The School ‘Chief Digital Officer’

Back view image of young businessman standing against business sketch

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Every digital school needs a senior staff member responsible for daily providing the school community the digital ecosystem that will enable it to realise its shaping educational and digital vision.

It is not a job for a committee.

It is a task for a high level professional educator.

It doesn’t matter what title the position carries – be it deputy head, e-learning coordinator, director of information services, digital technology or CDO – what is important is to have a person with operational responsibility for all facets of the school’s digital operations.

What is critical is that the school has an astute, visionary senior educator with good people skills and a high degree of digital expertise responsible for shaping, operating and growing the school’s digital ecosystem.

Business and many large public sector organisations are appointing high-level, very well paid chief digital officers (CDOs) to shape and coordinate all the digital operations of the organisation and to ensure all are directed to assisting realise the desired vision (Lee, 2016).

Tellingly all the successful pathfinder schools unwittingly have had such a person, albeit under different titles, with all having long abandoned the reliance on the part time ICT committee.

The provision of an apposite, ever evolving, increasingly powerful and productive school digital ecosystem that meets the particular needs of the school is a highly challenging task. It requires a leader and a team willing to actively support the distributed control of teaching, learning and resourcing that can provide the desired digital expertise, direction setting, infrastructure, services and support.

What is critical is having an educator who shares the principal’s digital vision and macro understanding of the workings of the school, with a strong awareness of the digital, able to work collaboratively with an empowered staff in providing the apposite tightly integrated digital platform.

The position requires an appreciation of the school’s shaping educational vision, the kind of digitally based ecosystem and school culture that will best realise that vision and the facility to provide the total digitally empowered school community the apposite, ever evolving, seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem.

It most assuredly does not require an ‘ICT expert’ who unilaterally decides what technology all in the school will use.

Critically it needs a visionary educator able to collaborate with a digitally empowered staff, students and parents, ensuring all are provided with the opportunity to fly with the digital, who can simultaneously govern the school’s use of the digital and ensure multiple systems and offerings are appropriately integrated and refreshed.

It should go without saying schools won’t evolve digitally and be able to govern the astute whole of school community use of the digital with a part time, invariably ‘bolt-on’ ICT committee. It is a job for the professionals with the time needed to fulfil this critical role.

If you still have an ICT committee get rid of it ‘tomorrow’, appoint the requisite professionals and integrate all matters digital into the everyday workings and growth of the school.

The role of ‘CDO’ is – as elaborated upon in The Chief Digital Officer and the Governance of the School Digital Ecosystem (Lee, 2016) – and the now many business management publications – is a demanding job, requiring a special talent and a skill set rarely if ever taught at the postgraduate level in education faculties.

Most in the role have like the digital leaders learnt on the job, invariably supported by astute heads.

It is highly likely at this point in time that you too will need to grow such a person. Look to mentors who can assist that growth.

We’ve gone out on a limb and stressed the school CDO needs first and foremost to be an educator, with a strong understanding of the total workings of the school, very good people skills and a high level understanding of the digital. One can readily grow the digital understanding but not the high level educational.

Our message for all school leaders embarking on the digital evolutionary journey is to find very early in the piece a ‘chief digital officer’ who can translate the vision into reality.

Bibliography

 

Pathfinder Schools Enter the New Frontier

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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The first of the pathfinder schools are entering a new historic frontier, taking schooling into the world of the unknown.

Importantly they are very well prepared to make that move and thrive with the on-going uncertainty, evolution and organisational transformation.

It is a development that governments and education’s decision makers would do well to recognise and to build upon.

One is talking about those as yet rare schools that have moved beyond the Digital Normalisation stage where they normalised the whole of school community use of the digital and which are building upon that digital platform to provide an as yet embryonic 24/7/365 mode of schooling (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

In so doing they are entering a world where no schools have entered and which from hereon the early adopter schools, as self regulating units, will be obliged to continually shape their desired future.

It is a new reality that the digital masters in business have learned to thrive within but it is something very new – and possibly very scary – for traditionally risk adverse education policy makers. Digitally evolved organisations exchange the certainty of hierarchical control for trusting relationships where improvement is devolved by empowering staff, with apparently more scope for failure but in reality far more success, from the breadth and depth of innovation well outweighing the risks

What lies ahead for those schools, what form the schools, as ever evolving complex adaptive systems, that are interfacing with all manner of other digital ecosystems within an increasingly socially networked world will take no one knows. The futurists can make their guesses but that is all they can do. Yes the schools will be able to benefit from some research on specific teaching initiatives but always the research’s relevance will need to be adjudged in context.

Significantly the pathfinder schools in their shaping of their digitally based socially networked ecosystems have unwittingly readied themselves to thrive in the unknown.

The pathfinder schools have positioned themselves to continually thrive and take advantage of the virtually endless educational options opened by the Digital Revolution by;

  • taking control of their own growth,
  • embracing a culture of change,
  • empowering their communities,
  • identifying and focussing on the desired shaping educational vision,
  • collaborating closely with and listening to their clients,
  • distributing the control of the teaching,
  • learning and resourcing,
  • building a strong underpinning digital base
  • and normalising the whole of school community use of the digital.

