On-going evolution of schooling


Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

When organisations, be they international corporations, banks, newspapers or schools, move to a digital and networked operational base they like all living systems will forever continue to evolve, to transform their operations and adopt an ever higher order form.

In moving to the digital base that evolution will be rapid and is likely to escalate at a rate roughly comparable with the pace of the technological development, albeit lagging slightly behind.

Importantly the organisations, schools included will moreover experience significant natural growth driven in large by the ever-evolving technology, the ever-rising expectations of the users, the increased understanding of how best to use the emerging technology and by wider societal developments; developments the organisation will have limited control over and which at best they can only hope to shape to their advantage.

The evolution, as is to be found in other complex systems is invariably non-linear.  It is most assuredly not always a case of moving from A to B to C. At times the evolution appears chaotic, messy and virtually every one of the case study schools examined admitted to making major mistakes, of travelling along a path only to realise it was wrong and that another approach was needed.

Paradoxically out of that seeming mess and chaos, with each school doing its own thing, remarkably similar evolutionary paths emerge.  The six evolutionary school stages, with the remarkably common stage attributes were, as indicated elsewhere on this site, evidenced in all the pathfinder schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia.  Bar and his colleagues at Stanford (Bar, et al, 2000) found similar evolutionary patterns within the networked industries in the late 90’s, as did Pascale and his colleagues in their Surfing the Edge of Chaos (2000).

It should be stressed that what we are talking about is evolution and most assuredly not revolution.  While many august bodies, even the likes of the US Department of Education (2010) have called for revolution to redress digital lag between schools and society in general what one is seeing in all the pathfinder schools is reasoned evolution, where the schools and their communities are adjusting their ways to provide the best possible education in an ever-evolving scene. Much of the evolutionary transformation is small, seemingly insignificant, some aspects are major, seemingly antithetical to the ways of old but in sum they are already providing a mode of schooling fundamentally different to that of the traditional paper based school.

Importantly the evolution in the schools, like that with other living systems is creating ever-higher order organisations, increasingly complex, ever more tightly integrated where all the staff and the school’s community expect ever more of the school.  This development has become starkly apparent in the selection of teachers and professional support personnel for the pathfinder schools, with all the schools – often unwittingly – seeking empowered professionals with the macro educational understanding and skills needed to move the school to an ever-higher level. For example all new teachers from day one are expected to be lead teachers, a trait previously expected of a few experienced staff.

One of the distinguishing features of the pathfinder schools is the vast majority of teachers’ ready acceptance of the evolutionary process and their willingness, invariably their excitement in grasping the educational opportunities opened.  When one documents the transformation, small and large that has occurred in every facet of the pathfinder schools operations it is extraordinary how many long established practices have been relegated to history. The staff view the school driven evolution as the exciting norm, and not as that dreaded thing called ‘change’ that was invariably inflicted upon them from on high. That is not to say there haven’t been casualties with some staff opting to retire or move to a more traditional school setting.  There have but they are remarkably few in number and stand in marked contrast to those thriving with new environment.

Bar, F, Kane, N, and Simard, C (2000) Digital networks and Organisational Change. The Evolutionary deployment of Corporate Information Infrastructure Vancouver 2000

Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press

Empowering All


Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Paralleling the pathfinder school’s graduated move to distribute the control of the teaching and learning was their quest to markedly empower all the members of the school’s community and enable them all to have a greater and more effective say in the on-going operation and enhancement of the school.

An important part of that empowerment was the more distributed control of the teaching and learning, however it entailed significantly more, particularly in relation to the empowerment of the salaried officers of the school.

The desire in all the schools – in keeping with other networked organisations – was to take advantage of the technology that made it that much easier for all to better understand the workings of the organisation and contribute to its enhancement.  Lipnack and Stamps (1994) in commenting on the opportunities opened in networked organisations speak of the importance of encouraging leaders at multiple levels and staff having the autonomy, the independence and the encouragement to take risks in enhancing the organisation’s agenda.

That is apparent in all the pathfinder schools and not simply with the staff but also in the parent and student contributions.  While the business literature spoke only of the staff the schools looked to all in the school’s community

Once again that quest was in marked contrast to what was found in traditional highly hierarchically organised schools at the Paper Based evolutionary stage.  In those schools not only are the students and parents disempowered but so too are a very sizeable proportion of the teaching and professional support staff.

