Change is difficult at the best of times but technological change seems to be on a whole other level. Educational practice is personal and perfected seemingly in isolation. Feedback is available but typically in short supply. With this professional isolation comes the development of a skill-set that has been tried and tested over time. A comfort zone is established and an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mindset. A set of tools are also established and a comfort zone with these tools soon follows. Enter the technological revolution!
Change for the sake of change is never a good thing. ‘What problem are we trying to solve?’ is a great question to ask. The SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, looks at the evolution of technological integration in education. Replacing one device for another device without significant change in practice or student engagement lacks meaning or purpose. This is not to say the potential for change is not present but rather the comfort with one form of technology or one methodology is a strong force against change. So how can we achieve change given this dynamic? Peer collaboration and/or curricular change are the influences that can bring about meaningful pedagogical change. Without the necessity the urgency will never exist. Without peer support the buy-in will never be achieved. Now I speak in absolutes but in general these ideas hold true.
Peer collaboration is, in my opinion, the single greatest vehicle for change that exists in our system. Working along side a colleague in the same discipline (or cross-discipline) is inspiring and rejuvenating. One example that comes to mind is of a group of colleagues who worked on identifying the fundamental skills a student needs entering Science 8 and developed a series of activities to start the school year and provide this foundation. Collaboration between these colleagues persisted the entire school year and the difference in the enthusiasm and ability of those grade 8 students was evident. Another example is when I had the pleasure of collaborating on a project in Biology 12 with support from the University of British Columbia. The project focused on what part of the curriculum and the students put together fine projects but it was the professional conversations and thinking through the various challenges associated with the project that led to meaningful understanding of my teaching practice.
Curricular change, as is slowly occurring in British Columbia, is another way to bring about fundamental change in a system. Coupled with a reevaluation of what is important comes a reevaluation of assessment practices. Asking yourself ‘why am I asking students to do this,’ or ‘what skill or concept am I assessing with this assignment,’ is key to any successful teaching practice. If curricular outcomes drive pedagogy toward a student-centred approach with technology as its backbone then and only then will change not be an option.