The schools are by virtue of their digital normalisation free of most of the constructs of the paper based world and its strong ‘site’ based thinking (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994) and are of a mind to continually attune their operations to the changing environment.

They are finally in the position, as largely autonomous self regulating units, to exercise considerable control in shaping the mode of schooling – the school ecosystem – that they believe will best meet the needs of their students in an increasingly sophisticated digital and socially networked society.

We say ‘considerable control’ advisedly because although the pathfinders are developmentally years ahead of the government decision makers and have in many areas become the de facto policy makers they, like all other schools are obliged to work with a suit of givens. All for example will be constrained by the resourcing, staffing agreements, physical plant, the obligation to care for the students within a specified time and the laws of the land, to name but a few of those givens.

We also say ‘considerable control’ because the schools are very much part of a wider continually evolving digital and socially networked society, impacted by all the forces at play in the society. They are also complex adaptive systems that will experience considerable and likely increasing natural growth and transformation – much of which will be common of schools at this evolutionary stage globally (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

That said the pathfinders have shown their ability to shed the ways of the traditional paper based school and to shape increasingly sophisticated digitally based school ecosystems with the agility to thrive in the seeming chaos of the frontier. They have become the type of self-regulating unit that Helbing (2014) has flagged as being essential to future organisational growth and evolution in the Digital Revolution, where the pace of change and degree of uncertainty renders the traditional centrally controlled bureaucracy archaic.

The key is for all to recognise that the pathfinder schools, like their counterparts in business will from hereon – largely regardless of the dictates of government – work in unchartered territory, taking charge of their own growth and evolution, heavily dependent on the professional staff collaborating closely with an empowered community in identifying the best way forward.

It also important that governments in particular appreciate that these schools are well prepared to continually thrive within the unchartered frontier and that government instead of relying on the traditional ‘expert’ committee that invariably identifies the way forward by looking through the rear vision mirror would do well to learn from and actively support the pathfinders.

What is clearly apparent is that the schools and their communities have through astute leadership been readied to enter the new frontier with their minds open, accepting of on –going change and evolution, with an organisational form and culture that allows them to readily adjust course when required.

They are not aberrant outliers but a vital insight into how all schools can be readied to continually thrive in a rapidly evolving digital and networked society, where no one can tell with certainty what lies ahead.

In many respects the pathfinders in schooling are no different to their counterparts in architecture or engineering in that they provide the later adopter organisations an important understanding of the evolutionary path ahead.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages: Evolution within the Threads, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com
  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

 

 

Teaching in a Digital School: the Differences and Attributes Needed

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Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Teaching in schools that have moved to a digital operational base – schools that have gone digital – is appreciably different to teaching in the traditional paper based school and is on trend to become evermore so.

It is a difference requiring of the teachers a suite of skills and mindset that few teaching institutes, national teaching standards or indeed teacher education organisations appear to recognise as being required. Explore the work of the teachers in the pathfinder schools in the US, UK, NZ or Australia and you’ll see they are all of their own volition rapidly developing a suite of distinct attributes to assist them thrive and grow professionally in a rapidly evolving digital and socially networked society.

Critically it is the schools and the teachers therein, and not the authorities that have recognised the need and nurtured the growth of the new attributes. Once again it is the pathfinder schools and not those charged with the job that are acting as the policy developers (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

Globally there is still within most education authorities and teacher training bodies the all-pervasive sense that all schools are the same, and will remain so, with the teaching skills of the past continuing to be appropriate.

Digitally evolving schools, as we have underscored, are fundamentally different to the traditional paper based school. Where the latter has been characterised by their:

  • constancy, continuity and inflexibility
  • adverseness to risk and change
  • insularity
  • fixation on the teaching within the physical place called school
  • unilateral control of the teaching
  • solitary teachers teaching class groups, invariably behind closed doors, for X hours a week for Y days a year

the digital

  • are increasingly socially networked 24/7/365 operations
  • are ever evolving, highly agile, embracing a culture of change and willing to take risks
  • have distributed the control of the teaching and learning
  • are beginning to genuinely collaborate with all the teachers of the young – the parents, grandparents, carers, community organisations and the children themselves – from birth onwards in the provision of an increasingly personalised apposite 21st century holistic education.

The traditional is about solitary teachers, working with mass groups of children, moving along a clearly defined linear teaching path while the digital and socially networked (Lee and Finger, 2010) is working towards ever greater collaboration, marrying the teaching of the school with that of the home, becoming increasingly personalised and understanding that learning and teaching can occur anywhere, anytime 24/7/365, with much non-linear in nature.

Vitally the mindset and expectations of the teachers are fundamentally different. The traditional teaching is inward looking, concerned with only that within the school walls, in the operational hours, often within one’s own silo, where it is a given that the teachers will control what will be taught and assessed and will work only with the resources provided.

