Thursday, January 28, 2010

You can't buy change

When I first moved to my new school this year it was clear that there was a real need for change. We had lovely new iMac computers and carts of new MacBook Pros for the students. Some classes also had Promethian boards. Coming from Thailand where I was using 4 or 5 year old PCs this seemed like heaven on earth. Six months on, however, I'm realising that you can't buy change. A lot of money has been spent on the hardware, but nothing has been spent on professionally developing the staff who use it.

Sylvia Martinez, who writes at Generation Yes says:
“You can’t buy change. It’s a process, not a purchase. The right shopping list won’t change education.”

When I attend planning meetings I often hear "Well, last year we did .....". I have to keep pointing out that I'm not really interested in how things were done last year (which again was just the same as the year before), what I really want to do is to talk about what we need to do NOW to prepare our students for their future. What is needed is not more money, but more time, though of course it can be argued that times costs money. Time for teachers to experiment, time for teachers to visit other classrooms to see what is going on there. Time for them to make mistakes and learn from them. But time is something that we just don't have. We are all looking in the right direction, but I feel some of us are just looking and not walking forwards and of the ones that are walking, most are not walking fast enough. That's just not good enough for our students as we have to educate them for tomorrow not for today and we and they don't have the luxury of having plenty of time to waste on things that will soon become irrelevant.

Technology needs to be infused into all areas of the curriculum. As Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE says:
The use of technology in learning and teaching is essential for real and lasting change.
The question to me is how do we get teachers to accept that they need to change and then how do we get them to change. For me, now, it's more important to be investing in professional development, in showing teachers the possibilities that are out there. It's also a matter of requiring that teachers develop themselves as professionals and for that sometimes you have to use a carrot and sometimes you have to use a stick. Here is another quotation I ran across yesterday when looking at a slideshare from a workshop at Educon:
Change is like sunshine: some change because they see the light, some change because they feel the heat.
In the dark winter days in Switzerland, I think what we need here is a little bit more sunshine.

Photo Credit: Money by TWCollins


  1. I love that last quote! "Change is like sunshine: some change because they see the light, some change because they feel the heat." It makes me sad that so often in education it is the heat that brings about change instead of the light. I struggle on this journey with the educators that I work with too. There is the unfortunate feeling that, "I did it this way 30 years ago and it worked, why would I change it now."
    I'm seeking that light with you!

  2. I agree with you that professional development can be the best leverage for change. Sometimes the fear of the technology can blind teachers to the usefulness so I have found it helpful to ask teachers about a nagging problem they have in class (i.e. writing) or a goal they have (peer editing) and then finding the technology that will help them with those. Rather than showering them with technology - meeting the teachers where they are but insisting they step outside their comfort zone before resisting can make some small changes. Keep trying and do as I always stated with my middle schoolers: I will persist longer than they resist!

  3. I had not seen the quote from Sylvia Martinez about change, but it's a great one. Change is definitely a process and one that is not fast for many people. I don't think we can get anyone to really change until they internalize the reasons why. So, I suppose we have to keep reminding them of those reasons. Thanks for a great post.