Guest blogger: Pete Just
Four ways to ensure successful change in the classroom
Those who have been at it for a while know that leading edtech projects isn’t easy. Introducing change of any kind often makes people uncomfortable—and that’s especially true when it comes to technology. If teachers don’t buy in to the change, then they won’t use the new system, and you’ll have wasted everyone’s time in the process, and perhaps jeopardizing the success of the entire project.
We’re working to adopt a new platform for transforming curriculum, assessment, and instruction at the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township in Indiana, and we’ve been paying a lot of attention to these key aspects of change management. Here are four ways we’ve approached our transition to ensure the best chance for successful adoption by teachers in their daily instruction.
Explore and connect the system to teachers’ needs.
Before we began our project, we spent a full year communicating with staff to understand what their needs are For instance, we learned that teachers want a platform that could tie together curriculum resources, assessment, and instruction within a single, easy-to-use system, while extending students’ learning beyond the school day and encouraging them to think more deeply. This communication was essential for delivering a solution that would meet teachers’ needs.
Involve teachers in the selection process.
We have a group of teachers we call our iTech team. They are 40 of our most tech-savvy teachers in the district, and they’re well connected to other teachers. We use our iTech team as advisors. They help with professional development, and they also provide feedback on new technologies we’re evaluating. While eLearning leaders choose the final direction, our iTech team is critical to our feedback mechanism.
Choose a system that’s easy to use—and that empowers teachers to do their jobs more effectively.
If you have a habit of communicating with your staff and you understand their needs, then you shouldn’t have any problems getting them to buy in to the change. But it also helps if you choose a solution that’s easy to use—while empowering teachers to do their jobs more effectively.
That’s why we’re rolling out a platform that will serve as a single digital ecosystem for all of our instructional needs. Teachers should be spending their time teaching, not learning some complex system that we’ve designed for them. Typically, teachers use different systems, all with their own separate log-ins, to find instructional resources, design and deliver assessments, and look at student data. That’s too complicated. Now, we’ll house all of our resources within the Wayne Learning Hub, a platform we’re creating with support from itslearning—and teachers will be able to use a single log-in for their curriculum, adopted resources, courses, and assessment.
In making things easier for teachers, it’s important to consider which processes and technologies you’re willing to eliminate as you move forward with the change. Adding more systems or responsibilities without removing others isn’t a realistic model for success. In moving to a single platform for curriculum, assessment, and instruction, we’ve identified some legacy systems that we can strategically abandon as we introduce our Wayne Learning Hub.
Give teachers “easy wins.”
To ensure buy-in, it also helps to give teachers some “easy wins.” In other words, show them how they can immediately impact student learning with a few simple steps.
An example of an easy win with our new Learning Hub would be to spark a rich online discussion. After students complete a reading, the teacher could have them discuss what they’ve read online by responding to a prompt. Then students could read and respond to each other’s comments. Moving the conversation online makes teachers’ lives easier while also engaging students more effectively than a face-to-face discussion would—because everybody can get involved. Because it happens online, there are more interactions and students can share more thoughts than would be possible in a live situation. That’s a big win, without the teacher having to do much work up front.
If you understand teachers’ needs, involve them in the process, and make their lives easier, you’re off to a good start. Then, if you give them some easy wins up front, the system’s benefits should be self-evident. Our Learning Hub is intended to prove its value to teachers quickly—and that will speed our adoption. Teachers and students love having a “one-stop shop” for all instructional materials.