Schools Have to Go Digital to Remain Viable

This is the first of the 2016 series of short blogs on the digital evolution of schooling.  All posts in the series relate to the 10 Week Digital Leadership Programs.

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Schools in the developed world have to go digital if they are to remain viable (Lee and Broadie, 2015).

In the same way as the digital masters in industry are showing the way forward and are employing highly efficient and increasingly productive digitally based ecosystems to heighten their productivity and to win the custom so too are the pathfinder schools globally.

Indeed it is now apparent the traditional, much loved but highly inefficient, inflexible paper based school has as much chance of competing against a digital school as the local bookseller has against its online competition. Like the bookseller it might take a few years, but in time the viability of paper based schools will be increasingly tested.

In a world where the young and their parents – the clients of the school – have normalised the everyday, 24/7/365 use of the digital and have ever rising expectations of the technology it is already clear increasingly they will choose, when available those digital schools that meet or exceed their educational, cultural and digital expectations.

Schools can opt to continue operating within the paper based paradigm, unilaterally deciding what is educationally appropriate, focussing on paper based external exams, banning the use of the students’ digital technologies, daily lagging ever further behind both society’s rising digital expectations and the pathfinder schools astute all pervasive use of the digital but each day they do they take themselves further out of the game.

Where the traditional insular paper based mode of schooling has after a hundred plus years maximised its potential the digital, socially networked mode of schooling is just beginning to tap its immense potential and to markedly enhance its productivity.

The digital evolution of the pathfinder schools, and their adoption of increasingly integrated, mature, powerful and agile digitally based ecosystems has highlighted not only their immense potential and their ready facility to realise that potential but also the very considerable structural limitations and inefficiencies of the traditional mode of schooling. Where the former is structurally and culturally highly agile and equipped to accommodate rapid on-going change and evolution the latter is structurally inflexible, and change and risk adverse. Even well led elementary schools will take approximately five years of concerted effort to reach the Digital Normalisation stage.

Sit down and compare the educational, cultural, social, economic benefits, and the likely productivity of a paper based and digital school and it obvious why all schools will have to go digital to have a hope of remaining viable.

Ask yourself the simple question, to which would you send your children?

 

Digital Evolutionary Journey Blogs

This year Roger and I will post, near on each week, a short post on an aspect of the digital evolution of schooling.

The series will discuss the myriad of interconnected variables schools embarking on a digital evolutionary journey will need to address.

The posts are designed to supplement the 10 week school leadership programs that we’ll both be conducting in 2016.

Many of the posts will be digests of fuller research papers but some, such as that on Digital Darwinism and Schooling, will seek to highlight particularly pertinent aspects of the digital evolutionary journey.

Hub and Spoke Networking Model: On Reflection

Mal Lee, Paul Morris and Sue Lowe

Near a year on from first mooting the idea of a hub and spoke networking model of system wide change, (Lee, Morris and Lowe, 2015) the authors can look back with considerable professional satisfaction at what has been achieved – intentionally and possibly unintentionally – in the last year and what is in store for the next.

It would not be too great a call to say the model has shown it can assist the digital evolution of schools, and vitally can do so by

  • supporting schools progress from where they are at on their evolutionary journey
  • encouraging each school to take charge of its growth, and to adopt a development solution befitting its unique situation
  • the schools taking advantage of their considerable autonomy – in this instance that afforded under the NSW Government’s ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ policy
  • building and sharing collective capacity across the network
  • working with the existing resources in the school and its community.

The response from the schools involved affirms there is no need, or call to employ the traditional, specially funded, expensive, much hyped and largely ineffectual ‘one size fits all’, centrally administered change model, invariably out of touch with each school’s particular needs.

Indeed the irony is that the efforts to use the centrally administered technology failed as a result of its inability to meet the technology needs of the region.

The importance of the ‘hub’ school in the model is from the authors’ experience very considerable. That school needs to open the eyes to what is possible, to what is possible in an everyday school using the existing funds, and to support the other schools in the network, at least with their initial steps.

It was also important the program had the support and involvement of the local education authority – in this case the NSW Department of Education – and even though the grant provided by that authority was small it did communicate it’s commitment to the digital evolution of the region’s schools.

The unintended – or at least underestimated – part of the model that became increasingly important was the development of a regional – a Far South Coast – digital ecosystem, and its projection of a culture of change.

