Thursday, September 20, 2007

Getting to know you

It has been three weeks since I started working at Wellesley High School. I am starting to get to know people, I am also starting to realize how many people I don't know. In Brookline, I was a full time technology specialist at a school with 400 students. I am now less than full time (I also teach TV/Video) at a school with 1200 students.

I worked in Brookline for three years. Over those three years, I gained the trust of the faculty and really saw some progress in their use of technology. Now I'm starting all over again. I believe in the power of Web 2.0 technologies to change the way we teach and learn. I think it is essential that we incorporate 21st century skills into our curriculum. But that is just what I think. Why should anyone listen to me?

I'm reading a book called The Human Side of School Change by Robert Evans, which was recommended to me by a friend on the ning Classroom 2.0 social network. Thanks to Pamela Livingston for the suggestion. (Ironically, it turns out Robert Evans works in Wellesley.) I'm only at the beginning of the book. So far I'm reading about why change doesn't work.
Traditional organizational change often fails because its designers, overemphasising rationality, underestimate the opposition reform generates and the power of staff members to resist....At the core of traditional approaches to change lies an arrogance that invites failure and plays a key role in the inability of those approaches to overcome resistance.... The conviction of an advocate, even a powerful one, inspires resistance if it simply dismisses the inevitable dilemmas of implementation. (Evans, p 16)

...our response to change, particularly when it is imposed upon us, is determined by how we understand it, what it does to our attachments and beliefs, and how we can fit it into the sense we make of our world. (Evans, p17)

How can I help people understand the changes I am asking them to undertake, to fit technology in to the sense they make of their world and to expand their attachments and beliefs? I'm looking forward to the part of the book where Evans tells me how to do this! I'm working on it. I would love to hear your ideas! Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I read the Evan's book, but I loved it - I remember it changing (or at least giving me words for) my views as a tech coordinator... now it's hard to say what came from the book and what I've picked up since then, but as I remember it, he's not really going to tell you how to help people understand change. It was more about letting go of that idea and learning to understand why they resist. If you respect that and understand their resistance, they might be able to see you point as well... it's counter intuitive perhaps, but the highest percentage play, so to speak.

Anyway, it was cool to see the book mentioned here. I think more ed tech folks would benefit from the read.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has recently switched jobs I appreciate the challenges you are going through... Sounds like you are doing a great job so far!

You ask: "How can I help people understand the changes I am asking them to undertake, to fit technology in to the sense they make of their world and to expand their attachments and beliefs?"

But in actual fact you have already answered your own question with your last post, "Start Small". I introduced the librarian at my new school to and I could see the wheels spinning as she tried to figure out how best to use this to help teachers who come in to use the computers in the library. Feeding off of her excitement I started to show her other tools and she stopped me... "I need to get my head around how to use delicious without taking too much of my time first, before I do anything else."
What a wonderfully honest and insightful response!
She will do a great job integrating this new technology into what she does at the school... and as small as this may seem to some, it is a huge step for her!
So start small, have fun, and help your staff see the 'value' rather than the 'need' to integrate technology into their practice.

ps. I just checked out your video for delicious... Great! I won't use it this time because I already did a guided tour with her that went through the things you mention. Do you know of a video for delicious that shows a 'newbie' how to add the buttons to their computer? (And not just Firefox - that is easy, but not used very much in our district.)
It is my experience that this step is difficult for new users to understand.

Susan said...

I keep forgetting that in spite of many people sounding logical, an awful lot of decisions are based on emotion, not logic. Many people later come up with rational explanations, but that may not be what their decision was based upon.

And so, I share your question. I find I'm always torn between believing so strongly in the power of technology, and realizing that my staff is so overworked and stressed that they aren't in a good place to learn new things.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'm going to look for it tomorrow. Seems like a great resource.