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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

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

Kim's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change is best for me when it is forced. I am a creature of habit, so for me...change is difficult. However, after the fact I am usually happy that the changed occured.

Karen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

With a laptop initiative well underway in our school district, I have seen the need for change first hand. Teachers and students have no choice but to accept change and this is a good thing. Gone are the days of paper and pen to do your homework, studying for a test from your notebook, movie projectors, ditto machines, etc etc. all of these are done on the laptop. In order to embrace these changes, there needs to be proper training for the teachers and kids. If this training is provided, you will see the tremendous advantages of change.

Rosalie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think change is good. How boring would life be without change? How boring would teaching be for that matter without change? Sometimes it's easier to be forced into change because if you had a choice would you do it? Our school has been purchasing a lot of technology for classrooms K-5. We will have to learn how to best integrate this technology into our curriculum. If we had a choice of whether or not to use the technology-would every classroom have it? I'd say probably not. It's important as educators to grow and educate ourselves, what kind of a model would we be if we didn't?

arlene's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a teacher and while I can empathize with the comfort of things remaining the same we must be willing to accept and work with change. New thoughts and solutions are brought about through change and evolution. We must be willing to grow and think new thoughts, even those as simple as driving a car that does not require a key...it is one less thing for us to carry and worry about losing.

Susan Nelson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change is difficult, but I think change is easier when you are not given a choice. You are forced to learn new ways of doing things in order to stay current and compete with your colleagues. I think you learn new technologies a lot faster when you don't have the crutch of using a more comfortable, well- used approach to doing something.

Ann Cameron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

For me change is very slow and difficult. I have been forced to change by using more technology for my own work and that of my students. It's discouraging to me that as soon as I think I understand something, it is changed, different or the format has been changed by my school and I have to re-adjust. But, there is no fighting it and sometimes I take a break and let it go and then start back up again. I certainly don't want to forget that the goal is not more bells and whistles but better instruction and having the kids think more about the topics at hand.

Fred's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As far a dealing with change, everyone has a different tolerance for doing things differently or learning new things. As for myself, I beleive I am somewhat average when it comes to dealing with change. We are all creatures of habit. We all have a certain comfort level with the status quo. However, without change there would be no progress. In conclusion change is good, but I believe to avoid high stress levels it should be done in moderation.

Jim Burke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks, Jim Moulton, for an excellent discussion topic. Being an old guy who came of age in the sixties, here are a couple of songs that speak to change:

Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and Simon and Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song."

Great take-off points for discussion. See lyrics below:


The 59th Street Bridge Song

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.
Hello lamppost,
What cha knowing?
I've come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' groovy.

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.


The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Stella's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change can be good. It is something that we have to get used to (with practice). It's going to happen whether we like it or not. So let's embrace it!

Kathy Haack's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Change is all around us and we need to embrace it but, I love the fact that Ann feels that when it becomes too much she takes a step back and then starts again when she is ready.

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