What became increasingly apparent was that while each school needed to grow its own digitally based ecosystem the school’s evolution could be markedly assisted by it being part of a regional digital ecosystem – within a wider culture – that held technology and schooling wise anything was possible. That wider ecosystem provided all the schools, small and large, authentic links with their community, local industry and government, which promoted partnerships that, supported each school’s digital evolution.

One can extrapolate further and suggest the impact of the networked change model would be enhanced by a national ecosystem that also encourages innovation and the astute use of the digital in a culture of on-going change. While still early days it is noticeable how well received have been the calls by the national Turnbull Government to create agile ecosystems that can assist grow the digital economy.

The schools soon recognised the educational benefits and ease of moving from their traditional, insular silo like mode and becoming increasingly socially networked schools, able to reap the opportunities opened by normalising the whole school use of the digital, and by networking with like minded schools the community.

Unintentionally the regional digital ecosystem, with its embrace of the digital, its promotion of the teaching of coding, it ties with the region’s digital industries and local government, the promotion of a local software industry and the conduct of an array of digital and STEM initiatives placed the school growth within a wider, very real world context. The staging of coding workshops for women, robotics competitions and hackathons all helped reinforce the importance of the schools embracing digital evolution and improving the life chances of their students.

In regional communities the leaders in the schools, the principals, teachers, parents are also invariably the leaders of the regional initiatives, thus serving to strengthen the growth of both the schools and the wider community.

Mal Lee suggests in ‘Digital Schools Grow Digital Communities’ (Lee, 2015) that in a digital and networked society the impact of digital schools spreads well outside the school walls and that in growing the digital capability of its immediate community the school benefits from a more digitally aware clientele with ever rising expectations of the school.

Unwittingly the swift embarkation of a critical mass of the region’s schools on their digital journey coupled with the regional digital ecosystem initiative has placed considerable pressure on the slower adopting schools, and in particular the region’s secondary schools to follow suit.

So important has become the regional digital ecosystem that the authors would now urge its development be factored into any future hub and spoke networking system change model.

The Key Indicators

In reflecting on the change that has occurred within the schools of the region since the introduction of the hub and spoke networking model, and in particular since the staging of the stimulus conference at the hub school in August the authors have had their observations affirmed. When one notes the change that has occurred since July when the schools revealed their then situation in a pre-conference survey, the requests for assistance fielded by the ‘hub’ school, the observations of the regional director and acting regional director of schools, the post conference survey of participating schools conducted in November and the nature and response to the regional Teach Meet conducted in late November one is looking at significant and rapid evolution.

  1. Post –conference survey

Fifteen of the thirty four – or approximately half – of the schools of the DEC schools that attended the Broulee PS ‘Building a Digital School’ conference responded to the follow up online survey sent out in November, providing an invaluable insight into the impact of the conference, the effectiveness of the hub and spoke networking model and the likely nature of the region’s schools digital evolutionary journey.

What emerged from the analysis of the survey is the:

  • Impact of the ‘hub and spoke school networking model. The impact of the hub school in the networking model was and continues to be pronounced, with virtually every response commenting on the conference’s stimulating impact or the impetus it gave existing efforts.
  • Digital vision. Tellingly virtually every response commented on their identification of a digital vision for their school. In opting to collectively speak to the concept at the conference we were aware that traditionally in schooling one plays up the shaping education vision, but building on the research undertaken on the digital transformation of business, and the imperative of having a digital vision we advocated schools do the same. The responses point to the widespread acceptance of the concept.
  • Digital evolutionary journey. There was a universal appreciation that each school was on an on-going evolutionary journey, where the way forward had to be shaped by the school and its context.
  • Think holistically. All but one school recognised the imperative of addressing the way forward holistically, simultaneously addressing a suite of interconnected human and technological factors. Gone was the idea that digital evolution was simply about buying the latest technology.
  • Addressing the basics. Again all but one of the schools had embarked on the quest of ensuring the fundamentals to digital evolution like an apt network infrastructure, campus wide Wi Fi access, digital presentation technology in each room and staff having and using the technology in their teaching were in place.
  • School website. Of note was the proportion of the schools that had begun work on creating their own website, and foregoing the ‘cookie cutter’ model.
  • Dismantling of the ICT Committee. The strong message about getting rid of the traditional stand-alone, volunteer ICT committee in favour of factoring the use of the digital into the everyday workings of the school and having professionals lead the way and govern the shaping of the desired digital ecosystem had clearly cut through.
  • Library/ICT restructure. While not addressed explicitly at the Broulee conference it was notable the number of schools that commented in the survey on their plans to restructure their present library/ICT support arrangements in favour of the more integrated iCentre model.
  • Technology coach. Allied was the number of the schools that mentioned moves in creating a technology coach.
  • Teaching coding. Of note was the number of schools, primary and secondary that flagged their intention to tackle the integrated teaching of coding from the early childhood years onwards.
  • The message about needing to ready the school for BYOT came though, with schools mentioning the work to be done and several planning a phased introduction.
  • Ripple Effect. Significantly there was a return from a primary school not at the Conference that had by word of mouth contacted the hub school to assist in shaping its digital evolutionary journey. One of the undoubted benefits of the hub and spoke networking model is the unbridled social networking occasioned, and the associated ripple effect that can create a positive tension or dissonance that promotes further innovation.
  • Primary School Digital Evolution Faster than Secondary School. The overall survey response is further affirmation of the research undertaken by Lee and Broadie (2014) that in general terms primary/elementary/prep schools will, for a variety of factors, evolve faster than their secondary counterparts. The global trend, affirmed in this survey, is that pace of digital evolution in the primary schools will increasingly see Year 6 students who have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital transitioning into Year 7 classes where generally the use made of the digital is appreciably lower, and sometimes unfortunately the student’s personal digital toolkit is banned.
  1. Teach Meet

