Pathfinder School Works as a Hub in System Change Model

 Mal Lee

Broulee Public School (Australia), one of those as yet rare cadre of pathfinder schools that have normalised the whole school use of the digital and created a 24/7/365 digital school ecosystem, is playing a central role in a new model of system wide school development that is being implemented by New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education and Communities.

The Department in conjunction with Broulee Public School is implementing a ‘hub and spoke networking model’ to foster the movement of the state schools in the Far South Coast Network of NSW to a digital operational base.

Supported by funding through the Department’s Rural and Remote Blueprint the model recognises the very different position of schools on the digital evolutionary continuum, the importance of each school, primary and secondary, taking charge of its own growth and the amount schools can learn in a very practical way from the experiences of their colleagues in  pathfinder schools.

In the same way that teachers network with and learn from their colleagues globally so the idea is that the Network’s schools can learn from the school at the centre of the hub and like the spokes of the bike the ideas will radiate out to others.  While the initial moves are being made in the Far South Coast Network the thinking is very much that the model could be used elsewhere in the State, and in particular within the regional areas.

The impetus is being provided by the hub school, Broulee PS conducting an initial conference for departmental schools on Building Digital Schools on August 13/14 2015. The aim is to have the school, its leadership, teachers and community share with their colleagues, primary and secondary, the factors that they have addressed in the school’s digital evolution and what they are now able to do within an ever evolving, constantly transforming digital ecosystem.

The hub school is not saying it has any magic solution, but rather it will share the many lessons learned in the school’s 15 years plus digital evolution journey.

If you are NSW Department of Education and Communities school and would like to attend I’d suggest getting in early as there is only limited places.

Significantly this school – system initiative has emerged out of the NSW Minister of Education’s policy of ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ that gives NSW public schools – like others globally – the facility take control of their own future.  It is a very good example of how the policy enables school initiatives to be coupled those of the education authority to create greater synergy.

One of the things largely absent from the digital evolution of schooling literature is how best to get all the other schools in an education authority to normalise the use of the digital in the educative process.  The traditional top down, one size fits all has no place in a world where schools have the autonomy and indeed responsibility to shape their own growth and where the differences between schools on the digital evolution continuum is widening daily.

The hub and spoke networking model appears to tick all the right boxes and thus it will be interesting to watch how this New South Wales’ approach impacts.

The Educational Importance of BYOT

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is critical in the digital evolution of schools, when normalising whole school use of the digital, and when shaping digitally-based school ecosystems.

Ideally, young people should be trusted in the classroom to use the digital technologies they are already using in the ‘real world’ to enhance their learning.

While the young, parents and, invariably teachers have normalised the use of the digital outside the school walls and have expectations of the digital, few schools globally have normalised its use and are yet to reap the myriad opportunities and benefits.

The reason is simple: it is very hard to do so. It requires each school to move from its traditional paper based operational mode, culture and mindset to a mode that is digitally based, where the mindset is digital and the school culture actively supports change, risk taking and on-going organisational evolution and transformation.

The move to BYOT is fundamental to creating the ecosystem that enables that to happen.

It is reality few as yet appreciate.

To read the full article go to – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/the-importance-of-byot

2015 edition of the Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

The 2015 edition of the Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages is now available for free download from the Taxonomy sub-section of this site

This edition updates the attributes displayed by schools operating at the Digital Normalisation evolutionary stage.

While the digital evolution and transformation of all manner of businesses is literally discussed daily in both the media and the management literature (http://www.scoop.it/t/digitalevolutionofschooling) the fact that schooling globally is undergoing the same kind of organisational evolution and transformation remains largely unseen by most schools and educational administrators, as too are the profound implications that flow from the phenomenon.

So too is the understanding that once schools, like all organisations begin their movement to a digital operational base the schools will evolve in a remarkably common manner globally, demonstrating at each evolutionary stage numerous similar attributes.

It is as if schools are unique organisations somehow immune to the impact of the digital revolution and will forever remain ensconced in their paper based world.

Nothing could be further from today’s reality.

Schools globally are at different points on the school evolutionary stages continuum, with the pathfinder schools that have normalised the use of the digital evolving and transforming their operations at an accelerating rate.

