software, and then to improve that experience before the pilot begins in January.

These are kids who had never before seen a tablet computer and, in most cases, never seen a smart phone. But they were quick to figure out the tablet interface and put it to work right away– something that was truly amazing to see.

There is still much to learn, but I am excited that we’ve taken this first step.

Written by Jim Ricketts, CEO of Opportunity Education