How to Lead Change…?
A year ago my school became a Google school. This decision was going to directly affect 220 teachers and around 1,000 of the school´s 1,600 students. The decision wasn’t easy to reach, especially since there were several members of our leadership team that hadn’t had the opportunity to experience the potential of the Google Suite for Education.
So how did we get to this point and how did the first year of training go?
Our tech plan was outdated and needed to be revised, so the tech committee was assigned to come up with a first draft. To begin, we started visiting other schools in the area and looking at various examples of what other schools abroad were doing to innovate educational practices through technology. We discovered the U.S 2016 National Education Technology Plan, (2017 version here) which provided a panoramic view encompassing essential aspects that enable learning through technology. The first aspect to focus on was leadership. How can new educational practices and core ideas about innovation in education be implemented in school if the leadership team does not have experience with these changes? How would new projects be funded and supported if important decision-makers in the school weren’t completely convinced with the idea of a technology-infused education?
So we began with the school’s mission, which stated the desire to be a “regional leader in education through innovation…”. We latched onto the word, “innovation” in order to have a way in with the leadership team.
Successful schoolwide technology integration ultimately requires a schoolwide cultural shift in which good teaching means using technology effectively (Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Levin and Wadmany, 2008).
There were sixteen people on the team, including me, that needed to communicate and share ideas with each other. We started by giving the leadership team a Google account so we could start sharing documents and collaborating. This was an eye-opener for everyone. We no longer had to create several copies of the same document and keep track of the latest version. We could collaborate on the same document and be informed of the changes in real time. Google Drive and Docs were a hit. The most difficult thing for everyone was to understand the different settings for sharing and how every document had a unique place (URL) in the cloud. There were moments where people felt frustrated, especially when they couldn’t do something that they already knew how to do on the Microsoft Office 365 platform. So during this process, we needed to go back to the idea that we were learning, and that learning (not knowing) for some was a “vulnerable, uncomfortable state”. We needed to trust that the struggle was an opportunity to problem solve and empathize with what the teachers were going to go through when they faced similar moments. So, as a team, we use the phrase, “We are learning, so we don’t know everything about Google Apps YET.
When we launch Google Apps for Education with teachers, we made sure to introduce the Google Suite Trainer Chrome Extension so teachers could learn at the moment they needed to learn on their own. However, my job as a Tech Coach became even more important at this stage. I needed to model, teach and accompany my teachers in the process of learning how to use Google, so they felt comfortable enough to launch it with their students. My school also used Schoology, a Learning Management Platform, that integrates Google Apps seamlessly. In here, I gathered and created resources that teachers could use for their own learning and for their students. I met with teachers regularly, but I also included tutorials for those that needed them.
— Carolin Escobar (@carolin_escobar) August 25, 2016
The most effective way I found for teachers to experience the power of Google Apps was for them to be involved in the organization of a student conference about the United Nations Global Goals. We put together an online sign-up conference (grades 4 – 6) with the objective of informing and motivating activism and global consciousness in our students. Each teacher facilitated a workshop and students were to choose their own sessions by signing up online prior the conference. As a result, teachers learned to organize a conference for 350 students by:
- Sharing documents in Google Docs (to create a collaborative Conference Schedule)
- Embedding links in a document
- Revising history for a file (A few students made mistakes when signing up for the session, so teachers needed to use this feature to find where the mistake was made)
- Finding files in Google Drive (Some students lost the list of sessions so teachers helped solve this problem)
— Carolin Escobar (@carolin_escobar) April 6, 2017
— Tim Long (@TimLongEDU2) April 7, 2017
The previous academic year was full of excitement and challenges after becoming a Google school. It was essential that the leadership team was onboard with all their support for the change. It helped immensely that the decision to adopt Google was an institutional goal, and that the leadership members effectively modeled how they were also learning along with the rest of the staff. Together we began to understand what it takes to lead changes; we learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.