Goldilocks and Tech Implementation
I have worked at schools with one non-networked largely ignored computer per classroom. I have worked at schools with as many as six networked computers per classroom, where the computers were still ignored. I can say after ten-years of close observation that it isn’t just about having lots of computers. In fact, I feel that the problem is more about “school culture” than about technology. It’s just that having too little or having too much technology tends to exacerbate the problem. Is the tech porridge too cold, too hot, or just right?
What I mean is that whether one feels like there are too few or too many computers in the classroom, the real measure is whether the number of computers is balanced with the identified needs of the students in the specific classroom and the specific classroom teacher’s tech practice. As much as we may want to make student usage be the main goal of technology implementation, we cannot get there without first getting active teacher buy-in within the classroom. It takes more than just delivering boxes or even offering training. As I’ve outlined in my own narrative about my own experience working in the classroom (see…), the first step toward student usage or improving student usage is having teachers use tech as a normal part of managing their classrooms. Beyond my anecdotal observations various organizations such as ISTE have outlined the developmental stages educators go through on the way to tech adoption/implimentation. One model that I favor is Wellivers Instructional Transformation Model:
So it isn’t a matter of just making sure that everyone has X, Y and Z computer package ready to go. It’s more a matter of fostering that natural developmental cycle of recognizing or identifying needs that technology can address and then, over time, addressing them. Top-down, one-size-fits-all tech roll-outs tend to ignore this process. In the end, the strength of personality or character that often makes for a good teacher also makes for a highly resistent learning when one tries to tell a professional what to do without going through the processes of listed above.
So if I were going to create a tech program I’d get the fundamental tech into the hands of all of the teachers first, give them training opportunities focused on the back-office/management tasks that they have to perform on a daily basis and let them make connections between these tasks and possible tech uses in their actual teaching tasks. If it were at all possible, I’d encourage them to form small groups of two to four to meet on a regular basis to share new learning and communicate questions and frustrations. Depending on the size of the organization, I’d mentor the groups, or at least connect each group with an onsite or virtual mentor available to guide their learning and directly address their questions. After a short introduction phase of a month or two, I’d develop with them rubics to measure their usage and growth in learning to use tech. I’d stay at this level, focused on staff development, for about a year and watch who uses the tech, who has questions, what sorts of problems come, and what sorts of solutions and innovations they come up with.
When it comes to the next stage of the roll out, depending on the number of computers available to be placed in the classrooms, if at all possible I’d make sure that every classroom gets at least one student computer. If additional computers were available I’d place those computers in the classrooms of teachers who have shown a greater tendency toward their own growth in usage of the technology, based on the rubic we’d created together the year before and my own documentation of their growth. I know that there are possible equity issues and possible damage that could be done to the community of tech learners, but given typical resource shortages and the expense of building a tech program, my justification would be that the tech needs to be put in the hands of those who have already demonstrated their progress in their development as tech users. I would be looking for measureable examples of growth and usage with the option to expand the program to anyone who shows a willingness to use the technology
Another reason for getting the tech in the hands of teachers who show their willingness through the first year is that there are always problems that need to be shaken out before a whole-site roll-out should be attempted. As much as everyone is going to want to be included and have the same number of computers in their classroom, the truth is that they will be better served the more the system’s bugs are worked out before the “less than ambitious” tech users are given more tech. At the same time, if the tech program is important enough that the school and/or district is pouring out the money to pay for it, reluctant tech learners need to be helped through their reluctance toward a willingness to experiment. Sometimes this might call for partnering them up with a more ambitious learner, sometimes some directed instruction on tech tips that they can directly implement in their classroom, and sometimes this might call for a more direct administrative intervention. The point is, addressing the needs of tech learners is one thing, dealing an unprofessional unwillingness to learn is another thing. Basically, just as it is with any other kind of learning, the natural progression of learning and the fact that not everyone learns at the same pace should be taken into account as one rolls out a tech program. So, is your tech porridge too cold, too hot, or just right? JBB