Why wouldn’t a hypothetical one-to-one, wifi-enabled, digitally-saturated laptop initiative imposed on a set of middle school classrooms have any effect on instructional practices?
There are several possible reasons to consider. Interestingly, they align with historical reasons why instructional media might have failed to revolutionize the educational experience, however beloved educational filmstrips were once.
While assigning responsibility to teachers’ resistance to change is convenient, it’s a blanket indictment of a group of people who may have very good individual reasons for not adapting to a changed environment.
How could this factor, if it is one, be minimized?
- Start a smaller pilot program with a few enthusiastic or even neutral teachers. This strategy would allow an evaluation and a nimbler approach to adjustments as the year proceeded. It would also allow the early adopters to share their experience with their colleagues, pointing out ways to make the program work, before broad adoption.
- It might also be mitigated with a suspension of the usual teacher-evaluation benchmarks. Resistance might come from fear of falling below a performance threshold. If the threshold were removed, it may free teachers to try new methods with less risk.
- Providing more in-classroom support may help reduce the resistance. If instructors thought they would receive additional staff support to cover the start-up learning curve time they may be more willing to embrace change.
A second factor could be that the program was a top-down change mandated by administrators. Top-down directives are rarely welcomed, an finding a way to mitigate this factor would be difficult.
- Top-down decisions could have been mitigated with a longer process to include teachers in the planning of the initiative. Allowing users to provide input all along the way increases the likelihood of success and cooperation.
- Providing offsetting relief to balance the increased demand on teachers may mitigate the effect of a top-down order. Reducing class sizes, for example would give each teacher more time to adapt.
A third factor could be equipment problems. Corners that were cut to purchase enough for every student may leave students with substandard equipment, and more time spent on frustrations and hiccups. Inadequate network infrastructure or difficulty operating the new tech tools also throws sand in the gears. Overcoming technical problems is often a matter of a lot of little improvements, not one big change.
- Upgrading supporting infrastructure might be a solution to access or speed issues. A more seamless experience removes roadblocks to instruction.
- Providing more training or access to support could help mitigate equipment problems. Assigning support staff to respond quickly, or providing staff lunchtime training sessions starts to fill in gaps in knowledge might also relieve the strain put on front-line instructors.