The traditional, strongly hierarchical ‘Taylor like’ organisational structure found in many schools, ensures only the few managers at the apex understand the macro workings of the school.  The rest of the teachers are bid concentrate on their part of the assembly line.  Theirs is very much a highly convergent and micro focus that invariably leads to them viewing school enhancement through their particular micro perspective be it as a maths, physics, drama, special needs or early childhood teacher.  Possibly unwittingly, the ‘assembly line workers’ were professionally disempowered.

All of the pathfinder schools commented on the imperative of ensuring the school’s greatest resource, its human capital was used to best advantage.  One thus sees in the evolutionary stage attributes the graduated empowerment of all the teachers, the development of their macro understanding of ever-evolving, ever more networked and integrated schools and the opportunity for all to contribute to the school’s enhancement both holistically and in their specialist area/s.

The same kind of empowerment has been evident with the professional support staff, readying all to play a fuller part in the ever more integrated school operations.   In strong hierarchical school structures the support staff sat at the bottom of the pecking order, to do the bidding of the teachers and focussing only on their specified duties.  Invariably the professional support officers, even when involved in the teaching were not included in ‘staff meetings’ or provided any digital tools.

Jump forward to the Digital Normalisation stage and into the tightly integrated school ecologies where the traditional walls and boundaries have disappeared, operations are interlinked and where every member of the staff needs have at least a macro understanding of the purpose of the school, the desired educational benefits and its workings and you’ll find the professional support staff strongly empowered and assisting all the school’s work.

The children, their homes and the school community had little or no real voice in the shaping, implementation or enhancement of the paper based school (McKenzie, 2009), (Lee and Ward, 2013).  While a few might have a voice on a representative council or school board their views were often not representative or acted upon.

As the 2011 Project Tomorrow study revealed one is talking digitally empowered parents and students wanting to collaborate with their schools, wanting to acquire the technology their children will use in those schools but being denied that opportunity by school principals unwilling to cede their unilateral control.

In moving to the digital operational base that situation begins to change rapidly such by the Digital Normalisation stage all within the school’s community have not only been empowered but folk from all quarters are contributing to and helping enhance the school’s operations.

The normalised, all pervasive use of the technology, and in particular hand held technology makes it simple, swift and inexpensive for the school to communicate with all its community, to keep them informed, to provide the desired support and when desired to quickly secure and analyse its views.

Significantly the digital communication was complemented by extensive face-to -face communication, be it in formal meetings, focus groups, parking lot conversations or chats on the football sideline.

One is struck by the openness of the pathfinder schools’ activities and the all pervasive sense that all within the school community can readily talk to the teachers or the principal, and if needs be express their thoughts.  It might simply be to express a concern about their daughter but they have the power to share that concern.

It is largely antithetical to the schools we knew.

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.

Mackenzie, J (2009), Family learning: Engaging with parents, Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh.

Project Tomorrow (2011), The new three E’s of education: Enabled, engaged and empowered,

Speak Up 2010, National Findings Project Tomorrow. www.tomorrow.org.


Distributed Control of Teaching and Learning


Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

March 2014

You may have noticed in examining the evolution of the pathfinder schools they have all increasingly distributed the control of the teaching and learning.  They have actively sought to recognise, harness and enhance the contribution of all the teachers of the young – the parents, carers, grandparents, the children themselves, interested community members and professional ‘teachers’ in other agencies – in the 24/7/365 teaching of the children.

The development stands in marked contrast to the traditional paper based school where, as the evolutionary stage attributes reveal, the school has unilateral control of the teaching and learning, firmly believes it and only it should shape the children’s schooling. As a consequence there is relatively little or no genuine collaboration between the school and the home, and the parents and children themselves are left by default to educate the children outside the school walls.

The situation begins to change, and change rapidly when schools move to a digital operational base, when all the staff, lead by an astute principal begin to appreciate the educational opportunities opened by the digital technology. One thus sees from the Early Networked stage schools, seemingly overnight beginning to genuinely collaborate with their parents.

The pronounced digital divide between the school and its homes blurs and the teachers begin to appreciate the many potential benefits of recognising and building upon the out of school learning.  Why the pronounced change in thinking we are not sure.  The theory would suggest the collaboration should be possible without the technology but all our case studies reveal it happening successfully only when the school adopts the digital operational base.

