Innovation and Change

Innovation. Until recently I thought it was something only incredibly smart people were capable of and was in the realm of inventors and entrepreneurs. After reading Red Thread Thinking’s (2013), Innovation takes practice more than talent at http://www.redthreadthinking.com/innovation-takes-practice-more-than-talent/  I was reminded of an old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention. Red Thread states, “innovation… requires an inquisitive mind intent on solving an existing problem”, and that struck me as the modern version of that old saying. When you read stories of famous inventions and the people behind them you often discover that the motivation behind the invention was in finding a solution to a perceived problem. Take the humble Hills Hoist clothesline for instance that was developed by Lance Hill in 1945 after his wife asked him to come up with something better than the clothes line with prop that she was using. He came up with an inexpensive rotary clothes line that could be raised and lowered via a winding mechanism. Problem solved.

Innovation is seeking to improve something either by adapting or changing something that already exists or by coming up with something new to address an issue and find a solution.  Innovation or change is something that occurs in education on a regular basis either as mandated by a governing body or from within a school itself. Change is the thing that keeps schools modern and up-to-date and can be both stimulating and/or incredibly frustrating to teachers depending on both the instigation of the change and the management of it.

Schifter (2008) draws on several change adoption theorists in his chapter on effecting change in the classroom to discuss the management of innovation or change in schools. He identifies various stages throughout the process of adopting a technological change and looks at factors that need to occur in order to positively effect change (p.261-262). I am going to address these theories by taking my own school situation into account whereby we had been mandated a change by our governing body. Our governing body had mandated the use of Google mail, Google drive and Google docs for the dissemination of information throughout our organisation. This is a progressive change as Google has many effective applications that can facilitate greater productivity and ease of communication however the change has not been managed in a progressive way or in a way that facilitates an effective change

Schifter (2008) notes the five stages of adoption of a change according to Rogers’ (2003) as: awareness of the change, interest in it, evaluation of it, trying it out and adoption or rejection of the change (p.261-262). In the case of my school none of these stages applied. Firstly, as staff we were made aware of this change only after it had been implemented with no time to try out or evaluate the innovation prior to its adoption. Therefore unless we already used Gmail and were familiar with Google drive and docs we were thrown in the deep end resulting in a fair amount of frustration, reluctance and anxiety on the part of some staff. Training sessions had to be quickly organised to inform all staff about the use of Gmail to start with. Ongoing training afternoons were facilitated by one of the staff already competent in the use of the applications. None of this training was instigated, organised or supported by the governing body and staff had no time to get familiar with any of the applications before they were in use within the school. There was no question of rejecting the change as we were not given a choice nor asked for any feedback.

The change turned out to be a positive one and staff moved quickly, by necessity, through Hord and colleagues (1987) Concerns based adoption model levels of use as noted in Schifter (2008) from learning how to use the innovation through to adapting the use of the innovation to meet specific needs in the school (p.262). However it is not thanks to the management of or leadership behind the change from the governing body but thanks mostly to the professional and forward thinking staff that we have in our school and I have learned a valuable lesson about leadership when effecting change.

References:

Innovation Takes Practice More Than Talent. (2013, January 30). . Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.redthreadthinking.com/innovation-takes-practice-more-than-talent/

Schifter, C. (2008). Chapter 14. Effecting Change in the ClassroomThrough Professional Development.  Infusing technology into the classroom: continuous practice improvement (pp. 250 – 279). Hershey: Information Science Pub.

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