DAILY INSIGHT: Unlocking the Secrets to School Change

By Rob Mancabelli, CIO Advisor

If you were faced with the choice to change or die (literally, die), would you change?

The answer may surprise you. In his book Change or Die, Alan Deutschman relates the tale of heart patients whose doctors told them to change their lifestyle or die within a few years. That’s a pretty clear mandate. After two years, how many do you think changed? Three quarters? Half? A third?

Try 10%. Yep, 1 out of every 10.

Most of us are surprised by this number because we suffer from something that social psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error (FTA). That’s the tendency to blame people for behaviors rather than systems. In other words, we assume that if people don’t change, it’s their fault. They’re not trying hard enough, or they lack motivation. But the evidence doesn’t support the theory. Often people don’t change even when faced with really big incentives, such as their own life, because the systems that surround them don’t support the change.

So if FTA is the disease, what’s the cure? Well, returning to Deutschman’s book, let’s look at an example of heart patients that DID change. They were just as ill as the first group, but these people had systems on their side. Their doctors actively involved them in designing a program that fit their needs. They received expert instruction—a nutritionist for healthy eating, a trainer for proper exercise, a yoga instructor for stress. Finally, they were given time to practice, and they met as a group to share their successes and learn from their mistakes.

And 72% changed!

So if you want people to use technology in and out of the classroom, yes, motivation is part of the answer, but probably not the biggest part. Instead, surround your users with systems that will promote their ability to change. Ask yourself the following questions about your users:

• Are they integrated into the selection of their equipment?

• Are they consulted in the design of their professional development?

• Do they receive training from experts who break down the skills into manageable parts?

• Are their technologies drop-dead simple to use?

• Do they have time to practice?

• Can they share their successes and victories with each other, learning and re-learning continuously?

These systemic features (and others like them) are the keys to unlocking the “technology and change” conundrum. In future posts, I’ll talk about how to get the ball rolling on some of these initiatives. In the meantime, let me hear about your experiences when it comes to tech and change.

Rob Mancabelli is the co-author of Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. Let him know if you liked this post by going to http://www.mancabelli.com/category/blog/.