Follow the evolutionary continuum and by the Networked Evolutionary Stage – where the term ‘networked’ pertains to the level of social networking evidenced throughout the school community, in and outside the school walls – the schools, regardless of situation or nation, are working collaboratively with the parents and school community in all manner of teaching and learning (Lee and Ward, 2013).  The schools are distributing the control of the teaching and learning and they are ceding some of their power or more aptly using the power of their educational expertise.

In all case studies it was the school, and in particular the school principal that led the way in pursuing a more collaborative, socially networked and inclusive mode of teaching.  Significantly that leadership was achieved through the application of educational expertise, and not consciously by position.

Inherent in that quest was the recognition of the vast, and largely untapped and underdeveloped teaching and learning potential outside the school walls, an understanding that the parents will always be the children’s first teachers, and a willingness to trust the parents and children to play a greater role in the schooling of a digital and networked world.

That trust, that willingness to distribute the control of the 24/7/365 teaching and learning was tested in the pathfinders in the move to allow the children bring to class their choice of kit.

BYOT, as defined by Mal and Martin Levins (2012), is an approach where the school understands the educational importance of trusting and respecting the wishes of the children and parents in the choice of the desired suite of digital technologies and of genuinely collaborating with the homes in marrying its teaching efforts with those of the school.

Indeed we would go so far as to say – based admittedly on an as yet relatively small sample of schools globally – that schools will likely be unable to move to the Digital Normalisation evolutionary stage and beyond until they are willing to distribute the control of the teaching and learning and empower all within the school’s community.

Lee, M and Levins, M (2012) Bring Your Own Technology Melbourne ACER Press

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

Distributed Control of Teaching and Learning

Impact and Imperative of a Digital Operational Base


Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The more we analyse the operations of the pathfinder schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia the more strongly it appears it is only when schools move to a digital operational base do they begin to fundamentally change their form and embark on a never ending path of on-going change, evolution and transformation.

The rapid organisational transformation that is occurring in the pathfinder schools, and those following close behind in 2014 is the same kind of organisational transformation that occurred in industry 20 plus years ago when all manner of businesses left behind their reliance on paper and moved to a digital operational base.

Schooling globally for the last fifty plus years has invested vast funds, time and expertise trying to innovate and change the traditional, largely Industrial Age mode of schooling.

It failed to make any sustained fundamental structural change. Any dents made in the ways of old were soon rectified as the innovators moved on.

Unwittingly and in an as yet largely unrecognised way the paper technology that those school’s operations was built upon reinforced the constancy and continuity.  There was no inherent quality in paper as a technology that stimulated change. Indeed the technology actually worked to reinforce the status quo.

In stark contrast the ever-evolving, ever more sophisticated, ever-more convergent digital technology, when coupled with its users ever-growing expectations and their increasing awareness of what is possible with that more sophisticated technology constantly works to stimulate the on-going evolution.

A quick look at the following expression of Moore’s Law, prepared for the Washington Post, provides an insight into the kind of evolutionary path along which the digital schools will likely move.


Children today in early childhood classes will likely on their school graduation around 2026 be using 24/7/365 ‘computers’ that may be self- aware and self learning, with all the concomitant opportunities and implications. These computers will be largely invisible, constructed into the built environment and the fabric of clothes as well as prosthetically embedded..

As you know from your own use of the digital technology, and in particular that of your children once one has normalised the everyday, 24/7/365 use of that technology and has incorporated it in every facet of one’s life we very soon have ever greater expectations of that technology and constantly envisage new ways how it can be used.  Where once getting modems to mate or using a search facility like Alta Vista was mind blowing today those developments pale into insignificance.

That is what is happening globally in the schools that have moved to a digital operational base. That said the pronounced transformation is only happening in those schools where virtually all of the school’s main operations, teaching and administrative are digitally based.

Critical to that development is having all the school’s teachers use the digital naturally in their everyday teaching.  The digital technology has been used in school administration for decades. It is only when all the teachers use the digital technology in their everyday teaching, as a group recognise the opportunities possible, envision the type of schooling desired in an ever more digital, socially networked and collaborative world and understand the kind of holistic changes school wide required can schools be said to be operating on a digital base. It is not enough to have 40%, or even 80% of the teachers using the technology in their teaching. It actually matters not if all teachers are digitally competent outside the classroom. All the teachers, permanent and casual have to use the kit in class with the kids expecting the use of the digital technology will be the norm in the teaching.

It is only when the schools leave behind the traditional paper based operation and mindset will the schools, like the business world beforehand and move to a digital operational paradigm and begin their dramatic transformation and on-going evolution.

