But not Least...
1 Change Happens
3 It is easy for a poster to announce "Don't be Afraid of Change." It is not easy for either an institution or the classroom teacher to shake the fear and stress that often stalks behind the introduction of a technology into the classroom. Recognizing that this stress is robust and real is an important step in an school's institution of a laptop program. Trish Calvert, in a speech to the faculty of The Chapin School on January 7, 2003, reminded us that "There is tremendous energy required when change occurs." For change to be successful, the institution, as well as the individual, must generate this energy and use it as positive momentum.
4 One model presented by Calvert is the business model. When faced with an organizational change that will affect its individuals, a business will traditionally respond with a need for "Information, Information, Information," followed by "Control, Control, Control." This is a model that might work for the change to a laptop program. Information seeking is widely recognized as the first step in undertaking such a change. A school that has not researched instructional and implementation models, hardware options, network solutions, software licensing, tech staffing, parent reaction, professional development needs and budgetary commitment long-term will not meet with success. As a next step, Control is an implementation model that schools employ to create rapid shifts in practice. The top-down requirement that change happen - or else - has the necessary effect of insuring that laptops are used in the classroom. Applied consistently, and over a sufficient length of time, Control results in institutional change, faculty with skills and methodologies to implement it, and procedures for guaranteeing that subsequent changes in faculty will not affect the program's viability. Read more about top-down change in But not Least...Longitude & Latitude.
5 We wonder, however, about the energy expense of this method. A leadership focusing on control can not be focusing as deeply on individual teachers, essential questions, and creativity, the cornerstones of a flexible institution. Its teachers, focusing upon meeting the requirements and goals set for them by the leadership, will not be focusing as deeply on individual students, essential questions, and creativity, the cornerstones of a flexible classroom. So much may be committed to the change to a laptop program that the institution is unable to adapt to future needs for change, or worse, can only do so by a more rigorous application of the Information-Control model.
6 Luckily, Calvert presented another model for institutional change. Calling upon the work of Edward M.Hallowell, in his book The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, she explained that adults require the following elements in order to deal with the stresses and fear associated with change:
12 Let's apply each to the development of a laptop program, answering the question: How does each work in terms of the institution and the faculty?
13 Connection - Connection implies a sense of community that brings security and an ability to relax, rather than a sense of obligation. The institution must look for a connection with each and all of its vested interests. This would suggest that the decision to implement the change to a laptop program must be made with the support and agreement of administration, board, faculty, students, parents, and (where relevant) local community groups. A wise institution will seek faculty help in identifying and nourished the connections, the working sub-communities, already in place in the school. These may be departmental, grade level, even based upon personal interest or technological skill level. Vesting these groups in the planning process will strengthen the connections and make transition to a laptop classroom less fearful. We have made some suggestions for using teacher connections to support professional development in an earlier But not Least.... essay entitled DisWhat?
14 Play - Institutions do not often think of themselves in terms of opportunities to play. However, this model suggests that time and energy spent exploring and enjoying laptops and other technologies, as an institution and within the institution, is time well spent. School-wide and parent-school events such as web-quests, web-hunts, movie days, "24 skills in 24 hours" all-nighters, and e-mail scavenger hunts will use Connections to develop both support and skills. Faculty should play every day. Relaxing the stress of "have-to" and increasing the pleasure of play and questioning are essential to the development of teachers who are truly technology integrators. Providing and encouraging "play time" for faculty is perhaps the single most important thing a school can do to support a laptop program. Implementation of this could be as simple as a "plan a vacation online" or "spend a million dollars online" contest or as robust as underwriting home internet access, hosting faculty personal web pages, and providing interest-free loans for hardware and software purchase. See also our essay on The Mindset for Adventure.
15 Practice - Hopefully, practice will not make perfect, for reasons explained above. But practice makes better. It is important to remember that errors are essential to practice. This is risk-taking, and it can be discouraging. In this way, a laptop program is no different from violin lessons or a new diet. The institution that has a strong Connections and allows for Play will be able to tolerate these errors. Institutions need to practice program review and evaluation, communication with various community interests, and the structuring of play. No institution will get it right the first year, perhaps not even the third year. Successful laptop programs have shown us that persistence and flexibility do work. Teachers also need practice - nonstop practice with the laptop itself and with new teaching strategies and models. The energy that is expended in the first year of laptop teaching is enormous. This is a significant hurdle for teachers and for their institutions. Recognizing and accommodating for this is crucial to a successful program.
16 Mastery - One task at a time, both the institution and the individual teacher will master the skills and mindsets necessary for a successful laptop program. This is trap, of course, for change is inherent in technology. Institutions and teachers need to watch for and aim for mastery one task at a time, multi-tasking when possible, and anticipating new challenges and new skills to practice. Drawing upon the success of Connections, Play, and Practice, institutions will be able to celebrate periodic mastery without developing complacency.
17 Recognition - Calvert here draws an essential distinction. "Recognize who you are, not only what you have mastered." Institutions can gain strength through successful change. A fully integrated laptop program is part of the mission, ethos and identity of a school. Recognizing this Mastery publicly, inclusive of the vested members of the community, is a critical step in an institution's ability to deal with future stressful change. Faculty also need recognition of their growth as technology educators, of their identity as able ReLearners. Whether this is substantive (financial reward, promotion, or hardware given to the classroom, for example) or simply within the community itself, it is a crucial component of a teacher's ability and willingness to deal with future stressful changes and with the inevitable Practice and Mastery steps to come.
18 There is an alternative to the top-down model for laptop program initiation and for technology integration. We believe that institutions that follow the model provided by Trish Calvert will, in the long run, have the more successful and flexible programs. What's more, they will enjoy expending the energy it takes to make Change Happen.
E. Sky-McIlvain 3/29/03