(A pair of upper school teachers learning how to use the Ipod Touch in an Evernote introductory class at Trillium).
Over the past six years there have been all sorts of attempts to create a school wide online portfolio program at Trillium. The biggest hurdles have been the complexity of using the technology available and the ability of the staff to deal with the challenges they face with that technology.
Integrating new technology into any organization isn’t easy but it is made more difficult when people are resistant to it. This resistance seems to come in many forms.
#1. There are people who just don’t feel comfortable with digital technology in general. These are the people who are intimidated by it and even prefer to stay in the analog world. They need a lot of help doing basic things on the computer and the internet. Even when given support they feel uneasy.
#2. There are people who like the “old” way of doing things. They feel comfortable with the technology they know and don’t want to put in the time necessary to learn something new. They can be brought on board to new ideas but it takes some time and support.
#3. There are people who are resistant to more than technology. They might be technologically savvy but they don’t like others making them move to new things. They have a rebel streak in them.
#4. Putting in time to learn new things that other people are introducing often brings up resistance just because the time it takes. Committing additional time, especially in a work setting, isn’t easy for people. There are so many things that pull our attention and demand our time at work that people just don’t want something more to focus on.
#5. Resistance can come from administrators who are wary of costs, another “new” thing and the time and energy needed to introduce something to a group of teachers, students and families.
All these forms of resistance (and so many others) are legitimate and require thought and communication when attempting to introduce something new like Evernote portfolios to a school. My experience demonstrates this first hand. I have faced all these forms of resistance and learned that you can never “force” your way through it. You need to bring people in on the level they feel comfortable. That means having a good sense of everyone’s feelings and experience and then developing a strong plan to deal with issues ahead of time. If you can account for all levels of resistance and offer support to overcome them ahead of time you are going to be significantly better off in the long run.
Part of dealing with that resistance is finding allies for the project and building a base of support. While the lower school at Trillium (k-5) have been on board with the Evernote portfolio work, the staff in the upper school (middle school and high school) have put up resistance. Even when I presented many of the “wow” factors about using Evernote at a whole staff meeting it wasn’t enough to get people to commit to the time and energy required to make it happen.
One discovery I made was that while the school says that it uses portfolios to assess student work, we haven’t done a good job with creating a pedagogy around portfolio use. Some people use them and others don’t. Without the foundation of school wide portfolio use (in general) it was next to impossible to suddenly have ONLINE portfolios. It wasn’t until the school (with administrative leadership and support) committed to portfolios that we could start talking about Evernote as a tool.
What I needed to sell to the staff was that Evernote portfolios are not about more work for teachers but rather they put the job of documentation, reflection and presentation into the hands of students. THIS was a big seller. When staff begun to understand that this new technology frees them up and puts the onus on students a lot of resistance dropped away.
Eventually I was able to round up a crew of 4 teachers (2 middle and 2 high) and set about creating some portfolio allies. I would work with them and they would become the liaisons to the rest of their teams. It is always easier to learn things from the team you already work with. Resistance is significantly reduced in that kind of situation.
In Part 2 I will share my experience working with this smaller team.