The teacher’s thinking in the digital is socially networked, flexible, outward looking, seeking to draw upon the apposite local and global community resources, at times messy and seemingly chaotic, highly collaborative and yet tightly integrated where the teachers, while playing a lead role, understand the benefits of distributing the control of the teaching and learning and genuinely trusting the other teachers of the young (Lee and Ward, 2013).

Where teachers with an analogue mindset (Bhaduri and Fischer, 2015) believe their job is to dutifully follow the established ways and focus on their part of the production line those with a digital mindset believe anything is possible educationally in a rapidly evolving world and that they should as professionals strive to continually provide each child an ever better education.

Teachers thriving in the digital and socially networked schools

  • possess many of the attributes that have always distinguished good teachers
  • have skills which while always important have taken on a heightened significance
  • are developing a suite of new attributes for ever-evolving, more tightly integrated digitally based school ecosystems.

Conscious of the volumes already written on traditional attributes our focus is on those that have assumed greater importance and the new. Mishra and Koehler’s work in their on TPACK (http://www.tpck.org) (Finger and Jamison-Proctor, 2010) succinctly encapsulate the ‘traditional’ attributes that will always be required of good teachers. Teachers have to know the pertinent content, require excellent pedagogy, relate well with the young and have very good people skills. But as the research on the pathfinder attests teachers in digital and socially networked schools have decided they need additional attributes, to place greater store on some of the old and to shed the dated (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

Most of the attributes, as one could surmise, relate to working within a digital and socially networked rather than an insular paper based operational paradigm, and thriving in a world of on-going and often uncertain evolution.

Perhaps the greatest change is attitudinal with the teachers globally adopting a mindset that will enable them to provide an apposite, ever better education while the nature of schooling is continually evolving and being transformed.

It bears underscoring for those embarking on the digital evolutionary journey that the following are the main attributes that those within the pathfinder schools globally have chosen to develop, and to develop primarily on the job, in context.

They are not the construct of government or the educational bureaucracy, but rather those of schools and teachers meeting their needs in an evolving world.

  • * Digital and socially networked mindset

This skill, this outlook is core to successful teaching in a socially networked school community.

The having of a socially networked, a digital mindset (Bhaduri and Fischer, 2015), of seeking solutions in and for a networked organisation and society rather than simply seeking the answer or resources in-house is one of the attribute that sets the teachers apart from colleagues in traditional schools (Lee and Ward, 2013). It is mode of thinking that appears to emerge primarily from working within a digitally based and socially networked culture, where the leadership, the teachers and the wider school community work naturally in a networked paradigm.

  • Thriving on chaos and change

The schooling of the young in an ever evolving at times uncertain and seemingly chaotic world has obliged the teachers to embrace and to thrive upon the excitement of on-going evolution and the opening of new, as yet unseen vistas. It requires them to better understand the evolution of schools as complex adaptive systems, the natural growth, the uncertainty, the seeming mess and chaos, and to grasp the opportunities continually being opened.

This becomes particular important when the early adopter schools move beyond the Digital Normalisation evolutionary stage and operate, like the digital masters in industry, forever in unchartered waters.

  • Empowered professional

The new environment requires teachers to be empowered professionals, capable of taking charge of their own teaching and growth, able to contribute to the workings and evolution of higher order, increasingly integrated and complex schools, while also assisting empower and grow all within the school’s community (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

The teachers are longer underused micro managed line workers.

  • Macro understanding of school evolution

Integrated ecosystems have meant all the teachers, and not simply those atop the apex understand the purpose and macro workings of the total operation, as well as being expert in their designated area/s of responsibility.

That expectation applies from day one.

  • Independent risk taker

It has slowly but surely become apparent the teachers need to be independent thinkers, willing and able to take advantage of the rapidly evolving scene to try new ways of teaching, singly, with other colleagues, or as part of a team.

Vitally they have had to be willing to take risks in their quest to enhance the teaching, understanding that at times mistakes will be made and that they will learn from that experience. This as you’ll appreciate is antithetical to the traditional approach but as the literature on networked organisations suggested twenty years ago (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994) will be increasingly vital.

  • Willingness to question

Allied has been the willingness and confidence of empowered staff to question every school practise and operation – particularly those of the paper based school – and to regularly ask if there are not better, more effective, efficient and productive ways.

  • Networker

Related has been the importance of teachers being able to network, to use one’s social networks, contacts and social capital. While that has always been an important skill that rarely rated a mention in the traditional teaching standards the ability is vital in socially networked school communities where the teachers are daily be collaborating with all manner of people and groups.

  • Collaborator

While good people skills and the ability to work with moderate needs in teams have always been important the facility for teachers to collaborate aptly with all within the school’s community has become essential. As Lee and Ward reveal in their study on Collaboration in learning (2013) while that is so most teachers have in their teaching worked alone and have some distance to travel before they to develop the sophisticated kind of collaboration found in many other organisations (Beyerling and Harris, 2004), (Hansen, 2009).

