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

Chaos and order – the new working paradox

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Schools increasingly will need to work, nay thrive with the seeming paradox of accommodating seeming operational chaos at the same time as the on-going quest for order.

Tom Peter’s famously wrote Thriving on Chaos for the business world in 1987.

25 plus years on much of that advice is now apt for schools operating on a digital base and evolving at pace.

Couple that advice with the understanding provided by complexity science on the nature of organisational evolution and you’ll appreciate why in time all schools and their staff will work in what seems at first glance a paradoxical situation.

The pathfinder schools are unwittingly learning the art of thriving on chaos where daily they are contending with what to do with inadequate old practises, the promise of the new, the messiness, uncertainty and at times the seeming chaos associated with the substituting the old for the new and the order that comes with astute adoption and normalised use of more apposite approaches. What we found in all the pathfinder schools, in all four nations was a palpable excitement, student pleasure, and the very noticeable professional satisfaction of the staff.

On-going change and evolution that was orchestrated from within the school was increasingly accepted as the norm. Staff, the students and the parents appeared remarkably accepting of the on-going evolution. It was quite remarkable how quickly time honoured practises disappeared and new practises became normalised and accepted.

The new, but very pleasant challenge for the school leaders in the pathfinders was the need at times to apply the brakes on the rate of the school’s evolutionary transformation and to ensure highly committed and excited teachers didn’t over extend themselves and ‘burn out’. As indicated in the evolutionary stage attributes school leaders needed increasingly to monitor the work of highly committed staff, to identify how each expressed stress and to employ appropriate ‘welfare’ measures.

The contrast with the constancy and order in many of the paper based schools where change, internal and external, is frowned upon, many teachers have ‘switched off’ and where a sizeable proportion of the students find the teaching irrelevant and boring is pronounced.

Tellingly while as indicated in the earlier post on complexity science the digital schools constantly seek order in most of what they do they are simultaneously excited about taking advantage of the educational opportunities being opened. They appear to be very willing to move into unchartered territory if they believe it will assist enhance the student learning, knowing full well mistakes might be made and alternatives might have to be pursued. Moreover they seemingly better understand the macro scene, the increasingly interrelatedness of all school operations and the importance of ensuring the ever evolving school ecology provided the desired education.

The key in all the pathfinders was the existence of a culture, a school ecology that supported change and on-going evolution, which valued leadership at multiple levels and teachers taking risks and trying the new, with the concomitant implications.

While highly unlikely to be versed in the workings of complexity science the schools and their staff appear to be very comfortable working with the seeming paradox of chaos and order.

 

Peters, T (1987) Thriving on Chaos NY Alfred A Knopf

Learning to live with ever increasing school variability

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 

As evermore schools move to a digital operational base, take responsibility for their on-going evolution and transformation, plan for their unique context, adopt an ever higher order ecology and move ever further along the school evolutionary continuum so the variability between schools will increase. While some schools are in virtual equilibrium at the Paper Based evolutionary stage the pathfinders are moving at pace through the Digital Normalisation stage offering a 24/7/365 mode of schooling fundamentally different and in many respects antithetical to that provided by the traditional school.

Significantly the schools at the Paper Based or even Early Digital evolutionary stages will take years of astute and concerted effort to even reach the Digital Normalisation stage let alone provide a schooling comparable with the pathfinders.

When one recognises that all the other schools globally are at different points along the six stages of the schools’ evolutionary stages continuum you’ll appreciate not only why there will be the increasing school variability but also why governments, education authorities, school decision makers, curriculum designers, teacher educators and educational researchers should begin attuning their thinking and operations to the new reality. .

When you add to the significant natural growth that flows when schools shift to a digital operational base, the quest by governments globally to accord ever-greater autonomy and decision making to individual schools and the burgeoning imperative, identified by Helbing (2014) of each operational unit taking prime operational responsibility for its own evolution in an era surging computer power and increasing organisational complexity you’ll appreciate why school variability will be the new norm that all associated with schooling will need to live with.

