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Are You Comfortable with Change?: Understanding What it Takes to Make Change Happen

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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I am just back from a conference in Mitchell, South Dakota, where I was sharing some of what we have learned in Maine as well as things learned from working with other one-to-one laptop efforts across the country. Because South Dakota is, like Maine, largely rural, the 350 or so educators attending the conference were receptive to my message.

In one of the luncheon keynote speeches, Rick Melmer, South Dakota's state secretary of education, gave a wonderful talk on the need for his state to move toward ubiquitous-computing environments, citing everything from increasing student engagement by providing the kinds of tools today's students see everywhere else in their lives to breaking the isolation inherent in rural settings by providing access to unlimited and diverse curriculum materials. He acknowledged the challenging nature of the change the educators of South Dakota will face but maintained a clear insistence on meeting those challenges full on. The change, he insisted, must happen.

Now, I already get the importance of the one-to-one-laptop thing, so I have to be honest here and tell you my own story of South Dakota change, and my oh-so-very-human resistance to it. It may be worth reading, as those of us who work as agents of change reflect on how much changing we are asking practitioners to do.

I got my driver's license in 1972, and ever since then, driving a car has for me had four basic steps: 1. Get in the car and use the key to start it. 2. Drive somewhere. 3. Park the car and use the key to turn it off. 4. Put the key in your pocket as soon as you exit the vehicle to assure its availability the next time. (The inclusion of step 4 in this list as a fundamental component is based on the importance of the key in step #1 above.)

Well, when I arrived at the airport in Sioux Falls last Saturday, it was time for a little change! The fellow at the rental-car counter informed me that I was getting a brand-new Nissan Altima, and that it had no key. "Hmmm," I thought. "Cool. A chance to try something new!" I was told that the keyless fob simply needed to be inside the car in order to allow me to step on the brake and push a button to either turn the car on or turn it off.

And off I drove. But as soon as I parked and got ready to leave the car for the first time, I became aware of a subtle disquiet. You see, because I did not have to turn the key to turn the car off, I got out of the car and found myself nervously searching pockets to find the fob before I locked any doors or secured the trunk, for fear I might be locking myself out.

Now, the car and its keyless system are probably designed not to allow such silliness, but my discomfort was very real. Yes, it lessened as I experienced six days of driving the car, largely because I got used to dropping the fob into my front shirt pocket, but I never completely got over it. I always found myself unwilling to close the door or latch the trunk until I held the fob in my hand.

So, I'm thinking that starting and shutting down an automobile either by using, or without requiring, a key is a fairly simply exercise. I should have been able to get over this one pretty easily. But it stuck with me, and in so doing caused me to reflect, once again, on the degree of change we ask educators and students to make in their practices when laptops come to school.

How about you? Are you able to change some things easily, and not others? Is it easier when you just have to change because there is no choice? I'm thinking that if car keys just became a thing of the past, we would all move beyond them pretty easily. Perhaps part of my challenge was that I was continually comparing my current driving situation to the normal way of doing things back home. Please share your similar experiences, and let's try to better understand just what it takes to make change happen.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

Comments (36)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Taryn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

For the most part I accept change with ease. I try to make the best out of the situation that is being changed. Sometimes change is good. It is hard for people to deal with change because it means learning something new that takes time that they really don't have.

Jim Moulton's picture
Jim Moulton
Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

And perhaps the biggest thing is that if we are truly going to become educators who advocate for a constant willingness on the part of individuals and schools to to improve through purposeful change, then what we are really asking people (and those oh-so-rigid organizations) to do is to become "comfortable with discomfort," and that can be a pretty tall order...

And that must be accomplished while some things remain as constants - caring about kids first, a sense of humor and humility, knowing our content well, having a passion for teaching, and being a learner oneself.

Thanks to all for sharing. Please, never change your willingness to join the conversation!


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change is difficult for students as well as educators, but where would we be without it? Scary thought. The best part of Jim's comment was his connection to the difficulty of change. I think for the most part people will be resistant to change. However, if the catalyst of change is cooperative and understanding of the difficulties, then a smoother transition can be made. Thanks for putting it into perspective.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change usually comes about because a better way of doing things has evolved. When something better comes along I believe one should at least give it a close look. Many things in society came about because someone had a new idea or invention that he/she thought would make things run more smoothly. The idea of trying something new should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change is difficult...when it's not a change to something clearly better! Going from key to key-less is hard because it greatly increases the risk of locking your access device in the car without any obvious benefit.

Taking advantage of ubiquitous computer access in educational environments is hard because the result costs so much more without fairly certain benefit to either the teacher or the student. The goal needs to be to offer a clear benefit; right now the goal is to adopt whatever technology possible since it makes good press.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that change is necessary in the education profession. We have to constantly change and modify to meet the needs of our students. What I find interesting is the fact that your adminstrators want you to change and modify, but yet they still want you to do things their way. I have changed my teaching style, the way I look at my students, and the way I listen to my students just in a year. I have learned a lot through information that has taught me how to become a better teacher. I think that change is great and a "must have" in the education profession!

Jessica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that adapting to change is a necessary part of teaching. We are constantly having to deal with changing curriculums, standards, and methods, not to mention the changes that come along with each new class. In order to be an effective teacher you need to be flexible and willing to adapt.

Erin D.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When I was in school, the teachers used record players and records. The students today, don't know what a record player looks like. Even tapes are becoming replaced with CDs and DVDs. Computers hooked to TVs are common in classrooms today.

Teachers are prone to change when it involves student success. We want our students to be successful in our classes, so we tend to accept change easier if it will lead to student success.

Chris Darling's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that educators need to allow themselves to change when student learning can increase. I do not like change myself. I always order the same thing on the menu at restaurants and have the same routine every day. But when it involves students, I frequently am able to adapt and modify my instructional strategies. I have noticed that I have been able to increase my organization of my classroom presentations by using technology and this has a direct benefit to students.

Marci Smith-Herrera's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have to say change is very difficult for me. I was a first grade teacher for two years and am now teaching second grade. It has been a great experience for me. However, it was a very rocky start. I felt like it was my first day of teaching and I had to start all over. In the end I do believe change is good and very important in the teaching profession. Being a teacher you will go through change constantly. You will deal with different students from year to year, curriculum, staff, etc. I know it is something I will have to work at and something that will take a lot of practice.

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