Sunday, February 12, 2017

Change is a shared responsibility

I read a short article on the news site eLearning industry, Why There Is Lack Of Enthusiasm Some Employees Have For Social And Collaboration Tools? about why digital collaboration has not really become mainstream, despite so many compelling arguments. The article deals with the difficulties of convincing employees of the benefits of online collaboration in the corporate sector.

... while many organizations have been full-heartedly adopting social or collaborative tools, these solutions work best when all members of a team use them. In most organizations, there is an evident struggle to get all employees interested in utilizing these tools to their fullest capabilities.

The article goes on to list barriers to the adoption of collaborative tools: lack of value, poor user interface and too many features. All of these are familiar issues, both in the corporate sector and in public education, but I would like to add what I think is the most crucial barrier to technology adoption - our instinctive aversion to unnecessary effort when we are faced with change.

Those who are curious about new solutions and embrace change are generally not satisfied with the status quo. Some are naturally inquisitive and are constantly looking for new ways to solve daily problems and are willing to put in extra hours to test and refine them. Change comes at a cost; long hours of trial, failure and frustration. However, if the potential reward seems great enough we'll make that effort.

On the other hand the vast majority of us are wary of change, primarily, I believe, because change comes at a price. If we're relatively content with the way we work today, there is little motivation to adopt new technology. Even if we suspect that the technology may make some aspect of our work more effective, that improvement is not worth the time we fear it will take to master the innovation. There's also the fear of failure - what if it doesn't work, what if I make a mess of it? The longer you avoid addressing this change the greater the effort required and this creates a vicious circle that I suspect many teachers are caught up in today. Many realise that they should have adopted technology many years ago but now it feels like the gap is so great that trying to catch up at this late stage is futile.

So what is the answer to the question posed by the article? A lot of responsibility lies at management level, leading by example and using digital tools in an exemplary way. Fostering an inclusive sense of community in the organisation where innovation is encouraged and most importantly recognised and rewarded. Providing support to staff, both in terms of educational technologists and online support, is essential so that no-one feels alone and that innovation is a shared process. Increased use of online collaboration tools can also be a feature of a sustainability programme, helping to reduce paper consumption or travel. If the change is a community effort and you know you are part of a planned and shared development with support and clear rewards great things can happen. Most importantly, we need to find ways of sharing and thus reducing the extra effort and risk involved in daring to change.

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