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The arc of the book has taken us from reasons technology must play a new and unfamiliar role in education through the components of a technology-rich school to the methods whereby IT managers envision, design and deploy, and improve IT systems in schools. Implicit in all of this work is change; IT managers seek to change the tools students and teachers use, the purposes for which they use them, and the manner in which they are managed. In this final chapter, I present ideas about change, and how leaders can manage and promote change within schools.
The literature surrounding organizational change often uses the terms “change” and “innovation” interchangeably. When organizations deploy innovations, the leaders and members adopt new tools, follow new procedures, and are driven to meet new purposes. Scholars and practitioners in the field also recognize change can affect different levels within the organization. Change can be address limited parts of the organizational or the entire system, and it can address small changes or wide-spread changes. The strategies used to implement change depend on the nature of the change leaders seek to make. There are several types of change that leaders recognize:
- Procedural change seeks to improve the efficiency of the methods whereby a logistic goal is improved. These are often undertaken in isolation as the inputs into the subsystem responsible for the logistic goal and the outputs from it are unchanged.
- Systemic change seeks to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of many procedures at one time. Rather that addressing procedural change as isolated activities, systemic change considers the complex of procedures and especially the interactions between procedures as the important units of change.
- Transitional change is recognized as that change which is designed to accomplish new goals. Whereas the same strategic and logistic goals can motivate and drive procedural and systemic changes, transitional change find the procedures and systems changed so that new strategic goals are achieved.
One of the challenges facing leaders who seek to implement changes, especially those that are transitional, is their disruptive nature. Successful organizations have defined structures and procedures and developed culture to meet specific purposes with efficiency and effectiveness. When the purpose of the organization changes, or the previous purposes become obsolete, there is conflict between the previous norms and those needed for the future. Clayton Christensen (1997) observed disruptive changes are those in which qualitatively different goals are defined for the organization, and disruptive change requires structures that are contrary to those that have been effective, and those that have the greatest effects on the structural, human resource, political, and symbolic frames of the organization.
The nature of the change in organizations that efficacious IT managers deem necessary will depend in large part on the existing circumstances and leaders’ and members’ interpretation of those circumstances. It is anticipated that much of the change suggested in this book will be transitional, especially that in which the Standard Model of educations in overturned. Educators, like all professionals, comprise individuals who are comfortable with change and those who are not comfortable with change. Resisting efforts to change the Standard Model of education and a marginal role for technology are going to be increasingly untenable position for educators. The decisions IT managers make will continue to be a force directing this change.
In their 2010 book Change, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, scholars and business leader who study change, attributed resistance to change to three factors. These are observed regardless of the type of change. First, until new practices become habit, people must exert self-control to adopt them; this self-control is necessary to continue using the new practices and avoid reverting to the previous practices. Self-control requires effort, so it is in limited supply. When self-control is exhausted, people return to previous practices.
Second, the greatest motivation for change arises when individuals find an emotional connection to the purpose. The Heaths suggest change arises inside an organization when members become aware of a situation and there is a collective realization that existing practices are contrary to the organization’s goals and fixing the problems will result in important changes in the operation or outcomes of the organization.
Third, change can be difficult when the purpose is unclear. They suggest, “what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity” (Heath & Heath, 2010, p. 17). For Heath and Heath, the path to change is grounded in clarifying the purpose, providing motivation, and creating pathways where by motivation is sustained and action becomes habit and the purpose is achieved.
For IT managers in schools who seek to implement change, Heath and Heath’s propose a model of purpose, clarity, and pathway can be complicated by the nature of education and the nature of motivation. For most of the 20th century, leaders assumed individuals within organizations were motivated by pay and other rewards (increasing these were though to increase compliance with new practices) and they were motivated to avoid punishments. While educators are likely to comply with the changes in practice they are directed to make, they are unlikely to internalize the needs and they will revert to previous practices when possible.
In his 2009 book Drive, Daniel Pink provided evidence that individuals are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose, so change that is sustained must be based in actions that leverage these aspects of individuals’ work. For Pink, autonomy is largely grounded in self-direction; those who perceive they are able to exert control over how they accomplish their goals are more intrinsically motivated than those who have less control. Mastery is the ability of individuals to improve their abilities in a meaningful way and for a meaningful purpose.
Autonomy is a complicated factor in many organizations and professions, including education. While autonomy is a factor that motivates individuals to engage with and adopt innovations, there is evidence that teachers may exert limited autonomy with regards to regarding instructional practices (Range, Pijanowski, Duncan, Scherz, & Hvidston, 2014). Blumenfeld, Kempler, and Krajcik (2006) suggested autonomy is grounded in authority to make decisions and the competence to identify and affect a solution. In many cases, teachers lack the authority to be autonomous and the technology that is the focus of the innovation is unfamiliar and outside their perceived are of expertise.
Further, many teachers have deep personal and emotional commitment to their own education and the practices that marked their entry into the profession and their own teaching. Their understanding of purpose is grounded in these experiences, so teachers who have autonomy may reject the vision and purpose and pathways to change even if they are clearly and reasonably explained. Most math teachers, for example, became math teachers because they found meaning and value in their own math education; they will resist attempts to change the experience of teaching and learning math. The result is a paradox on autonomy; efficacious IT managers need to increase autonomy for teachers to adopt innovative technology and technology-rich pedagogy, but teachers are not used to having autonomy and those who do have it may reject the innovation and seek to subvert it.
(While writing this book, I had a conversation with the manager of a manufacturing facility who indicated workers were no longer allowed to perform their own calculations when configuring machines on the factory floor. Several mistakes had been made, and the company had lost tens of thousands of dollars to resolve each one, so the top-level managers decided that calculations were to be done by engineers using calculators or other simulations of the machines and they tell the operators how to adjust the machines. Math teachers are horrified to hear this story, but the more insightful and forward-thinking take it as motivation to reconsider what they teach and how they teach it. Those are in the minority of teachers who hear this story.)
Whitworth and Benson (2016) suggested three responses by individuals when they perceive a difference between the purposes of the organization and structures of that are deployed. They may accommodate the change and adopt the changes and adapt what they do to reflect the changes. They may relax the definitions (thus creating broader conceptual artifacts) and implement innovations that are nominally different, but that only partially change what they do. Individuals may also subvert change by opposing them or reverting to previously used tools and procedures.
It appears the task of leading change in education is challenging. A leader can expect to encounter disparate and contradictory perceptions of the purpose of school which will lead to disparate and contradictory motivation to engage in the activities necessary to change. Directing educators to adopt new practices or adapt to new practices may result in compliance, but that is contrary to the agency and autonomy the has been shown to result in change in activity.
Educational leaders, including efficacious IT managers, who seek to affect change, can ground their efforts in existing theory related to innovation and change. Leaders who understand organization frames and the nature of innovations and how they are adopted in organizations or communities are more likely to generate changes in practice that are sustained in the schools they lead.