Day #34: Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” and Our Embrace of Technology

David and GoliathFrom the first chapter of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, the underdog is highly motivated. Gladwell also is clear in pointing out that throughout history the triumph of the underdog is not so surprising. There are a plethora of examples to support the view that the underdog continuously overtakes the lead dog in sports business, politics, and art, and Gladwell mentions a number in the text. Whether he is discussing the Redwood City girls’ basketball team or the Impressionist art movement, his familiar message is that the lead dog will always be challenged by someone who is highly motivated.

Gladwell uses the principle of legitimacy as a factor in developing motivation. The principle of legitimacy is explained as having three elements:

  • people have to feel they have a voice
  • law has to be predictable
  • authority must be fair

Gladwell offers a twist on this principle of legitimacy by suggesting that to challenge the powerful, the underdog must establish a new paradigm. As an example of an underdog establishing a new paradigm, I consider the success of our own Regional School District #6  in the incorporation of technology in the classroom. There were certainly larger, more powerful and better financed school districts in the State of Connecticut as technology in education became more available. No one expected a small rural regional school with cows in the Northwest corner of the state to embrace the use of digital devices in the classroom and become technology powerhouse.

While we were not facing an army of Philistines, we certainly had other characteristics of being the “underdog” in an embrace of technology. What made us a success was the “out-of-the-box” thinking by the district’s leadership.

First, educators for all schools and all grade levels were invited to participate in technology conferences in state and out of state.

Then, our educators were given a set of clear expectations in developing 21st Century skills and afforded time and equipment to meet those expectations.

Finally, there was a  reasonable accessibility to technology (hardware and software) that was fair and equitable Therefore Gladwell’s principle of legitimacy was properly used to develop motivation in all educators in the district.

Underdogs no more, we are a leading district in the use of technology. Take that, Goliath!



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