The Strength of Weak Ties

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Making IT Stick

As Instructional Technology Coordinator, one of my charges is to evaluate new technologies as they apply to learning within the context of our climate and culture in District 99. My job also entails taking new technologies and integrating them so that they become a seamless aspect of what we do.

So, how do new technologies, new innovations become a mission-critical part of a school's instructional climate? How do they become classroom sticky and how do they become the way? What characteristics must these technologies have and what is required of the school climate and culture to make IT stick? Here is my list of 7 key factors:

1. There must be a high degree of organizational readiness for the innovation. If you are initiating a new program, have you done a pilot program first, where every aspect of the program has been tested and evaluated and corrective measures have been taken, if necessary? Are professional development activities available to support the initiative? Are you ready for general release to all teachers? Nothing will kill a new program faster than if things don't work, equipment isn't available, and support isn't ready and dependable.

2. The innovation must have multiple entry points for a spectrum of usership; each of these entry points must support effective use by teachers and students. Everybody can use the innovation for something. There also must be growth potential for all, with the goal of moving every user to the right in terms of their ability to utilize the innovation for learning.

3. The innovation must clearly address an instructional need, with benefits for both teacher and student. If it doesn't why bother?

4. The innovation must add value to an instructional process. It must take the learning to a new place, a place where the learning could not go unless the innovation had been included. The process of digital storytelling adds value to the process of writing, and gives students the capability to develop voice with an entirely new medium, one that can potentially reach a world-wide audience.

5. There must be visible and tangible results indicating that the innovation improves student learning. This is the big one, and how do you measure it? What constitutes an improvement? How many school districts define the criteria for success for an innovation prior to the implementation of that innovation?

6. The technology has been taken out of the technology, or innovation. It has to be teacher-friendly, and surprising, kid friendly (we overestimate the global understanding of what kids know about various technologies). If you are going to start podcasting in your district, perhaps starting with simple systems like Evoca or Gcast (try the cell phone recording features that both platforms offer) makes sense before you start putting Audacity on your ghost or image.

7. The teacher has become a confident, active, and visible user-use becomes seamless and transparent. The teacher has internalized this as a tool, it now becomes a viable option to use and part of the teachers repertoire.

OK, there is my list. I'm currently reading Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (see their blog, which contains a post why the introduction to the A-Team was so sticky...), which explains the survivability of ideas. For an idea to stick the authors suggest the idea must possess:

1. simplicity
2. unexpectedness: an idea must "violate people's expectations."
3. concreteness: to many ideas suffer from being abstract
4. credibility: sticky ideas must "carry there own credentials."
5. emotions: make people feel the idea
6. stories: this is how you get people to act on your idea, you tell it to them in the context of story.

A different list from mine certainly, but intriguing...and by the way, how could this list be applied to effective blogging? Don't those six ideas embody an effective post?

If you would like to add/change or contribute ideas to the list of what makes IT stick, I encourage you to do so. I'd really be interested in how you perceive the list and how it might evolve in accordance with your experience.

If you can contribute, I've set up a simple single page wiki at pbwiki. Add your thoughts here.

UPDATE: how about if I include the password: sticky



  • At 9:42 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    David, what a great post. It is a wonderful reminder of what is important. At North Shore, I am at the point of shifting to planning for the next academic year (2007-2008) and this is a great reminder.

  • At 2:29 PM , Blogger SMeech said...

    Great post... I look forward to hearing you and meeting you at tech fourm. You have been very influential...

    I would add: The technology must be cost effective.

    Hey Jake... are you also the network adminstrator? Do you divide those duties in your school district?

    I am trying to obtain more information that supports the separation of technology coordinators from network administration (ie. troubleshooting, etc.)

    Scott Meech -

  • At 11:42 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Wow, something from you I can actually use! :)

    Great job, Jakes. It really boils things down to simple.

  • At 9:01 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Dave, can I use this in my Tech Committee?

  • At 11:59 AM , Blogger David said...

    Sure, go ahead.


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