Dr. Hope Dugan, February 25, 2019
Technology Doesn’t Have to be Scary – Supporting your teachers through technology adoption (Change Management)
Part one in two-part series on leading technology adoption
You are sitting in the staff meeting when a new technology tool is introduced, or should I say mandated. You feel the annoyance rising, and questions spring to mind: Why are we adding another tool? Who chose this? When am I going to find time to learn how to use this one? Why can’t I just use the tool I have been using for the past several years? GGGRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrr.
The discomfort people feel when introduced to new technology, software, hardware, programs, or apps is very real. As the leader, it may feel confrontational and adversarial when you are the bearer of the news. Why do your teachers fight against new technology? What can you do now to better support technology adoption? In part one of this two-part series we will explore leading and managing through change.
Fear is the number one barrier to successful technology adoption. What might appear to be stubbornness or insubordination may actually be a fear of failure. Fear manifests in many different ways including anger, frustration, acting out, and shutting down. When you reframe these seemingly negative behaviors through the lens of understanding, you will be able to offer teachers differentiated supports to help reduce their fear.
How can you lead your team through change? Here are some ideas:
- Fostering a climate where failure is acceptable – Many teachers were great students and many of your teachers have been successful in their careers. Asking them to try things at which they may not be immediately successful is scary! Leadership must communicate that they will be supported through the change and then provide a structure for success. Clear and consistent messaging about what is expected and what leadership will do to support the shift is critical.
- Distributed Leadership – Creating a team of people to craft the vision and plan for transitioning to a new technology tool will help staff feel that they have been heard. Beware the common pitfall of already having a plan in place and then drafting a team for validation rather than input. When you create a team to assist in planning, leaders must take into account what the team is suggesting and to let go of some control.
- Trust and honor your staff – It is important to believe that teachers come to school with the intention of doing what is best for students. When leadership looks at staff behavior through this lens, you see that barriers to learning are not spitefulness, laziness, or malintent. Assuming good intent and rallying your team around your vision helps provide positivity and energy when they are struggling with work that may feel extremely difficult.
- Ownership of the change – In a PL classroom we espouse gradual release of control to the students to develop agency. Our staff deserves no less. We must allow our staff to step up and take ownership of the change and be integrated into the planning. When we do this, we honor the expertise of our team while at the same time communicating that we know they will be successful.
- More time to learn – The days of the 2-hour PD session and the 3-ring binder are, hopefully, behind us. It is important to remember that it takes time to learn a new behavior/practice and it takes even more time to master it. Like our students, some teachers need a lot of time to learn while others pick up a new tool quickly. The transition team should communicate clear goals for adoption, but also understand that some people will need more time and more support.
- Differentiated PD – A one-size-fits-all PD plan is not effective when adopting new technology. Providing many access points and different ways to integrate knowledge is important for adult learners. When crafting a plan, you will need to take into account varied learner styles and provide multiple ways to be successful. It is often helpful to put together a small planning team to help generate creative ways to learn together.
- Mentors/Coaches/PLCs – To effectively encourage change, you need systems in place that support the learning. Just like in your classroom, you want to provide multiple ways for learners to receive help. Encouraging the creation of a robust network of mentors, coaches, and PLCs demonstrates that you care while at the same time creates a safe-space to fail and receive help.
Leading any kind of large-scale change has its challenges. As a leader, you do not have to know everything to lead effectively through change and adoption. In summary, remember to engage a variety of stakeholders to help craft the vision, message, and plan. Provide opportunities for staff to fail in a safe way. Finally, it is mentally and sometimes physically taxing to lead change. Be gentle and kind to yourself and surround yourself with people who are nurturing and supportive.
Be sure to check out Part 2 of this topic: Supporting your teachers through technology adoption (Technology Fatigue) on Wednesday, Feb. 27th.