Using the 2015 edition of the Taxonomy you can quickly identify your school’s evolutionary stage and the likely path ahead.

Feel free to download the latest version, and suggest other colleagues make use of this simple international measure.

2015 Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

ACER Teacher Digital Evolution Series

Mal Lee has written for ACER’s online Teacher magazine in a series of brief research papers on the digital evolution of schooling. They include:

The Changing Role and Purpose of the School Website

Mal Lee

The role, purpose and importance of the school website is changing at pace in those schools globally that have moved to a digital operational base, are on track to normalise the use of the digital throughout and which are rapidly creating their own, unique, tightly integrated digital ecosystem.

The digital evolution that is transforming every facet of these schools is profoundly impacting those school’s websites, moving the website from its traditional peripheral position to being core and critical to the school’s everyday operations, its teaching, growth, evolution and enhanced performance and productivity.

The time has come when all schools and education authorities need to recognise that change, and the profound implications that flow at both the school and education authority level.

Moreover they would be as well to grasp the critical reality that with society normalising the everyday use of the digital, digital transformation and the movement of the digital schools away from the loosely coupled, segmented, almost silo like, organisation to a form that is evermore tightly integrated the part played by the school website fundamentally changes, both in nature and standing.

In the traditional highly segmented, insular paper based school the website has been viewed as but one of the many largely discrete parts of the school, largely peripheral to the everyday teaching. In many instances it has been window dressing, sometimes very high quality window dressing but in the main it has done little to enhance the pedagogy or student learning.

Crucially the online experience has been viewed as separate from and lesser than the physical.

In marked contrast within digitally based schools an apposite, dynamic, ever evolving, working website is central to virtually every operation, including the school’s 24/7/365 teaching.

Indeed without that website schools cannot create their desired digital ecosystem and successfully realise their shaping educational and digital vision.

Try and imagine how organisations like Apple, Amazon, News Ltd or the Tax Office could operate without their websites and you’ll begin to appreciate how critical they are to the workings and growth of digitally based schools.

That fundamental difference needs to be understood and the discussions begun at the school and system level on what is required to move forward.

As Westerman and his colleagues observe (Westerman et al, 2014) societies that have normalised the use of the digital no longer differentiate between the online and physical experience.

If, as some appear to be doing, the school wants to remain as a traditional paper based, silo like organisation focussed on readying its students for paper based external examinations those discussions on the website are not needed.

If however your school’s desire is normalise the use of the digital and create an ever evolving digital school ecosystem that will educate each child for today you do need to have the conversation and decide what is to be done.

Interestingly ask any school leader or educational administrator why an apposite website is critical to the successful whole school embrace of BYOT or the evolution of the school’s ecosystem and it is likely only a handful could tell you why.

Moreover ask a software house to create a website for a digital school and it is likely even the best and more prescient will still prepare a polished offering for the traditional mode of schooling.

The desire with this article is begin remedying those shortcomings and to highlight the core, multifaceted role of the school website – and its associated digital communications suite – in the digital transformation and evolution of schooling.

The Traditional Website

For the last 15-20 years the school website has been largely peripheral to the school’s everyday workings and in particular its teaching. It has been primarily a static source of information, a marketing tool and possibly a gateway to the inner, seemingly secret teaching of the school that necessitated password entry. The closed classroom door was retained when the school went online. In many education authorities globally the websites have been ‘cookie’ cut’ with their operations tightly controlled by the central office bureaucrats and the external ICT experts. The schools were invariably given little say in their form even at a time when schools were being given greater decision making and obliged to shape their own growth. Even today at least one Australian education authority still prohibits schools having their own website, while other authorities and their ICT controllers continue to micro manage the nature and workings of the ‘school’s’ site.

Invariably within the school an individual has had responsibility for maintaining the school site, ensuring it was not ‘spoilt’ by other staff, although that said one will find schools where the different operational units, like the library or student support services, also operate their own website, separate to that of the school.

In many schools, particularly the independent the site is maintained by the school’s public relations/marketing unit, ensuring the desired image, with the apposite Pepsodent smiles is always to the fore.