Conscious of the challenge of networking a group of teachers spread sparsely over a geographic area nearly the size of Scotland, a region that encompasses the Snowy Mountains through to the coastal fringe and which takes hours to traverse, the hub school decided to take advantage of the video conferencing facility in NSW DEC schools and to conduct a largely online teach meet (http://www.teachmeet.net) combining the more customary face to face with the online and making use of four geographically convenient locations.

It had tried to use Google Groups but soon found the local education authority’s central office blocked ready wider community involvement.

The hub school convened the initial Teach Meet – the ‘un-conference’.

The meeting was held at the day’s end, with teachers at each of the regional gatherings enjoying the host’s afternoon tea and the chance to compare notes with like-minded colleagues.

Short, conference follow up presentations were made by six of the schools, with folk able to question the presenters as needed.

What was revealing was the energy, the belief that anything was possible, the amount that had happened and that which was planned, and the extent to which the schools had not only taken charge of their own growth but also the networking of the region’s schools. When asked who would like to convene the next meeting several schools volunteered.

Resourcing

Tellingly all the networking and support afforded the region’s schools since the August conference has been done with the existing resources, with the schools collectively taking charge of the growth.

The survey was done using the free version of Survey Monkey and the Teach Meet took advantage of the existing videoconferencing.

Of note in the school’s strategic planning is the increasing use being made of the opportunities provided the regional digital ecosystem and each school’s own networks.

Conclusion

What we have witnessed on the far south coast of NSW is a school change model that very consciously makes use of the digital and networked world to provide an apt education for that world.

It would appear to be a model a variant of which could be used with minimal cost anywhere in the networked world.

 

Leading Your School’s Digital Evolution

A10-week program for school leaders globally

If you want to lead your school’s digital evolution this is the program for you.

Work directly with two of the world’s leaders in the shaping of your school’s strategy.

The schools that have normalised the whole school use of the digital are discovering enormous educational, social and economic benefits.

By creating digitally based, tightly integrated, increasingly mature and higher order ecosystems those schools are positioning themselves to thrive, to sustain their viability and to continually provide an apt quality education in a rapidly evolving world.

Analysis of the pathfinder schools worldwide reveals the common threads all schools wishing to ‘change their business model’ will need to address if they are to succeed.

The course will address threads, particularly as they apply to your unique situation.

The more critical of those variables is having a head, a principal and in essence a ‘chief digital officer’ willing and able of leading the school’s digital evolution, well versed in the suite of human and technological factors to be addressed.

Through this program you will:

  • Review the strategic direction of your school in the light of the digital changes happening in society and your school’s community.
  • Understand the key developmental threads that need to be pursued in parallel, putting these into the context of your national education system and curriculum.
  • Be able to quickly identify your school’s evolutionary position and the likely path ahead
  • Create a big picture, three-year development plan for your school’s evolution.
  • Plan professional development approaches you use to grow and empower your staff and community.
  • Practice assessing the likely and real impact on learning and return-on-investment of technology acquisitions.

In 2016 Mal Lee will run two 10 week programs, particularly to fit the southern school year and Roger Broadie, will conduct two to particularly suit the northern school year. That said with the courses being conducted online select that which is convenient to you.