Organisationally it is only when all the key operations are digital can they talk, converge and become ever more integrated.

While seemingly simple, the websites of the pathfinder schools with their quick and ready access to a tightly integrated digital communications suite, are only possible when the schools are operating on a digital base.

A look at the school evolutionary stages will reveal that transformation does not happen overnight but is graduated and only gathers pace when the culture, the school’s ecology is at ease with the all-pervasive use of the digital.

Sadly, and vitally unappreciated by many educators and politicians, the vast majority of schools in the developed world in 2014 don’t have 100% of their teachers using the digital technology normally in their everyday teaching..

Schooling in general lags well behind the general societal use of digital technology.

The only ways for schools to redress that shortcoming is to move to a digital operational base.

Impact of Digital Operational Base

Distinguishing Attributes of Digital Schools


Mal Lee and Roger Broadie


It is apparent from the research we are undertaking on those schools globally operating on a digital base (http://www.schoolevolutionarystages.net) is that all are demonstrating a distinct suite of distinguishing attributes that already sets them apart from the traditional paper based school and are on trend to forever amplify that difference.

Schooling, as we have all known it, has been characterised by its constancy, continuity and its relative sameness.  It hasn’t fundamentally changed its form in the last 50 – 60 years.  While the trappings vary between nations and sometimes regions in essence schools operate on a fixed number of days each year, between agreed hours, within a physical place called school.  The teaching is controlled and conducted wholly by the professional teachers, with solitary teachers normally teaching class groups, invariably behind closed classroom doors.  Paper – used in conjunction with the pen and the teaching board, be they black, green or white – has been the core instructional technology for hundreds of years and largely unseen and unwittingly has profoundly impacted the nature of the schools, their organisation, operations and teaching.

Generation after generation of children have experienced basically the same mode of schooling and teaching, to the extent that all know what is entailed in the schooling of the young.

That is until recent years and only then with those schools that have moved to a digital operational base.

Seemingly overnight those schools where all of the teachers in the school use the digital technology in their everyday teaching begin to abandon the long established ways and practices of the traditional school and transform every facet of their operation.

The fuller details of that transformation that has occurred in the pathfinder schools in their journey to digital normalisation are fleshed out in the six school evolutionary stages elsewhere on the site.

On first glance someone visiting those schools, be they primary or secondary could readily mistake them for a traditional school.  Tellingly the transformation has occurred in the existing buildings, of all shapes and sizes, with invariably no major structural change. However as they delve further they’ll soon recognise that not only is their modus operandi already fundamentally different to the traditional school but they are also operating in a mode where in general terms they will forever continue to change, evolve and transform their nature.

That modus operandi is so different to that experienced in the majority of schools it bears spending some time examining some of the distinguishing changes occurring and reflecting on the implications for later adopter schools.

The plan is to explore key attributes over the next couple of months in a series of weekly posts, with a view to alerting all associated with schools – be they the clients, the providers of the education or the shapers of the national education – of the developments occurring and the likely implications.  We’ll explore the

  • Impact of the digital operational base
  • Distributed control of teaching
  • Empowering the school’s community
  • On-going evolution of schooling
  • Digital convergence, ever-tighter integration and growing organizational complexity
  • Schools as living ecologies
  • Complexity science and school evolution
  • Ever – increasing school variability
  • Impact of school ecology on student attainment
  • Chaos and order – the new working paradox

It should be stressed that these attributes should be viewed in conjunction with the other writings on the site on the evolution of schooling, and that while each is addressed singly all are tightly interrelated and collectively add to the character and distinctiveness of the ever-evolving school ecologies.

In brief schools when schools shift to a digital operational base – go digital – they leave behind the constancy, continuity and sameness of the traditional school and

  • constantly change and evolve, with their operations forever transforming
  • develop ever more strongly a unique school ecology
  • become ever more tightly integrated, increasingly complex, higher order and networked teaching organisations
  • teach increasingly 24/7/365.
  • marry the once separate ‘formal’ teaching of the school with the ‘informal’ teaching of the children’s homes
  • create a mode of schooling in keeping with an ever more digital, networked and collaborative world.

School evolutionary situation and staffing


Mal Lee

A significant issue with staffing is beginning to emerge as the schools at the networked evolutionary stage and beyond employ new staff, teaching and professional support.

