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FETC 2011: Leading the Way, Exploring Systemic Change, Part One

This was a full day workshop, designed to help schools institute effective changes throughout their organization. Laura Phelps, Seth Thompson, and I all attended this one. In the end, it was a long session, and though some of the content was of mixed value, I believe that it was a worthwhile. I learned of some really good resources showing how students want to learn vs how we want to teach them, and the morning half of the session was a solid review of what causes initiatives to fail, and how to plan effectively to make sure ours dont. For this post, I will focus on the topic of Understanding the Barriers to Change.

The full workshop agenda can be found here.

The first topic of the day was devoted to Understanding Barriers to Change, and we moved right into a think/pair/share type group activity. Laura, Seth and I sat with two other educators, one from Alaska and one from…I’m not sure where the other was from.  Aside: there were attendees here from all over the world; Central and South Americas, Europe, Asia.  Our task was to brainstorm a list of technology implementations, both good and bad- just list them and note why they worked or did not. No surprise, but here is what we came up with:

Need good leadership by building admin and superintendent
Some teachers jump in, others dig in
Need to have good vision that is shared
Tech has to work or people get discouraged
Participants need to think it applies to them
Sustained effort or it withers
Resistance by teachers and admin
hardware first and then training, should be the other way
technology challenged teachers, resistant
taught a certain way, don’t see how it helps
getting teachers to stay ahead of kids
not the cost, but finding what fits, showing that it boosts achievement
need to change teachers through evaluation tool
slowly making change, one teacher at time, seeing success- trying to change to systemic
admins theoretical on board but practically a challenge
teachers not so comfortable, trouble adapting, not ready to embrace
small department to support deployment and people
kids way ahead of teachers with tech skills
getting teachers to embrace technology, not comfortable yet

As you can see, there were some experiences we had in common. I should note, the list was created individually, then shared, so the brainstorming you see here is actually the combined individual items people at the table provided.

The summary of items is included next. These were themes that appeared at our own table, and throughout the attendees of the session.

Need for sustained professional development time
How to get teachers comfortable with the technology
Even young teachers who know technology, don’t know technology in a classroom
Need to include administrators in professional development

So what to do? One suggestions was to perform an instructional audit, then determine the technology and training you need.

The next thing we discussed are some misconceptions about change. Here is a list of five commonly held beliefs that the presenters had prepared:

1. Crisis is a powerful impetus for change
Truth: A crisis alters behavior for only a short period of time and then people return to what they know. When the crisis is over they revert to pre-crisis behavior.
2. Change is motivated by fear
Truth: If you use fear to push people to change, they will begin to resist, quietly.
3. The facts will set us free
Truth: People operate from their own perspective so you have to give them a compelling story that appeals to them emotionally. It is not enough to simply show them or tell them the facts.
4. Small gradual changes are easier to make and sustain
Truth: Institutions that make big jumps tend to do better with effecting change. Gradual changes allow for too many distractions, too little progress, and the pain lingers too long so people stop.
5. Cant change because brains are “hard wired” early in life
Truth: Simply not true. Though this “hard wiring” can make change difficult, everyone can change with the right motivation and support.

I came away from this portion of the workshop with a few key points.

  • We need to better involve our staff, faculty and all administrators in the development of vision and purpose so that everyone understands the benefits of different tools and resources.
  • We need to communicate clearly, and have common goals towards which we work.
  • People need time to reflect, to explore, and to learn.
  • We need administrators to be leaders of change, and themselves to demonstrate the capacity to alter, adapt, and learn, to model the changes we ask of staff and faculty.

Look for Part Two in the coming days.


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