Roger Broadie

First program – January 11th to March 18th
Fourth program – September 12th to November 18th
Program

Mal Lee

Second program – April 26 to July 4
Third program – July 18 to September 26

The program will build on the pioneering work of Mal Lee and Roger Broadie, that is captured in their:

  • Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages
  • suite of studies and articles they’ve written up on virtually every aspect of digital schooling
  • contribution to the identification of the key elements to the digital evolution of schools globally.

They will connect you with the insights of pathfinder schools in many parts of the world, to enable you to plan your strategic approach and staff development.

The program involves a mixture of individual and group Skype sessions, individual activities, group discussions online and reference to key resources to aid your understanding and to use with your staff.

Conscious of how ‘time poor’ are all school leaders and the importance of ‘just in time’ on the job personal development each program will be directed to creating an apt implementation strategy for your school, and providing each participant the wherewithal to conduct a comprehensive, inexpensive ‘in house’ staff development program.

Moreover the program will be highly focused with a specific outcomes set for each of the 10 weeks.

While each program will of necessity be tailored to the particular group all will in general terms address the following critical aspects of digital schooling.

Introduction

Digital transformation of organisations
Client expectations
Evolution of complex adaptive systems
Digital evolution of schooling – evolutionary continuum
Positioning the school
Readiness

Taking charge of own growth
Role of Principal
Role of CDO
Steering group/champions
Human challenge
Strategy

Organisational transformation
Focus on desired totality – not the parts
Shaping educational and digital vision
C21 education for digital and networked society
Playing the old and new games
Tightening nexus between mission and deployment of resources
Big picture development strategy
Accommodating planned linear and natural non-linear growth
Optimising intended and unintended benefits
Equity and cognitive readiness
Shaping the Digital Ecosystem

Shaping desired evolving integrated higher order digital ecosystem and networked school community
47 key variables
From insular, constant, loosely coupled to networked, ever evolving, tightly integrated 24/7/365
Digital and network infrastructure
Role of school website and digitally based operations
Personal digital technologies
Culture/ecology

Culture of change/risk taking/start up nature
Empowering and supporting the professionals
Independent teachers free to take risks and fly
Respect, trust, recognise contribution and empower – students, homes, community
Home – school – community collaboration
Learning and teaching

Learner centred collaborative teaching
Ecosystem that simultaneously addresses all the variables that enhance each child’s learning
Recognition and merging of 24/7/365 learning and teaching
Normalised near invisible all pervasive use of the digital
Productivity and effectiveness

Digitised operations
Taking advantage of digital data
Multi-functional, multi-purpose operations
Efficiency, economies, synergies
Automation
Pooled resourcing – social, material and unexpected
Making the dollar go further
Integrated marketing and genuine immersive experiences
Attracting the clientele
Digital schools growing digital communities\
Participation

They will 15 places in each ten-week program.

They are open to any existing or aspiring school leaders anywhere in the networked world. Those first 15 in will be given the places, the later placed in reserve for the next programs.

That said it is strongly advised you seek a place only if at least a critical mass of your teachers (65% – 75%) of your teachers are naturally using a variety of digital technologies in their everyday teaching.

The program cost is US$ 2000 for the 10-weeks. Roger Broadie is based in the UK and will invoice UK participants $2000 plus UK VAT, participants in other countries will be invoiced $2000 with no VAT added. Mal Lee works out of Australia where there is the requirement to pay a GST (goods and services tax) of 10%.

To register email either Mal Lee – mallee@icloud.com or Roger Broadie – roger@broadieassociates.co.uk – and they will invoice you. Please state which program you are registering for.

Interested colleagues.

If you have colleagues who would benefit from involvement in the program attached is a PDF they can download.

PDF Promo – Leading Your School’s Digital Ev…

Digital Schools Grow Digital Communities

Mal Lee

It is becoming increasingly apparent that when schools normalise the use of the digital, employ a mature digital ecosystem and become networked school communities the schools not only markedly enhance the learning of the students, but they also develop a synergistic relationship with their community, that assists both it and the school to grow digitally.

We have been aware for some time it takes a digital village to educate the child in a socially networked world.

What is becoming clearer is that digital schools in playing that lead role in providing that education are unwittingly, simultaneously and without any concerted effort assisting grow the school’s digital community and that community in turn is assisting grow the school.

Digital schools are unwittingly and naturally helping to grow the lives and economic capability of their community.

Traditionally schools researchers have focussed on the student learning within the school walls, and the impact of the various variables within the school upon the learners.