The culture, the ecology, the mindset, the expectations of staff in those schools is markedly different to that experienced in the traditional paper based school and as such the selection expectations of the pathfinders are significantly different and of an appreciably higher order than those of the lower order schools.

If one examines the attributes of the schools at the networked, and digital normalisation evolutionary stages and notes their ever-evolving nature, their ever-tighter integration, the networked mindset and 24/7/365 collaboration with their families and community and the imperative of all within the school’s community – the principal, the staff, the parents – having a macro appreciation of the school’s shaping educational vision it should come as no surprise to see the school leadership, and the teacher and parent representatives on the staff selection panels, expecting new staff – teaching and support – to have the apposite understanding and skill set.

It is important to note the expectation comes from both the professional staff and the school community representatives.

It is an understanding and skill set acquired in the main within the pathfinder culture that exists in its entirety in as yet few other schools, but which can increasingly be found within pockets in later adopter schools.

What the pathfinders are finding is that staff that have worked in a temporary capacity in the higher order culture, who are aware of its ecology, have the desired mind and skill set and are applying for a permanent position are advantageously positioned compared to most other applicants, even potentially very capable applicants, currently working within the traditional insular, paper based paradigm.

The pathfinders require teachers and professional support staff able to thrive in an ever-evolving digital and networked environment, who are of a mind and have the skills to contribute to the school’s holistic enhancement. Naturally they don’t want staff in permanent positions that have yet to demonstrate their capacity to make that contribution.

It is appreciated that while today this is a rare situation it is an issue that is set to grow quickly as ever more schools globally move along the evolutionary continuum.

The challenge for the pathfinder schools and those following is to be aware of the situation as they look to appoint apposite new staff and while not for a moment suggesting punishing those applicants who have the advantage of working in higher order school ecologies to be very conscious of potentially excellent staff that have demonstrated their capacity to make a significant contribution to a digitally based school, even though they might be working within a paper based school or coming directly from teacher education.

It is moreover a development that affirms the wisdom of the global moves to accord individual schools greater decision-making and the importance of education authorities and governments better understanding the growing variability between schools, and the implications that flow.


Schools take charge of evolution and technology

Mal Lee

There are pleasing signs globally and across Australia that evermore schools are recognising they have to take charge of their own evolutionary development and the digital technology they employ to achieve that sustained development.

Evermore are recognising they have to be the prime unit of change, and as such they, and not the government of the day or their local education authority, are responsible for successfully addressing the plethora of variables that will allow them to evolve at pace and achieve the desired digital normalisation and provide an apposite 21st century education.

They are long past waiting for government or the system to provide the answers and funding for the way forward.  Yes, they will most assuredly use any apposite support provided by external agencies but they understand they have to take control of their own destiny.

The stark reality is that while in some fortunate situations the ‘system’ is providing apposite support most central offices are currently demonstrating little appreciation of what is occurring with the pathfinders, of the evolutionary continuum or how the continuum can assist individual schools in their journey. Many are adding little value to the teaching in the schools and simply frustrating the school’s evolution.

In many respects it matters not to the individual school what the Federal Government of the day is, whether it be the Greens, Labor or Liberal or indeed who wins the next election.

While governments of all persuasion globally, and not simply in Australia, like to project the profound impact they have upon the running and performance of the nation’s schools, and imagine that by the end of their term in office all ‘their’ schools will naturally have embraced and benefitted from the government’s policies the reality is that most government’s have limited impact on the school’s culture and operations.

The power lies primarily within the school.  To read more Schools Take Charge of Evolution

This article has been published in Educational Technology Solutions September 12 2013 - http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/

Reflections on the Steve Jobs Schools

It’s interesting to see that seven Steve Jobs Schools have opened in the Netherlands, equipped obviously with iPads for all the pupils. It will be interesting to watch how they develop. Just putting the technology in does not make a school digitally normalised. That depends on how the school leaders and teachers have themselves progressed through the evolutionary stages.

When you get this kind of corporate initiative there can also be pressures to use the technology in ways that don’t help the educational transformation and huge step-up in pupils’ achievements that you find in properly digitally normalised schools. The companies have their own priorities for what systems and apps they want the schools to try out. This set me thinking about the ways that commercial pressures from the companies are balanced against the educational imperatives to advance education in the right way for our connected world.