It is a reality that astute prospective Net Generation parents globally are already aware off, they slowly but most assuredly seeking out those schools they believe will genuinely provide, and vitally will continue to provide, an apposite 21st education.

That said many governments, education authorities and even clusters of schools are still working on the assumption that all schools are basically the same and will continue to be so.

Variability doesn’t appear to have entered most education administrator’s lexicon.

National policies in 2014 are still implemented on the premise that all schools are the same. To assume that schools where but 30% of the teachers use the digital in their teaching should employ the same instructional program as one where the total school community has normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital and is working within a much higher order, tightly integrated ecology is to show little appreciation of the educational reality of today.

The attributes required of teachers thriving in the latter higher mode of schooling are as indicated (Lee, 2014) significantly different to the former type of school or indeed to be found in the ‘one size fits’ approach found in the national teacher standards and employed by education authority HR units in the hiring and appointing teachers and principals.

Many regional and network staff development programs continue to be mounted on the assumption that all schools in an area are at the same evolutionary point and have the same needs. Pathfinder schools are openly criticised when they declare those common programs are a waste and no longer applicable to their situation.

Technology solutions are still notoriously based on the assumption that all schools must use the standard approach invariably devised by central office techs with seemingly no understanding of the situation in a diverse group of increasingly autonomous schools.

There appears globally in 2014 a pronounced inability by many educational decision makers to understand that every school is unique and that the time honoured ‘one size fits all’ approach has passed its ‘use by date’.

In the same way that many schools have difficulty personalising the student teaching so governments and education authorities seemingly have difficulty in individualising the enhancement of schools. For some reason the system-wide approach top down approach must still be employed.

As schools evolve at their own pace and create unique ecologies it’s vital governments and education administrators factor variability and not sameness into all aspects of their operational thinking, be it in relation to the curriculum, teaching, staff selection, home-school collaboration, school planning, marketing, school accountability, resourcing or the use of technology.

The development obliges all external school support bodies and agencies understand where each school sits on the schools’ evolutionary stages continuum, that school’s likely path ahead and to tailor its ‘support’ accordingly if it is to add value to the teaching in that school. If that agency can’t add that value it is better dispensed with, its stultifying presence removed and the schools be left free to take control of their own evolution.

 

 

Lee

Taking Control of Your School’s Evolution

Mal Lee

Critical to the evolution of schooling is the necessity of each school taking control of its own evolution, daily shaping its ever evolving and distinct ecology to provide the desired education.

All of the pathfinder schools studied in the researching A Taxonomy of School Evolution and the forthcoming work on Digital Normalisation and School Transformation had been proactive, and had of their own volition for 15-20 years embarked on the quest to provide what they believed to be an apposite education for an ever evolving digital and networked world.

They were not, like so many other schools willing to sit and wait for those on high to provide the lead.

The growing imperative for every school to take charge of evolution, and not fall into a state of equilibrium is explored in the ACER’s new online journal Teacher at – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/taking-charge-of-your-schools-evolution

Complexity Science and School Evolution

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The evolutionary nature of schooling, its remarkable global similarity, the existence of the six evolutionary stages, the emergence of ever higher order schooling, evermore integrated and complex schools and the increasing importance of unique living school ecologies needing to have operational responsibility for their own growth should bid educators and school administrators look very closely at the applicability of complexity science to the on-going transformation of schooling. That need is amplified when one reflects upon the following graph used by Helbing (2014) in his June presentation on the likely impact of the digital technology upon the organisations of the world.

