Changing mind-sets, evolving classrooms

Dan Williams

Dan Williams @furtheredagogy 

Teaching and Learning Coach, Central College Nottingham


The frequently misquoted Darwin apparently once said that ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’. In fact, the true originator of this quote was a fella called Herbert Spencer. In this post I want to show how true Spencer really was.

As the FE sector begins to educate Generation Z, we must always have Generation Alpha in the corner of our minds. These are the learners that will have studied from an earlier age and for longer than their predecessors. Aside from this, their learning will take place in an environment that is equipped with technology that some of our current teachers (typically Generation X) have never tried. In addition to this, we are preparing learners for jobs that don’t yet exist (cue ‘shift happens’ video), hence the recent drive from FELTAG and the Education and Training Foundation.

What does this mean for FE teachers? 

Well to put it bluntly, they either keep up, or get left behind. Technology won’t replace teachers, but those that use technology will. Now don’t get me wrong, those who don’t use technology should NOT be expected to do it themselves. It’s a daunting world with all the apps, web2 tools, blogs, tweeters, windows, iPad and other unusual techy names. We need to support these individuals in a way that allows them to adapt. Help them to make sense of the technological world. Technology should be extremely simple and more than or at least equally as effective as conventional methods, otherwise what’s the point?

So what can you do? 

I am the first to admit that that when first told to try technology in the classroom, I was a bit of a pessimist. I quickly became a convert, but recognise that change is a scary thing. Appreciating the stage of change that teachers are at is a great place to start before intervening.

Try the Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change (Prochaska, 1977) 

1. Pre-contemplation – teachers are unaware, or have dismissed technology

They’ve only heard of the bad stuff or they are just not interested in using technology in class as their current teaching is fine – or so they think!

Interventions

  • Showcase technology use through sharing good practice sessions
  • Offer beginner technology training
  • Encourage them to buddy them with a teacher at the maintenance stage
  • Provide evidence and impact of effective use of technology through marketing materials

2. Contemplation – Teachers are weighing up the options here

As mentioned above, technology will only work if it is simple and effective. These teachers need to see this. It is all too easy at this stage to blame the infrastructure or the learners before attempting to use technology. These teachers need to know that technology can enhance learning and that it isn’t another fad or thing to add to their lists. Making them commit their own time probably won’t work here.

Interventions

  • Showcase technology use through sharing good practice sessions
  • Cover a lesson to allow them to observe a peer using technology effectively
  • Provide evidence and impact of effective use of technology through marketing materials

3. Preparation – Teachers at this stage are ready for action.

Here teachers may require help to organise how they will set up the technology. There’s nothing worse than bumbling around trying to work out something mid-lesson and looking a fool in front of learners.

Interventions

  • Provide a mentor (perhaps an individual at the maintenance stage)
  • Provide ‘how to’ guides that give simple step by step instructions for different tools
  • Work with them to help develop the tools

4. Action – These are those that are willing to take action.

They need support. Sure they will fail, but they will need to learn quickly from their mistakes. It is crucial that they persist with the right tools as it is easy to quit at this point. Key to this is reflecting and action planning for how they will develop their use of technology.

Interventions

  • Create a buddy system to reflect and share issues
  • Provide a mentor (perhaps an individual at the maintenance stage)
  • Create a cross-college forum for e-enthusiasts to share ideas
  • Encourage them to get learner feedback following technology use and act upon it

5. Maintenance – These are the teachers that use technology effectively in lessons.

In my opinion these teachers hold the key to developing your college. If they can act as role models, cascade their knowledge and support peers, you add serious strength in numbers to promoting the use of technology.

Interventions 

  • Buddy them up with teachers in the other stages of the model
  • Create a cross-college forum for e-enthusiasts to share ideas
  • Give responsibility for delivery of training sessions
  • Involve them in JISC events and other external CPD to upskill
  • Encourage them to connect with like-minded teachers via social media

 

So, when considering technology at your institution, will you and your teachers be adaptable to change?

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