Change – Do Some Approaches Discourage It?

By Steve Eskow
Editor, Hybrid vs. Virtual Issues

[Note: This article was first published as a reply (11.3.10) to John Adsit‘s comment on Steve’s “The Culture of Presentation.” -js]

John, your picture is all too accurate. Grim but accurate.

We’re ETC: the last word in the trilogy is “Change.”

Perhaps we need to spend more time and thought on “Change”: how to encourage it, which approaches discourage it, which approaches are almost certain to fail?

Is the change picture as bleak as you paint it? There are computers in the schools, there are online courses and online schools: are these evidence of movement in new directions?

One small hunch about the resistance you describe:

I note that many reformers, advocates of large changes, seem certain of the failures of the present system and the superiority of their proposed changes – certain before the evidence is in.

Might this style of critique and advocacy tend to generate the posture of defence of the present and rejection of the new?

Do we agents of change need to be more humble, more tentative, less certain that we have the keys to a better future?

Would we create more support for our work if it could be framed as research, as the search for new and better directions, rather than proposed as utopias already found?

2 Responses

  1. Steve, as usual, great questions.

    I had to take some time to search my feelings about what I view as resistance to change. Here’s what surfaced:

    I don’t feel it’s bleak. I’m certainly not disappointed at anyone or any organization. I also don’t feel there’s a conscious conspiracy of any kind to thwart change.

    I also don’t feel that the change that’s coming represents a utopia. Many issues will remain even after the change is in full swing, and many new ones will appear.

    In my mind, the change will occur regardless of what I or anyone else does. I don’t think we can hasten it or slow it down. We’re all along for the ride, without a rudder, and there’s no getting off.

    All I can do is try to plot and point out the path and direction that that change might take. I’m not using any scientific evidence, instrument, or process. I am using what I think of as dead reckoning, or fixing position and most probable course via past observations.

    It’s much like determining where the best breaks are in surfing so you can be at the right spot at the right time. With practice, with info from the swells and previous breaks and from landmarks on the shore to fix different positions, you can find and remain in the sweet spot.

    Am I on target? Are my reckonings accurate? I believe yes, based on firsthand experience and feedback, direct and indirect, from the real world.

    I’ve been immersed in the computers-in-ed scene from the early 1980s when I bought my first Kaypro 2 CP/M computer. Since then, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with and applying the new tech. I’ve continually tried to use computers and the web in teaching and learning for almost 30 years, and I’ve done this following my own lead, my instincts — and with a lot of support and encouragement from key administrators and colleagues.

    So, why publish a journal on this change? Why write articles on it?

    I think it’s a natural human instinct to want to talk about an interesting phenomenon that’s changing the world and the people in it. We’re caught up in it. We’re a part of it. It’s exciting. When the change is in full stride, we’ll no longer be the same. It won’t be a utopia, as I said earlier. But we will define problems differently, and we will try to solve them in different ways.

    My dead reckoning tells me that traditional, classroom-based practices won’t end. They’ll continue forever. But online-based practices will become the norm simply because they are a better fit for the 21st century citizen. Like cell phones, they’re simply more efficient than landlines and phone booths,

    In the pages of ETC, we have the opportunity to write about this change based on our observations and experiences. In our articles and comments, we examine, analyze, assess, criticize, and praise the events that occur in this unfolding drama. In this regard, we’re like football fans, dissecting every play, player, and team, predicting victory or defeat — for the sheer fun of it.

    -Jim S

    • One thing I like about this journal is that we may disagree on some aspects, but we do seem to agree on the fact that tech is a means to achieve innovation in education, and not vice-versa – i.e. not that education should serve tech innovation.

      And, maybe one of the reasons for some teachers’ resistance to innovation is that the advocates of innovation too often do the latter.

      Example, connected to John Adsit’s The Culture of Presentation post about crazy powerpoints, which this one is a continuation of:

      Though I had an immediate gut allergy to MS Powerpoint, I kind of relented after seeing Bonnie Bracey make and use one at the I am what I eat Kid Screen seminar (Desenzano del Garda, Italy, 2002), from the notes of a participant who had been called home on an emergency: Bonnie’s was a brilliant, provocative support for what she was saying.

      However, I just finished a battle with an imposed .potx powerpoint template (MS Office 2007), which I am meant to use for a presentation next week, and which almost drove me back to my former gut hatred of slides.

      The template refused to work properly with NeoOffice (the for-Mac version of OpenOffice): no way to edit the title slide, what was written in calibri bold in the template looked like gothic script in a pretentious restaurant’s menu, and overflowed from its frame. So I first did the slides normally, and the author of the template adapted them for me. She undid my slide naming, added chapter numbers and slide numbers to each slide.

      I like naming slides, because when I export the presentation as .pdf, the names create a meaningful navigation by links. I hadn’t thought of a structure by chapters, and couldn’t see the point of having the slide numbers, But OK, so if that was the present MS powerpoint norm, even if I disliked it, I could make do with her PDF version.

      Then an important piece of news concerning my topic came up. I wanted to integrate it in the slides, but did not want to ask the template author to do the conversion again. So I tried opening her .pptx file. Still unable to edit the title slide, and the slide numbers came up wrong (11 for 1, 22 for 2 etc) and I couldn’t edit them either.

      I went back to the .potx template, chucked the model for the title slide and redid the presentation using only the 2nd slide model, without chapter and slide numbering, naming the slides. Which left the pretentious overflowing gothic script issue. So I captured the relevant part in her .pdf and pasted it over my provisionally final version (result here).

      Now wasn’t that quite a waste of her and my time caused by this present powerpoint culture? And pasting a patch over something that doesn’t work is hardly an elegant solution.

      However, I am in an independent position here: I freely accepted the majority’s decision to have an identical template for everybody, and if the others disapprove of my patched up product, they are free to redo it again their incompatible Microsoft 2007 way (provided they also export a PDF I can use, and are ready to re-re-do that if I decide to change the content yet again).

      But what if the same kind of thing were imposed to teachers by school authorities who have been brainwashed by “tech experts” into believing that innovation means using the latest version of proprietary softwares with all their gimmicks? Wouldn’t that be off-putting?

      And then there are clever self-certified experts who are offering online courses about ONE type of Web 2.0 apps to teachers, claiming that THAT type is the only way to innovation, i.e. in the same way in which they and others used to sell Microsoft-only “Computer driving” courses and licenses 10 years ago. And talking the same language peppered with English cliché words: see Tappa01-LinstallazionedelnavigatoreGoogleChrome.pdf: 18 (eighteen) pages explaining how to download and install Google Chrome. And that’s only the 1st of at least 15 lessons of “PerCorso gmail” that should make teachers “gmail experts”. Moreover, the pitiless lady also made a video version version of that chrome lesson in real time, i.e. making viewers endure the 3 minutes it takes her to download the file.

      So yes, this kind of approach is discouraging for teachers. What is needed is a training offer based on tech that might help teachers in their innovative teaching projects, and that they are able to use in schools. No point in following 15 lessons about Google apps if your school blocks them.

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