chart_vp1

While complexity science had its origins in the explanation of the remarkable commonality that was found to emerge out of the seeming chaos in complex systems in nature in the last decade or so that thinking has been increasingly applied to complex human systems to try and explain the remarkable commonality that has emerged in the seeming chaotic growth of human organisations, particularly when they move to a digital operational base and become networked. A Google search and the Wikipedia entry on complexity science provide a ready entrée to the key readings. While as yet very little has been written on the application of the thinking to the evolution of schools there is a growing body of research that has been undertaken on businesses, and indeed health sector organisations that appears to be applicable to schools. In conceptualising the school evolutionary stages, the international nature of the evolutionary continuum, the existence of significant natural growth when schools go digital, the imperative of each school shaping its own growth and the impact of digital normalisation it was interesting to say the least to note the parallels with what had happened with all manner of business organisations. Yin for example as far back as 1979 used the term ‘disappearance’ to describe what we call digital normalisation while Bar and his colleagues at Stanford used the term ‘routinization’.

Yin therefore recognizes that the introduction of an innovation can result in organizational transformation through a process of increased embeddedness of the technology in the organization, which is consistent with the reconfiguration stage of our model (Bar, et al, 2000 p20). Interestingly the Stanford group also identified the same kind of evolutionary stages in networked organisations that we found in schools, albeit using different labels to describe the industry wide evolutionary pattern (Bar et al, 2000).

Those organisational evolution studies need to be read in conjunction with Pascale, Milleman and Gioja’s work on Surfing at the Edge of Chaos (2000). The following quote from that work provides a revealing an insight into what is happening with both the pathfinding ever more complex schools and those lagging.

‘The science of complexity has yielded four bedrock principles relevant to the new strategic work:

  1. Complex adaptive systems are at risk when in equilibrium. Equilibrium is a precursor to death.4

  2. Complex adaptive systems exhibit the capacity of self-organization and emergent complexity.5 Self-organization arises from intelligence in the remote clusters (or “nodes”) within a network. Emergent complexity is generated by the propensity of simple structures to generate novel patterns, infinite variety, and often, a sum that is greater than the parts. (Again, the escalating complexity of life on earth is an example.)

  3. Complex adaptive systems tend to move toward the edge of chaos when provoked by a complex task.6 Bounded instability is more conducive to evolution than either stable equilibrium or explosive instability. (For example, fire has been found to be a critical factor in regenerating healthy forests and prairies.) One important corollary to this principle is that a complex adaptive system, once having reached a temporary “peak” in its fitness landscape (e.g., a company during a golden era), must then “go down to go up” (i.e., moving from one peak to a still higher peak requires it to traverse the valleys of the fitness landscape). In cybernetic terms, the organism must be pulled by competitive pressures far enough out of its usual arrangements before it can create substantially different forms and arrive at a more evolved basin of attraction.

  4. One cannot direct a living system, only disturb it.7 Complex adaptive systems are characterized by weak cause-and-effect linkages. Phase transitions occur in the realm where one relatively small and isolated variation can produce huge effects. Alternatively, large changes may have little effect. (This phenomenon is common in the information industry. Massive efforts to promote a superior operating system may come to naught, whereas a series of serendipitous events may establish an inferior operating system —such as MS-DOS — as the industry standard.) (Pascale, Milleman and Gioja, 2000, p6).’

We’d suggest all four of the principles are evident in bucket loads in the schools evolutionary continuum.   The recent presentation by Helbing (2014) that examines the likely profound impact on the world of the rapidly increasing processing power and computer systems and which notes the increasingly pertinence of complexity science to all organizations posits that only the individual operational units – be it a school or hospital – has the wherewithal to shape desired way forward for the organisation. His contention is that the speed and complexity of the change occurring cannot be handled – as now – from on high and ought be handled at the unit level by bureaucracies, he noting

….complexity theory tell us that it is actually feasible to create resilient social and economic order by means of self-organisation, self-regulation, and self-governance. The work of Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom and others has demonstrated this. By “guided self-organisation” we can let things happen in a way that produces desirable outcomes in a flexible and efficient way. One should imagine this embedded in the framework of today’s institutions and stakeholders, which will eventually learn to interfere in minimally invasive ways (Helbing, 2014).