  • Digital teaching base

All the teachers – permanent and casual – have had to normalise the use of the apposite digital technology in their everyday teaching and administration, and to continually update their operational proficiency.

It is not an option.

That said, the teachers like the students and the parents, will work increasingly within a technology agnostic environment, where all within the school community are able to work with their preferred ever evolving suite of digital technologies.

  • Politically aware

The rapidly evolving, ever changing, increasingly integrated school ecosystems where the staff is empowered and encouraged to ‘fly’, and where there is extensive daily collaboration, social networking and on-going planned and natural organisational evolution teachers has highlighted the importance of all teachers being small ‘p’ politically aware. They have recognised that they need not only to be aware of the sensitivities associated with organisational growth and change, and of pursuing the school’s shaping vision but of being able to politic their own initiatives with their colleagues.

  • Distributor of educational control

Another major difference between the teaching in the digital and paper based mode is the teacher’s willingness to distribute the control of the teaching and learning process; to cede some of their traditional power and rely increasingly on their educational expertise and leadership rather than their position in the hierarchy. It is an attribute; a mindset that some teachers appear to have struggled to accept or develop, particularly in school cultures where the ‘masters’ word has always been final.

  • Preparedness to trust

That delegation of responsibility has seen the teachers work increasingly from a position of trust, trust in and respect for colleagues, the parents, carers, grandparents and community mentors and vitally the children, and the recognition that virtually every parent – regardless of their situation – has worked from birth onwards providing the best educationally for their children.

Interestingly the history of the use of electronic and digital instructional technology in schools over the last century has been characterised by distrust, of the children, their parents and in many instances the vast majority of teachers (Lee and Winzenried, 2009).

It is now clear trust is core to digital evolution of schooling (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

  • Lead teacher

All teachers, and not just the experienced need in tightly integrated school ecosystems to begin playing a lead teacher role from the first day in the school, ensuring all staff can play a leadership role and contribute to the on-going evolution of the school’s ecology.

  • Eternal quest for the ideal

This has been evident in good teachers for thousands of years, but it has become ever more important as the schools moved from their world of constancy to become ever evolving, ever transforming higher order schools.

  • Unerring focus on the desired educational benefits

Linked has been the imperative of all teachers focussing in all they do to on assist realise the school’s shaping education vision.

Where traditionally that vision had had a backseat to the external exams as the schools evolve and integrate operations so the vision and the attainment of the desired learning benefits take greater prominence.

  • Flexible and agile

In evolving schools where there are often no maps to show the way the and the teachers collectively need collaborate to shape the path ahead the teachers appreciate the need to soon be flexible, agile, and willing to try alternative routes.

  • Reflective practitioner

While this attribute has long been expected of school leaders (Schon, 1987) with all staff empowered and expected to lead so what we see emerging is all teachers becoming in their own ways reflective practitioners.

  • Networked and connected learner

This ability ties closely with the reflection for in an ever-evolving scene while the schools have demonstrated the need at times to address personal development as a group it is also apparent that individually teachers as professionals have taken prime responsibility for their on-going professional learning by making astute use of the networked world, and the many national and international online professional learning communities.

  • Time smart and efficient

Lastly but by no means least is the growing recognition by teachers in schools awash with information and educational opportunities of the imperative of working smartly and taking advantage of the many efficiencies and economies accorded by the digital technology.

Conclusion

A study of the digital transformation literature, be it in relation to the private or the public sector will affirm the importance of all the above attributes, and the need in shaping your school’s digital evolution to bear the development of all in mind.

It is appreciated many could differ from those identified by your local authorities, particularly if that authority wants to micro manage its teachers, but the message coming very clearly from the pathfinder schools globally if you want your school to evolve and grow successfully you’ll need support the development of these attributes.

Bibliography

Beyerling, M.M and Harris, C.L (2004) Guiding the Journey to Collaborative Work Systems San Francisco John Wiley

Finger, G and Jamison-Proctor, R (2010) ‘Teacher readiness: TPACK capabilities and redesigning working conditions’ in Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) 2010 Developing a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Hansen, M.T (2009) Collaboration Boston Harvard Business Press

Lee, M & Winzenried, A 2009, The use of instructional technology in schools: Lessons to be learned, ACER Press, Melbourne.

Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) 2010 Developing a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls Melbourne ACER Press

Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

Schön, D 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

 

Primary Schools Will Evolve Faster

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

A decade plus study of the digital evolution of the pathfinder affirms to the authors that in general terms primary – or what others know as elementary or preparatory – schools will evolve faster than their secondary/high school counterparts.

The current primary school mindset, culture and organisational mode makes digital evolution appreciably easier than in the secondary school where the strong subject and exam focus, silo like organisational configuration, semi – autonomous ‘power blocs’ and size makes ready transformation difficult.

Critically the pointers are indicating the difference will grow.

