New Technology, New SkillsNew technologies require the cultivation of new technical skills. It is not necessary--probably counterproductive--to require that all school personnel become technical experts in the fine points of CMC implementation, but those who wish to exploit the technology's potential will have to develop at least a working knowledge of select applications. The experience of both the private sector and the educational community dictate that the organization recognize the crucial importance of training and technical support for teachers and administrators (Wiske, et al., 1987; Bell, 1989; Crane, 1989; Keen, 1992; Bennett, 1994; Morton, 1994).
The technical constituency in the school community must recognize that it also needs to develop new capacities. The integration of new technology with the teaching/learning mission will require technicians to develop some substantive understanding of the mission-defined needs that the technology is meant to address. In the words of John Donovan, chair of the Cambridge Technology Group and author of Crisis in Technology, technical personnel "have to stop describing what the technology is and begin emphasizing what the technology can do" (Crane, 1989) in terms that are substantively meaningful to non-technical personnel.
This further requires that technical personnel cultivate their listening skills. They must be able to listen to teachers and administrators in order to hear clearly the objectives each hopes to realize with technical support. Technology support personnel must exercise their abilities to interact socially and professionally with non-technical colleagues. For some introverted professionals whose avocation centers on logically ordered abstractions and equipment (Kidder, 1981), such a re-orientation toward other people and the concrete, comparatively chaotic sets of needs these people bring to the table may prove to be a significant adaptive challenge.
Two implications are inherent: first, teachers and technologists may be "speaking different languages" at a fundamental level. From a human resource standpoint, it behooves the organization to monitor this potential disjunction, and to invest in correcting it when it materializes.
Second, technologists may derive more professional satisfaction from addressing administrative needs, which are more congruent with their predilection for standardization, than from tackling the challenges inherent in specialization required by teachers. There may be a tendency among technologists to let their efforts and their psychological investment migrate toward administrative support work, at the expense of support for teaching and learning. If CMC is implemented to serve teaching/learning as a priority, this commitment must be explicit and should be reiterated. The organization should anticipate and provide for this challenge--perhaps through incentive structures and certainly with support systems.
The process of coping with change does not end when the transition to CMC is complete. By its very nature, the technology ceaselessly admits new elements to the school environment. School organizations need to recognize that such changes pose both technical and adaptive challenges to the people involved. Adaptive challenges involve anxiety, and are poorly addressed by purely technical approaches (Heifetz, 1994). The organization which commits to deliberately addressing the adaptive challenges associated with change in general will be well positioned to integrate CMC with its teaching/learning mission over the long term.