Q&A: Rod Houpe Uses Evidence to Drive Change in Schools

Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s CIO says K–12 districts need to drive digital transformation using change management.

As the CIO at Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Rod Houpe manages the implementation of a huge IT vision and strategic plan. He knows firsthand what it’s like to merge technology and pedagogy. Houpe, along with colleagues Renee Patton, director of education for Cisco, and Sonny Magana, founder of consulting firm Magana Education, are part of Cisco’s K–12 Executive Council, a team of thought leaders who produced a white paper about organizational change as a driver of educational digital transformation. Houpe spoke with EdTech about the white paper and the ways in which the Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving digital transformation.

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EDTECH: What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and what should educational technology leaders know about it?

HOUPE:  The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a period of disruption that will impact every part of our socio-economic society, and it’s happening now. There is also an expectation that 50 billion “things” will be connected to the internet by 2020, according to Cisco’s Internet of Things report.

This convergence is particularly remarkable because it’s powered by machines — think about what’s now running our banks, our cars, our government and, in particular, our phones. We’re in the early stage of the revolution now, but in its entirety, this digital shift will be all-consuming. By 2026, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that humans and machines will converge.

For educational technology leaders and our students, faculty and staff, it’s important to prepare for what’s to come, while equipping our students to be tomorrow’s leaders. It starts with a simple recognition of embracing digital technologies and the way that educational technology can be used to enhance assessment, instruction and learning.

EDTECH: How do schools take the leap into the digital transformation pool without drowning?

HOUPE:  A reliance on evidence-based methods remains critical. Sonny Magana, one of my co-authors on the white paper “Mastering Organizational Change Management to Drive Digital Transformation in Education,” strongly advocates for the T3 Framework for Innovation, and I agree. It’s a modern pedagogical model that measures the impact of educational technology in three domains: translation, transformation and transcendence. The framework is a great piece of learning for schools that want to make digital transformation paramount.

Schools need to be willing to “fail forward.” Once the evidence-based approach is developed, you have to know it might not always work. Evolution and the practice of digital transformation is a learning experience in itself, and that’s OK. Trial and error is essential to formulating a sound transformation strategy, and communicating those lessons is equally as important.

Finally, the entire organization needs to recognize and celebrate growth during the academic year. Use data, and the impact made, to establish meaningful goals for the following year.

EDTECH: What is OCM, and why is it key for K–12 schools to create their future state?

HOUPE:  Organizational change management, known as OCM, is really positional change management — how schools, as holistic organizations, become more efficient as a whole — and it’s driven by people.

TechTarget, a marketing firm, defines OCM as a framework for managing the effect of new business processes, changes in organizational structure or cultural changes within an enterprise. As our paper notes, change requires people to learn new behaviors and skills, and by incorporating an OCM model, schools can reduce misinformation, get more buy-in and remain committed to change.

We are at a critical time in public education, K–12 in particular. One of my collaborators on the paper, Renee Patton, emphasized the need to stop repeating processes and systems that don’t yield results. Her company learned that the holistic approach is what impacts school in the most positive way, addressing the health and needs of the entire organization. She believes OCM can help make districts more competitive and give them a smarter, more integrated way to measure change.

When we talk about change, we also need to understand our position in global education. Other countries and educational systems around the world are leading the charge because the U.S. is resistant to change. Adopting a structured approach with OCM helps us lean into the problem, tackle it and not be afraid of the decisions that need to be made.

EDTECH: With the boom of the Internet of Things, security is a massive issue. How do we tackle that topic?

HOUPE:  One of the greatest lessons we’ve learned at Cleveland Metro Schools is that security starts with people. Our CMS community members are a part of the entire process — people, processes and technology.

At its core, security isn’t just about the technology solutions a school district uses, it’s also the challenge between the keyboard and the chair. Every day, we expose our networks by reading email, navigating online, interacting with data and the like.

The solution is to spend more time educating individuals. We need to understand what knowledge gaps exist among our students, faculty and staff, and how we can train them to properly interact with our technology. At CMS, this means meeting people where they are and incorporating that sensibility into professional development.

First, identify the problem. Next, level the playing field through multiple modalities — in person, online and blended. At CMS we concentrate on this approach and use good policies that outline and address expectations. In this fail-forward model, we then support each other when an issue arises.

EDTECH: How does leadership play a role in all of this?

HOUPE:  Leadership is critical in digital transformation and adopting an OCM model. When we talk about leadership, that’s not just within the technology department, it’s also at the superintendent level. School district CEOs need to have a comprehensive understanding of the adopted technology model. Long-term success can only be achieved when the schools’ needs are embedded within a connection between the superintendent and the rest of the leadership team.

To elaborate, without effective leadership and a driving vision, the implementation of OCM is destined to fail. As Sonny puts it, the role of modern educational leaders must include a vision for improving learning with technology; ensuring the organization is moving toward that desired state; and capturing evidence to provide feedback on the journey.

EDTECH: What other findings in the paper are important for K–12 leaders to know?

HOUPE:  One of the most validating findings in the paper is that the strategies in the T3 Framework for Innovation relayed an enormously positive impact on student achievement; in fact, it’s equivalent to students gaining an additional three to four years of academic achievement in a single year. It’s also a measurable demonstration of the way that change management — and a commitment to a model based on change — can yield enormous success.

In addition, as Renee notes, regular and persistent use of technology by faculty and staff is the best way to create a digital culture among students. Once technology is more integrated into pedagogical practices, students increasingly generate the skills colleges and high-paying employers seek in new graduates.

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May 29 2018