Random Thoughts

Solar Freakin’ Roadways – The Challenge

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So by now hopefully you have seen the video about Solar Roadways. If not take a couple minutes to watch it below…. amazingly awesome.

So here’s the thing…I’m all for this…this excites me….this is the future. In fact I have already donated to the cause via their Indiegogo page. But it’s going to be an uphill battle because this is different. You have to think different, you have to plan different…you can’t just go out and continue building roads the same old way. You need to rethink everything……everything!

It reminds me of schools who decide to go 1:1. Buying the computer is the easy part…that just takes money. Much like this project raising the money was the easy part. The hard part is changing the mindset.

What should a road be?

What should a classroom look like?

How does this change the way we manufacture roads?

How does this change the way we lesson plan?

How does this change what we expect our roads to do?

How does this change what we expect our students to produce?

I could go on and on of course but I think you get the point. You can’t just drop laptops into schools/classroom and expect things to change on their own. You have to think different…you have to expect something different. You have to think way out of the box on this one. It’s a #moonshot for sure. So is thinking different in the classroom. Once you give every student a connected device….you need to think different….you need to start over.

I have recently been to a couple of new schools in the process of being built both here in the States and overseas. People are so proud of their beautiful new school buildings where 1:1 is either already in the plan or will be shortly. So we’re giving students a new set of tools to learn with yet building the same structures to learn within. Why is that? In 2014 why are we building schools that on the outside look very modern, a lot of glass, beautiful architecture, yet in the classrooms we get 4 white walls, desks that don’t have wheels, chairs that don’t have wheels and pretty much a stagnate learning space.

In all the schools I have visited in the past couple of year the International School of Turin in Turin, Italy always comes to my mind first when I think about what a modern school should look like. Let the images on their homepage tell the story. In one shot you get a peek inside a primary classroom where there is color and if you look closely you notice the whole wall of windows actually folds open to allow the space to expand into nature. I’m not even going to mention how they worked the old Italian Villa into the new school design or how the school grounds has it’s own vineyard where the students in high school not only talk about chemical reactions but make their own wine while learning it…..no…I won’t mention that because that’s just not fair!

See the challenge in creating solar freakin’ roadways is not really in creating the solar panels. Although that takes vision, time, and incredible knowledge it will be all for nothing if we can’t change our mindset of what a road should be. The human mind is a stubborn thing….we know what we know, we like what we know and if it works why think there might be a better way to do it?

Creating the product is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

Buying the computers is the easy part….changing the mindset is the challenge.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Great post!
    I love the comparison. We r goving our jr high laptops now. It was a tough battle to get the parents and admin on borad. I think part of the battles progressive teachers face is how to educate their admin to change their mindset. I think many schools say lets get the kids devices , but forget the students and teachers need the time and education on how to use them. It is like giving them a car and not teaching them the skills and rules to drive.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Agreed…..we need to remember the skills of technology and that is why our curriculum needs to be different to bring about those skills.

  2. Paul Martin Reply

    Ok here we go again, so you see something that doesn’t work for you, maybe me as well, but why do you say it won’t work at all, what happen to adding to plan or change to a different idea. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t work. Come on your the smart guy, you seen other examples around the world, what’s your plan.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi Paul,

      Not sure I understand your comment. I do think it can change and I’m actively trying to change it. My point is changing the mindset of people is the toughest part of the process…not that it can’t be changed or that it doesn’t need to change…just that it’s a long hard process. A process that many schools never get to. They buy the computers spend their time getting those in the hands of students…which is step one. But step two…changing the mindset many times gets left behind.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Agreed…they don’t have all the answers yet…but it’s better than not trying anything at all. Thinking different has to start somewhere. 🙂

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