I was just thinking
Change is good...you go first. Change is inevitable. If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma/Colorado/New Mexico/Wyoming hang around for 10 minutes and it will....yep that’s right CHANGE! I have always talked around the edges of change but never had to formalize my view on this issue. I am not sure it is formal but here it goes. I at least have a perspective on technological change as I was there for the first availability of the World Wide Web...not the Internet Mr Gore, but yes when Marc Andressen, while at the U of Illinois rolled out Netscape to the masses, I had the opportunity to experience that. When I walked into Western Oklahoma State College in the 1990’s and faced their green carpeted typing and ten key room institutions were hungry to deploy these mysterious technologies and were creating positions for IT directors and CTO’s When I left August 2010 Google Apps for education fueled communication for that institution. Typewriters to the Cloud, Green Carpet to Google Apps. Now as I enter my new position at Casper College we face an environment in which the value of IT departments and services is in question. I want to thank Debbie Sanders Instructional Developer from Oklahoma State University who is doing an interview project for a class on Change Agents for making me sit down and write down some of my perceptions on change. I am sure this isn't complete, but here it goes anyway. The questions below are in bold text and my thoughts follow:
1) How have/do you effect change?
2) What are your strategies?
3) What is the one change(s) you are most proud of?
Professionally, probably influencing a culture of change for my old institution. In my view that type of culture is virtually non existent in higher education Technology comes and goes and will come and go but people don’t necessarily. Having people with the willingness to “go with the technology flow is critical”
In 1999 when I taught my first online intersession course I did so to see how it would work in concept. At that time the skeptics were plenty, but those 24 students have turned into 3000 or 4000 intersession students, which has played a big part in stabilizing the institutions finances. Without that foundation, I doubt the institution would have been ready for the rapid (sometimes triple digit percentage growth from like semesters (fall to fall, summer to summer, intersession to intersession) they encountered.
4) Do you have a philosophy/framework for how you approach change?
I think items 1 & 2 are obvious if not easy, but I will add a little to item 3. It is very difficult to let go of one’s children when they mature and go off on their own. You see this all the time when kids go off to college and the bewildered parents don’t know what to do with themselves. I believe it is the same way with your work sometimes. You plant a seed, water it, watch it grow. However, it is not quite that simple. We grow attached to whatever it is we are growing. I believe we enabled Western to grow with really smart technology choices and unique delivery formats. It is the norm there now, but people weren’t necessarily jumping for joy with the thought of an open source LMS in those early days. They thought the winter intersession was silly and compressing it to a 10 day format was even sillier. However, those concepts really laid the groundwork for a well oiled delivery of quality education in a fast compressed format.
The problem for me was I remember when people weren’t lined up to support and teach in these formats and with these tools. When it really began to grown in say 2006ish to the 2008ish time frame we really began to see a need to support different areas of this programming. We first added a Director of Instructional support. We then met some more and restructured processes, beefed up technologies and infrastructure and added a very talented, Director of Intersession education which was in fact a great testament to the success of the program, but also another point in time when something that needed to be taken from me so that the program could grow. It was at that point I had lost “my baby”. Many people built the monster that supported the program, but nobody had the perspective of 1997 I had when I was basically it for the distance program at Western Oklahoma State College. Over time there were many times it had become time for me to get out of the way. I think initiatives flounder because people want to hang on too long, even though it has outgrown them.
5) What step(s) do you recommend to start the "change process" in your organization/district/school?
6) What should be the first step to get the change process going?
Know that you can’t control everything, you might do everything right and still fail and if you fail on a given project there are still things bigger than that project. (ie God still loves you, your kids are healthy, your friends will like you anyway, etc. etc. ) It will probably be different for everyone but I think this is what some people might call perspective. If you need a bullet list on this one it would probably be:
7) Can you give one idea on how to overcome resistance to change?
Change is difficult because IT directors, distance learning people, higher ed in general, and maybe all people are risk adverse. It’s not change that is the problem it is the threat to ones comfort zone. The keys are focus and persistence. In the early days of doing “Radical Technical Stuff” I can’t think of a single project, tool or program we implemented where some skeptic didn’t remark that if you waited long enough, the winds of change would blow in another new software tool, project or program next month. All of our projects, H.323 video in 1998, Moodle in 2004, Google Apps in 2007 were all peppered with skeptics who wanted to wait for the next great thing. First of all there is no one great thing or killer app so get started with what you have and where you currently are. The real challenge in all of this may be in identifying the problem, Some people call this bright shiny object disease. Every sparkling new idea that comes along becomes a distraction for management.
8) What resource(s) (news sites, webtool, conferences, etc.) do you find most valuable in keeping up?
Tech Republic, CNN’s Tech section has a great summary of general tech stuff, state organizations such as ODLA are critical and a great source of technology info and perspective. I still filter info through Wes Fryer’s “Speed of Creativity” blog. He must be a Cyborg to do so much but I am glad someone is out there.