Monday, April 28, 2008

The Wonderful World of Updates

As a SmartBoard district, we have many teachers using SmartBoards, Airliners, and, of course, Notebook software. So as a Notebook user, I am very excited about the new version 10 that has recently been released. It has many great new features which I will be sharing in later posts. However, as the primary trainer for users of Notebook software, this transition raises many questions about the value of updates.

Many of our users are new to Smart Notebook software. I have trained about 100 people this year alone. Now I need to go back to them and tell them that this great tool I showed them is about to look quite different. To a third of them, this will be welcome news. They want the updates. They want the new features. They will pick it up quickly. To a second third, this will raise trepidation. Just when they are getting the hang of it, they go and change it. They will require a fair amount of support to bring them up to the same level of comfort with the new version. That leaves the remaining third. I am concerned that there is a group of people out there that will welcome this change as an opportunity to jump off the ship. They might say something like, "See. That's what's wrong with technology. It keeps changing. We don't have time to keep up with these changes. Better to go back to the old way of doing things."

I admit, this is not a scientific study. My numbers are probably not accurate, but the three groups are real. How do we unroll this change to maximize the excitement of the first group, while minimizing the anxiety of the other groups? I plan to communicate the change to them often so there are no surprises. I of course plan to have many trainings in the fall, but I still worry that teachers will arrive in September to an unfamiliar looking Notebook program and decide not to use it.

Am I overreacting? Is there something we can do to minimize this problem? Do you have any experiences with similar issues? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Leading by Example

Last week, my colleague, Ken, and I presented at the MASA Conference for administrators. Our session was on 10 Reasons Why Administrators Should Use Web 2.0 Tools. Here is a link to our presentation wiki. Please feel free to offer ideas and suggestions on the off chance we are ever asked to do another similar session. Thanks.

The most important idea we tried to get across is that teachers need to see these tools being used in a professional capacity to begin to buy into the fact that these are important tools for their jobs. Administrators can create 21st Century Work Environments that model how these tools should be used. This would send a clear message that using these tools are strongly encouraged while also giving real world examples of how to use them. I hope the message got through!