I had a meeting with the PTA a couple of days ago. I wanted to talk about the project with somebody “new” and “fresh”, someone who was not yet biased with preconceptions about how things should evolve within the project. But also, since they are a stakeholder in the change we are planning, I wanted to get a feel of how they perceived the project. After a brief description of the things we are up to, they first asked some questions about the way things would change for their children and for our teaching. After that I really emphasized our worries about the financial aspects of the project. I explained that we were thinking about leasing, payment plans, etc. to make the transition as easy as possible. Also, implementing the device meant that other things like calculators, certain books, dictionaries, etc. could be cut from the expenses list, but that this was not to be expected in the first year of our project. Suddenly one of the parents said “Don’t worry about the financial aspects, that’s not your core-business! Just make sure that the tablet is an added value for our children’s education”. He went on explaining that the investment of the device itself is seen as a long-term investment. All we had to do was use it well and in time make sure that other expenses were cut. A second item they expressed concerns about was the choice of devices. They felt it better to not choose for this or that brand, but instead go for the BYOD concept.
The day after, our group met for a planned meeting where we discussed the thoughts of the PTA and tried to make some important, final decisions:
We will not offer devices ourselves, but ask parents to buy their own.
The choice was made to go with BYOD.
We will construct a list of minimum system requirements to ensure that all students can execute the tasks we set out.
To inform the parents properly, we wanted to offer some suggestions towards insuring the device, again not obligatory, but just to give an idea of what is possible.
The pilot-group will consist of the Human Sciences students, not just one group, but the entire course (as asked by the parents).
I will write a vision text to work with and refer to in the future and to present as a final offer to our management team and teaching staff.
After some debate about the possible lack of interest from the teaching staff, we decided that change can only happen when someone chooses to take the first step. As a group we are committed to take that first step to try to make a difference.
Bottom line, I’m happy! These last few months were interesting but also challenging in that the decisions we make today will have consequences throughout the rest of the project. I’m glad we were able to smooth things out and now have a clear view of what we are setting out to do.
A second time we meet in real life to discuss our work. As the deadline draws nearer and more work gets done, we talked about different aspects of our project and how we encountered and implemented them. Again, this proved to be a very interesting way of learning from each other. Marianne explained how change is occurring in her organization, which is very different from the change in the educational institutes of Dries and myself. On the other hand, the more structured way of working thought me that planning and a strict time-frame are crucial, even in an educational environment where people tend to put change on the back burner.
The three of us were currently working on the more practical part of our assignments: evaluation and reflective analysis. We discussed different possibilities of gathering the necessary data and how to implement it in our project report. Still a lot of work needs to be done, but once again this meeting was very useful and stimulating.
Where action research is trying to implement change through small-scale intervention, design research look to create something. In this session we discussed the differences and how either could work beneficial in our projects. In the process of implementing tablets in my institute I’m currently mostly working on design research. In our group we are trying to create new ways of teaching (i.e. with a tablet) and we’re looking for ways to implement this device as smoothly as possible.
As action research is more about intervention, I anticipate this kind of work will be explored as we move on to buying the different devices and actually using them in the classroom!
Questionnaires – Interviews – Observations
These tools can be very useful to use to receive date from our project. As we move on to the more concrete part of the project, when we are working with the tablets in the classroom, I’ll try to monitor the students and teachers in their change from traditional learning to e-learning. For the moment, I’m trying to talk with as many people as possible to gain as much knowledge on how to proceed with the project, but also to get a feel of where they stand in all this change. I find it important to do this personally to create a feeling of trust and allow for a climate where nothing is taboo and everything can be discussed. I’ll try to collect all the data from these talks and implement them in the next meeting we have scheduled. Hopefully this can help to keep the thinking process alive and generate useful and concrete solutions for the different tasks that lie ahead.