In a digital and networked society when schools become networked school communities, whose impact transcends the school walls and where increasingly unintended dividends flow from the evolution of schools as complex adaptive systems it is vital one addresses all the changes being made by the digital, the intended and the unintended, the educational and the far wider.

It is time to look outside the box, to look not simply at the impact on student learning, and to identify and optimise the desired unintended benefits – as is done in industry. As organisations become more integrated, with all the operations interconnected and ever evolving it is critical to examine the evolving totality.

It is also time for school leaders, education authorities and governments, local and national, to recognise that when schools go digital and networked the school will impact on the wider socially networked society and as such that impact needs to be understood and where apt built upon.

In going digital and networked schooling should no longer be regarded as a stand-alone enclave that is the preserve of the professional educators, but rather as integral part of the evolving networked society and economy.

While the prime focus of schools should be the provision of the desired student learning when digital schools can simultaneously and without any extra effort or expense markedly assist the growth of digital communities and their earning capacity that capability should be tapped.

The Digital School and its Community.

In normalising the total school community’s use of the digital largely unwittingly the pathfinder schools have

  • strongly proclaimed and daily demonstrated to their homes – their clients – the critical importance of the digital in the children’s 24/7/365 schooling and growth
  • grown not only the digital competence and creativity of the students but simultaneously that of the parents, siblings, carers, grandparents and family friends
  • forever changed the parents – the clients – view and expectations of schooling and helped them recognise the school’s dynamic, ever evolving nature
  • assisted strengthen the parent’s digital mindset, enhanced their understanding of digital learning ecologies, and on-going transformation and the need in an evolving digital world of shaping the desired future, taking risks and learning on the move
  • assisted open the eyes of those in the homes to the emerging possibilities with the digital in their own lives, work and education
  • enhanced the homes’ appreciation of the critical importance of astutely integrated digital ecosystems
  • in their trust of and close collaboration with their homes daily, without any extra effort or expense on the school’s part accounted for their teaching practises and strongly marketed the school
  • moved the school to the position where the ecology naturally educates current and prospective parents on the evolving nature and expectations of the digital school.

Interestingly most of this has been done as an unintended ‘by product’ of digital normalisation and the move to a 24/7/365 mode of schooling, with minimal effort or expense from the school. Yes all the pathfinder schools have in going digital spent time and effort early on educating their parents to the new ways but as the change took hold with both the students and parents, and the digital ecosystem matured so that need decreased as the natural evolutionary growth impacted.

In being proactive, fostering a culture of change, distributing the control of the teaching and learning, in genuinely collaborating with the parents, in trusting the children to use their own digital kit, in adopting open websites and opening the door to the school’s workings and critically in having the digital underpin all school operations the school is not only better educating the children but is simultaneously unwittingly bidding and supporting all within the homes to lift their digital competence. Those parents, and in particular those grandparents not using current digital technologies feel compelled to get and keep up to speed. All within the home largely unsaid lift their digital capability. Home networks are upgraded. Birthdays and Christmas become important technology upgrade occasions. As the children make use in and out of school of the emerging apps, the various online offerings and facilities like Google’s applications for education so there is a natural desire by all in the family to be able to use those facilities as well.

While there is in the pathfinder schools a spread of digital expertise the parents, from information industry professionals through to the early users, it appears the digital understanding and mindset of the total group is continually being lifted as the technology becomes more sophisticated, knowledge of its possibilities grows, the school continually updates its practises and the expectations rise. While still embryonic it is interesting to observe the number associated with a pathfinder school also desirous of promoting the creation of digital start ups.

While further research is needed talk to any within the parent community of the pathfinder schools and you’ll soon appreciate how strongly and naturally they have embraced the digital and switched on they are to the digital possibilities. This is a clientele, increasingly Millennial, as Westerman et.al (2014) reveal, who no longer differentiate between online and face-to-face experiences, who out the school walls have already normalised the use of the digital.

The school community wide impact of the digital upon the wider school community can be evidenced in two seemingly small examples, the adoption of the school app, and the integrated teaching of coding from the early childhood upwards.

In opting to formally communicate with the children’s homes and the school’s wider community via a school app, and an app intended primarily for mobile technology the school community soon abandoned long established paper based practises and limited expectations and embraced a mode for clients living and working in an ever evolving, time short digital world. The apps readily and inexpensively handled all types of tailored digital communiques, from regular lengthy e-newsletters, reports, quick surveys and emergency notices. They completely replaced all manner of slow and inefficient paper communiques. In observing how the parents of children on a year cohort excursion were notified digitally of a delay because of traffic it struck me:

  • how attuned the school was to its client’s, and their 2015 expectations
  • how poor had schools been in looking after their clients, all too often using the communications challenge to do nothing.

