The first important point to make is that the education system, in most cases, is designed to resist change as much as possible. The system has for nearly a hundred years become very fixated on efficiency and the belief in a one best way to do something for all people. Rees (2001) states: ‘as curricula standardizes around high-stakes exams, teachers become, in essence, educational delivery systems rather than skilled professionals’. Happily, this is slowly beginning to change.
just-in-case vs just-in-time
There are needs for some of the tips and skills that many change agents usually use in their work. The educational system is going through a time of intense transition as technologies begin to come to the forefront of everyday life. The problem higher education has can be described as: ’school fosters just-in-case learning while technology fosters just-in-time learning’.
There are many reasons why higher education is uncomfortable with new technology. But technology is becoming central to all life. This is a very key fact that is turning many educational systems on their heads. There is a huge influx of innovations beginning to flow into that system in order to try to account for this change.
Technology diffusion is the same as any other type of diffusion process. It has a lot in common with the process described as: ‘technology adoption is innately social, influenced by peers, change agents, organizational pressure, and societal norms. The process of technology adoption can be altered through these social interactions’. Many innovations will be unable to spread without the usage of change agents and the same is true within the education system.
There are many skills that are inherent to being a change agent which an educator is going to need in order to be most effective at spreading awareness and influence of innovations. Many of these are skills that successful educators already possess. These include consulting skills, power, and empathy.
Consulting skills are described as encompassing clarifying, negotiating, goal-setting, listening effectively, and so forth. It is easy why these are important skills to have simply based on one of the root goals of the change agent, which is to help communicate needs to a target audience. Any teacher is already possessing in a majority of these skills. Teaching is a profession that calls for a great deal of interpersonal skills. Whether those are the primary focus of the individual or not, the skills are there, putting teachers at a distinct advantage over some others in becoming effective change agents. As with a day in the classroom teaching students, the target audience should be viewed as a new type of student. To this new student type, the teacher is teaching about and introducing a new tool. It is just the same as encouraging a math student to approach a word problem using a new formula to which they have not been introduced yet. The new student needs to be gently supported into the idea, given the full access to information and the ability to explore.
The second skill for a good change agent is power. This might seem like a fairly negative requirement to be pulled into the discussion, but it is not necessarily what it seems. In order to bring about planned change, you must exert direct or indirect control, and control implies power. There are many different kinds of power and teachers should be able to understand that much as well. Power does not mean a tight-fisted control. It can simply mean the possession of knowledge and the ability to pass that on. So just by knowing about the innovation and having the ability to persuade others of its usefulness is a kind of power. Teachers, who possess those necessary skills, do have some power.
The third point that is brought up is that a good change agent should have skills of empathy. Empathy is something that is essential to the role of the teacher. In order for a teacher to be effective, they must have a degree of empathy among their students. They are able to identify with and convey messages to their given group in an effective way. Again, those are the same skills that a change agent will need. An important point that fellow teachers will be able to identify with when it comes to integrating or adopting an innovation is the need to fit in with the frame. This means that teachers need to be able to balance teaching skills (the pedagogy), lessons (the content), and the technology in a way that they can work together.
teacher = change agent
Just based on the information that has been presented, as an educator, approach the role of being a change agent, the way that one would approach the role of a teacher. The time commitment may be greater, but the change is hopefully beneficial to the community at large. Do not be afraid to get up and try to spread the innovations that are beneficial. Educators have the skills to be effective change agents, if they use those skills correctly. Higher education of tomorrow is dependent on the change agents of today. Educators can shape their field. On the cusp of such extreme changes, there is no better time to step forward than now.