renovating education

10 ways reinventing education is like renovating your home

Why are we more realistic when renovating a house than we are with changing the way our schools work?

Yet how many educational organizations:

  1. Have one clear, defined and well understood vision of the final result that all can work towards?
  2. Plan the change to blended learning in detail, with a long term strategy and a (long) timeline?
  3. Call in or hire organizational change specialists, infrastructure specialists and blended learning specialists to assist with the change? (Instead of expecting teachers and IT staff to just “know” what to do.)
  4. Expect that teaching and learning standards in all areas will be unaffected or will instantly improve during the transition?
  5. Expect that everything will “just happen”, without interruptions to “normal” day to day activities; that the old can continue along with the new and expect no inconvenience while staff, students and parents grapple with new approaches, methods and technologies?
  6. Expect the change to happen quickly, and exactly on time, and get annoyed if results aren’t available quickly?
  7. Expect that even among dramatic change things will always get better and better, at every stage, instead of waiting for the full project to run its course?
  8. Expect that all staff will be prepared to work through the change, learn new skills, and rise to the occasion?
  9. Expect that the change can be done inexpensively?
  10. Expect that morale will always remain high and that people will not get annoyed and frustrated during some parts of the change?

Changing education across an entire organization takes years, not weeks or months. It is messy, inconvenient and expensive. This is also true of any major change in any industry. However, the change is still worthwhile.

There is an implementation surge that must occur. It is resource intensive, a time when lots of extra resources have to be applied to the change and it happens during the renovation. Once it is complete things will return to normal — but a new and more effective normal different to the normal that existed before if it is done well.

This is different to the ad hoc change that can occur in organizations. If an ad hoc approach was applied to renovating a large house, the final result probably wouldn’t be pretty. In fact, the structural integrity of the house might even be compromised.

If an ad hoc approach is applied to whole organization change to blended learning, the same type of thing can occur.

I sometimes hear of people say, “I tried blended learning but it didn’t work.” Well, I have heard of people who have tried to renovate homes themselves and that didn’t work either, but nobody was surprised as they possibly didn’t follow the steps outlined above.

As Michael Fullan points out in “Leading a Culture of Change,” there is usually an “implementation dip” in performance and confidence when implementing an innovation that requires new understandings and skills. It is obvious that this is part of the process of renovating a large house; it should also be obvious in education.

It is about time we realized that the rules of life and change also apply to the move to blended learning and planned and acted accordingly. It is about time we approached this major fundamental shift in the fabric of education in a mature way.

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