Similarly in observing the ease with which a group of 6-7 year olds had incorporated coding – using Scratch – in their small group creation of an e-book for English it impressed how

  • at ease were the children with the facility and applying its underpinning logic
  • many skills and concepts they were simultaneously addressing and developing in the one integrating task
  • different it was to traditional segmented silo like teaching
  • transferable were the suite of skills and attributes being developed to most other areas of future study, work and life
  • important it was for the parents and the wider school community to understand and build upon the children’s 21st century capabilities.

When one encounters young ones eager to demonstrate their coding skills and hears 7 year olds casually commenting that the image for the e-book is in her Dropbox one can soon appreciate why the parents are daily experiencing a mode of schooling and teaching through their children’s eyes dramatically different to their own but which they can see is appreciably more relevant and meaningful.

In accommodating these new digital practises, in understanding and supporting their children’s digitally based learning, in appreciating its 24/7/365 nature the parent community will continually enhance its digital understanding, capability and connectedness.

As it does, as it strengthens its bond with the school, as it pools its resources and expertise with those of the school and comes to ‘own the school’, as the community members involve themselves in other digital initiatives the parent community like the school staff will continue to lift its understanding of the digital, to better appreciate the kind of opportunities opened by digital evolution and will continually lift its expectations of the school.

It will, usually unwittingly, continually expect that much more of already very good schools but in contrast to the past where they had been shut out will build on the close ties with and macro understanding of the school and assist in all manner of ways the school to grow and continue its digital evolution and transformation.

What is already apparent globally is that as the digital standing of the pathfinder schools grows so too will be the demand to enrol extra students in the school. The corollary is that the demand for places in nearby paper based and late adopter schools will likely fall and put the viability of those schools under serious question.

Conclusion

In making these observations it is appreciated that in 2015 the number of pathfinder schools globally that have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital and grown their digital community is small.

Notwithstanding those schools are the vanguard of what is to come, the attributes they are displaying being a logical extension of the trends evidenced in their evolutionary journey (Lee and Broadie, 2015) and consistent with the wider digital transformation of organisations.

The micro ecosystems these pathfinder schools are impacting are most readily apparent in villages and small regional towns, but the likely reality is that on closer examination they’ll also be found around the pathfinders in the cities.

The hope is that this short note will open eyes and minds to the societal and economic implications of the development and what astute communities and their leaders could do.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2015) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages Broulee Australia – Retrieved 20 April 2015 – http://www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

 

 

 

The ‘Chief Digital Officer’ and Governance of the School Digital Ecosystem

 

Mal Lee

All of the schools studied that have normalised the whole school use of the digital and which are developing increasingly higher order, digitally based school ecosystems have all had an astute principal to lead the way and the services of what is in essence a ‘chief digital officer’ (CDO).

The same is to be found in the transformation of the digital masters of the business world (Westerman et al, 2014).

In all, the organisation’s digital transformation has been skilfully shaped by a CEO working closely with a chief digital officer’ charged with converting the leader’s digital vision into a working reality.

Indeed a 2014 McKinsey Consulting study observed

Leadership is the most decisive factor for a digital program’s success or failure. Increasing C-level involvement is a positive sign, and the creation of a CDO role seems to be a leading indicator for increasing the speed of advancement (McKinsey, 2014).

Little is the wonder that businesses, and indeed major cities worldwide are clamouring to secure the services of CDO’s capable of supporting the CEO in orchestrating the desired on-going digital transformation.

Few associated with schools have yet to grasp the same imperative exists for all schools.

If schools are to undergo the desired digital evolution and shape an ever more productive digitally based school ecosystem they too will need that role to be played.

In the pathfinder schools the ‘CDO’ role has been played by all manner of positions, by deputy principals, e-Learning coordinators, Technology Coordinators, CIO’s and indeed in several instances by several staff working closely together. The actual title doesn’t matter.

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

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

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

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

Behind the working website discussed in the previous article is an extensive, ever evolving tightly integrated digital ecosystem that provides the platform upon which the school operates and grows, and which needs to be thoughtfully designed, shaped, maintained and refined.

Without it the digital school cannot operate let alone grow.

