In an earlier blog I considered how educators can overcome some of the challenges in adopting new technologies for teaching. Now I want to take the organisational perspective, looking at how college managers can implement this use from a strategic level.
Although not always recounted as a series of logical steps, successful transitions from a strategic approach often have five things in common:
1. A shared vision that everyone has a stake in
At the start of any journey needs to be a shared commitment, and recognition of the benefits for both senior leaders and teachers - creating improved outcomes for learners, new efficiencies and ultimately freeing up time to concentrate on the most important issues.
Colleges give themselves the best chance of success when they bring staff together to combine digital skills and expertise. A lot of colleges find that forming a technology or e-learning steering group can be a good way to do this, and will also allow you to create a testbed for pilot projects so that you can be confident what you’re planning will actually deliver.
2. Innovative practice that already exists...
Getting started with anything new is hard, particularly when you see others around you doing the same thing effortlessly. It’s easy for colleges to fall into the mindset that ‘everybody else is using new technologies better than us’. But in many cases innovative practice will often already be happening within your college, you just have to find it.
Innovative colleges set about identifying those staff who are already using digital technologies well, then go about understanding how it can be easily replicated. Advanced practitioner and peer observation can be a good way to do this, as seen at Henley College, while South Worcestershire College use ‘teach meets’ to share learnings. The college’s Darren Layton said:
“instead of the college management implementing a new system it was seen more as peers trying to help each other.”
3. ...and not being afraid to turn to others
Your search for technology excellence shouldn’t stop at the college doors. A characteristic of a lot of successful cases is a willingness to learn from external experts.
Hereford Sixth Form College do this very well, looking at how they can make the ideas of others work with their own. Their deputy principal, Peter Cooper says:
“we’re like magpies taking good ideas wherever we can find them - there’s lots of really good work going on, it’s just a question of finding the right bits for your area.”
4. Recognising one size doesn’t fit all
You’ll no doubt have heard the saying ‘square peg, round hole’. Implementing new technologies isn’t any different. Some subjects will be naturally suited to a certain type of technology, while others won’t fit so well. That’s not to say that these disciplines aren’t technology-compatible, just that other technologies might be more appropriate.
A good example I’ve seen is South Staffordshire College, which uses Moodle for its virtual learning environment. Construction staff found that this platform did not fit their needs. They did, however, like using augmented reality apps to bring the subject to life, and found students were much more engaged. It’s led them to embrace other technologies too, recognising, in the words of chief innovation technologist Steve Wileman, that:
“technology had ‘made life easier’ and avoided repetition.”
5. Creating supportive, flexible environments for change
No matter how good your intentions, some ideas just won’t take off. It’s a fact of life. However, what makes the difference is how teams respond to setbacks.
Having a responsive system that addresses what’s going well, what could be better, and what ideas should be abandoned altogether will help everyone succeed. Some colleges do this by fostering a sharing culture, for example, through peer mentoring, show and tell drop-ins, or continuous professional development session, so that no-one feels they are facing a problem on their own.
South Worcestershire College’s Maria Arkell said:
“The fact that the whole college was working towards proving we could do it helped, however, we didn’t use that on its own. Staff development sessions were used to support them to make the changes that they individually needed to make."
Change won't happen overnight, but by following these steps you enhance your chances of success. Don't be afraid to call on others for support.
If you have any questions or would like more information please contact me for advice.