How to Bring Lasting Change to Education Through Technology

This posting is slightly different from the others.

I was reviewing a document I had written in 2009, and thought this portion would be very appropriate to share with you, my readers.

This could be construed as proof that I don't always insert bad humour into my writing... that I can be serious at times.

More importantly, it succinctly covers my observations over the years about bringing lasting change into the educational sector.

Bringing Lasting Change to Education:
While higher educational institutions are often at the forefront of new innovation, they are also some of the most change resistant institutions in the world.  For many universities (and even colleges) the process of education has been relatively unchanged since medieval times. In fact, we still wear the robes during commencement to remember our roots.   
It is in this environment that I have had the most success in bringing lasting change. Based on a comprehensive literature search I did for my Master’s thesis, many implementations of technology intended to enhance learning fail, or fall short of meeting their objectives since they were limited to technology specific initiatives (e.g. Learning Management Systems, laptop computer programs, smart classrooms, video conferencing, etc.) and failed to address pedagogical issues (i.e. learning outcomes, learning styles, faculty preparation).  Additionally, many initiatives failed due to institutional systems (registration systems, library resources, etc.) that were based on a traditional didactic learning pedagogy and were not adapted to concepts such as asynchronous learning or self-directed learning.  All three facets (pedagogical, technological, and institutional) must be addressed for technology assisted learning to be successful. 
Another factor for successful change is to promote technology as assistive and supplemental rather than a replacement for methodology that is successful.  There is a “both/and” component rather than an “either/or” concept.  There is no need to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.  As such, implementing successful technological change within an organization involves a keen understanding of the core reason an organization exists.  In education, the core reason is clearly “teaching and learning”.  Technological change allows an institution to be more effective at teaching and learning and extends the capacity to teach and learn (e.g. students no longer have to be in the same physical location as the instructor for some elements of the program) rather than introducing technology for technology’s sake. 
Thirdly, each person impacted by technological change must see personal value in the technology being implemented. Not all faculty members are enamored by having a brand new computer on their desk, but almost all people will welcome technology if it removes unwelcome tasks from their schedule, or allows them to communicate with someone they could not otherwise stay in contact with (Skype to communicate for free to a child living in a foreign country) or keeps them from getting lost (GPS devices).   
This does not preclude the ability for an organization to be technologically innovative.  Every institution has a number of adventurous early adopters of technology who are willing and able to try new things.  By allowing innovation to happen “at the edges” rather than wholesale change to the delivery model, those most tolerant of change can work out the wrinkles, and those more resistant to change can see the technology in use by their peers, rather than having it being “dictated by IT”, will be more likely to see value in it.  Involving the “early adopter” faculty in the selection and testing of new tools goes a long way toward mainstreaming innovative technology in the institution. 
The factors listed above are the key foundation for the model I have successfully used at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Sheridan College, and numerous clients during my consulting career.  It involves a collaborative approach in defining the changes desired, and requires a solid project management rigor to ensure projects are completed successfully – on time, on budget, with measured results.

What have you found that works to bring lasting change?


  1. Video Conferencing is now erasing the distance between the tutor and the students. The students are now able to reach to the tutors who are located at far distances. The students can easily reach the tutor of a far location virtually. The most interactive features embedded in the video conferencing is facilitating the tutor and the students to have interactive sessions.

  2. One of our biggest challenges is scheduling tech Pro-D. I suspect we get more uptake when faculty and staff are furnished with highly usable devices that really appeal to them. I'd be interested to hear what you do re faculty Pro-D at Appleby?

  3. To go along with the expectation of the use of technology, the leadership team shifted the school schedule to allow one hour of PD per week, in addition to the other development days. This time alternates between topic specific training, as well as Learning Communities around various topics that discuss the application of concepts, tools and ideas.