The shaping of that increasingly sophisticated and powerful digital ecosystem entails a skilful balancing act, accommodating the seeming paradox of fostering a school wide culture of change, where teachers are empowered to take risks and where there will inevitably be uncertainty, mess and at times seeming chaos while simultaneously shaping an integrated, highly efficient and effective digital ecosystem able to continually deliver the desired schooling.

The Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

The concept of the CDO, even within the business world is a relatively recent one but is already viewed globally as being critical to the digital transformation of all manner of organisations (www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net) (Solis, et al, 2014) (McKinsey, 2014).

Westerman, McAfee and Bonnet in their seminal study of the corporate digital masters concluded

The CDOs job is to turn cacophony into a symphony. He or she creates a unifying digital vision, energises the company around digital possibilities, coordinates digital activities, and some times provides critical tools or resources (Westerman, et al, 2014, p144).

Chan Suh, a CDO writing in Wired observed

Almost by definition, the CDO must be a bit of a free thinker, willing to experiment, fail and move on. They embrace data-based experimentation, adapt quickly and make iterative decisions. …CDOs need to be able to move nimbly in all parts of the corporation, in terms of both departments and functions: Digital integration impacts employees, customers and the whole portfolio of products. That means they need to speak multiple business languages and simplify what can seem like insanely complicated technology. But above all, the job requires being persuasive, adaptable and visionary (http://www.wired.com/2014/01/2014-year-chief-digital-officer/).

The CDO is a very well recompensed, high-level executive position with ultimate responsibility for every facet of the organisation’s digital ecosystem.

While the demands within the school will not be as great as in a multinational the nature and standing of the role to be played remains basically the same.

Relationship with Principal, the CEO

In all the aforementioned literature and within the pathfinder schools studied one notes the vital close working relationship between the head of the organisation and the CDO. It stands to reason. The ‘chief digital officer’, whatever title they actually carry has the responsibility for implementing the CEO’s digital vision for the organisation.

Whether it is a school or business both people need to work closely as they shape the organisation’s on-going digital transformation and take the organisation into unchartered waters. A recent interview with a deputy head in a 2,500 student English sixth form college, who was very much that school’s ‘chief digital officer’, underscored the importance of working closely with the head in identifying the solutions that will bring about the desired digital and organisational evolution; in a situation where there were no other UK experiences to draw upon.

Governance of the school’s digital ecosystem

As school’s move to a digital operational base, normalise the whole school community use of the digital, develop mature, higher order, more integrated ecosystems and seemingly daily contemplate the use of new more sophisticated technology so it becomes increasingly important for each to ‘govern’, to shape in an apposite manner the growth of the school’s digital ecosystem.

The shaping in the apposite manner, the maintaining and strengthening of an ecology that fosters on-going school evolution and enhancement, that allows the school as Pascale and his colleagues call it to operate on the ‘edge of chaos’ (Pascale, et al, 2000) is evermore important.

This is very much an individual school responsibility, not that of external ICT experts who have no understanding of each school’s unique culture.

Each school needs to determine its own mode of digital governance.

The strong impression – and it is only that – is that many of the pathfinders, contending as they are with rapid and accelerating organisational transformation, making increasing use of the students’ technologies and a plethora of cloud based services are fast approaching the point productivity wise of having to corral some of the digital services employed in the school and to seriously question if a laissez faire model of technology use is apt. This is particularly apparent in larger secondary schools where on the one hand the school is seeking to integrate its workings while at the same time encouraging teachers to make best use of the emerging digital technology.

Do you need to rethink your digital governance?

What role of the technology committee?

Traditionally in schools, business and the wider public sector the technology or ICT committee was charged with that ‘governance’, but all too often operated as a stand alone group implementing its own agenda.

What is now clear (Westerman, et al, 2014) if you want digital transformation you don’t give the job to a committee. All thereon have full time jobs.

Committees can make decisions, but they cannot drive change. Leaders do that (Westerman, et al, 2014, p143).

Seriously question the need for a technology committee.

Interestingly none were used in any of the successful pathfinder schools.

In all the digital transformation was orchestrated by the principal and the ‘CDO’ and the work was undertaken by the ‘CDO’ and all manner of staff and increasingly others within the school’s community.

Finding a school ‘CDO’.

The finding of a staff member or even several staff to play the role of the school CDO is likely to be difficult. The kind of skill set described above is rare, even in the corporate world. One is looking in schools at experienced educators with a macro vision for schooling, with the desire to lead, to take risks and to embrace on-going organisational evolution, with very strong digital acumen and with the people skills needed to take empowered professionals along on the evolutionary journey.