We are already seeing primary school graduates moving from a higher order digitally based mode of teaching, where the children naturally use their own digital kit, to a lower order mode of teaching in the high school where the use of the student’s technology is still banned.

Not surprisingly the students and their parents are frustrated and invariably they are looking for those high schools where the disconnection is least.

It is a development that has very real student enrolment implications for the high schools.

However on present indications it is a development that most high schools could struggle to redress in the near future.

While not for a moment seeking to defend those high schools wedded to the paper based world the strong suggestion is that

  • the different rate of evolution between the primary and secondary schools be better understood, by both primary and secondary educators, and the parents and students informed of some of the main impediments potentially impacting the high school
  • the evolution of the two sectors of schooling be viewed separately and while understanding that both will ultimately move along the same evolutionary path and move through the same evolutionary stages the high school evolution will in general terms be slower.

In making the latter observation it must be stressed that one is talking in general terms, knowing full well there are secondary schools years ahead in their evolution than some barely moving primary schools.

It should also be underscored that the primary – high school difference is also likely to be evidenced within K-12 schools, albeit possibly slightly later if the school has adopted a middle school model.

Related is the importance of high schools comparing their evolutionary journey with that of like high schools and most assuredly not the typical primary school. One needs compare oranges with oranges.

The now clear and challenging reality, as yet few are seeing, is that the primary schools in general will evolve at an ever greater rate, in so doing increasingly adopt a digitally based, ever higher mode of schooling apposite for a socially networked world, very often moving their graduates into a more dated educational experience.

In bears reflecting why this might so.

The traditional form, size, focus, culture, mindset, teaching of the primary school, coupled with the greater collaboration between the school and the home makes is that easier for astute primary school principals to orchestrate their school’s on-going evolution than their high school counterparts.

Size and the relative smallness of most primary schools, and in turn the significantly fewer staff makes it that much more manageable to shape the desired ever evolving, evermore integrated, complex and higher order school ecosystem.

Primary schools have for decades had as a focus the learner and the desired holistic learning of all children, and when coupled with their use of an organisational structure with set classes or class groupings that emphasis provides a ready platform upon which to enhance all the staff’s macro understanding of the school’s workings and to collaborate evermore closely with the children’s homes.

Rarely does the primary school have the largely autonomous, subject based faculties or ‘empires’ found in the high school where middle managers are often reluctant to cede their power or vary their micro focus.

Rather the focus of all staff, the principal, the executive, the teachers and the professional support is a quality holistic education for every child. That focus, that thinking is relatively easy to build upon as the school begins lowering its walls, seeks to take advantage of the educational opportunities of the networked world, begins collaborating with its homes and community, and marrying the in and out of school learning and teaching.

Where genuine collaboration between the school and the home in the secondary years has invariably been minimal there is scarcely a primary school where the early childhood teachers have not worked closely with the parents. Once again that is a base that can be readily built upon and extended across all the primary school. In contrast most high schools have rarely collaborated with their homes, they unilaterally controlling the in school teaching and learning and as such in moving to a digital operational base and recognising the very considerable value of collaboration are basically having to start from scratch.

Importantly, except in the likes of England, most primary schools across the developed world have not had to contend with the stultifying external paper based exams that markedly impact the workings and thinking of the upper secondary school.

In brief it has been, and continues to be that much easier for the primary schools to move to a digital operational base, to build upon the opportunities availed, to ready their total staff and the wider school community for the on-going evolutionary journey and to evolve at accelerating pace.

 

Accenture 2016 Technology Review

No sooner had I posted our article on school’s needing to meet its client’s rising digital expectations but Accenture stressed

…..out in the marketplace, digital customers are also maturing. Their dramatically transformed expectations of service, speed and personalization 
are just the start (Accenture, 2016, p 6)

For those interested in the digital evolution of organisations and the critical importance of people to the success of those organisations you’ll much in this 2016 research that will resonate.

Go to – https://www.accenture.com/t20160314T114937__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/Omobono/TechnologyVision/pdf/Technology-Trends-Technology-Vision-2016.PDF

 

Your Client’s Rising Digital Expectations

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Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 The digital transformation research underscores the critical importance of organisations continually meeting and astutely building upon the client’s ever rising, increasingly higher order digital expectations.

  • ‘The customer experience is at the heart of digital transformation (Forrester, 2015)’.

The Economist concludes:

Evolving customer expectations are the most common driver of digital transformation (Economist, 2015, p2).

The same imperative will increasingly hold with the school, and its ability to continually meet and accommodate its current and prospective client’s rapidly rising digital expectations.

In a digital and networked society where the young and their parents have normalised the use of the digital to the extent that its has become virtually invisible the expectation is that they will naturally use their current technology in every facet of their lives and work. Indeed we are shocked when we can’t and are scornful of those enterprises that don’t provide fast, ready and sophisticated online access.

We are living in a society for whom the increasingly sophisticated use of the digital has become the norm and which no longer differentiates between face- to-face and online experiences (Westerman, et al, 2014).

