Are we Ready?

We recently offered an opportunity for Department Heads to discuss innovation, technology and the future of education with a well-known educator visiting our district. In follow-up to this successful event, we put out a call to solicit interest from the rest of our staff for a second visit in the spring and I was expecting a similar level of interest.

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Having read his work, followed him on Twitter and seen him speak, the response I expected was an avalanche of RSVP’s especially given that our school has recently taken on an integration of technology initiative. The first phase has included teacher’s receiving new devices and with those, a commitment to dedicated time learning how to use them. That said, the response and feedback we’ve received was surprisingly underwhelming. This move toward technology combined with the invitation and endorsement of his work left me wondering, what did we miss?

Whenever something like this happens it’s important to pause, step back and reflect on why things didn’t meet our expectations.  As I was reflecting on some possible reasons, one response came in that questioned whether “we were ready for this”.  It’s an interesting question.  My first thought was, if we are not, then why did we agree to embark upon our
technology plan? My next thought was, if we aren’t, then wouldn’t this event help to move us to a place where we are ready? Again, my question, ‘what did we miss’?

The question has me thinking about different ways in which we can help people to feel more ready. I wondered if one reason for hesitation is around comfort zones – technology certainly has a way of pushing some to the boundaries of their own comfort levels. But technology isn’t going away. And so if that’s the cause, then we need to try and address these fears. Moving forward is an expectation within the realm of life-long learning – an expectation for educators.

In an effort to try and ease concerns we’ve taken a few small steps.  The first is to offer additional information about the presenter, including showing his TedTalk at an upcoming meeting. Hopefully this will help to generate excitement, a first step toward warming to the unknown. The second is to buy each person the presentor’s eBook (also an opportunity to see some of the diversity of their new devices). We’re making an assumption that people will read it, but given we still don’t know what we missed, are taking a gamble that this will be a solution.

Probably the most important, is to talk about the ‘why’ of this event and expectations. To let people know that there is no caveat or expectation to come out of the presentation with a task to do. To let them know we are moving forward, but that our hope is to do it in a way that eases learning fears and to help each person embrace and move forward with technology in a way they may not have thought about previously. To show them how it can help rather than be a hindrance. That the unknown doesn’t have to be difficult. That technology can be fun and not as overwhelming as it may seem.

This is all fine and well, but it’s a multifaceted dilemma. If we succeed in any of these, then we are a step closer to success. Without knowing what we missed, we don’t know if our solutions will help to resolve the problem. So then I guess one of my final thoughts is this: As leaders we always need to step back and carefully consider the feedback we are given. While considering this, it is sometimes our role to continue to push our organizations forward. Letting people know that we trust they are ready, even if they don’t know it yet themselves. Sometimes we all just need to be pushed a little. Ready, or not.

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One thought on “Are we Ready?

  1. Hmm interesting that you solicited other interest…at my school I had to request to attend…there didn’t appear to be any general offer. Overall, I think the level of communication has declined in recent years and events such as this one which deserve great PR to generate interest, even among early adopters, just aren’t getting the attention they deserve. I think there’s an over reliance on the administrative hierarchy to share info which has persisted from the pre-tech communications days, but when there’s a standard district communication tool (email), I fail to understand why the info and invites don’t come from those directly responsible for organizing such events, espcially in a case such as this where our tech tools would be the natural media for such communication. Were I an admin of any rank, I would appreciate not having an extra responsibility put on my plate (though I’d welcome the opportunity to clarify and provide context if I sensed it was needed by my staff). Besides, hearing info from ‘the horse’s mouth’ so to speak instead of an intermediary ensures that the same information is disseminated to all staff and lessens the chances of miscommunications which I think can only help to build mutual respect and trust across the district between all levels/types of staff.

    In terms of the lack of interest, I agree with your points about ensuring people know there are no strings. Having said that, I also know that any after school activity so near p/t interviews faces a real challenge. But from a purely technology point of view, I think that the general lack of confidence that most teachers feel using technology is a huge problem. As the speaker pointed out at the conference, we need to stop waiting for the workshop and dive in and teach ourselves with the tools available…but many of the staff I work with aren’t aware that there are such tools available, so even the concept for learning on their own is quite foreign. It is a threatening thing to use technology with students when you’ve internalized for years the ethos that you’re the expert in the room (even just from your own experience as a student); suddenly switching to methods and lessons where you are not can be terrifying. I think we can do a much better job of helping those teachers, in part by focusing on their development as professionals, though not always about professional issues. E.g. Offer support and encourage them to develop PLNs, but don’t emphasize as is so often the case that those activities need to support student achievement (which implies that unless reminded we’re likely to select irrelevant pursuits and undermines trust). This is one area where some staff would be more engaged if their PLN learning activities focused, at least initially, on personal interests. As they grow confident using the web2.0 tools in that sphere, they will become more confident, and therefore more likely to integrate such tools into work with students…which eventually results in those activities positively influencing student achievement anyway.

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