Do a quick scan of a cross section of school websites, primary and secondary, state and independent – including the award winners – and you’ll likely find most are still primarily sources of information, some very polished, some very dated. Undertake a Google search of the ‘purpose’ or ‘importance’ of school websites and you’ll find even the more reasoned such that by University of Florida – http://fcit.usf.edu/websites/chap1/chap1.htm– still underscore the largely peripheral, information providing role.

The choice of the award winning sites appears to have far more to do with looks, design finesse and interactivity than functionality and how the facility contributes to the realisation of the school’s shaping educational and digital vision.

Significantly most will also be closely ‘guarded’ sites with community access to any teaching materials invariably restricted by password.

Emergence of the ‘working’ website

From the mid 2000’s as the first of the schools globally moved to a digital operational base and began their digital evolution one has seen in all those schools the on-going transformation and evolution of the school’s website, that as indicated by Lee (2013) mirrored the school’s evolutionary path, and which saw its shift from a peripheral to a core role.

The website, like those in all other digitally based organisations, plays a central, multi-faceted role, assisting enhance the school’s culture and ecosystem, furthering the school’s growth and evolution, enabling the school to interface with the networked world, being used integrally in every facet of the schools’ 24/7/365 teaching, the integration of all school operations, educational and administrative and the on-going enhancement of the school’s efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

The website increasingly became the interface for the school’s community and a medium that facilitated the integration of all the school’s operations in and outside the school walls.

In contrast to the largely constant peripheral offerings these are dynamic working sites that are being updated and added to virtually every minute of the day by all within the school’s community, be they the children, the teachers, the parents or community members.

The focus is very much on the work to be done, educational and administrative and using the site – and the associated digital services – to do that work as expeditiously, simply, effectively and productively as possible, and where apposite to have the technology simultaneously perform multiple roles and to automate the tasks at hand.

While rightly concerned to project a professional image these are 24/7 /365 worksites where sections might at any times appear as messy as the physical classroom. If that is so, so be it.

Look for example at the websites of The Gulf Harbour School (NZ) – http://www.gulfharbour.school.nz – or that of Broulee Public School at – http://www.brouleepublicschool.nsw.edu.au – and you’ll soon appreciate what is meant by ‘working’ websites. These sites, like those in the other schools that have normalised the use of the digital, employ a template service that makes it easy for all the teachers and students and indeed interested parents and community members to publish to the site. Long gone is the sole publisher controlling all uploads, but not a quality controller astutely ensuring unnecessary mess is removed.

They are moreover multi-purpose entities where the website provides seamless access to a plethora of online facilities and services, removing the divide between the school’s physical and online offerings. While reference has been made to the ‘website’ that is partly a misnomer because as apparent in both the above mentioned sites there are links to an ever evolving digital communications suite that includes such diverse services as an emailed school communiqué, an online survey facility, advice on new teaching programs or resources, the online advisement of student absence, Twitter, Facebook and the facility to instantly inform parents of a critical incident, like a death. Indeed as a colleague has suggested it might be opportune to find another term to describe the role played by the website in a digital school.

The sites are modular in nature with the schools using a mix of free and leased online services, able to quickly discard superseded ‘modules’ and replace them with a new more apposite ‘module’.

Critically both these sites are open for anyone to view. The parents, grandparents miles away, interested educators, education authorities or prospective parents all have open access to the day’s teaching, being able to readily view and if they wish comment upon the work. Yes the schools have had to do their homework and have permission to reveal the children and the work but that is just part of operating within a digital and networked world, collaborating with one’s community.

The closed doors are opened and the teachers and children can with pride reveal the work done.

Simultaneously, and without any extra effort by the teachers or students the school are using the website – through the medium of the likes of blogs and wikis – to enhance the teaching and learning, to daily enhance the school’s ecology, to collaborate with and inform the student’s homes, to account for the school’s work, to receive instant and continual feedback and vitally to automatically promote the school.

Of note is the number of parents globally who now make their choice of school after scrutinising the open working websites of the digital pathfinders; Net Generation parents who can explore the natural workings of the school without the PR spin and experience first hand the unique digital ecosystem the school has created. Going is the need for the specialist Web/PR unit.

They very much appreciate the school website provides an invaluable actual the insight into the school’s thinking, aspirations and daily workings that can not be replicated by even the best marketers.

