“Unfreezing” Teachers: Why So Many Technology Initiatives Are Stagnating
Over the last six
Many teachers and administrators point to perceived deficiencies in the devices for the lack of sustained enthusiasm in tech-infused classrooms. For instance, teachers in iPad classrooms have complained that students cannot type effectively on the iPads. Teachers in Chromebook classrooms complain that the device does not include PowerPoint. Yet, complaints about device deficiencies are
“Lewin’s Law” helps us understand the root cause and how to deal with it. Lewin, a pioneer of social and organizational psychology, is credited with a widely accepted model of change in which change is depicted as a three-stage process. In the first stage, termed unfreezing, individuals overcome inertia and an existing "
In many schools, teachers are not “unfreezing” and remain stuck in stage one of Lewin’s change process. Yet, schools distribute devices to teachers and expect that they will be in stage two, where change actually begins. Unfortunately, administrators often fail to present teachers with the need for change and often do not provide a vision of what desired change will look like. Furthermore, many schools do not provide the time needed, nor a practical method, to begin to enact change. As a result, teacher inertia is not overcome and the existing teacher mindset continues. In this mindset, teachers remain unconvinced that their instructional practices need change or are unmotivated to change them. Lacking a motivating vision and a galvanizing call to action, teachers instinctively evaluate technology primarily in terms of the efficiency it brings to what they are doing and have always done. Therefore, when iPads or Chromebooks are introduced into a lecture-based class, the teacher will likely evaluate the device in terms of its note-taking qualities rather than the potential to nurture new, student-centric, and creativity-focused instructional environments.
For leaders of teachers, they must strike a delicate balance between fostering pressure to change and providing comfort zones. They need to introduce information and data that speaks to a need for instructional change. But they must also introduce psychological space that
Schools must then provide psychological safety nets if they ever wish to “unfreeze” teachers. There are many ways to create these nets: working in groups, providing positive reinforcement, providing space to make mistakes, encouraging a learner-mindset, breaking the process into manageable steps, providing online coaching, mentor-teachers, creating student help desks, and more. As MIT Teaching System Lab Director Justin Reich points out, "change happens when teachers go through a cycle of
Where schools so often fall short is that they don’t develop a galvanizing vision of how learning can be different when technology is introduced. Administrators too often expect that once a device enters a classroom teachers are going to understand and appreciate its inherent possibilities. Moreover, training sessions often center on nuts-and-bolts tech and not instructional vision. Without the vision, teachers will never reach the new mindset. So schools need to go much further in communicating how teaching and learning can be transformed with technology.
Consider for a moment all the revolutionary and disruptive technologies that have been introduced in our society over the last twenty years and how teaching has remained virtually impervious to change throughout this period. It’s not the technology. No matter how powerful, creative, or versatile a device or tool, teachers will continue to teach the way they have always taught if there is no motivating reason to change and an understanding of what beneficial change looks like. Creating a galvanizing vision should be the first and foremost step of any technology program. Without it, the chances of unfreezing teachers are remote.
Originally posted at tomdaccord.com