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Four strategies for helping educators embrace change

Digital transformation is key to a district’s success, but it needs the buy-in and support of all stakeholders
By Martha and Dustin Jez, Co-Founders, Fair Chance Learning
January 12th, 2022

Digital transformation is key to a district’s success, but it needs the buy-in and support of all stakeholders

(Editor’s note: This article is the second in a three-part series about how school systems can build on the progress and leverage the investments they’ve made in technology during the pandemic to achieve true digital transformation. Part 1 looks at how K-12 leaders can develop an effective blueprint for redesigning education in a way that’s more equitable, meaningful, and learner-centered, and Part 3 will examine what professional development should look like to turn this vision into action.)

Digital transformation is about more than making incremental changes to instruction or layering technology on top of existing practices. It’s about fundamentally reimagining education so that it works for all students more effectively, leading to deeper, richer learning that is personalized, engaging, and relevant to students’ future.

But even if your school or district has a forward-looking vision that aptly addresses the needs of all learners, your digital transformation won’t succeed if you don’t have the buy-in and support of all stakeholders—and especially the teachers who are responsible for implementing these changes in their classrooms.

Transforming familiar practices and routines can be hard. Research suggests that companies realize the full benefits of major changes to their business operations in only 30 percent of instances. Effective change management strategies can improve those odds.

Many K-12 digital transformation projects falter because leaders don’t pay enough attention to the need for change management. However, earning stakeholder buy-in and support is possible when you take the right approach. Here are four strategies for success.

Lead with the ‘why.’

One reason it’s hard to convince people to change is because the new practices aren’t seen as necessary. Educators are exhausted. They already feel like they’re juggling too many responsibilities, and they’re likely to view a digital transformation as yet another task added to their overflowing plates.

Demonstrating how the change will benefit students can help overcome this resistance. Keep the focus on student outcomes, and lead all conversations with compelling reasons for why teachers should transform their practice—framed in terms of student success.

Maintain empathy and understanding.

Even if teachers buy into the reasoning behind a digital transformation, they might feel an emotional attachment to their old practices. They might feel overwhelmed by the change. They might resist giving up some control in their classroom. They could be nervous about making mistakes or looking foolish in front of their students who are digital natives.

Understanding all the emotions that teachers are feeling can help administrators lead with empathy and compassion. It can help teachers feel heard, which in turn makes them more likely to buy into the change.

Help teachers feel like professionals.

Teachers want to make a difference in their students’ lives. That’s why they got into this profession to begin with. Sell the change as an invitation to improve their practice, so they can have a bigger impact on their students’ success. Give them various options for how to receive professional learning. Empower them to succeed through ongoing coaching and structured support, not just one-off workshops.

When teachers feel like they are driving the change, instead of having it done to them, they are more likely to embrace transformation.

Give them opportunities for ‘quick wins.’

Look for opportunities to help teachers experience small, early successes that build their confidence. Seeing the impact that digital transformation can have in their own classrooms will lead to further adoption and enthusiasm.

Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Most importantly, technology is only one part of the solution. Digital transformation requires several factors working together to be successful, beginning with strong leadership and a vision for using technology to improve instruction—and change management is essential for bringing everyone along.

About the Author:

Martha and Dustin Jez are the co-founders of Fair Chance Learning, which helps schools effectively bridge the gaps between skills, technology, and pedagogy.