January 31, 2014

A little edtech DIScomfort: A mattress story?

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:15 am

In this week’s #SIGETC Twitter chat, we collected our top tips for edtech coaching success in 2014. The chat hit many themes, but a strong recurring thread was the importance of establishing rapport and providing a “safe” teacher-coach relationship where teachers can build confidence and experience success.

As Lynne so aptly put it:Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.57.39 PM

I absolutely agree that coaching, like teaching, is all about relationships. But I have to wonder whether coaching is also like mattresses: If we try too hard to simply make it comfortable, it may end up being just pain squishy, offering no support at all.

We need to turn up the DIScomfort a bit so teachers will “wake up” refreshed and energized by new ways of teaching. I have been thinking about the kind of extrinsic factors that could create  an appropriate level of DIScomfort to nudge teachers out of old patterns or beyond  satisfaction with past accomplishments: “I can use that PowerPoint (web tool, IWB activity, blog challenge, etc.) every year and check the box for using technology!” [Uh oh, have you said that, my teacher readers?]

Every teacher tolerates or manages DIScomfort differently. Some rebel; some shut down; some reframe it as a personal challenge. Saying, for example,  that every teacher must meet a certain level of technology by a certain date may work with some, especially the competitive ones who want to get to the goal line first. But imposing a one size fits all goal means that the DIScomfort is overwhelming for some but a mild annoyance to others. We all know that differentiation is key. So what constitutes a productive amount of DIScomfort?

Ollie Dreon, a college prof friend of mine who prompts and prods the faculty at Millersville University into using technology,  drew a parallel between the scientific concept of being “antifragile” and embracing the catastrophes (DIScomforts?) inherent in technology. Certainly fear of failure is a DIScomfort that can induce teacher paralysis. In an ideal world, flipping tech failures (both system glitches and lousy lesson plans) into an “antifragile” positive by learning from them converts a sense of catastrophe to mild DIScomfort. But we all know the old saw, “once bitten, twice shy” could be rewritten, “When the tech dog bites, teachers revert to pet rocks.”  Only a long period of perspective-gaining successes will convince most teachers to learn from failures and celebrate the learning hidden within disastrous experiences.

mattressPerhaps my mattress analogy works to find just the right level of DIScomfort for edtech coaches to motivate teacher progress. Think of the Sleep Number® Bed. You find the right number where you feel comfortable, your back does not hurt, and you awaken refreshed. The bed inflates to just that number, and bingo! What if we ask each teacher find the perfect edtech “sleep number,” then we subtracted (0r added) to tweak the number?  Start with a true, personal self-assessment — tell them you are helping them find a place where they are comfortable. Provide whatever “sleep number” scale you want: LOTI,  Arizona’s TIM, SAMR, the FCIT matrix, ISTE-T standards, or your school’s internal self-assessment. The important thing is to give them a measuring stick to find their Sleep Number. Then — perhaps as as surprise next step — ask how they would like to change their number: More collaboration?  A little closer to “the line” or just above it? More constructive or authentic? Give them the control to choose the “number” they want to try. Control over the DIScomfort is their own, but implicit in your question is the fact that they have to try a shift from that comfortable spot. Who knows, they may find they get out of bed in the morning changed by the experience of a little DIScomfort.

I guess I should say “sweet (edtech coach) dreams”?


  1. Princess and the Pea meets ed tech?

    I find it a bit ironic that we do not allow our students to become complacent, but as teachers status quo is cool. Just fluff my pillows on my Sleep Number® and let me settle in… Ed tech coaches walk a fine line… Someone needs to start the pillow fight and push the DIScomfort, but if one more monkey falls off the bed and bumps his/her head… Mamma needs to call the ed tech coach and not the doctor!

    This is where relationships are key. After the “sleep number” is established, getting whacked in the face by a pillow is OK. Pillow fights are fun and all is well in the end.

    This is a great post to foster discussions in faculty meetings and professional development sessions. This post definitely has my number! Time to count some ed tech sheep while adjusting my sleep number!

    Comment by Kevin Bower — February 2, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

  2. Kevin,
    You must be a night owl. The number of puns and embedded jokes in your comment would wake anyone. Maybe we should include in our Sleep Number assessment a question about whether you prefer to learn at night or in daylight! I love the pillow fight idea. Intellectual pillow fights on “change” would harm no one except maybe to ruffle some feathers.

    Comment by Candace Hackett Shively — February 3, 2014 @ 8:38 am

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