Having been recently released from my endless software project, the one that was supposed to finish by Thanksgiving, I’m thinking again about Project Acorn, particularly after the terrific three day Waveplace workshop at UNC Charlotte this last weekend where I worked with fourteen college computer science students, training them for their trip to three schools in Haiti this March.

So with a month of endless talk in October, followed by three months of nothing, where’s Acorn now?  What’s left in my head?

Well, frankly, nothing, which is a great place to start.  Let’s see if this three month gestation period worked its magic by starting from the top, freewriting till some proposal text starts to bubble up.

First up, MOTIVATION … why are we doing this?

Speaking first for myself, I’m doing this to make myself less necessary.  Four years of promises and “God bless you’s” and “when are you coming back’s” and inevitable apologies, waking with thoughts of the many things I could be doing, I’m worn out and looking for help.  I’m sure the same could be said for anyone leading an ed-tech laptop effort.

Everyone is “yes, yes, yes” as the laptops arrive, but months and years later, it’s usually one person holding things together, if that. Even when there’s significant volunteer support and interest, as with Waveplace, it usually comes down to one or a few people motivating the rest.

GETTINGS LAW:  “Unless someone wakes with your mission in mind, nothing gets done.”

Obviously one person is not enough, as this single point of failure will likely get burned out and move on.  We simply can’t expect the improbable champions to keep pushing past obstacles year after year.

Given this, a big part of the motivation behind Project Acorn is to increase the number of motivated, self-directed stakeholders in laptop projects.  Our goal is to create a structure that facilitates the building of purposeful community for all aspects of the project, both online and in person.

Building such communities has another very important benefit.  Decisions come from the people most affected, from the bottom up.   With enough structure, training, and intrinsic motivation, people will take ownership of their own projects, meanwhile participating in the collective ecosystem.

Truly, I’m tired of hearing myself talk.   Nothing could make me happier than to become a “lurker” and simply watch our laptop projects help themselves and each other.  It’s the best sustainable option for everyone … “We’re not done until we’re unnecessary.”

Thoughts?

For a month now, I’ve been pacing laps with my Skype phone, talking to dozens of people about our newest venture: Project Acorn.  The plan began as a nebulous grouping of the many things we wish we had more time & funding for, then gradually coalesced into details, people, budgets, and bullet points.  Last night, I found the last member of our team, which consists of seven coordinators and five advisers, all working together through the end of 2012.

I’ll be posting here at least twice a week, so watch this space.  Details on the project itself will appear gradually as I finish the proposal, which I’m working on now.  After a suitable period of deliberation between the twelve of us, we’ll go public with everything, as one of our goals is complete transparency.

For now I’ll say simply this:  Project Acorn is about strengthening and deepening existing laptop projects, not starting new ones.  It’s about sustainability, local ownership, and cooperative communities.  It’s about Assessment, Courseware, Outreach, Reflection, and Network (ACORN).

Now for my traditional first task on any big project: making an appropriate playlist I’ll listen to every day till its done.