The website affirms by virtue of its intimate ties with the school’s total operations, that the school and its teachers are working within a higher order tightly integrated digital ecology that is simultaneously addresses the many variables that enhance student learning.

Conclusion

This type of school ecology and culture, and the use of a website that will further its growth takes, as the many previous articles underscore, years of astute concerted effort to create.

That said if you want your school to create that unique, ever evolving, digitally based ever higher order ecosystem your school too will need to build into your planning from the outset the creation of the apposite website and complementary digital communications suite.

The Changing Role and Purpose of the School Website

Bibliography

  • Lee, M (2013b) ‘School Websites as Indicators of School’s Evolutionary Position’. Educational Technology Solutions No. 55 2013
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

Are you an analogue or digital leader?

Mal Lee

Bhaduri and Fischer have had published in the Forbes business magazine of February 19 a very revealing comparison between the thinking of what they term ‘analog’ and ‘digital’ leaders.

It can be read at – http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfischer/2015/03/19/are-you-an-analog-or-digital-leader/

While written with business leaders in mind you’ll soon see the parallel with the school leaders working within the pathfinder schools globally.

I’ve used the terms ‘paper based’ and ‘networked’ mindset to describe that difference.

However matters is not so much the labels one uses but rather the highlighting of the profoundly different mindsets and the imperative of school leaders thinking in the ;digital’ mode if they are to create ever evolving, digitally based school ecosystems.

 

The Accelerating Differences between Schools

Mal Lee

The difference between schools continues to grow as evermore schools build on their digital operational base and evolve at an accelerating pace. In adopting an increasingly integrated, evermore complex and higher order ecosystem and organisational culture and by positioning themselves for sustained evolution these schools are increasingly providing a fundamentally different schooling to their relatively simple lower order paper based counterparts.

As yet largely unseen and unheralded by the education community these early adopter schools are experiencing the same kind of whole digital organisational transformation as all other ‘industries’. However where industry is daily receiving major scrutiny globally with the implications well understood the evolution in schooling receives scant mention. Rather most governments, educators and the education media focus on tinkering with a dated paper based mode of schooling from which the pathfinder schools have long moved, doing little to assist or encourage to schools ready themselves for the digital world.

In researching the revised edition of Bring Your Own Technology (Lee and Levins, 2012) and examining the evolutionary journeys of the original case study schools over the last three years what impressed was the rapid and indeed accelerating evolution and transformation that had occurred in those years in the well led schools, the whole of school community nature, the total school transformation and the maturing in all of a digitally based ecosystem that facilitates those schools sustained evolution and transformation.

The contrast with the traditional paper based, loosely coupled mode of schooling ensconced in their traditional ways was profound and on track to become more so.

Where in 2012 Martin and I anticipated an accelerating rate of evolution we had not anticipated the speed of the evolution, the schools and in particular the teachers’ embracement of rapid change or how well the schools had positioned themselves for on-going rapid transformation and enhancement.

The case study schools had smashed the long held belief that teachers won’t embrace change.

One of the principals interviewed observed on the accelerating rate of transformation and the increasing difference between schools that even I did not grasp the extent. That is likely to be a fair call on an observer undertaking but a three year snap shot.

That acknowledged, what can safely be said it is now clear is that the new norm with schooling globally will be the accelerating differences between schools, and the mode of schooling each provides.

The implications of this development for all associated with schooling, be it government, parents, students, educators, educational administrators, the media commentators or educational researchers are profound, and oblige all to view schools with a different mindset.

Usually unwittingly schools have long been perceived to be basically the same and to be largely immutable and constant in form. ‘One size fits all’ solutions are still common and research done in the one school is purported to be applicable in every other.

With digital transformation the sameness, constancy and the continuity of the paper based school disappears.

Lee and Broadie (2014) document the differences in their Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages, but the evidence exists everywhere for all to see.

Look nearby and you’ll likely observe schools that range on the evolutionary continuum from the traditional paper based operations that still specify what kind of pencil to buy and exercise books to cover, to those which make extensive use of the digital, but don’t trust the students to choose the ‘right’, believing only the ‘ICT experts’ know best through to those that not only trust the children from the early childhood years to use the suite of digital technologies they use 24/7/365 but are desirous of distributing the control of the teaching and learning, of genuinely collaborating with their parents and building upon the children’s out of school learning and everyday use of their digital technologies.

