Having taught for 28 years and witnessed a fair amount of change in education over that time, I can only say that in its current incarnation the education system is unrecognisable to that of when I first entered it as a teacher way back in 1990! However, there will always be constants, some of which are positive and some that maybe less so.
In this blog I want to focus on the positives which revolve around the core moral duty that all schools and teachers share. That is of course to provide the highest quality educational experiences possible, whilst preparing students to be the very best citizens they can be, presenting them extra-curricular experiences which will hopefully open their eyes to new possibilities that otherwise may have remained hidden. All of this in a positive, safe and secure environment which will allow them the thrive and develop in to happy adults. No small task!
My experience of this through teaching art and design has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Students constantly surprise and challenge in equal measures and in many ways will remain a mystery much of the time! But unpicking and unlocking their potential has been a real privilege and pleasure.
Latterly though, beyond my role as Design Faculty leader, my role included the significant challenge of being a digital leader and having a responsibility in school for embracing and extending this exciting area. This certainly presented many new challenges, but perhaps the biggest of these was the resistance to this type of change.
This resistance, or perhaps it might be more generously described as wariness, can derail any new or innovative idea those passionate enough to raise it might present. This wariness may come from all types of stakeholders, including governors, head teachers, SLT members, classroom teacher, students and parents.
So how do you overcome these challenges. In this blog I would like to share some of my experiences and advice which might be of some help and reassurance that change can happen, it might not be easy or quick but with carefully consideration and planning wonders can sometimes be achieved.
Being part of a school that decided to go down the iPad 1:1 approach, the potential for change and utilisation of technology to enhance and enrich learning was huge. We had a significant job to deliver this and many hearts needed to be won over along the way. But we did it and this led to many innovations far beyond our original scope.
Below are my top tips which I believe apply to many aspects of change in education:
Establish a team
Without a teacher who “gets it” at the heart of team we would have failed. Have a core of people who are drawn from different areas including finance, network (when required) and, most importantly, teaching. Get full SLT support and keep governors informed. Above all, keep the educational benefits at the very forefront of all that you do.
Plan in detail
Expect iterative thinking as you develop your model and take time to finesse detail. How will you cope with affordability issues? Will there be a transition period when some year groups are not part of the process? Think carefully about how you will answer question about the change – craft your written FAQ’s well in advance.
As mentioned, some stakeholders will be sceptical about the benefits and the perceived additional work to implement the change. Others will be worried about their ability to adapt. Brief your teachers, TA’s as positively as you can and in advance of any launching to parents. Keen teachers will embrace the technology and educate colleagues. Find enthusiastic running mates to pilot the learning. Bring in external advocates where possible and if needed.
Consult carefully with parents
You may have a vociferous “anti” minority who express all sorts of reservation about change. In the case of Homework4, parents really valued the change as it simplified and supported the process of homework at home. But for any residence, expect phone calls and meetings and encourage these so you can reassure parents with concerns, and where possible, include the students in presenting the positive aspects of the change. And at all cost avoid confrontation!
Manage student expectation
We deliberately consulted with parents first although ran pilots with 3 classes who were allowed to take the iPads home during the consultation period. We were clear with students and parents had to sign our iPads for learning agreement. We recruited student digital leaders to help and they were amazing advocates.
Gear up for admin
If necessary, ensure you prepare for any additional administration. With our iPad scheme this was considerable, spreadsheets were created, for all the aspects, finance, distribution, learning agreement, repairs etc and temporary staff employed to support the whole process
Invest in network
For the iPad scheme we invested £100K in our switches, servers and wireless. Change of this scale was significant and required a commitment to the long-term plan. Dependant on the change you are considering, particularly in technology, be sure to go in with your eyes open.
Deployment of any change requires a considered and detailed plan in place to prepare for all eventualities. Trial any significant launch with small groups of students and refine before going live in the whole school. Ensure there are clear guides or video instruction and ensure all effected feel prepared and ready for the shiny new approach or process.
Recognise that the journey continues – consult – implement – embed. Continue to invest in teachers. Learn from students and other users. Refine. Test. Improve.
I now work for Concept4 a digital design and marketing agency working with schools designing websites, apps and a whole range of digital solutions. My role as account director for Homework4, a digital online, student, teacher and parent homework planner, Concept4 developed for Harrogate Grammar School and the Red Kite Learning Trust has brought many new challenges. However, all my previous experience of implementing change has be a real bonus when working with schools and being able to advise and support through implementing the change for a paper planner to out digital one.
Stephen Woollard – Account director and Educational consultant Homework4
If you would like to find out more about Homework4 and discuss our free, no obligation 6-week trial, please don’t hesitate to get in contact via our website ….