The early adopter, pathfinder schools globally have long recognised this reality, have normalised the use of the digital in every facet of their teaching and administration, are providing an integrated digital client experience and vitally have positioned their schools to evolve at a pace where they can continually accommodate their client’s rising digital expectations.

Schools can only do that, and meet the client’s rising digital expectations – known and unanticipated – if they too have normalised the use of the digital.

School can’t hope to meet, let alone build upon the school their client’s rising digital expectations unless they, like their client’s have normalised the whole school use of the digital.

Client’s expectations

With digital normalisation the clients in general terms naturally – and largely unwittingly – expect the school to mirror the evolving digital practises of society. There is for example the expectation, particularly among the students and younger parents, that:

  • the children will use the current digital technologies they already use 24/7/365
  • Net access and bandwidth in the school will be on par with that in the home
  • the digital will be used naturally in all teaching and learning, from Kindergarten upwards
  • students and parents can email their teachers
  • students can use their smartphone to photo board notes
  • the school website will provide all the latest information
  • the school will have an effective integrated digital communications suite, like all other organisations
  • the school’s use of the digital technology will evolve, becoming increasingly sophisticated, while always readying the young to use it astutely.

There is also the expectation the school’s teaching will build upon the young’s normalised 24/7/365 use of the digital technology, recognising the nature of the learning and teaching they do outside the school walls and will adjust and individualise their teaching accordingly.

Possibly largely unwittingly they also expect the curriculum to employ and enhance current, but also rapidly evolving, technological practices, and not be constrained by a dated formal digital technology curriculum that teaches digitally aware clients the ways of the past.

In saying ‘possibly’ and ‘unwittingly’ the reality is that the client’s digital expectations will continually grow and change, and will be impacted by their local school setting. Four years ago apps were largely unheard of: today they are an integral part of modern society. Schools that have normalised the use of the digital and are striving to meet their clients digital needs will engender in the school itself and likely ‘competing’ local schools appreciably higher digital expectations than those found in a traditional paper based school.

To what extend does your school meet the above expectations? How far has it yet to travel?

As a quick test envision yourself as a client, jot down your digital expectations and compare them to your school’s practises.

Building upon the client’s expectations

One of the new arts to be conquered by leaders of digital schools is the reading and continual building upon of the clients’ digital expectations.

The continued viability of a school will increasingly be tied to its ability to meet those expectations (Lee, 2015).

That challenge is made that much more difficult by the pace and uncertain nature of the digital revolution and the school’s requirement to identify and address the current digital expectations, those of the near future and critically those as yet unidentified.

In identifying the attributes required by the students in a digital and networked world while schools cannot foretell of the future digital tools that will be used they can and should have an ecosystem agile enough to readily accommodate the emerging technology and changing practises.

Bibliography

Economist Intelligence Unit (2015), Digital Evolution. Learning from the leaders in digital transformation. The Economist

Forrester (2015). Digital Transformation in the Age of the Customer. Forrester for Accenture. October 2015 – https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Digital_1/Accenture-Digital-Transformation-B2B-spotlight.pdf

 

Lee, M (2015b) ‘Schools Have to go Digital to Remain Viable’ Educational Technology Solutions July 2015

 

Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

Seek Digital Normalisation

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

You will want the school – in time – to use the digital as naturally as it is outside the school walls today, it being so normal as to be near invisible.

You’ll want it to naturally underpin every school operation, teaching and administrative.

Only then will the total school community be in the position where it can truly begin harnessing the immense and increasing power of the digital technology and the school ecosystem and continually provide each child the desired education.

That said whole school digital normalisation is very difficult to achieve.

It is the reason why so few schools globally have reached that evolutionary stage. It requires in most schools a fundamental change in thinking, the creation of a highly supportive and empowering culture and the adoption of a mode of schooling befitting a digital and socially networked society. It requires a principal, a leadership team, a staff and a community that is prepared to dream, to take risks and to put in the years of concerted effort required to successfully address the myriad of human and technological variables needed to create the desired ecology.

It is the sixth of the school evolutionary stages for a very good reason.

With digital normalisation the school reaches the stage where it has finally shed its paper based shackles – its mindset, technological base, preoccupation with the physical site and its ‘within the walls’ teaching and practises – and is operating as a digital and socially networked school community thriving on seeming chaos, change and evolution.

When all within the school’s community have in their hands their personal digital technologies and are trusted and empowered to use their digital toolkit the school has reached the position where the doors are opened for it to take advantage of the evermore powerful and sophisticated digital base and thinking in the 24/7/365 schooling of the young.

An important point of clarification needs to be made. Digital normalisation occurs when the use of the digital technology across all facets of the school operations is so natural, so accepted as to be near invisible. It is not merely issuing everyone an iPad or a Chromebook but rather is the stage when everyone is trusted to use their own kit and the focus is on the desired learning rather than the technology.

