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Repton School is an independent day and boarding school located in Dubai, the UAE. The school was founded in 2007 with the primary aim to provide students aged from 3 to 17 with an outstanding opportunity to gain the needed knowledge and experience to succeed in the future life and acquire skills and competencies that might be helpful when entering a college, university, or other educational establishment or building a successful career (“About,” n.d.). The foundation of the given international school can also be considered a part of the strategy aimed at the improvement of global relations of the state with other nations and the introduction of new opportunities to become educated following the most topical and relevant international standards. It is a well-planned location with a developed infrastructure and multiple buildings needed to meet the most diverse educational needs of learners.
The school has 2,111 students of different ages. It is divided into junior and senior campuses and has a specific boarding facility with 70 boarders (“About,” n.d.). The functioning of the school is driven by its core values which are the achievement of academic excellence, pastoral care for all students, and promotion of new opportunities for all learners (“About,” n.d.). The cooperation with Repton School in the UK offers an outstanding opportunity to preserve high standards, traditions, and cultivate a particular mentality in learners characterized by confidence, courage, curiosity, and achievement. It is owned by the private equity group Evolvence Capital that provides a solid sponsorship. The school has average annual fees of about $23,138 (“About,” n.d.). It gives an excellent opportunity to supply students with all needed materials, technology, and specific care that can help them to evolve effectively.
The school is characterized by the unique atmosphere of cooperation between teachers and students who try to collaborate with the primary aim to achieve outstanding results and generate appropriate knowledge among students. All educators have demanded experiences that allow them to provide information in the most effective ways and guarantee high understanding levels (“Technology and innovation,” n.d.). Teachers also are focused on the cultivation of leadership qualities among students by providing them a particular level of independence in their solutions and choices. For this reason, the functioning of Repton School can be considered an outstanding educational experience. Along with other purposes, it also emphasizes the necessity to use technologies appropriately as one of the core skills needed for students as in the future it will become the fundamental aspect of their work (“Technology and innovation,” n.d.). The adherence to new methods is associated with the promotion of leadership via the creation of presentations or group projects.
In 2014 the school engaged in the change process presupposing integration of interactive whiteboard technologies to promote creativity, development of leadership, communication, and other skills. However, despite the significant financing and planning of possible complications, the plan of innovation failed, and the slow speed of adoption was demonstrated. Students and educators were not prepared to use this device and integrate it with the teaching process. In many cases, the whiteboards remain disregarded during lessons or were provided with little attention because of the outdated curriculum or poor understanding of tasks that can be accomplished by using this innovative device. For this reason, there was a significant challenge related to the technology integration with the work of Repton School and the educational process.
The theoretical framework for the given case study is formed by the idea that any change critically depends on leadership and managers’ skills. Applying this idea to school’s environment, one can also associate it with administrators and principals who act as the top management directing the evolution of any school and driving change by outlining the current problems and offering ways to solve it (Graves, 2017). In such a way, leadership and managerial functions should not be distinguished as they represent similar processes and actions that should be performed to achieve success (Harris & Spillane, 2008). That is why any problem that emerges in the course of schools’ functioning can be analyzed through the prism of leadership.
Change process that becomes topical because of the implementation and integration of technologies is one of the issues of this sort. In general, it can be defined as the improved understanding and use of innovative solutions and devices within the school environment with the primary aim to achieve better results, and increase the effectiveness of instructional activities (Knezek & Christensen, 2008). From the definition, one can understand that integration of technologies is critically important for modern schools and the new approach to principalship as it helps to make the establishment more attractive for all participants of the educational process (Kaplan & Owings, 2015). At the same time, there are some serious barriers related to the introduction of a new technology that might deteriorate results and slow down the speed of integration. Understanding these barriers is critical in terms of the proposed case and issues that emerged during the whiteboards’ introduction.
In other words, to better understand the peculiarities of Repton School’s problems related to the innovative use of advanced technologies, it is critical to analyze them regarding leadership and administrative issues as they are closely connected and possible changes in the curriculum that can be promoted by the extensive use of new technologies. The fact is that any new problem a school face requires a new leadership strategy (Magana, 2017). Concerning this very situation, the effectiveness of the technology integration depends on several factors including guidelines for instructional activities, alterations in the curriculum, knowledge and leadership skills, and relevant attitudes and beliefs (Lai, 2008). In such a way, one of the fundamental problems of failed integration is flaws in leadership and administrators’ failure to introduce appropriate change.
