5 Ws: Trajectory of EdTech Love
Lately I’ve been chatting about edtech with a friend and in discussing how to get teachers (or anyone in any organization for that matter) not only interested in but embracing technology integration it occurred to me there might be a trajectory of sorts. What must you start with to get the “buy-in”? How do you progress from there? How might one show the possibilities so that folks can
start thinking in this language rather than merely translating?
I generally simplify things into alliterated or rhyming mnemonic devices, so here it goes. These are based on my personal experience with successful and unsuccessful tech adoption.
People appreciate knowing why something is important or valuable. When I teach a course, I always start with the why (why is what we are going to learn relevant?). The same goes for introducing new tech. Everyone, but in particular the skeptics – has appreciation for the why. While it might seem obvious to some, it’s a hard sell for others, so it’s imperative you have some statistics or can show paradigm shifts or trends. We need to grasp why adding something or changing the way we do things is inherently beneficial. For techno-utopians, it’s also a worthwhile question, because sometimes a digital approach does not necessarily make things better than an analogue approach.
Start with the why and then things will fly.
A purely utilitarian approach can capture even the most critical naysayer. How will this technology improve my workflow and productivity? Will it make things easier / more efficient / faster? Can it augment the ways in which we work, such as Google Docs allows for cloud-based, real-time collaboration? If something is really good, I’ll pull a Tim Gunn and “make it work”, but generally I want my technology to work for me…I want things that enhance my process of thinking, interacting, communicating, and creating. If you are in charge of tech integration, I suggest developing some simple workflow maps or steps to improve anyone’s functionality via the software/hardware/app.
Along with “why”, this is perhaps my second favourite state of being. To approach things with wonder is a beautiful trick. Allow some time to muse about what the possibilities could be. In the case of tech integration, why not make an “I wonder if/ how…” list to start off. For example, “I wonder how my students could use the cameras on their mobile devices in my course?” This can branch off into more specific questions, such as “I wonder how students could collect statistics in the ‘real world’ to use for mathematics problems?”, or “I wonder if students could capture inspiration from the environment to assist with creative writing or poetry?”
If you are hosting a meeting with a teacher or department ask them to think about ways in which they could remix exiting lesson experiences to include a certain technology. You can even play a game using two bags: ask participants to jot down subjects or concepts on small pieces of paper and throw in one bag, then write down various technologies (broad like “social media” or specific like “Google Spreadsheets”) and place in the other. Players then draw one from each bag and brainstorm ways in which these could work together. Don’t be shy about asking students (or, in the corporate world, employees) about their ideas…some of my most successful projects involving tech integration came from student suggestions.
Buy-in is best achieved when one can see evidence of effective practice. Ask early adopters and folks who have successfully implemented various forms of tech integration to SHARE with their peers. “Peer” is the operative word, as people are more likely to buy-in to the reality of someone like them rather than an esoteric “expert”. You can organize formal professional development opportunities within your organization, perhaps asking several teachers to speak on a panel, keynote, run workshops, or host an informal showcase in their rooms. Why not set up an online community (Google+, Facebook, Slack…) run by lead teachers (read, “enthusiastic”) where everyone can share lesson ideas, documentation (photos, video, etc.), and resources? Perhaps some of your team would like to start a podcast or Twitter chat. What if all schools had a wonder wall for teachers – questions could be posted then other teachers could “adopt” the problem/query and attempt to help? Finally – get guerrilla! I love the concept of a spontaneous “guerrilla PD” session – just someone offering a casual learning session after school…completely impromptu (snacks help!).
Finally, my mantra has always been “dare to share”. Keeping with that philosophy, I feel it’s important that we are exposed to what others are doing outside of our little organizational (or disciplinary!) bubble. That means collaborating with people in other departments, visiting other local schools, attending conferences, connecting online, developing projects with those in different geographical areas, and…perhaps most importantly, stepping away from education and dipping into other buckets – that is, exploring the ways in which technology is used in other fields for learning, creating, and communication.
What are some other ideas you might have in respect to these “5 W’s” categories? I’m anxious to hear what tech integration specialists have tried or have found promising.