Interestingly all the pathfinder schools in their evolutionary journey have taken control of their own growth and it is why today those schools are so well positioned to accommodate the continuing and likely escalating change organizational evolution.   Bibliography

  • Bar, F, Kane, N, and Simard, C (2000) Digital networks and Organisational Change. The Evolutionary deployment of Corporate Information Infrastructure Vancouver 2000 Retrieved 19 June 2014 – http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~fbar/Publications/sunbelt-2000.PDF
  • Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press

 

Digital Teaching: Is it Time in 2014 to Take a Stand?

Mal Lee

Is it time in 2014 to put a line in the sand and give the schools that desire the right to refuse to accept on any teacher, teacher librarian or school counsellor unable to use the apposite digital technology?

Is there any reason why compulsorily transferred principals or staff in executive positions should not be treated the same?

Earlier articles referred to the higher order attributes evident in the principals and teachers in those schools that have normalised the whole school use of the digital technology.

The sad reality in Australia today is that schools operating at this level can have staff appointed literally unable or unwilling to the use the basic technology.

It may well be school teaching is the only knowledge industry today in the developed world where supposed professionals unable or unwilling to use the digital technology are employed. It is hard to think of any other profession willing to carry such supposed professionals.

Indeed as many of you know there are still teachers who openly proclaim that they don’t know how to use the technology and don’t intend finding out.

Imagine you are teaching in a school where all the staff, teaching and professional support, the children and the parent community have after many years of concerted collaborative effort, endless hours of staff development and considerable expense succeeded in normalising the use of the digital in all the school’s operations, educational and administrative.

The school has reached the Digital Normalisation evolutionary stage and all the teachers have developed the suite of attributes discussed in ‘Teaching in a Digital School’. Moreover the school is very much operating on a digital base, is collaborating closely with its parents and community to provide a holistic 24/7/365 education, and had created an ever evolving ever higher order and evermore tightly integrated school ecology.

The local education authority in its wisdom decides to compulsorily transfer to the school a teacher or principal who has only the most rudimentary computing skills, barely able to start one up and none of the mindset that comes from working in a networked world.

In its normal staff selection the school would never countenance appointing that person. Indeed as indicated in my post of November 20 2013 (http://www.schoolevolutionarystages.net) it is becoming increasingly apparent that as schools move along the evolutionary continuum they expect that much more of their staff and look to new staff being able to get up to speed from virtually day one.

In brief the pressure is considerable on even newly appointed teachers highly versed in the use of all manner of digital technology.

The pressure on a teacher or principal without those skills will be immense and unfair to that person, his/her colleagues, the students, the parents and the school as an entity.

It is appreciated there is also pressure on staffing officers to place permanent staff but education authorities and governments have to understand the new reality and that to throw ill-equipped staff into alien cultures will not work and that there is the very real likelihood the transferee will soon be placed on stress leave, costing the system very considerable monies.

Think of how the ill-equipped teacher will feel. Teachers transferred into any school where the use of the digital is the norm in all classes are likely to feel from day one out of their depth, isolated, to panic and to feel alienated from their colleagues. They will be aware they will have no standing with their colleagues or with the students. The children will expect to be taught in a teaching environment where they are trusted, respected, their out of school attainment is recognised, where their personal needs are understood, where they will naturally and predominantly use their own suite of digital technologies as the main tools both in the creation of their work and for assessment purposes.

Their life will be difficult.

Should the transferee manage to last a couple of weeks inevitably the parents of the children affected will be rightly complaining.

Teachers who have toiled for years to enhance their own skill and mindset, and have enhanced their own professionalism to the point where they can contribute to the on-going evolution of the school are not likely to go out of their way to help a transferee who has not made that effort. All will rightly say of the transferee that as a salaried teacher he/she had responsibility for acquiring the apposite digital competencies.

