If there’s a better solution, use it!
I often hear schools tell me that they’re just going to keep with their existing software because it’s the easier on the staff than changing. They tell me that they have already spent considerable energy trying to get teachers on board with their existing solution, and that it would be a nightmare to have to change again. However whilst I empathise with the situation, I think the cost of bowing to such a context and neglecting pedagogical progress can be greater than a school might think.
School tone is all-important. It’s what drives everything within, it is what message students get loud and clear over and over again, it is what message they take with them when they go home each night, and beyond. One of the clearest and most useful tones we can create is that of being the best we can be, and trying your hardest as much as possible to achieve it. Imagine arriving at a school whose motto was ‘Settling for second best in anything we do’. Of course you’re never going to see it, but sometimes schools implicitly deliver that very message to their students when they accept that change for their teachers may just be too hard to manage.
I’ve never worked with a teacher who accepted the shrugging of shoulders by their students when asking questions, or being content with half-hearted efforts in tasks assigned by them. But I pose this question to you: do some teachers in your school do this very thing when confronted with changes in the system?
Let’s put this into context. Experienced teachers quite rightly are now on permanent guard of ‘new’ teaching and learning strategies, being acutely aware that many of them are simply rehashed forms of past techniques. The resistance is perhaps directly proportional to the enthusiasm of the leadership team in delivering them as revelations. But sometimes new ideas emerge, better ways of doing things, and when they do, it’s important that we are open to them and willing to take them on, even if it means more work, otherwise we set a ‘We’re just happy with the way we are’ tone instead of a ‘We want to continually develop’ tone. Why is this important? Because actions are louder than words, because most people learn more by what you do than by what you say: if teachers choose to maintain the status quo because it’s easier or less work, then that tone permeates throughout the school, and leaches into the students. It would then be shockingly unfair to demand anything more than this standard from the students.
There is perhaps no greater illustration of this than the use of technology in schools. Quite undeniably, technology can enormously assist schools, from centralised data holding, to parent communication, to facilitating access to information anywhere a student goes. And whilst being wary of ineffective technology is imperative amongst a growing wave of edtech vendors exhorting their wares, it is essential that teachers learn to do just that, and not paint all with the same brush to dismiss any new approaches.
Promote pedagogical progress
Of course price would also be a factor in an ever-stretched budget, but if schools are going to consider wholesale change by taking on a new technological solution, or changing from an existing provider, there should only be one single factor that guides the decision: will the solution promote pedagogical progress. And if, after extensive reviewing and evaluating, the answer is yes, pedagogical progress should never be compromised because a school is afraid that its teachers won’t take it on. Everyone knows that transitions aren’t easy, but if a school understands and embraces the pedagogical progress ethos, it will work hard to provide the necessary time and support to make the change.
So always be open to new technological approaches and solutions. Even though not all inventions are beneficial to the learning environment, the very nature of technology driving it to create enhancements suggests that there’s usually something interesting around the corner. Don’t be content with second best. If technology promotes pedagogical progress, a school owes it to the students to implement it into teaching and learning. But maybe more than that, a school owes it to its teachers to always expect the best.