Overcoming the Technology Resistance Movement
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Despite many recent online learning inroads in schools, many professional educators and administrators remain hesitant, reluctant, and perhaps even highly resistant to try online learning and teaching with technology. However, with accelerating demand for online learning, significantly reduced budgets, and the emergence of hundreds of free or relatively inexpensive Web technologies, that resistance is coming to a sudden halt. While some may prefer to wait for massive instructor attrition, lightning to strike, or made-for-movie serendipitous events to occur to change this situation, I prefer more direct approaches.
Listed below are 10 such ideas.
- Incremental Change: Change is always complex and difficult. Shifts to online teaching and learning are no different. We recommend that those who might be nervous or more hesitant start with small steps or minor course adaptations. Perhaps a training program might begin by having these individuals find online resources that they can later use. During training, they might also select from an assortment of low cost, low risk, low time strategies. At the end of such a training or orientation program, participants might indicate where they presently are on a risk continuum or meter as well as where they would like to be in a few years.
- Shared Success Stories and Best Practices: Another option is to show teachers examples of what actually works. These examples and models might be found in books, newsletters, email messages, CDs, Web portals, testimonials, or some other media delivery format. Consider having these stories developed by peers and colleagues whom they trust instead of by vendors or external consultants.
- Training and Development: I have found that starting with a simple technology tool or resource that can be mastered and applied is more important than explaining the underlying instructional approach, philosophy, or pedagogy. Providing incentives for the completion of the training is also important (e.g., a stipend, certificate, iPod, laptop, tablet PC, etc.).
- Just-in-Time Support: Support staff might be on call when needed for 1:1 help and advice. Technical support personnel and trainers should not dictate a single approach or instructional philosophy but rather they should listen to teacher needs and respond accordingly. Allow teachers to select the training topics that they are interested in, rather than preselecting the topic(s) for them. I have found that when working with practicing teachers in schools that training them in the technologies that they had on their machines or had access to was far superior to training them in software that I just happened to like or use myself.
- An Atmosphere of Sharing: Fostering change in terms of technology integration and use will only come when there is an atmosphere of change. Such an atmosphere can definitely build up over time. For instance, the final 5-10 minutes of a department, program, or unit meeting might be saved for a live presentation of an emerging technology or discussion of ideas related to how one is using technology or the Web in instruction. I often see this sharing occurring at the school and university level with annual technology in teaching events or awards for technology integration and innovation. Many schools also sponsor such events as brown bag luncheons wherein a teacher or visitor will present some interesting technology or online activity. Colloquiums, institutes, videoconferences, Webinars, and other events can also be employed to cultivate this change in atmosphere.
- Awards and Incentives: As indicated above, training programs might include incentives such as stipends, travel monies, awards, and technology. For example, those who are innovative might be the first in line for hardware or software upgrades and replacements. The School of Education at Indiana University, for instance, has been innovative in sponsoring laptop programs wherein enlisted faculty members receive a laptop for their instructional uses after completing a set number of hours – here 16 – of technology-related training. Other incentives might include assistance in writing grants for technology and money for conference travel. There might be competitions for interactivity in online course development, outstanding course awards, and annual events for innovation in online instruction. Such efforts are vital since part of creating a community of online educators is to support success and then to celebrate such success when it occurs.
- Modeling: I have found that modeling the use of online technologies and courses by one’s colleagues and superiors is highly valuable. In effect, when one’s leaders or supervisors are doing it (e.g., the school principal or technology coordinator), so can you. And when the high school superintendent generates a podcast or receives her training from one, people throughout the school district tend to take notice. Modeling also creates opportunities for discussion and interaction to occur around the topic or content area being shown, resulting in a sense of community among those who are interested in the new ideas.
- Mentoring and Coaching: While technology-oriented training increasingly relies on technology-based tutorials, opportunities for 1:1 advice and consultation are bound to have a lasting impact. When new teachers or staff members enter into an online environment or situation, it is vital to provide some form of cognitive apprenticeship. For instance, someone savvy with technology or knowledgeable about online teaching and learning might be asked to support one or more novice teachers or assistants. And such individuals might receive modest stipends for such efforts.
- External Supports: Most of the above ideas relate to internal forms of support within an organization or institution. Naturally, given the expansiveness of the Web, some external supports might be provided such as access to online teaching examples, online instruction certificate programs, and even master’s degrees. In addition, an organization or institution might subscribe to an online newsletter or enter into online discussions on a community using Ning or some other collaborative technology. For those in the K-12 world, the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) provides many examples of innovative teaching approaches with and without technology.
- Frameworks and Models: One of the more significant ways to learn to teach online and become less hesitant, reluctant, and resistant, is to use models, overviews, and other frameworks. Frameworks offer a means to reflect on what works and what is not working. They lend a macro lens to any online teaching and learning situation. And they can help one to categorize or make sense of the never-ending mounds of information or data each of us deals with each day. In effect, they reduce the apprehensions and angst professional educators might have related to teaching as well as learning in online environments. The R2D2 (i.e., Read, Reflect, Display, and Do) and TEC-VARIETY models that I have designed are pedagogically-focused examples of such frameworks. With tools such as R2D2 at one’s side, normally hesitant or resistant instructors often become models and advocates of online education.
Anyone involved in organizational change will readily admit that change is typically systemic in nature. Consequently, I recommend you consider how most or all of the above ten categories of ideas can support teacher and staff development or perhaps even transformation within your school or school district. With such support, they can feel more secure in their online decision making and related adventures. Good luck.
Curtis J. Bonk is Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. He has a popular blog called TravelinEdMan and is the author of The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education as well as Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Ideas, for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing.