There are a number of old sayings about learning to understand another by walking in their shoes, moccasins, or sandals. Since those sayings cross quite a few cultures and were even turned into an Elvis Presley song—“Walk a Mile in My Shoes”—maybe edtech leaders need to consider the concept behind the saying. When IT leaders make decisions regarding changes to systems, it is essential to consider the perspectives of the end users.

When I was an IT manager, the concept of change management was essential in determining when we would propagate upgrades or shifts to new systems. The migration from installed software to web-based applications like Google Apps and Word 365 have taken much of that control away from local IT leaders. However, the concepts behind orderly and thoughtful change management are still important and need to be given due consideration by IT leadership.

Timing is everything
For instance, when making changes to enhance security that may require two-step authentication, consider the best time to implement such a change. Most users will understand the need for enhanced security in today’s cyber-climate. Instituting a change that may separate a number of users from their materials would be best implemented at the beginning of a semester or over a summer break. Instituting such a change the Friday before finals week would be a poor choice and create undue hardship for users and the IT support staff who will have to deal with staff more panicked than normal when locked out of their accounts. Historically, we upgraded end-user software packages only during the summer or, if absolutely necessary, during winter break. We always believed that gave the staff and students the best opportunity to adjust to the new versions of the software.

When I received pushback on waiting to make such a change from another IT manager, he said, “I have to deal with new upgrades and changes to the systems all the time! Why can’t the end users deal with it?” I responded that we were IT professionals and used to the inherent fluidity of the IT world; many of our end users are not as comfortable with change and feel high levels of anxiety in making changes midway through their courses.

TLC makes a difference
Another key to change management is to ensure that the necessary training aids and supports are in place. When making a minor change to our departmental file-sharing system, I created a short instructional video, provided a face-to-face training session that included hard-copy instructions, and offered desk-side training for several team members. In addition, I gave a hard copy of the instructional handout to everyone who couldn’t attend the face-to-face training.

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We also provided online training opportunities through a commercial service for those seeking additional assistance. One of my colleagues thought I was overdoing it in providing supports. “This is not a big deal,” he told me. But several other staff members expressed appreciation for the multiple ways support was provided.

Don’t assume that all staff will view a change as “minor.” Some will see it as a much larger issue. To some, juggling the binary 0s & 1s might as well be magic; they see it as unfathomable. Even as technology becomes infused in all aspects of our professional lives, we need to remember that many of our staff and students have much less comfort in responding to changes in their technology environment than we do as edtech leaders. We need to remember those perspectives as we plan and implement change across our systems.

About the Author:

Steve Baule, a former Midwestern school administrator, is an assistant professor of educational leadership at UW-Superior.