Where one saw in the pathfinder schools teachers who were empowered professionals, encouraged to lead and to take risks and who as a staff had seized that opportunity and were flying, in schools nearby the teachers were still micro managed, discouraged from taking any risks and obliged to continue doing what they had for the past 30-40 years one could but conclude the school differences would grow.

The cultures, the ecosystems of the above schools are fundamentally different.

Contrast the distinguishing attributes in the table below of the traditional school and those digitally based schools providing a 24/7/365 mode of schooling and you’ll note they are already antithetical in many ways.

The same kind of organizational difference can be found in the corporate world – although perhaps not to the same extent – between the ecosystems of the digital masters and those of the companies slower to transform digitally.

Indeed schooling can benefit – as indicated in the previous post – from the growing body of research (Westerman, et al, 2014) (Solis, et al, 2014) undertaken on the digital transformation of industry, understanding that the attributes that distinguish the ‘digital masters’ in the corporate world are evident – albeit on a much smaller scale – within the digital masters in schooling and go a long why to explaining why the pathfinder schools are evolving at such pace.

Most of those attributes have been examined in depth in earlier posts and thus most don’t need to be elaborated upon, but several do warrant particular comment.

Critical to the creation of ever evolving school ecosystems was

  • the all pervasive 24/7/365 use of apposite evermore powerful and sophisticated digital technologies
  • the creation of an increasingly integrated school ecosystem that simultaneously addressed all the variables, in and outside the school walls that impacted each child’s learning
  • each school taking control of its own on-going growth
  • a strong shaping school educational vision
  • an astute school principal, with a strong digital vision willing to lead
  • a networked mindset
  • a culture of change and the active support of risk taking
  • the assembling of a professional staff with the wherewithal to thrive and continually contribute to an ever evolving ever higher order organisation
  • the empowering of all staff, teaching and professional support, enhancing their understanding the macro workings of the school as well as their area/s of responsibility
  • trusting and respecting the teachers as professionals, giving them the autonomy to lead initiatives, and actively supporting them as they began to fly
  • the astute use of a suite of operational diagnostics and metrics to guide the growth of a rapidly evolving ecosystem.

It has been long understood that when one creates an organizational culture that encourages all the staff ‘to fly’ and to fly high, and actively supports and recognises the flight the organisation will evolve at pace (Deal and Kennedy, 1982).

That is what is happening in well led, digitally based schools.

It is a development that will see those schools evolve even faster and adopt an ever higher form, further differentiating them from those still working in their paper based operational mode and mindset.

Paper and Digitally based schools

Digital Transformation of Businesses – and Schooling

Mal Lee

It is highly likely – particularly those of you attuned to the information feeds – that you’ll see increasing reference this year to both the ‘digital transformation’ and ‘digital evolution’ of business.

Indeed several of major business management journals have projected that 2015 will be the year of digital transformation.

Check the web pages of the major business consultancy firms and you’ll see all promoting their facility to assist that organisational transformation.

What is important to understood by all associated with schools is the digital transformation is also occurring at pace with schooling globally – particularly in those schools globally that have moved to a digital operational base – mirrors that occurring in all manner of industries.

While it is appreciated many in schools rail at any reference to business the reality is that the evermore pervasive use of the digital technology is transforming virtually every facet of our lives, all organisations, including our schools.

As those who know my writings will appreciate the digital evolution of schooling, the transformative impact of the digital technology on every facet of the school’s operations and indeed the nature of the schooling provided has been the focus of my research and writing for some time.

While it should be no surprise it is both fascinating and professionally rewarding to note the close parallels between the organisational transformation occurring in both industry and schooling, and the key variables identified in both our own research and that in business.

I’m increasingly of the view that all educators, and indeed parents and politicians, could better understand the situation in their school and the likely path ahead if they noted not only the digital transformation occurring within schooling but also within industry in general.

To this end I’m curating – at http://www.scoop.it/t/digitalevolutionofschooling – a compilation of current readings on the development, as relates to both schooling and industry, making particular mention of those studies and authors worth reading.