Implementing change in any context is often not an easy task. Different theories help us to stipulate the best way to achieve this change. We talked about these frameworks and compared them to the color frames by De Caluwé and Vermaak:
The type of change I’m trying to implement in my institute lead me up to using the theory of De Caluwé and Vermaak and Kotter’s theory. An overview:
Color-print Thinking – De Caluwé & Vermaak:
YELLOW - negotiate a deal with people with power, looking for consensus, building coalitions, secretive, can deal with and avoid conflicts, execute power without anybody noticing, looking for feasible solutions, not necessarily the best one!
BLUE - rationality, prove everything, think first and act later, make everything as simple as possible, analyse – plan – implement, result oriented, rigid, inflexible
RED - motivation, seduction, people are human beings, they have feelings, treat them with respect, give attention, takes behavior in account, make change so attractive, that people want to change
GREEN - learning, competent, intrinsic motivation – people want to learn and change, curious – like to wonder about the world and how complicated everything is, flexible, learning is satisfactory
WHITE - energy, change is spontaneous, e.g. wikipedia – no boss, completely voluntary, can deal with uncertainties
I think I’m situated in the RED and GREEN ways of thinking. The red characteristics of passion, creativity, the idea of making change seductive so that people intrinsically want it, appeals to me. I recognize myself in it, but also in certain green properties: wanting to learn, being curious, wondering about the world and everything in it. I find it makes me somewhat of an idealist. Concerning the other colors, I can say that I have an admiration for white-print thinking because they can coop with chaos and always look for individual creativity. The power games of the yellow-print thinker are not quite my cup of tea. I’m absolutely not good at negotiating, the art of negotiating to achieve a goal. Lastly, the rationality of blue-print thinking is also appealing to me, gradually developing a plan, although the inflexible character and over-simplifying of things can be to narrow for me.
Kotter’s eight steps leading to change:
Establish a sense of urgency
Creating the guiding coalition
Developing a vision and strategy
Communicate the change vision
Empowering broad-based action
Generating short-term wins
Consolidating gains & producing more change
Anchoring new approaches in the culture
Kotter’s theory is also appealing because the eight steps try to implement change from an objective or neutral point of view: change is necessary, not “wanted” by one or two people, but fundamentally needed. Something that I recognize within myself. I also get a sense of cooperation throughout Kotter’s steps: starting with a coalition and the development of a vision that leads up to action and eventually new insights and approaches.
The following image shows a combination of De Caluwé’s and Vermaak’s framework and Kotter’s eight steps theory. I like the integration of both theories in this model because it suggests that while using Kotter’s theory you need to implement different characteristics set by De Caluwé’s and Vermaak. It also shows that the color-print theory is something more than a change theory. It is about people, who they are and how the can complement each other in an organization. All colors are needed to achieve the final goal.
The TEL2 module of the SHU course “Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change” came to an end in January. We were required to write a paper in order to complete the module. Some time later I received my “Overall recommendation to Assessment Board” and gained a “Pass” on my work. Yes! Since I’m trying to share as much of my experiences on this website, I thought it might be useful to share this paper as well. You can find it here:
“Team Belgium” had a first meeting today concerning our change projects for the IC2 module of the TELIC course. The idea was to work together and share some tips and ideas on how to proceed. First we introduced our projects and talked about the theories discussed in our online sessions and whether and why these are useful. Talking with Dries and Marianne proved to give me a better insight in the assignments and on how to accomplish the goals. While explaining the desired project outcomes, certain aspects in achieving these became more clear and could be updated to new standards.
It was also interesting to hear from others how they were cooping with the assignments and how they perceived certain outcomes related to the project. Thinking about other projects than our own, offered a wider view on change management and the problems and opportunities they encompass. Enlightening!
We set a new date for a second meeting, where we will discuss the more practical parts of our project.
Last year, I had the opportunity to work with a friend/colleague (Bart Boelen) in this Geography project about tourism. We used iPads to get the information across. This year, no iPads… so I had to find a new interactive way to make sure the students were able to independently learn about the touristic qualities of a certain country. I decided to go for Google Drive. In the past, I’ve worked with this online office-suite and therefore knew its possibilities.
