Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
-- Bob Dylan
Will Richardson's outstanding "Tinkering Toward Utopia" blog post contemplates the challenges of achieving meaningful change within our schools. Please read it as I've only pulled out one quote from Phillip Schlechtly's book:
I believe this to be true-- our schools' cultures will need to changed in order to adopt the kind of connected, personalized learning environments that many of us envision. But it's important that those who are reluctant not be scolded and threatened. They'll just hunker down. They must be shown that it's easier than ever before to jump into the Read/Write Web and become acquainted with popular sites and applications. One can branch out from there. Furthermore, as much as I hate "death by PowerPoint" the latest versions of presentation software (Gosh, just check out Apple's Keynote) allow for terrific creativity, multi-media, and web integration. This is a far cry from slate boards.
As long as any innovations that are introduced can be absorbed by the existing operating systems without violating the limits of the social systems in which they are embedded, change in schools is more a matter of good management than one of leadership. . . .In these cases, while it is sometimes difficult to break old habits, usually after a brief period of resistance, old certainties are abandoned and new certainties are embraced. For example, teachers now routinely use PowerPoint slide shows where once they used overhead projectors and slate boards. The reason this transition was relatively easy to accomplish is that it did not change the role of the teacher. . . . But when innovations threaten the nature and sources of knowledge to be used or the way power and authority are currently used and distributed–in other words, when they require changes in social systems as well as operating systems–innovation becomes more difficult. This is so because such changes are disruptive in inflexible social systems.
We CAN also insist to our friends and peers that the important tools which will make learning easier for our students, even if we have to stretch ourselves a bit. Most teachers care enough about the kids to be concerned about giving them the best. At this point, perhaps the best we can hope for is an environment where experimentation and innovation is encouraged "at the fringes", providing successful models for enticing other teachers. Then, other members of the community need to be connected to those driving change.
As I've argued before, leaders must work to support (and model) this kind of exploration by the risk takers in the school community. Laying out guilt-trips is quick and easy (and won't accomplish change). Take a look around. The connectivity afforded by the Web is transforming many of the old institutions at a rapid pace. Educators must accept this and do their darndest to find the best ways to lead this transformation by engaging with it at whatever level possible.
"Bob Dylan-- The Times They Are A-Changin" used with kind permission of 8270037.