Cover of book
For Administrators

'Blended' Offers Refreshingly Practical Guidance for Using Technology in Schools

By Brian Gatens January 20, 2015

Work as an educator long enough and you’ll see fads, beliefs and curricula come, go and resurface. It’s almost as if everything is on a big wheel and guaranteed to come around again eventually. All except for one thing:

Technology

The steady drumbeat that the newest gadget — Copiers! Document Cameras! Desktops! Smartboards! etc. etc. — will miraculously solve all of our problems has been around for as long as I can remember. Schools can’t seem to resist the latest bright, shiny objects, especially when entire industries have arisen to provide fresh temptations.

Cover of book "Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools"So it was with a jaundiced eye that I approached, “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools” by Heather Staker and Michael B. Horn. Expecting another book consisting of, “If you just do X, then Y will happen, and all of this will be made possible through the use of Z,” I was pleasantly surprised to find “Blended” suggesting a logical, step-by-step approach for schools to integrate technology and introduce innovative classroom practices. It was a refreshing contrast to books that are long on promises but short on results.

“Blended” is a resource for school administrators learning about the possibilities of technology and school-based teams working on bringing change to their classrooms. The book makes no promises. Rather, it provides guidance for schools that want to avoid trading away capital and credibility thorough a poor technology introduction.

Broken down into four parts, “Blended” goes from theory to practice:

Understanding

What problem does your school need to solve through technology? The authors were clear that adding computers and technology to a current teaching environment will serve only to keep that structure in place. “Bolting” a computer to the classroom will prove frustrating and ultimately fail, creating disillusionment that squanders goodwill and credibility. It’s essential to be able to verbalize the issues your technology will address and explain how you arrived at that conclusion.

Mobilizing

Teams will be needed at the district and school levels to lead a disruptive initiative. What should the team structure look like? Teams can take any number of shapes, so it’s essential for administrators to create the best structures and invite the right people to take part. It’s also important that both supporters and detractors of disruptive technology be brought into the conversation. Freezing out anyone offers a contrary opinion will undermine the effort’s credibility with the staff. Bring everyone into the conversation.

Designing

What will the new structure look like and how will the technology be used? After districts have established the problem to be solved and brought the right people together (inside the best team setting), the next step is to restructure the school and classroom. There are a variety of ways that this can be done; the key is to conduct research (including site visits) to help inform the team’s decision on how to design the initiative.

Implementing

Why is it important that the physical technology be brought last into the process? Rolling out any major change in a school’s structure requires a slow, deliberate and nuanced approach taking into account all of the needs that came out during the earlier investigative process. Along with a strong implementation, the administration must be prepared to adjust on the fly, including slowing down the implementation or anticipating unexpected events like budget crunches and technology concerns.

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