I started out with a lesson about Google Drive itself, just to get the students comfortable with it. I made sure that they already had an active Google account, because in the past signing up proved to be a challenge. Our IT-departement told me it had something to do with the school using one IP-address to connect to the internet. This causes online services to choke up, thinking they are “bombarded” with spam (i.e. multiple students creating an account from the same IP-address). It took me about 30 minutes to explain the basics after which I let the students experiment with the tool in groups, just to get a feel for it. They fooled around with typing together in a single document, the chat functionality, inserting an image, etc.
The second lesson I let them search for and discuss meaningful information for their given destination. They were invited to collect all relevant data in a single Google document so they could all see what was going on and what information they still needed to find.
The last step of this project was to be conducted at home: make a coherent presentation (using Google Drive) to present your findings/information about your country and share this with your teacher (me).
After the deadline, I let the students review Google Drive, using a Google Drive Form. They expressed their fondness for the online office-suite, some of them explaining that “this tool should be used by more teachers in school”. They found that it made working together very easy. Also eliminating “handing over” the presentation, paper, etc. and instead just sharing the file with the teacher was an advantage. The chat function was used a lot. In the beginning for less relevant communication, but gradually they found that this option certainly had its benefits in completing their task.
For me as a teacher, I liked the fact of NOT running around with dozens of paper folders, but instead being able to correct these digital presentations even on the go with my (personal) iPad. I asked my students to fill out a certain page of their book that accompanies the assignment, next year this will be digital too!
In session 3, a visual representation of our projects was to be presented, along with an update. Here’s mine:
Constructing this Project Map was enlightening, because it forced me to think about certain aspects of the project. Though I’m sure that this isn’t a complete picture, I was a little surprised by the scale of it. Of course, implementing something like this in a school brings about a lot of issues. My interpretation started with three major items: the pedagogical, technological and financial aspects, the latter being the part where we are currently working at. I also found it useful to think about the different participants. The people involved, how will they experience this change? What will they think? How can we help them in their change. Lastly, I included some questions we are asking ourselves. Naturally, this list will never be complete, but it gives an idea of where we’re at.
During our discussion, new tips arose that could come in handy:
Don’t start with “difficult” people when implementing change.
Exploration of tools as change strategy, start with tools you know.
Change takes time and many iterations.
Having someone “at elbow” can be beneficial.
Working in pairs or smaller groups instead of alone can be beneficial.
So far so good. Keep you posted on my further adventures…
We talked about our different projects. Here are a couple of things that stuck with me:
Don’t make too much assumptions.
Is case-study the language the colleagues speak?
Use students to prove your point; let them preach what they need?
Peer review is vulnerable.
Make the project approachable.
Gather stories, anecdotes of the change.
Provide clear outcomes – look at what’s gone really well and use it to convince others, make them curious.
What do I need to be able to make the next step?
These sentences may not be all that clear if you don’t have the context of my project, but in itself they can be transferred to other project. Something I found out during these sessions is that change is very subjective matter. What works in one situation doesn’t necessary work in another. I get the feeling it’s about “feeling” what people in your environment want, where they are and where they could be. On the other hand, certain theories can be worked out to enable change smoothly and transfer to other situations. Frameworks for change can help, but you still need to work with the properties of your group.
OK, we had a meeting with our principals. They were brought up-to-date of our plans to start using iPads in a classroom. After a keynote to present our intentions and how and why we would like to implement our ideas, we discussed the whole project and a couple of the finer points to elaborate on. Pedagogically they agreed with our vision of how to use the iPad (i.e. to support our teaching, not simply the need to implement technology) but expressed concerns about the financial aspect (just a we thought). We already worked out the outlines of a financial plan to make the project feasible even for less well-of parents. This is an important pillar of our institute, to include everybody in everything we do, regardless of anything!
So, our group knows what to do: work hard to create the perfect financial plan. Not an easy task, but we shall prevail!