Mal Lee and Roger Broadie
Schools need all, or near all, of their teachers using the digital technology in their everyday teaching before they can move to a digital operational mode and build the base that will enable the school to evolve digitally.
It is most assuredly not enough for all teachers to have the kit – they actually have to use the technology integrally in their teaching.
While that might seem blindingly obvious, the reality is that in 2016 many school leaders, educational administrators, governments and indeed media commentators don’t appear to have grasped that necessity.
As the logic and experience affirms until the school’s main operation, its teaching actually makes use of the digital the school will not move to a digital mode. It will remain operating in its traditional paper based base and mindset.
Commentators incorrectly assume that all teachers are using the latest technology, and using the technology astutely.
The rhetoric far exceeds the reality. A survey of 35 Australian state schools by Mal Lee in mid 2015 (unpublished) revealed on average that around 65 % of the teachers were using the digital technology naturally in their everyday teaching. Roger Broadie found that matched his UK experience. The actual figures could be lower or higher.
Before a school can make any significant progress in its digital evolution it has to have 95%-100% using the digital in class. Having 60% – 70% – 80% is not enough. We’re aware of schools still at the 30% level.
What is the figure in your school?
Recognise that while achieving that 95% -100% figures is critical, it is but a step in the evolutionary journey. It will literally take years and much astute and concerted effort to build upon that whole of teacher usage and create the school digital ecosystem and culture that will allow the total school community to normalise the use of the digital. It takes years of operating on the fly to grow the total staff, the student group and community and replace the paper based practises with the digital.
The digital base is essential. You’ll require an ever evolving, evermore sophisticated digital ecosystem that allows all within the school’s community to naturally use the growing power of the digital in every school operation – in its 24/7/365 teaching, assessment, administration, finances, communication, social networking, marketing, accountability and growth.
What you are looking at in the total teacher usage is a crucial step in getting the teachers, the school and its community to think digitally (Bhaduri and Fischer, 2015).
While only an early step, it is, as the number of schools globally that have yet to reach this point attest a difficult move to make.
Indeed it is important to openly acknowledge that difficulty and recognise the challenge of getting the school to the starting line.
The major challenge will be human but the school will require the finance, technology and network infrastructure to make the desired human change possible.
Critically all the teachers – virtually all of whom will have normalised the use of the digital outside the classroom – need perceive the importance of using the digital in their teaching and every other school operation, often in environments where paper based external exams are deemed life changing and the facility to write a three hour exam paper remains vital.
Teachers need appreciate that in time the digital has to underpin every school operation if the school is to shape an increasingly integrated, powerful and productive ecosystem. They need to see the big picture and not simply consider the digital in relation to in class performance. It is the totality that matters.
The expectations set– and given teeth – by the principal in relation to the use of the digital technology are vital to instilling the desired importance. The astute principals moved quickly to ensure the core administration – the marking of rolls, staff communiques, recording of student performance and the like – was all done digitally. When the staff selection criteria address digital teaching capability, the daily operations of the school oblige its use and the fulfilment of contract obligations specify the astute application of the digital the importance of the digital is readily understood. When the principal sets no such expectations the status quo will prevail.
The apt, highly reliable digital technology has to be available for all to use.
Every teacher, every member of the professional support team must have the apt suite of current digital technologies. The traditional approach has been for the employer to provide that technology but increasingly schools are recognising the value of financially supporting a BYOT approach.
The total school campus requires apt Wi Fi network coverage, and every teaching room an appropriate digital presentation facility and the digital tools for the students to use when opportune.
The movement of the school to that vital digital operational should be a priority – if your school has not already reached that position. Experience reveals it will take time, likely years, and that each school will likely need a strategy that fits its situation but regardless of how it is done you need make that crucial step.
- Bhaduri, A and Fischer, B (2015) ‘Are You an Analogue or Digital Leader?’ Forbes 19/2/2015 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfischer/2015/03/19/are-you-an-analog-or-digital-leader/