Overview: Learning (About) Process
Questions: Results and Reflections

Questions: Results and Reflections

The results of the action research in answering these questions are fairly straight forward. The conclusions about my perception of my role and where this leads are less so. Each question notes the results and reflections.

  • The limitations of this study were duration and size. In fact, we are only one-third through the pilot program. This is the initial phase of a three-year program. I designed this to have a small sample for management purposes. With this small sample, data is anecdotal.
  • Replicating this with a larger number and at other levels than college are still in the planning stages.

Question 1:
Does mentoring with student technology advisors through a teacher's passionate interest lead to improved teaching through technology integration?

Results/Teachers: With the two cases in this collaboration I noted both improved use of technology and improved teaching through the use of technology both in and out of the classroom.  Working through a project of their interest, proved to be a key component of the success. [See Results Details] Neither one was ever tempted to give up. Interest in their course material (both teach from their passion) led both to begin exploring utilizing the web in class and in student assignments. Eagerness to share these resources with students encouraged them to master the classroom multimedia equipment.  Batz learned how to use and incorporate our library online databases in his assignments and in reviewing of student work.

Results/Students: Both students improved their tech skills through our Tuesday lunch training sessions and then through application with their teacher mentors. Both students improved their mentoring skills: they both faced situations that required them to step out of their student role with their teacher. They were placed in situations that pushed them into managing the process.

Reflections: One point I noted was how much more effective the students were than I had been at working with the teachers. I attribute that to several factors: time with the teacher, understanding of the subject matter, and the mentoring partnership. [See Reflection Details]

I also noted how well the partnerships developed without my direction! I worked with the teachers on the P4L concepts and the application process. I met with the students at the beginning of the quarter on the general goals we were hoping to achieve. But the partnerships themselves refined these and implemented their own sense of how to proceed. This was far more powerful: empower and get out of the way. Much of my action in the process was directly related to leadership discussions in newsgroups. See below for personal changes in communication and interactions.

Question 2: Does the teacher transfer tech skills for independent technology integration?

Results: While it is too early to see much evidence of this, both teachers began to ask questions about other options. Both are now eager for more independence; both have asked to use Blackboard next year where they will have more independence, more flexibility in the course direction and resources. They are interested in exploring the e-discussion options. [See Results Detail]  The most significant change is in their attitude: an eagerness to approach technology options grounded in confidence rather than a reluctance to consider new options rooted in fear.

Reflection: The progress toward independence they both felt was palpable in our warpup meeting. Both students noted that I had no control in that meeting; the two teachers were so enthused and eager to share that they made the agenda their own. The highlight was their exchanges on how far they had come toward independence. They noted that they had come to this point on different paths ~ that the path was pretty immaterial.

Most significantly, the students and I, in a later meeting, noted that during that meeting, the teachers were exploring together what the other had done in order to see what would work in their own classes. There was no sense of competition, no guardedness; rather, it was true collegiality. They really connected.

I was content with my role. I was happy to listen and ask only an occasional clarifying question. I was not concerned about an agenda or where the conversation went. This was a significant shift for me. [See Reflection Details] Too often I have kept myself tied to ticking items off a list and not remained open to opportunites that develop or challenges that need to be addressed.  I know I have a ways to go, but there this was evidence of progress.

Question 3: How can I improve as an agent of change, as a visionary planner? 

The questions above dealt with the specific framework of the action research project, Partnership for Learning. The results and reflections covered both my change and change in those with whom I worked.  While P4L provided significant opportunities for change, several other areas provided oppotunities for my personal progress. Two key areas this program effected are my interaction skills and my project planning approach.

Interaction Skills
Mentoring: The TAO of Giving and Receiving Wisdom by Huang gave me a new frame of reference. It was the beginning of a better understanding of where and how I could change. I began to see the value of empowering rather than producing ~ process rather than product. I began to see how to listen with an openness in order to shift from rebuttal and defense to collaboration.

Lynch and Fullan's Leading in a Culture of Change gave me a key to working with dissenters. I noted, "The idea of appreciating resistance and seeing dissent as a potential source of new ideas and breakthroughs has changed how I approach this issue. I have moved from marshalling resources to overwhelm any oppostion to respecting resisters. They may have ideas or alternatives I have missed and, when I get to implementation, I need their support. Respect from them comes from my respect for them."

Another key that opened an insight for me was in Cashman's Leadership from the Inside Out. The concept that strengths can become counterproductive was a signigicant clue as to why my enthusiasm was 'not working.' The reflection activity added awareness of challenges and ways to move beyond those habits. It led to developing a working chart for progress.

Project Planning and Collaboration
Participating in and observing many opportunities for collaboration in this program has given me new insight into working with groups. In the interest of efficiency, my approach has been to come the meeting with some sense of a how to proceed. This often meant to me not only 'what,' but also 'how' and 'when.' In my thinking, it was easier to proceed if there was a framework with which to start or target at which to shoot. I could sense that this often caused participants discomfort. I did not get the collaboration I sought. I knew it was too 'top-down', but was unsure how to make a change.

Through several venues I gained several insights that have changed my approach. The first revelation was that efficiency was not always the most effective way to achieve a goal. Fifteen months ago, I began outlining an academic technology plan for Principia. I was working with the trainer and the US tech coordinator. I did not include administrators or any teachers. My approach was "Get it done and sell it!" After all, I was the authority; I had the vision.

Through observation of the partnerships in this project, through several several projects in the courses Managing Technology for Change and Leadership and Technology, I have gained new insights and a new plan for developing that instrument. I built on the foundations mentioned above in Interaction Skills with ideas in both DeMarco and Lister's Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams and in Zander and Zander's The Art of Possibility. Beginning in the fall, I will begin with the College and St. Louis campus computing committees to think through issues and approaches. The timing is right: those groups are moving from functional computer decisions to philosophical policy issues.

I have also learned to value my own skills and not be apologetic. Sometimes that has come from a peer, on occasion from a professor. In the face of the managerial IT thinking this is not always easy, but the genuine appreciation of the teachers and their interest in these ideas feeds my passion and encourages my heart.