One of the terms you’ll likely encounter in that reading is ‘Digital Darwinism’. While one doesn’t need to spell out the implications for industry it applicability to schools and units therein as viable entities is ever growing.

It is a term coined by Brian Solis. His work for the Altimeter group on Digital Transformation in 2014 is well worth downloading from – http://www.briansolis.com/2014/12/digital-transformation-year-review/

Indeed his 2014 YouTube presentation to Telstra, although around an hour in length, is well worth watching, reflecting upon and using in your staff development.

For a more detailed read, particularly by school leaders I’d recommend the 2014 work by Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press. While their research focuses on the global ‘digital masters’ in business the findings applicable to all digitally based industries.

Complementing that work are two very good short YouTube presentations, one by Westerman at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OTu5KB7qNU and the other by Bonnett at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35gSmVs4YfI

BYOT Savings

Mal Lee and Martin Levins

October 2014

BYOT can save schools and governments considerable monies and hassles forever on, while enhancing the quality and appropriateness of the schooling provided.

In brief BYOT, and the natural next step, digital normalisation forever removes the onus on the school funding, selecting, maintaining and replacing every student’s rapidly evolving suite of personal digital technologies.

It recognises the reality that the young of the developed world have long normalised the use of the digital in their everyday lives, have in their hands a suite of digital technologies they will continually attune to meet their ever evolving needs and wants, and as a consequence have a set of universal expectations and practises they and their parents will increasingly expect to see respected in the classroom.

With BYOT and digital normalisation the school funds simply those students who can’t afford to buy the requisite kit, the network infrastructure, bandwidth, the classroom digital presentation technology, the staff’s personal choice of digital toolkit, the website and linked digital communications suite and if required any specialist instructional technologies.

The students provide, use, maintain and update their choice of digital technologies.

Significantly BYOT will likely save many families, particularly those in non-government schools considerable monies. Their children will use in class the technologies they are already using 24/7/365, and the families will not be obliged to duplicate technology simply to appease the school.

We’d stress ‘can’ and underscore that we are talking BYOT of the form that we have defined (Lee and Levins, 2012. P11) where the school collaborates with the student’s homes and actively encourages and trusts the children to use astutely the suite of personal technologies the children are already using in the 80% of learning time outside the classroom.

Our research, particularly now we have schools that have moved beyond the BYOT phase and normalised the whole school of the digital and the student’s choice of kit, underscores the importance of the school readying itself to successfully take advantage of BYOT and having an eco-system, a culture where there is genuine collaboration with the students and their homes, and which trusts, respects, recognises and builds upon their teaching and resources.

To realise the full financial benefits of BYOT one needs a teaching environment where all the teachers, and not merely a percentage make apt use of the digital technology in their everyday teaching. The research reveals not surprisingly that if teachers don’t use the digital technology in their teaching and vitally in a way that encourages the children to use theirs the students will not necessarily bring their kit to those teacher’s classes.

The ‘activating’ of all teachers and students takes time and astute and concerted effort, requiring the simultaneous addressing of near fifty key variables.

One will thus only accrue the fuller financial savings only when there is normalised whole school use of the student’s own technology.

BYOD, where the school specifies which technology the children must acquire and use can save some money but invariably the approach carries with it a reluctance to trust, and invariably the mandatory use of procedures to control the student usage, such as expensive virtual desktop systems, the buying of specific software and the continuing purchase of proxy services.

Moreover as a ‘top down’ model imposed on the parents, that invariably duplicates the preferred technology already in the home BYOD is unlikely to be tolerated very long by increasingly digitally empowered parents watching nearby schools embracing BYOT.

In calculating the financial savings for your school look at the

  • Cost of the personal digital technology the school does not have to acquire,
  • Insurance on the technology not required
  • Cost of the software, software licenses and apps not needed
  • Reduction in the staff time spent on the help desk, equipment support and maintenance

Consider also the considerable staff time and effort spent on seeking budget cover, the selection of gear and software, the configuration of each child’s kit, troubleshooting, the provision of back up gear and the eventual upgrade the technology.

Give thought to the savings and efficiencies that come with digital normalisation and the movement from a paper operational base. For example, consider the approximate savings in:

  • postage
  • purchase of paper
  • photocopying, photocopy and print technology
  • staff time wasted on paper based 
administration/communication
  • the efficiencies and economies made possible with the digital and ever tightly organizational integration
  • staff time spent preparing and producing paper-based teaching materials
  • adopting a highly efficient inexpensive digital communications suite and opting for electronic communiques.