An initial scan of the scene in England, the US, NZ and Australia strongly suggests most governments and education authorities therein have yet to recognise let alone address the situation. There are in all four nations moves in some jurisdictions to stop teachers being employed without the requisite digital competencies but it is very difficult to identify any moves with permanent staff. They may well exist but they are hard to find.

In writing the Australian states and territories with teaching institutes of those that responded while the national teacher standards do include a note about ICT proficiency tellingly in any teachers reaccreditation it is but one of suite of variables to be considered.

Tellingly the national standards for Australian principals don’t even include that requirement. In theory a digitally illiterate principal could be transferred into to lead a school operating at the Networked or Digital Normalisation evolutionary stage.

Pleasingly while ever more teacher training institutions have taken on Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK thinking and the critical importance of the technology in teaching in reality the education authorities don’t appear to have recognised the imperative of having educators able to operate on a digital base.

While governments and educational bureaucrats like the rhetoric of the digital and networked world and 21st century and espouse digital revolutions the reality is that virtually all have seemingly yet to grasp that enhancement will only happen when all the teachers in each school are making apt use of that technology in their everyday teaching.

One might have hoped the teacher unions would have been concerned for the welfare of this kind of member and would counsel them on the path ahead. Perhaps not surprisingly colleagues consulted in the UK, US, NZ and Australia were all of the belief that the unions would instead defend the value of the teacher’s paper based skills.

One hopes that would not be so.

At the outset the suggestion was that the line in the sand in 2014 be set preventing digitally illiterate transferees being placed in schools operating on a digital base where the situation will be very much ‘loose – loose’ for all parties. There are still traditional paper based schools where the use of the digital in teaching is minimal and where the transferees could be placed with the warning to become digitally competent by a set time.

Fortuitously with the move nationally to afford each Australian government school greater say in its staffing it is timely to suggest that the schools that desire set that mark.

Note thus far I’ve not included in this discussion digitally competent teachers who don’t use the technology in their teaching.

The research colleagues and the author have undertaken (Lee and Winzenried, 2009), (Lee and Finger, 2010), (Lee and Ward, 2013) indicates that that shortcoming is primarily the responsibility of the school and in particular the school principal and not the teachers as such. It is the leadership that has to set and support those expectations.

That said there appears to be little likelihood that the authorities will take any action until the profession, the impacted schools with the support of ever more highly digitally empowered parents and parents voice the concern.

Conclusion

On reflection it is little the wonder that so few of the world’s schools in 2014 have normalised the use of the digital in all their operations and while most schools lag so far behind the kind of digital normalisation found with the children, their parents and society in general.

Until schooling’s key resource, its educators are expected by their employers to have and to demonstrate the requisite digital competencies the chances of closing that gap is constrained.

Bibliography

  • Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) (2010) Developing a Networked School Community, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press

 

 

Schools as Ever Evolving Ecologies

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

We’ve found it helpful in considering the distinct nature of digital schools to view them as ever evolving, evermore tightly integrated ecologies where all the parts are increasingly linked.

They stand in marked contrast to the traditional paper based schools, and in particular the secondary schools that have long been viewed as largely constant, loosely coupled organisations where silo like units within the school operate largely independently. Indeed Karl Weick’s thinking on schools as loosely coupled organisations, that was penned in 1976 still holds true with most high schools today.

However view the attributes displayed by the pathfinder schools as they moved along the evolutionary continuum and you’ll see, as noted in the earlier posts the traditional loosely coupled school becoming evermore integrated and tightly coupled, with all the operations being increasingly linked to the realisation of the school’s shaping educational vision.

As the natural growth impacted, as the staff and client expectations rose, as new opportunities were identified so the schools evolved with all the parts becoming increasingly intertwined. The schools became increasingly distinct, ever-evolving ecologies addressing the particular needs of their situation by ensuring all facets of their operations, in and outside the school walls were linked and the silos were more closely integrated or dispensed with.

