Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gigi Johnson completes dissertation in the School of Educational Leadership and Change

Reframing Technology Narratives and Routines to Energize Organizational Change -- Gigi Johnson is Executive Director at the Maremel Institute. Her website is and she can be reached at

Computer-enhanced technology penetration has reached high levels at many U.S. public school districts. Meanwhile, educational use in classrooms for student learning has stayed relatively low, and many researchers have blamed teacher interest and implementation challenges. This study approached the question from a different direction by examining the use of narratives to rethink educational technology routines. I asked instead how educational organization members can change the stories in their own organization to create improved use of technology in school and classroom learning environments. This qualitative study explored how educational organizations can use their own narratives to better understand their decisions and to create capacity for stronger technology-enriched learning in the classroom. I helped participants from a K-12 school district to examine their own narratives about technology change. This approach straddled the nexus where organizational routines, decision-making, and technology cognition in education intersect. I created a two-step appreciative inquiry (AI) intervention, as an action research study, to investigate and affect this friction with classroom-based learning technologies. Through five intervention workshops, I worked with 16 stakeholders to examine, understand, and engage narratives from 22 stakeholders from an earlier district pilot study.
The intervention started personal change processes and identified narratives that restrained change, yet ran into friction from those same narratives. Embedded power structure and organizational values reinforced the group narratives about technology use: time consuming, expensive, and not part of their core teaching mission. Organizational leaders did not see that they had any responsibilities to encourage new routines and models of new narratives. Current routines limited technology choice, yet aligned with the revealed values about knowledge, students, and teaching in the organization. Dominant problem-solving narratives and power routines pushed back on AI and action research, though those methods seeded individual-level changes. From these insights, I provided further suggestions for actions at the intervention site, as well as further research directions at this intersection of organizational narratives, decision-making, and technology theories.

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