The Fear Factor

31 05 2007

I love reading about all the successes other edubloggers are having. I love reading posts that confirm what I have been thinking and that discuss issues that have been on my mind. But how do we take the momentum and the successes of the education blogosphere and bring it to the institution where we spend most of our time?

And more importantly, how do we do this when so many of our colleagues are so resistant to change? Is it fair to our students to have one teacher that allows natural and authentic use of technology in their classroom and 7 others that do not? How do we implement this change when we are so entrenched in our system of standards and standardized assessments already?

For example, I was recently in a portfolio “de-briefing” session with a few middle school faculty members. We were discussing the effectiveness and success of our portfolio process. When the time came to share ideas for improvement, I was not alone in the desire to incorporate more relevant and authentic methods of presentation for our portfolios. However, we were definitely the minority. Even though we’ve all just been through extensive IT integration training, several members of the faculty were adamant that the only way to do portfolios is to put paper in a binder – how else will we include all our tests?

I tried to explain, a la Ian Jukes (via Chrissy Hellyer), that the process is not relevant to our students, that they’re not thinking like we’re thinking. I shared ideas for 21st century skills, I described the digital native concept, and I discussed authentic assessment, but in the end it’s just too much, prompted by too few, that has to change too quickly. After all, we have years and years of experience giving tests and putting them in binders. It’s just so much easier to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them.

I know the reason they are so resistant, I know they are trapped by fear: fear of technology, fear of knowing less than their students, fear of losing control… But how can we help these teachers get over the fear and just try something new?

How do you do it?

Update: How do you do it on an institutional level? How do you get the whole mind set of an entire school to change? Is it even possible for one, or two enthusiastic teachers to make this change?


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9 responses to “The Fear Factor”

    1 06 2007
      kwhobbes (02:19:18) :     

    I work with them. I show them new ideas. I give them my time and help them to get past whatever is holding them back. I raise the bar on the expectations of what teachers need to do. In the end, I hope it will bring about change and get people past their apprehension and excuses. Just yesterday, I talked with a grade 1 teacher about how I’d like my CPT class to build educational games for her students to try. This began a discussion on other areas where technology might be used. I find that 121 is much easier than in a group. I’ve just let teachers know that it is an expectation, not an option. As an administrator I can do that!

    1 06 2007
      mscofino (07:12:24) :     

    Kelly,

    I’m a big fan of 1 to 1 myself, but I guess I’m more curious about institutional change (as I read your response, I realized I didn’t ask my question properly). I know I can reach small groups of teachers, and when people ask me the same question, that’s what I always say. But how do you deal with those faculty meeting times, when there are such large groups of resisters? How do you get the mind set of the whole school to change?

    1 06 2007
      Clay Burell (19:21:02) :     

    Hi Kim,

    I’m catching up on your blog and really love the UbD and Fear Factor posts. Keep up the brilliant work so I can steal your ideas :)

    But I’m writing to say I just gave you a “shout-out” on B.S. ;-) For it to really work perfectly, though, you’d need to be working in the high school at ISB next year? I know you told me, but I forgot. Are you?

    Clay

    1 06 2007
      Alecia Berman-Dry (21:16:27) :     

    Hi Kim. You know how I see it? Just like Malcolm Gladwell sees it: There’s a Tipping Point. I keep my eye on the prize, but spend most of my time forging small, daily successes. Those small successes begin to build on one another and eventually I have faith that the Tipping Point will happen at our school. We have a group of ladies at our school that proudly call themselves the Dinosaurs. They are the stalwarts of the “it has been working fine all these years” camp. But I have made inroads with the organization. There are a couple of them who have seen the power technology holds for their lessons, and they’re subtlely influencing the other Dinosaurs. Just like in nature, there will be the holdouts that never come around. But they’ll be on the high side of the scale before long.

    3 06 2007
      Dan Meyer (13:00:02) :     

    I rarely see this question you’re asking — essentially: how do we convert? — and when I see it, it’s typically couched in frustration or smugness. “Why can’t they see the obvious good in what we’re doing?!” seems to be the School 2.0 party line. In my six months blogging, reading, commenting questioning how I teach, looking for answers, the zealotry of the converted has been killing me softly.

    Many of the School 2.0 converts, even many of those converted recently, have already lost the perspective they came from. Consequently, they lack empathy. To make their point, they speak in harsh extremes of traditional teachers. They come to my blog and insist that since I lecture, a) I cling to my power, b) I stubbornly resist technological advances, and c) I condescend to my students. None of which accusations are true, all of which distance me farther from this movement.