The first issue, or guidelines for effective use of whiteboards and their integration with the teaching process, critically depends on the principal’s ability to explain all existing aspects, analyze all peculiarities of the process by his/her example inspiring other educators to follow the same and effective model. In other words, the new standards and approaches to technology’s use should be implemented via that utilization of leadership qualities in terms of Repton School with the primary aim to show emerged benefits and attain a significant change in the approaches utilized by other educators (Muhtaris & Ziemke, 2015). It will help to improve the process of integration and ensure positive outcomes.
As for the second limit, or the adoption of the new curriculum, it can become a significant barrier if the technology is not considered while planning the educational process. For the Repton School, the use of whiteboards should impact the existing curriculum as it critically alters instructional activity and classes. That is why administrators should follow the guidelines and recommendation for the implementation of technology with the primary aim to achieve the desired positive change and create the basis for the further evolution of their educational establishment via the reconsideration of outdated approaches and their replacement with innovative ones (Pitler, Hubell, & Kuhn, 2012). Only under these conditions, beneficial outcomes can be achieved.
As for the knowledge and leadership skills, they are the central component of any change. The majority of modern researchers, specialists working in the sphere, and innovative educators agree in the opinion that any radical alteration of the functioning of an educational establishment critically depends on leaders and their ability to drive this very change (Roblyer & Hughes, 2018). For Repton school it means that failure and low speed of the technology integration process were preconditioned by the absence of strong leaders who were able to implement the discussed innovation, show benefits of its use, and inspire others to apply the same technology. It can become a critical element of the change and technology implementation as there is a need for the introduction of new guidelines and examples.
As for the final element limiting the opportunities for the implementation of innovative technologies and undermining success, any change should presuppose the appropriate alteration in perspectives and views on the technology to overcome resistance and achieve positive results (Fullan, 2007). From this perspective, leaders’ central task is to provide an appropriate explanation of the planned change and attain the emergence of positive thoughts among educators (Fullan, 2007). They should associate their future work with the extensive use of technology which is critical for the evolution of schools and they’re becoming more effective in presenting new material to learners and promoting better academic successes among them.
Considering this information, the possible strategies for the overcoming of the outlined barriers should include the focus on the cultivation of new leadership styles that accept the critical importance of technologies and recognize the need for inspiring people by demonstrating new ways of interacting. Another effective strategy might presuppose alterations in the curriculum and appropriate encouragement from administrators to make the utilization of new devices natural regarding the new demands to instructional activities and organization of work during the classes. It will help to eliminate the existing barriers and promote better cooperation at all levels.
Concerning the outlined approach to leadership and change process that exist in the relevant literature and the proposed theoretical framework, it is possible to analyze the situation in Repton School to acquire an improved understanding of the existing barriers, their negative impact of technology integration, and the strategies that can help to overcome them and accomplish the integration task at the high level. The application of the ideas outlined from sources becomes a key factor promoting the in-depth investigation of the selected problem and its resolution regarding the process of technology integration.
The nature of the discussed problem presupposes the choice of a particular methodology with the primary aim to investigate the key aspects of the selected area. As far as the integration of technologies affects individuals who work with them, the qualitative method can be offered to collected data. It remains an effective paradigm to gather information about personal attitudes, beliefs, and perspectives on a particular object, or phenomenon that is under investigation. As far as it is critical to collect relevant information about barriers that limit educators in their opportunities to work within the new paradigm effectively, the proposed method becomes an effective research tool. Furthermore, the phenomenological, ethnographic methodology will be utilized with the primary aim to consider all possible problems or issues that appear among teachers because of the need to integrate a new device with their work and instructional activities.
