San Domenico School Tech Director Lead Kali Baird brings a unique but spot-on perspective to the challenges of coaching teachers through technology integration.
One day, I posted this Tweet:
In my mind, this 136 character blurb was clearly an epiphany! Well, maybe it was to me, but perhaps I need to expand on what I mean, share the layers to this idea …
In a meeting with non-ed tech folks, I was trying to explain the nuances of the reality of integrating technology. And it hit me! Integrating technology was like asking every member of your school to join a sports team, like football.
Now, if you think about your own reaction to playing football and then think of some of your co-workers and what their reactions may be, it becomes clear. Some teachers would be, “Whoo-hoo! I LOVE football and know all the rules and, WOW! This is just awesome!” While other teachers will recoil at the thought, thinking, “I hate football and don’t even understand the game!” Or, “What!?! What do they want me to do now? I am too old for this!”
Well folks, this is just like integrating technology. Like joining a football team, using or having technology enter your classroom has a distinct and individualized emotional response. Ignoring this response or diminishing its power is a sure way to fail. Recognizing and hearing what is often unspoken (but still communicated) is perhaps one of the most important elements to creating an environment in which teachers feel safe enough to take risks!
Coaching for Success
How can you do this? One way involves directly identifying and discussing this emotional aspect in a faculty meeting, gathering or conference. I talk about the very differing responses and then clearly point out that this is completely normal – the nodding heads and reluctant chuckles work towards establishing camaraderie…exactly as we do for our students!
Additionally, tech professional development for teachers needs to be both broad AND deep. Broad to have enough choices that each teachers can relate to something or see it happening in their classes. Deep enough to meet the individual learning style of each teacher — sounds impossible, BUT, offering individualized support goes a long way. Not all may use the individualized offer of professional development, but all benefit from knowing that that type of support exists.
Everybody on the Team!
To return to the football analogy, please take a moment to consider ALL of the parts of a successful football team: Coach (Director of Tech), assistant coaches (Technology Coordinators), and players (some teachers). However, where do the non-football playing teachers fit in? How can they be part of the team? It is not just those who can jump in and be players on the field.
The “big” definition of a team is made up of more than simply players. It is ALL of the people who contribute in the many different ways to have a team. One may think that one job is more lofty than the others, but hold on…Who keeps the field in top shape? Draws the yard lines (is this even a thing?)? Organizes the schedule? Basically where I am going with this is that when teachers are asked to join a football team, they often think that they need to be an actual player of football to be successful. Once they realize that there are many different (and important) roles, ie: differing approaches to integrating technology, their emotional response may dial down from the “fight or flight” response and into a place of openness, curiosity and creativity.
So how does this analogy help you on a day-to-day basis? If you are the person who supports the integration of technology, at any level from the tech support staff to the various directors of tech, keep this in mind: Consider that not everyone feels like they immediately belong or knows exactly how to do this. Words like, “user-friendly” and “intuitive” can instantly turn teachers off. They infer that if it’s not clear and intuitive right away, then they must be failures and the device becomes a bookshelf item collecting dust. On the other hand, recognizing the range of emotional responses and offering a variety of integration approaches, opens the door to possibility!