Apple has a pretty good track record going all the way back to the ACOT project (Apple Classrooms Of Tomorrow) but even with the best intentions large companies that do this sort of thing inevitably focus on what the technology can do, because their prime corporate interest is in making the systems and apps better at enabling the kids and teachers to achieve more. I think the difference we are seeing now compared to even 5 years ago, is that two of the key technology USPs (Unique Selling Points that companies use to promote their products) are communication and collaboration. This has a lot more synergy with good educational approaches than the ‘content delivery’ USP did, in the days of CD ROMs and Integrated Learning Systems.

The possibly scary technology USP that is also in the frame and developing rapidly is the combination of online testing and data manipulation and mining. Effective use of data on learning and achievement is one of the characteristics of a digitally normalised school. But if the educators and parents come to focus on knowledge data, because this is the data that is easiest to generate and compare, this could push the educational experience the wrong way. If on the other hand the focus moves to data and information that demonstrates what the pupils are doing and what (real world) achievements this results in, the data USP might prove useful and get both companies and schools moving in the right direction together.

I’m not saying that data on kids’ knowledge is unimportant. Young people like to gain mastery over areas of knowledge and ability to do so is a key part of learning and life, it’s the balance of what comes to be most visible and most praised that is most important.

The problem is that generating information about what the kids are doing and achieving beyond knowledge acquisition in a technology system is a lot harder than testing knowledge. A lot of the data is there once schools normalise digital and pupils do lots more online, in school and at home. The question is how to analyse and present it. How would you present a view of how well a pupil had engaged in a project? There will be simple things like time on task using technology, number of searches conducted in doing research and so on. But how would you assess and present anything about quality of searching and research, or quality of engagement in forums while discussing the project with their classmates?

I think this is a big issue because the content learning/testing bandwagon is developing rapidly and both politicians and exam systems focus on this, often to the exclusion of assessment of competencies, because it’s so much easier and cheaper. Whereas I think industry and business, and probably higher education, would love to be able to compare potential employees/students on the basis of their competence if this could be easily and clearly presented.

A lot of companies are working to develop systems that gather data on learning and aim to provide information to teachers, parents and the pupils themselves. They are doing this because they sense there could be a big market. Accountability of education systems is a big issue for every government. Educators will have to watch out that ‘What you measure is what you get’ does not triumph over ‘What you (should) measure is what you want’.

If data and information on learning progress comes to be seen as critical, because governments and politicians need to show educational progress for electoral reasons, and schools need to demonstrate that they are achieving the accountability levels that are set, that could push schools towards technology systems that can gather loads of data and generate very good information on learning activity and progress. For schools in the UK that are only just at or are below the ‘floor target’ achievement levels, data on pupils’ progression is already absolutely critical in enabling the school to stay out of ‘special measures’ and all the difficulties this brings.

In the Steve Jobs Schools the whole technology infrastructure is Apple as well as the devices. You can imagine the need for data acting as a lock-in to these Apple systems, if Apple succeed in producing the data gathering and reporting systems that governments and hence schools want. The question is whether these will be sophisticated enough to measure the kinds of education being provided in digitally normalised schools or whether they will focus mainly on just knowledge acquisition. This will depend on the quality of the conversation between the educators in these schools and Apple, and on whether Apple listen properly to them. Software can do very sophisticated things with data if the right questions are asked and the right data sets brought together. And how information is presented is critical. Look for example at how Hans Rosling presents data on world health.

I’m also watching very closely what is happening with Frog, particularly in Malaysia. This is more open and amenable to BYOT rather than one standard device for all pupils, because the Frog platform and the way it is being provided in Malaysia lock the pupils and parents into getting at everything through the Frog platform, rather than into a specific device. Internet access is free through the Frog platform from their homes but if they go direct to the Internet they incur phone charges on the YTL 4G networks set up at each school. This approach also of course tends to lock the parents into using the 4G wireless provided by YTL, so there is a corporate benefit to Frog’s parent company.

If all pupil access to learning systems is through the Frog platform, Frog can gather all the data about anything they do or search for on the platform. In addition Frog are working hard with the apps providers to get them to feed data into the Frog platform, so potentially all data on what the kids are doing with apps could be become available for analysis.

There is massive potential here. Imagine being able to get real insight into how young people are using their social networks and friendship groups to aid their learning. Imagine helping both pupils and teachers to see how their informal learning is developing as well as their formal learning, and how they support each other. Imagine being able to create profiles of how pupils learn that could clearly show to others how competent they are at learning and at doing real life tasks that matter.

