Another word on scalability

So, I’m still hearing from people about my scalability comments. Just to restate: there’s nothing evil about scalability itself. Scalability is about reaching lots of people, and reaching lots of people is an important intermediate goal. My only concern is that we might stop there – we might stop when our business plans and technology allow us to reach 90% of people and say “we’re finished!”

Now, reaching 90% is obviously better than only reaching 45%. But why don’t we reach the other 10%? Not enough money in their “market”? Worse yet, have we just forgotten they exist? Do we think that reaching 90% is really reaching everyone? If educators and instructional designers aren’t the champions of learning, who will be?

I know that no single solution / answer / product will reach all 100%. And I know that no one company will put enough products in their portfolio to potentially reach all 100%. The goal of supporting everyone’s learning is a world-wide, cooperative effort. I just wanted people to get to talking about those last few. To feel like scaling to 90% was necessary but not sufficient… To realize that after the current round of “let’s scale to really large numbers” talk is over, and that goal is attained, that it will have been a plateau, and not the summit. To feel like there’s still more work to do… That’s all.

1 thought on “Another word on scalability”

  1. I found this discussion very sad and very anti-Freirean. Well, actually Dave Bauer said it already pretty well: “The answer is to stop thinking about “providing” education and start thinking about facilitating or encouraging learning.”

    In the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” Freire makes a clear distinction between the “banking concept of education” and “problem-posing education”. It’s not hard to guess what he was promoting.

    The aim of reaching everyone is immoral. It seems to be a project of expanding the banking concept of education where “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (Freire 1974 – chapter II online at:

    Now I’ll go with my daughter to our little hut by the lake and we will learn something from the old fisherman who speaks a funny language you don’t understand at all. You will never reach me! 🙂

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