    All that is to say that your general tone, good will towards teachers who are entrenched in pedagogy that’s waaaay behind yours, and the fact that you’re genuinely asking this question (rather than trying to generate another forum for School 2.0-ists frustrated that their tech coordinator still blocks YouTube) gets you my ear. You’re RSSed.

    7 06 2007
      Carolyn Foote (11:03:49) :     

    This is something I’ve been struggling with this spring as well.

    I think leadership like Kelly is providing for his school can make a huge difference in setting a tone where change is the norm, where risk taking is accepted and rewarded, and innovation is encouraged.

    But a few of us at our campus have been struggling with a few groups on our campus, and so I felt like I could identify very well with your comments.

    All that is to say, I don’t know that we’ve found the answer either.

    Some things that have made a difference on our campus–

    Our principal set up a Vision committee, composed of parents, teachers, and students (volunteer basis for all participants). We met twice a month the entire year, read a couple of group books, like Whole New Mind, and formed four subcommittees to study various things. I think it helped generate excitement as we brainstormed what 21st century skills we thought were important to our students.

    I think as our group spoke to other district and campus groups, that maybe we made some inroads, and generated some enthusiasm.

    The difficulty still, is really rolling that vision out to the whole campus and getting the buy in of our faculty. Like every faculty, we definitely have some proud resistors.

    I do think it’s important to remember that those who aren’t enthused are often quite a bit more vocal than those who are quietly interested in what you are doing, and their comments stand out more because they are negative.

    Perhaps inviting those individuals in is another way to open up the conversation–inviting them into some committee, group, workshop or experience, separately, that might impact their thinking. The combination of the fear of change, and the peer pressure of their colleagues who are also resistant is a difficulty and there needs to be a way to find an inroad.

    It is hard not to feel discouraged, at times. Schools aren’t the most nimble institutions when it comes to change.

    Have you been following Scott McLeod’s Change Week on Dangerously Irrelevant? Some interesting reading there regarding change as well and much to think about.

    It’s interesting this thread regarding change has been cropping up lately in many of the blogs I read. Perhaps collectively we can help one another face these challenges.

    22 06 2007
      Patrick (16:35:36) :     

    I echo Carolyn’s question/suggestion about reading Scott McLeod’s Change Week pieces; they have really set me in a direction.

    The problem you are running into is one I share, and one that I have dedicated my summer off to rectifying. Here is a short list of things that I am thinking about regarding organizational or philosophical change within a school.

    First, what are the obstacles? When the resisters complain, what do they say? In my case, it had to do with unreliability of the network, kids running wild on the internet, and a lot of “that’s the way we always did it.” What we are trying to do is address the questions one by one: we are rebuilding the network, providing safe “walled gardens” and semi-controlled environments for teachers and students to create content, and with the support of the administration, mandating integration through their yearly evaluation process.

    Secondly, how are you phrasing things? If we phrase things in tech language rather than tried and true educational terminology, it has the ability to turn off some people who are nearly ready to buy what you are selling. For example, I offered a class that I originally called “Blogging 101″ that did not attract a big following. Recently, I changed the name to “Connective Writing” and the interest level immediately went up. It’s just semantics, I know, but I think it works.

    Lastly, make your small successes seem monumental through buzz-building. Your blog is wonderful, and I agree with Dan, you’ve been RSSed. If you often feature your staff on your blog or keep one that just deals with their accomplishments (maybe it’s your projects section–edublogs is down now, so I can’t check). Also, demonstrate what they have been doing, or let them demonstrate at faculty meetings. Teachers are great mimics, and we often feel left out if someone is doing something that we want to do. Envy can be a great motivator.

    We have built a nice groundswell in our middle school, and we have some great opportunity to do it at our high school next year, so I am hopeful. Institutional change is an extremely difficult thing, and it often seems that the spectrum is heavily skewed toward the resisters. Give it time.

    28 04 2008
      mscofino (14:44:51) :     

    Clay,

    How embarrassing is it that I’m finally responding to these comments almost a year later. Yikes! But at least I”m here, I guess…

    Alecia,

    I believe in the Tipping Point idea too, but I also think there’s a mini-tipping point within the administration too, and that might be even more powerful than trying to tip the entire school one teacher at a time. There are so many fewer admin and they have so much more power…

    Dan,

    Thanks!

    Carolyn,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment rich with advice. I especially love the Vision committee idea – I think it’s so important to get all the stakeholders involved so that everyone can voice their concerns before change is implemented.

    Patrick,

    Great advice! Thank you!

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