We are, in using the term most assuredly not implying that schools should only use digital technologies, or use the digital in all teaching but rather are suggesting the technology be used normally, appropriately and in a balanced manner – like we all use it in our everyday lives. Let the teaching situation always determine what is the apt instructional technology or indeed increasingly mix of instructional technologies for each child.

Silo Like to Integrated Schools

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

A significant part of your digital evolutionary journey will be the school’s historic movement from its inefficient silo like organisational structure of Industrial Age origins to an increasingly integrated, efficient and productive one befitting a digital and socially networked society.

You’ll shift from the traditional arrangement where the various cells within the school – the classroom teacher, the faculty, the ICT unit, the library, the front office – operate largely autonomously to a significantly more integrated structure where all operations are interconnected and focussed on realising the school’s shaping vision.

A major – and again largely unwitting – driver of the shift will be the school’s move to a digital operational base and the recognition of the many benefits that flow from convergence and organisational integration. Digital congruence is the key. The physical networking of the school and the ubiquitous use of all manner of digital technologies that can talk to each other make redundant many practises and quickly remove the strict divisions between the operational units.

The vast majority of the world’s schools, and in particular the secondary are still impacted by the factory model with its strong division of labour and the assumption that if each unit on the production line does its job the students would graduate with an appropriate holistic education.

Many over the last fifty years have questioned that assumption and some schools have made major strides in adopting organisational structures that open the way for a more holistic education.

Until relatively recently the major impediment to the running of a more integrated school has been its underlying paper base. Paper as a technology has major limitations, the most important of which is the requirement that the information thereon has to be physically transported to its recipient/s. The high level use of that technology necessitated close physical proximity. The delivery of a paper to another member of staff meant getting up and physically delivering the information.

While philosophically and organisationally the school might have wanted to integrate its efforts while ever it retained its paper operational base its efforts would be frustrated.

Networks and the digital technology change the game. Not only does the digital operational base negate the physical and logistical shortcomings, stimulate operational integration but it also allows full multimedia creation, 24/7/365 communication, interaction and storage – all at pace and with little cost. Few have yet to sit back and analyse the impact alone of the physical networking of schools in that 90’s and early 2000’s.

The experience of the pathfinder schools would suggest the shift from the loosely to more tightly coupled school will be gradual, incremental and will accelerate the more the school matures its ecosystem.

That acceleration will be assisted by the school’s:

  • tightening focus on its shaping educational vision
  • efforts to ensure all school operations are directed to realising that vision
  • rising digital expectations
  • recognition that digital congruence is the crux
  • trust and empowerment of its staff and community, and efforts to ensure all have a better macro understanding of the school’s workings
  • endeavours to shape an increasingly mature and powerful school ecosystem
  • daily efforts to create an evermore productive ecosystem, that marries the in and out of school learning and resourcing

Experience has demonstrated that the integration will in general terms occur much faster in the primary or elementary school than in the high schools. The structural hurdles and cultural mores of the high school are far harder to overcome than those in the primary school.

In the secondary school in addition to the challenge of changing the culture, and shifting the focus away from paper based external exams there is the invariable silo like organizational structure and the fiefdoms and their warlords keen to retain their power base.

In brief if you are leading a secondary school on its evolutionary journey be prepared for a long and at times painful graduated shift.

 

Winning over the clients

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The bottom line in a market driven economy is that every school – state and independent – has to attract and retain sufficient clients to remain viable.

The new and added challenge for schools – that business is already grappling with – is how to win the continued patronage of the client’s year after year, student cohort after cohort in a world of rapid change and evolution? As Nokia and Blackberry can attest client support in the digital world can be momentary. What are perceived as exemplar schools today within years could suffer the same fate as Nokia if they don’t continue to win over the clients.

Both are realities that many schools don’t appear to recognise or to factor into their planning. You should in readying your digital evolutionary journey.

Compounding the challenge many of the same schools and their staff appear loath to view the students and their parents as clients, seeing them simply as ‘conscripts’ obliged by law to attend the school, fortunate to have access to their professional expertise.

That belief is particularly apparent in schools at the lower evolutionary stages (Lee and Broadie, 2016). At that stage the leadership and indeed most of the teachers are firmly of the belief that the educational experts should unilaterally shape all aspects of the schooling. The students and parents should be acquiescent and accept the control given by government to the educators.

The expectation of those schools is that the students and the parents accept the established ways and will, without question attend the designated school.

That might have been acceptable to students and parents in the past. It might even be acceptable in situations today where there is no alternative to the traditional mode of schooling but it is increasingly less acceptable in those situations where there are good digital schools ‘competing’ for the student custom.

In 2016 the clients, the customers rightly expect organisations will not only meet, but hopefully will exceed their needs and wants. As soon as another organisation is perceived to do that better they will likely take their custom to the superior provider.

The same is on trend to become increasingly a feature of schooling, with the marketplace determining the winners (Lee and Broadie, 2015).