Moreover the digital convergence and the associated integration also saw the schools – often unwittingly – make ever-greater use of the facility the digital operational base provided to have the one facility serve multiple purposes with no extra effort by the staff.

Lee and Ward (2013) cite the example of school blogs where those blogs simultaneously and without any extra effort provided

  • an insight into the school’s daily activities to parents, grandparents, 
the local community and the students, and what they can do to 
complement that work
  • advice to parents on the school’s program, its calendar of events and 
the home study
  • a window into the workings of the school to all interested professionals, 
school or system executives or politicians
  • an important indicator as to where the school is at in its evolution
  • instant, ongoing accountability
  • the facility for instant teacher ‘evaluation’ and an insight into who is 
adding value
  • very powerful marketing of the school
  • an appreciation of how well the school operations are integrated (Lee and Ward, 2013, p89).

Factor in that all the schools were moreover increasingly marrying the teaching of the homes with that of the schools, and creating an increasingly integrated and tightly coupled 24/7/365 school ecology.

The challenge for the school leadership, and in particular the principal in the digital and networked school is to daily ensure not only are all the parts in the evolving ecology appropriately are apposite and can be integrated but that the total school ecology is shaped in a way that will best provide the desired educational benefits.

The challenge for researchers in or outside the school becomes ever greater. Thus far educational research has in the main been silo like looking primarily at linear connections within a part of the school’s operations. In integrated, ever-more complex, ever changing ecologies where the impact might come from synergies that are greater than the sum of the parts, and where much of the change is non-linear the difficulty of ascertaining what impacts student attainment will be challenging to say the least.

That said by recognizing that one is working with evolving, ever higher order ecologies – and not static loosely coupled entities – helps all associated with the school, be they the staff, the clients, community or the authorities, better understand the school’s nature and what is required for its on-going enhancement.

It is most assuredly not ‘one size fits all schools’ silver bullet solutions handed down from high.

The idea of a living, ever evolving complex ecology, which will forever experience significant natural growth and where all the parts will increasingly be intertwined, in and outside the school walls helps the school community, and in particular the school staff better understand their very different teaching and learning environment.

 

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

Weick, K, (1976) “Educational Organizations as Loosely Coupled Systems” Administrative Science Quarterly 21 1976

 

Article in ACER’s Teacher on School Evolutionary Stages

Mal has an article in the inaugural edition of ACER’s new online magazine Teacher on the global school evolutionary stages.  Simply go to – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/school-evolution-a-common-global-phenomenon.

A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

Roger Broadie and I have posted on under the new Taxonomy section of this site and at http://www.BroadieAssociates.co.uk a copy of our Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages and the complementary publication Evolution through the Threads.

Both publications are free.

We’d strongly suggest downloading both publications.

The Taxonomy posits, as mentioned in earlier posts that

  • schools globally evolve in a remarkably similar manner, particularly when shifting to a digital operational base
  • all schools currently sit at a point on six stage evolutionary continuum; a continuum that will over time continually expand
  • schools will evolve through a series of key evolutionary stages, demonstrating at each stage remarkably similar attributes
  • the vast majority of schools will need to evolve through each of the stages before moving on to the next
  • it is finally possible with the continuum to provide schools and their communities an international indicative measure, that allows them to readily identify their school’s approximate current evolutionary stage and the likely path ahead
  • it takes considerable time and effort for schools to move along the evolutionary continuum
  • schools in equilibrium are prone to the same risks as other complex organisations that don’t continue to evolve.

The Evolution through the Threads explores in depth the evolution that has occurred in the pathfinder schools that have or nearly normalised the whole school use of the digital technology in some 20 plus key operational areas. Vitally the analysis of the threads underscores the reality that the evolution in a school might well occur at a different pace in different operational areas.

Both works have emerged out of the research we have undertaken with pathfinder schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia.

While as stressed both works are human constructs and indicative in nature we have both in our school consultations found the staff and vitally the parents can swiftly position the school and soon understand the many variables needing to be addressed.