Then we it might be possible for digitally normalised schools to clearly demonstrate how and why their educational offering to their students is so significantly better than schools that are failing to take educational advantage of digital. And how just achieving the exam results is not enough. Education is about much more that test and exam results.

Constancy and Sameness: On-going Evolution and Uniqueness

Mal Lee

Few teachers, principals or head teachers will have failed to notice the ever-greater transformative impact digital technology is having upon schooling.

Few parents will have failed to see the very considerable impact of the digital on their workplace and the fundamental structural and organisational changes that technology has occasioned and continues to occasion in the business world.

All of us will have watched with fascination and delight the young’s – indeed the very young’s – embrace and normalised use of the digital 24/7/365, their love of and excitement with the new and the impact that technology is having upon their lives and learning, particularly in their homes and on the move.

Yet despite this profound societal and organisational change most governments and education authorities continue to project the image that schooling is generally constant in nature, unchanging, largely immutable, not at all impacted by the digital and that all they need do is to fine tune the workings of an approach we have known for the past 40-50 years and all will be fine.  They might try charter schools, middle schools, specialist schools or academies but basically the place called school, operating within its physical walls should continue unchanged.

The same authorities also project – possibly unwittingly – that all their schools are much the same, at the same stage of development and as such they can validly apply top down ‘one size fits all’ solutions for all the schools in the country or region.  As all the schools are the same they can successfully introduce common interactive whiteboard, laptop, phonics or staff development programs into all the schools in the same way.

My reading is that most teachers and school leaders – probably also unwittingly – work from a base premise of constancy and sameness.

When an a new program, or major technology is introduced implicit is the assumption is that it will operate successfully and appropriately for many years, even though folk deep down know society and the technology is evolving at pace.

It is an outlook that fuels the retention of the status quo – even when it is becoming ever more irrelevant – and the idea that change is difficult and is to be avoided.

The constancy and sameness underpins the belief that central offices or national governments can validly prepare the same teaching materials for all its schools, employ the same tests and accountability processes, use common pay scales and leadership programs, apply the one technology model to every school or indeed that all the schools in a region can profitably come together and benefit from a common staff development program.

This thinking stands in marked contrast to that within those schools operating at the Digital Normalisation Stage where all within the school’s community – the leadership, the staff, the students and the homes – have accepted that change and on-going evolution is the norm with schooling, that the excitement associated with opening ever more learning opportunities is natural and that all within the school’s community are welcome to join in the on-going quest to provide the best possible education.  It is an environment that fosters excitement, strong student, parent and community involvement and ownership, collaboration, risk taking, flexibility, responsiveness, the adoption of solutions particular to the school’s situation at a stage in its evolution and vitally an on-going focus on the desired educational vision.

By the Digital Normalisation Stage all within the school’s community accept their school is unique, and that while it can learn much from other schools at the same evolutionary stage they require educational solutions apposite for their school’s situation and evolutionary stage.

With the benefit of hindsight what is now evident is that:

  • constancy and sameness is the thinking of the paper based stage
  • in moving along the evolutionary continuum and through the evolutionary stages the schools will gradually shed that thinking, such
  • by the digital normalisation stage all within the school’s community will assume on-evolution and school uniqueness are the norm.


Application of the Evolutionary Continuum

In constructing the school evolutionary stages continuum and in writing the soon to be released Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages our desire was to provide all associated with schooling globally a simple measure they could readily apply to position their school and identify the road that lies ahead for their school.

We’ve consciously aimed to provide a facility all can use – and not as happens so often in education a measure that can only be applied by someone skilled in psychometrics.

The desire is to provide an indicative measure that can be readily used

  • to further parents and grandparent’s understanding of the school’s position
  • to give the students greater voice
  • in assisting empower all the staff, the teaching and vitally also the professional support
  • to assist the development of principals
  • to foster whole school evolution and on-going enhancement
  • to highlight the individual school – and not the system per se – as the unit of change
  • in helping the political decision makers better understand the global commonality of school evolution, and the growing variability between schools
  • by those in teacher training to better understand the schools they will be entering
  • by educational researchers to develop measures that can be realistically used in ever more integrated, rapidly evolving schools.

Our hope is that the continuum can be applied without assistance but if help is required Roger at – roger@broadieassociates.co.uk and Mal at – mallee@mac.com can assist.

Skype and the astute juggling of time zones should make it possible to assist wherever you are in the world.

In applying the measure in a group setting do bear in mind the earlier post by Roger.