Saturday, January 31, 2009

Staff Development, Part One

First of Three Parts
I'm preparing some material for a staff development brainstorming session. I'd love to have your input and feedback, too

Resistance to organizational change is normal but the introduction of IT into a school brings out a pronounced range of behavior. Leavening my personal observations with research, I have divided a typical faculty into four stereotypes:

A) "Pathfinders" In the first category we have the teachers who have embrace technology the way Dona Hickey's great-grandfather embraced electricity:
"Hey, that’s for me!". This group is curious and open to the experimentation and implementation of new technologies.

B) "Jumpstarts" This group is
willing to consider change, but they are sincerely concerned about striking the right balance between book and byte. Several who voluntarily attended my Jan 6, after school "Tech Shortcuts" in-service would exemplify this type. They are curious and eager, but may lack the impetus for taking the plunge. "Jumpstarts" probably lack confidence that the time they invest in IT will pay dividends. "Time, time, time" is invariably mentioned as an obstacle. At any rate, they have not hit the right "comfort level" to truly integrate the technology into their instruction.

C) "Too Old/Too Late" This group responds to
technology with amazement and professes wonder at even superficial incursions that OTHERS are making. But usually they resignedly assert that they are too "old" or "far behind." Often they worry that "computers" create impersonal classrooms pose grave threats to personal privacy. They seem to accept a changing world, but are running out the clock until retirement or until someone magically provides them with a 21st century command center. George Siemen describes their deep seated reserve: "People resist what the technology may represent - change, confusion, loss of control, impersonalization."

D) "Naysayers". This is my gentler term for those Theodore Creighton describes as "Resisters, Sabateurs" who use a broad arsenal of passive-aggressive weapons to slow down change. This type of staff member is a deeper, angrier version of "Too Old,/Too Late". If forced to attend, he or she sits at the back of the room during in-service and shows disdain through body language. As I've noted in "Red Herring" they love to set up false choices between technology and face-to-face learning. This teacher's "sage on stage" identity is threatened by technology. As Bray notes, "they may just be afraid of letting others know what they don't know." To them, the Pathfinders are obnoxious and the administrators amoral. (Creighton supplies an interesting list of ten reasons people resist change).

Observations on Where We've Just Been
My four stereotypes are certainly open to debate, but if one accepts that we have significant numbers of teachers spread across such a wide spectrum, then it is obvious that a one-size-fits-all approach to staff-development will fall short. A presentation directed to the whole staff and aimed at the "middle" may not reach half of the staff.

This year, our school
successfully inspired seven "Pathfinders" in a Technology Integration Committee experience . This created a positive ripple effect as Committee in-services enticed "Jumpstarts" (and some "Too Olds"). But we were time-limited to spraying lots of ideas and tricks at attendees, hoping that something would stick (and time will tell if anything did).

The Tech Integration experience was excellent for developing Pathfinders, but going forward, how will this year's group be enlisted in further staff development? In what ways can the integration experience be more pervasive? More to the point, what sort of staff development program can address the "
Too Old/Too Late" and "Naysayers" groups so that our students can exploit the terrific advantages of their wireless classrooms?

Come back Monday for Part Two.

"Technology" Flickr photo with kind permission of zinkwazi

Thank you, Theodore Creighton for reviewing the full document from which this post is adapted.

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