Many new to the BYOT concept make the claim that the school has to spend considerable money readying the school’s infrastructure.

The experiences of and research with the pathfinder schools doesn’t bear that out. Yes if a school succeeds in getting every child and teacher to use the suite of digital technologies naturally across the school it will need ample and increasing bandwidth, ever denser campus wide Wi-Fi and apposite support technology but any school wanting the all pervasive use of the digital technology will need that anyway.

Tellingly by every child having in their hands the technology they use 24/7/365 the school positions itself forever to

  • provide an ever higher order mode of learning and teaching, and continually enhance learning
  • better individualise each child’s learning, teaching and assessment
  • teach anywhere, anytime, 24/7/365
  • achieve ever greater efficiencies, economies and synergies in the teaching, assessment, communication and administration
  • accrue ever more savings
  • remove the burden on the school of providing the apposite current suite of digital technologies for each child.

Tellingly the genuine collaboration with the school’s community that accompanies the successful uptake of BYOT invariably brings with it considerable unintended additional ‘riches’. Many of those riches will be in the form of markedly increased social capital but in virtually all the schools studied the school received unanticipated material windfalls. One state school for example had an ex student give the school $30,000 in case there were students in need of support.

While rightly one can say the ‘savings’ came from the collaboration rather than BYOT per se but the point remains that when schools are prepared to genuinely collaborate with their communities, to pool resources, to trust, respect and recognise the parent’s contribution they position themselves to forever acquire significant additional resources.

BYOT reflects a historic shift in the financing of the student’s personal digital technologies and in removing that burden from schools people will in a few years ask why didn’t we make the obvious change earlier.

BYOT Savings

The Different Rate of Primary School Evolution

Mal Lee

Primary, or what others know as elementary or preparatory, schools operating on a digital base are on trend to evolve faster then secondary/high schools, and to adopt an ever higher order mode of teaching, with all the concomitant implications. The pathfinder primary schools are that step ahead in their evolution of their secondary counterparts and are on course to remain so.

While the difference is not great between the pathfinders, as previously indicated those as yet rare early adopter high schools are where they are today because that have been on their evolutionary for the past 15-20 years.

While the high schools are as indicated (Lee, 2014) encumbered with a sizeable number of challenges most primary schools not only are better positioned to undertake the evolutionary journey but also on present indications are likely to encounter fewer obstacles on their journey.

The general trend, at least for the foreseeable future is for the difference to grow.

A consequence that we are already seeing with the pathfinder primary schools globally is that their graduates are moving, and will increasingly be 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 teaching where the use of the student’s technology is often 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 networked world, very often moving their graduates into a more dated educational experience.

In bears reflecting why this might so.

The reality is that 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 ecology.

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.

That said there are as indicated a small cadre of secondary schools globally that have overcome the particular challenges of their sector and evolved their school to the point where they are operating as a networked school community, virtually normalising the whole school use of the student’s own choice of digital technologies. Most as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2014) have been on their evolutionary journey for many years or are newer schools where the foundation principal has been able to select the desired staff, teaching and professional support.

They are well placed to readily accommodate the graduates of digitally based primary schools. However they are in 2014 as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2014) relatively few and number.

Notwithstanding they, like their pathfinder primary confreres provide the later adopter schools an important insight into how all high schools should be able to go some distance towards providing an apt, ever evolving 24/7/365 schooling for the digital and networked world.

As a former upper secondary teacher and principal, well versed in the belief held by many secondary, particularly upper secondary teachers and principals that they are the superior educators I’d be suggesting it might be opportune for them to carefully scrutinise why in general terms primary schools are evolving faster and why the pathfinder primary schools are so well positioned to provide their students an ever higher order holistic education.

It might occasion secondary schools to analyse the appropriateness of retaining Industrial Age organisational structures in a rapidly evolving digital and networked world.

Lee, M (in press) ‘The challenge of high school digital normalisation’. Educational Technology Solutions, 2014

Lee, M and Broadie, R (2014) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages Broulee Australia