Ed2020 Industrial Relations

Remaking the role of the teacher (and student) and the structure of the school may cause a few concerns... (c.2000)

One of the key constraints on the effectiveness of the new technologies in schools may be resistance caused by the discomfort or fear of the teachers, students and administrators in regard to the technologies.

Avoiding this discomfort or fear will involve a multi-stranded approach:

  • small-scale flexible adoption steps
  • the people involved feeling that their response matters in evaluating trials and in determining next adoption steps
  • as needed and easily accessible training and support

It may also require formally negotiated protections for the roles and working conditions of teachers, and for the face-to-face attention/resources provided for learners. This might be unfortunate if it restricted the flexibility with which new technologies were introduced, but such protections well be important to allow creative collaboration without teachers and families worrying about cost-cutting pressures affecting government and other school systems.

Teacher training and change management

It is probably not at all surprising, and indeed quite reassuring that there should be a large body of teachers who are reluctant to jump in enthusiastically to the use of new technologies in their classrooms. Some of these are excellent teachers - why change what is working well?

Certainly simply providing a few networked computers in their classroom is not enough - the technology must facilitate the achievement of educational goals not determine or constrain them.

James McKenzie offers some strategies for ensuring the primacy of student learning and the curriculum in his article Horse before Cart (2000). He makes seven suggestions:

  1. Stress curriculum leadership
  2. Identify models that support standards (goals)
  3. Provide time for professional and program development
  4. Accommodate a range of styles
  5. Provide support services
  6. Deploy equipment strategically
  7. Use assessment to guide the program

James McKenzie also offers some common-sense suggestions for how to respond to "late adopter" teachers in his article Reaching the Reluctant Teacher (1999). He lists nine key strategies:

  1. Clarify the bottom line: gains in student performance
  2. Deliver a complete package (such as WebQuests)
  3. Eliminate risk and surprise
  4. Speak their language
  5. Offer continual support
  6. Emphasise teams
  7. Find out what turns them on
  8. Provide rewards and incentives
  9. Don't rely on pioneers alone to plan for reluctants

Tracking training/skill status

At a system level macro indicators of the training and skill levels of both teachers and students are important. Equally important for both school and system level administrators is a survey type measure of the way teachers and students feel about technology and changes in its use. This should include exploration of the reasons why a teacher would or would not use available technology alternatives. These attitudinal measures are critical to gaining the positive attributes of a successful technology implementation.