making the shift

Jeff U. has got me to participate in a podcast this week with David C. the question is How to shift when administrators are not on board? For me if the administrators are not on board, then engaging in a shift is going to be an upward battle, and unfortunately too often frustrating, and the impact of the shift dissipated. If you are going to make a shift in implementing, initiating, or developing a new IT pedagogy in an international school, I feel you have to start with the Administrators first. It is a non negotiable for making the shift “happen“, Why? School Administrators in International Schools are the decision makers, and the stakeholder group that has the ability to implement and generate clear accountability for implementation. They have the capacity to create systems, procedures, and process that will engage different stakeholder groups with the shift, and provide the financial, and institutional support for this to take place and become part of the culture of the school.
BUT what most often happens is that many IT initiatives start at a grass roots level, with a teacher or two piloting an idea, and then through a system of osmosis more people get interested. Then a needs develops where people feel they want this department wide or section wide. This is then most often pushed up to the Administration. This then competes with a whole load of other initiatives, and often is then pushed back, or gets lost in the shuffle. I believe that if you are going to start any IT initiative the first group to work with is your administration.
A case study: In my current school we wanted to start a laptop program, the first group we targeted was the Administration. We all got them laptops and made the school wireless. We had a 4 month period for them to start working with the laptops and wireless, and also developed an understanding that these laptops would be used at all Admin meetings and that each administrator would model the use of these within their respective section of the school in staff meetings. The process allowed each administrator to quickly appreciate the flexibility of the laptop for planning , collaboration, and giving them creative ways to share and present. This quickly become indispensable tools. The conversation now switched to how each of the administrators started seeing how this could benefit the teachers. So we got a group of volunteers from the teaching staff to pilot the use of the laptops plus a projector. This group of faculty quickly adopted these, and there was within a few weeks a marked difference was evident with the way they delivered the lessons and engaged the kids in a learning process. From there we then expanded this to include all faculty, and in tandem introduced wireless laptop carts. Within months the laptop cart had such a high demand, and with the teachers integrating these within their curriculum, saw a transition where technology tools became a critical resources in the learning process of the students. The demand outstripped the supply, this was a perfect time then to transition to a 1 to 1 model where we are today with our Middle School and now going to our High School.

So what happened? As the administrators were the ones who first hand dealt and used the new tools they developed an understanding within their culture of the potential impact on learning. They as a group quickly through experience and integrating the laptops in their own day, realized in a very concrete manner the potential for these in a classroom setting. Their understanding and buy-in framed the next steps of the process with a clear strategic decision to move forward. They as a stakeholder group came to understand the importance of the use of laptops, and were then able to support, facilitate and buy into setting up time, monies, and a procedure for this to be implemented school wide. In the process building both social and political capital with the faculty and IT Department. The conversations that occurred with the different groups became more meaningful.

If you are going to put an effort and time with an IT initiative the first stakeholder group to get on board not just with the idea, but actually have them “do it” “use it” “implement it” ! This process alone will expose them to issues, understandings, and experiences that will have them better equipped to move forward in any decision. They point for me, is the bumps, frustrations, and problems they will experience will give them clear talking points to include in the system, process and procedure they will adopt for further buy in by other stakeholder groups.

okay it is top down, but for a good reason 🙂


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