[Editor’s note: This post by Alan November, written exclusively for eSchool Media, is part of a series of upcoming articles by this notable education thought leader. Check back later this month for the next must-read post!]

At one of my recent workshops, I was approached by a teacher who had never redesigned her lessons to take advantage of edtech’s potential to transform learning. She was still stuck in the $1,000 pencil phase of using new tools to do traditional work. When I showed examples of how teachers around the country were challenging students to design and find solutions to their own problems, she immediately saw the benefit of shifting her thinking.

The good news was that she was reconsidering her beliefs and was now convinced that she had been underestimating her students. The bad news is, she was afraid of appearing vulnerable in front of her students if something went wrong. Because she had never tried shifting control to her students to research their own problem designs using edtech, she was worried that she would not be knowledgeable enough to help them develop their own ideas.  While she could see the value of challenging her students to try something new, she felt anxious about moving ahead.

A Common Dilemma

I believe this is a common dilemma. Any one of us can feel paralyzed by the tension between wanting to change but feeling vulnerable if we try something new.  I am convinced that the difficult work of transforming teaching and learning with the help of edtech is not about teaching teachers how to use new tools; it’s really about the emotional side of letting go of control and managing the anxiety that comes with a sense of loss.

If we are to tap the potential of emerging tools and the web to increase student achievement, we need to better prepare our leaders and teachers to understand the emotional side of change.

Learn from the best innovations in education! Join education thought leader Alan November in Boston July 26-28 for his 2017 Building Learning Communities edtech conference, where hundreds of K-12 and higher-education leaders from around the globe will gather to discuss the world’s most successful innovations in education.

Rob Evans is one of the foremost experts on this issue. He is the author of Understanding the Human Side of School Change, and I’m thrilled to say he will be speaking at the 2017 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston on July 28. In a podcast I recorded with Rob, he briefly touched on some of the keys to successfully managing change in education.

When I told Rob the story of this teacher who had approached me after my workshop and shared her anxiety with me, he said: “It would be surprising if she felt anything else.”

He explained: “I have yet to encounter a school that is able to confidently and publicly say to its students and parents, ‘We’re going to try some new stuff. It might not work as well as we hope at first. We’ll probably learn some valuable lessons in the process. But there might be some disruptions en route.’ The tolerance for error that we know is crucial to the learning in children is something that adults (too often) don’t give each other.”

I asked Rob: How can K-12 leaders build a culture that supports risk-taking among their staff?

(Next page: Supporting change and risk-taking)


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