I was really honored that Jason asked me to write a guest post on his blog for the series entitled Diffusion of Innovations. At first I was more than a little frightened about writing about technology when I looked at who else he had asked- Stephen Anderson, Will Chamberlain and many others who I follow faithfully on Twitter to get THEIR technical expertise not to offer mine! But when I thought about how new ideas are diffused in our school district I think that I do have some ideas that worth sharing.
I’m not the typical techie person that comes to mind. I’m an older female (let’s just say that I celebrated the midcentury mark several years ago!) and I don’t enjoy technology. Or maybe I should say that the tech hardware often stumps me and I have a long learning curve with some of the Web 2.0 applications. What I do enjoy is learning how to improve how I teach to help my students learn better. I was always an excellent student who finished near the top of my high school class as well as my undergraduate class. So taking on something that wasn’t easy for me to learn was a risk that I had to take in order to succeed in my new profession as a school library media specialist. Because the use of technology didn’t come easily for me I felt like I had a unique opportunity to reach out to other teachers who struggled with implementing these innovations. It was a great opportunity to collaborate.
As Kyle Pace mentioned in his recent post in this series, the human element is important. It is very critical to remember that not only is change hard because we get set in our ways but also sometimes people may be fearful that they will fail, that they just won’t be good at this new practice. If you can offer a helping hand it goes far in soothing a fellow teacher’s concerns. If you can offer to collaborate with a colleague you may just be able to bring them along. Just showing someone a new tool may not be enough. I am fortunate in my role as a school library media specialist at Morristown High School that I have a flexible schedule which allows me to work with teachers when they need me or my colleague and not when a fixed schedule says that their class will come to the library. I have gotten to know many of the teachers and know what they do with their classes. So when I see a web 2.0 tool that might enhance one of their lessons I offer to work with them. They introduce the content specific material and I work with the class on the technology part. Some teachers run with the new ideas, others need me or my co-librarian to continue to work with their classes. And, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But usually the teacher is open to try something else.
One inspiration I had for this post was from a slideshare someone tweeted about called “Let Out the Creative Beast” by Betsy Streeter http://www.slideshare.net/betsystreeter/let-out-the-creative-beast In it Ms. Streeter declares that in order to become more creative we need to not judge ourselves when we are trying something new, that we need to be able to experiment, scribble and laugh and that most of all we need encouragement. I thought about what it was that she said and realized that it is exactly those sentiments that we need to convey to our less “techie” colleagues. Reaching out a hand to those you may consider beyond hope of ever being able to grasp the concept of Web 2.0 may be just what your fellow teacher needs; you might find that they may actually be very willing to take a journey with you if you just offer some encouragement and help. It may be hard to work with someone who is afraid of change and sticks to their old habits but the rewards can be great. And what a role model for students to see and emulate you can become by not giving up on someone just because they may be reluctant to embrace change.