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In this regard, the survey is taken as an effective data collection tool that can be used among the educators of Repton School who can share their data regarding the problems they faced because of the need to work in terms of new technologies, effective solutions, and their experience. The information collected due to the use of this method will help to improve the credibility of the case study and can be used in the discussion of the most critical elements of technology integration. The study was conducted via the Internet and participants had an opportunity to complete online forms provided to them. The principal of the educational establishment was also involved in the research as a leader and administrator responsible for the change. A total of 20 teachers agreed to participate and provide information for future debates. Their data was processed to determine the effectiveness of leadership style, their attitudes to the technology integration, and factors that could be considered facilitators of change in terms of the discussed educational establishment.
The utilized technology contributed to the increased relevance of findings and importance of the offered case as the source of credible information related to the implementation of technology in learning environments, possible complications, resistance, and other problems that emerge because of the flaws in leadership, administration, or alterations in the curriculum needed to support the planned change.
The following section will be devoted to the analysis of the technology integration process regarding Repton School in Dubai and in terms of the outlined theoretical framework that data acquired during the investigation.
First of all, because the school is private and there is solid financing, there was no deficit of resources peculiar to some other educational establishments that undergo significant change. The majority of respondents emphasized the fact that they were provided with all needed devices in time and there were no problems with their availability during the discussed period (Frasier & Hearrington, 2017). It means that the scarcity of resources was not a limit for the process because of a serious approach to planning and adoption of change.
At the same time, leadership issues were mentioned by participants of the research as one of the most critical aspects that preconditioned the failure of the process and its low speed. The principal’s participation in overcoming the majority of institutional and organizational challenges was one of the main aspects of change. First of all, the needed alterations in the curriculum and the administrative support are taken as potent facilitators that can precondition the success of any new project or venture (Voogt, 2008). For this reason, the involvement of the school’s principal as the main leader driving change was fundamental for the whole process. At some stages, it was not effective enough to support innovation and create the needed environment. That is why the majority of educators experienced the lack of managerial, administrative, and leadership support at the initial stages of whiteboard’s use as they had a poor understanding of how it can be used and what activities or approaches it can replace (Wenglinsky, 2005). It proves the idea of the critical role of leadership in any change process associated with technology implementation.
Furthermore, the inappropriate curriculum became another barrier mentioned by the majority of educators while speaking about technology integration. As it has already been stated, the modern standards and approaches to education and the use of technologies presuppose serious alterations to be able to function in the new environment (Williamson, 2016). As for the Repton School, the problem was that the proposed technology integration was not supported by the needed changes in the curriculum to make the use of the new technology justified by the focus on new academic activities. For this reason, the absence of the background and main facilitator of change preconditioned a serious reduction of the speed of its adoption as there was no need to use it. However, the further reconsideration of the curriculum helped to align a more effective process, which proves the effectiveness of the integration strategy that presupposes the focus on planning and correlation of new devices with the would-be educational activities to achieve the planned alteration.
The extensive use of technology was also associated with a lack of knowledge of how to use it. In this regard, the principal, as the leader responsible for the change, organized special education and additional courses for all teachers who had to work with new whiteboards. This approach contributed to the generation of new skills and knowledge that were considered a significant barrier at the initial phase and helped to create the needed framework for the successful utilization of technologies and their integration with the teaching process (Bennet, 2008). The achievement of positive outcomes was preconditioned by the change in leadership approaches that considered the existing problems and offered potent solutions need to facilitate the planned alteration.
Finally, the survey outlines the positive change in attitudes to the offered technology that appeared under the impact of the acquisition of the improved knowledge related to the use of technology and its implementation in the real-life environment. This issue can become a significant barrier limiting the opportunities for change and the technology integration process. For this reason, the focus on the provision of needed information about whiteboards and their positive impact on the teaching process helped Repton School to achieve success in implementing the new technology and achieving appropriate results. The data from the study proves this idea as all respondents emphasize the reduction of anxiety levels and irrational fears associated with new devices.
The given case study proves the importance and complexity of the technology integration process and the complexity of change that is associated with it. In many cases, it critically depends on leadership issues, and administrators’ ability to implement the appropriate changes at all levels to support the reconsideration of some approaches and utilization of new devices. Repton School’s example evidences the fundamental role of leadership skills play in the success of any significant process that impacts the whole establishment. The appearance of new ways to work with students and the need to remain innovative precondition critical alterations to the existing methods. For this reason, one of the essential tasks of modern schools is the preservation of high effectiveness levels and provides students with opportunities to succeed in the future.
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