Forrester’s in its research on digital transformation of organisations concluded:

  • The customer experience is at the heart of digital transformation. With customers in the driver’s seat of their interactions with brands, businesses must create positive and relevant customer experiences across channels and touch points. As a result, digital development and customer experience improvement are two key priorities for businesses (Forrester, 2015, p1)

The same holds true for schools.

We would urge all embarking on the digital evolutionary journey to treat your current and prospective students and parents very much as your clients, as clients who could take their custom elsewhere if they perceive their needs are not being meet. Follow the lead of the pathfinder schools and indeed the digital masters in business and the public sector and focus first and foremost on the clients and recognise the increasingly tenuous hold you have on their patronage.

Putting their needs to the fore, listening to them, communicating with them through multiple channels, striving to continually improve the schooling, positioning the learner at the centre of the teaching and doing the utmost to ensure each child continually receives the appropriate schooling 24/7/365 in a rapidly world will go a long way to towards changing the focus and nature of the schooling and ensuring the school’s continued viability.

While many have advocated since the 80’s that schools should better meet their client’s needs most have not done so until they moved to a digital operational base, began lowering the school walls and recognised the considerable value of genuine collaboration with their current and prospective clients.

The challenge of identifying your client’s needs in the midst of the Digital Revolution is considerable. But the pathfinder school experience strongly suggests that if the school trusts, respects and empowers its clients and works collaboratively them in their identification they will be satisfied and will work with the school in helping identify and meet the rising expectations.

That said as an educational leader within a rapidly evolving world you, like the leaders in industry will be expected to identify the client’s needs well before the clients recognise that need. The genius of a Steve Jobs was his ability to read as yet unmade roads and identify unarticulated customer needs. That will increasingly be desired of school leaders as they seek to identify the kind of attributes desired of the young twenty, thirty years hence.

That critical task is made that much easier if the school is focussed its clients and winning them for the long haul.

Forrester (2015). Digital Transformation in the Age of the Customer. Forrester for Accenture. October 2015 – https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Digital_1/Accenture-Digital-Transformation-B2B-spotlight.pdf

 

 

Think Digital, Not Analogue

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In undertaking your digital journey your mindset – and that of your school community – will gradually change and evolve, slowly but surely moving away from the traditional paper based, strongly analogue way of thinking, shifting to a far more digital and socially networked mindset.

The change – based on the experiences of the pathfinder schools – will likely be gradual and for a period one will default to the traditional ways but over time the digital mindset will become so natural as for you not to think about it, until you encounter those still operating in the analogue mode!

Examine the attributes at each of the key evolutionary stages (Lee and Broadie, 2016)) and you’ll note the pronounced change in thinking that occurs as the schools evolve and how by the Networked stage the school, the teachers and indeed the parents have adopted a very different mindset – a very different outlook and set of expectations to those at the Paper Based and Early Digital stages.

The digital mindset is in many respects antithetical to the analogue.

Bhaduri and Fischer in a 2015 Forbes business magazine asked ‘Are You a Digital or Analogue Leader? While directed at business leaders the two-page comparison of the distinguishing features of each type of leader remarkably parallels the change in thinking identified by the authors in the leaders in the pathfinder schools.

Download the comparison from – http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfischer/2015/03/19/are-you-an-analog-or-digital-leader/ – discuss it with your colleagues and position yourself.

By virtue of brevity the comparison verges on the black and white but critically it makes the point that it is the mindset of the CEO/the principal which strongly impacts the nature of the organisation and its culture.

Principals operating within a digital and networked mindset will run a very different kind of school to those ensconced within an insular analogue mindset.

Interestingly many of the pathfinder principals commented on their difficulty in explaining to traditional principals and teachers the nature of the schooling they were providing – so different were the two modes. Even in 2016 many school leaders can’t envision schools changing. They genuinely believe they know everything there is to know about schooling. In contrast the digital leaders are highly ambivalent about the form their schools will take in future years, even five years hence. While the former’s is a world of constancy and certainty the latter’s is world of rapid uncertain change and evolution where one forever on will be leading the school into uncharted waters.

What can you do to expedite the change in mindset in your school? We are not really sure.

Those associated with the pathfinder schools – and that includes the staff and the wider school community – have made the shift as part of the school’s evolution, it invariably taking years.

Logic would suggest the later adopter schools should learn from the early adopters and be able to hasten the change in thinking but the authors’ strong suspicion is that the deep-seated change in mindset will only come from the everyday association with evolving school ecosystems and cultures.

You’ll lose little by discussing the shift with your staff, by publicly noting significant shifts in thinking but bear mind historically you are talking about changing a mindset that has shaped schooling for hundreds of years. Moreover on your evolutionary journey you will need to change the thinking of all your staff, the students, the current and prospective families and indeed the wider school community while simultaneously addressing the plethora of other key variables.

That said the school will be operating integrally within an increasingly socially networked society, where most in the school’s community will have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital technology, will have rising expectations of the digital and where many of the parents will in their work be employing a digital and networked mindset

There is much to be said for being conscious of shifting the mindset but letting the continued evolution of the school and the societal pressures naturally do the job.

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