The pathfinder schools have in some respects been fortunate to have such personnel, but as one digs one finds most of these schools have over time ‘grown’ or recruited these people, consciously continually enhancing their skill set.

In many respects it should not come as a surprise that many of the school ‘CDOs’ are deputy or assistant principals, demonstrating many of the attributes identified in ‘Leading a Digital School’ (Lee, 2014) needed to be the principal of a digital school.

None that I’m aware of have been trained for the role by either their education authority or a tertiary education, but that said there are pathfinder education authorities globally which are now assisting the development of such personnel.

In 2015 you will likely have to grow your own ‘CDO’, or recruit and then grow the potential ‘CDO’. As indicated in schools small and large it is a role that can be performed by a like-minded, driven pair of staff able to work closely. Indeed such a pair could possibly include a non educator provided she/he had strong digital expertise, and was able to address the organisation’s shaping vision.

Conclusion

One could strongly argue that the current situation in the pathfinder schools where the ‘CDO’ role is normalised and untitled is the desired one.

The key is that the role is performed successfully and naturally shapes the desired evolution and strengthening of the school’s digital ecosystem.

In so saying it might well be opportune in certain school situations, like in business to use the appointment of a CDO to proclaim the school’s intention to use the digital to transform its operations.

That is a call each school needs to make.

What however is that much clearer is that schools in moving to a digital operational base and becoming increasingly reliant on a more sophisticated, powerful, integrated and productive digital ecosystem will need apt processes to govern its operation and growth, processes that are appreciably more sophisticated and effective way than the traditional ‘ICT’ committee.

While the digital transformation business literature (www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net) and the articles on CDOs will assist, schools do have a very different shaping purpose to corporations and need their own solution.

As schools commence their digital evolution journey they should be addressing how the ‘CDO’ role will be performed and identifying an apt mode of governing the growth of an apposite school digital ecosystem.

Bibliography

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

 

 

 

The School Digital Ecosystem and Enhanced Student Learning

Mal Lee

The signs are increasingly suggesting that the greatest impact the digital technology will have upon student learning in the school will come from the technology’s underpinning role within a digitally based school ecosystem; an ecosystem that is tightly integrated, strongly focussed and which simultaneously addresses all the variables that enhance student learning. When children are able to tackle a group project employing the digital technologies they use 24/7/365 the teachers can astutely build upon each child’s digital and social competencies, address the shortcomings, all the while teaching the desired material in a more individualised manner.

The signs are also indicating that the sophisticated digital base that already provides schools numerous additional opportunities to enhance the student learning will increasingly do so in the years ahead.

However until schools develop an apposite digital school ecosystem, adopt a culture therein that empowers the teachers, students and parents, and actively supports all take a lead role in the astute use of the digital in the 24/7/365 teaching of the young and which positions the school to grow schools won’t be able to take advantage of those opportunities and continually enhance their productivity.

No one in 2015 would suggest that a carmaker would enhance its productivity by simply installing a robot or that Apple’s success is solely dependent on a single piece of technology like an iPad. The enhanced productivity of the digital masters in the corporate world (Westerman, et al, 2014) comes from skilfully shaped, expertly led, highly focussed, tightly integrated, ever evolving digitally based ecosystems.

And yet in 2015 teachers, principals, governments and technology companies and journals globally perpetuate the myth that one has simply to acquire the latest digital kit and as if by osmosis school learning will be enhanced.

Decades of research (Higgins et al, 2012) affirm there is no significant linear connection between the use of digital technologies and enhanced student attainment.

It is time to appreciate the traditional, simplistic way of looking at the impact of digital technology on student learning has to fundamentally change. The impact of the digital on student learning can be profound if an apposite school ecosystem is created. However as indicated (http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/digital-schools-an-evolving-ecosystem, http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/the-importance-of-byot) its creation is challenging and entails the simultaneous addressing over time of a plethora of critical variables, human and technological (Lee and Broadie, 2015).

We all need to recognise that the impact of the digital technology on student learning is complex, far more deep seated than previously thought, is largely non-linear in nature, and appears to flow in the main from the astutely shaped, thoughtfully orchestrated, ever evolving, increasingly higher order, highly attractive, 24/7/365 digitally based school ecosystems that increasingly marry the in and out school learning.

That profound impact is evidenced in those pathfinder – early adopter – schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia operating on a digital base where the total school community is able to capitalise upon, in a genuinely collaborative manner, the normalised the use of the digital in the teaching and learning.

Of note is that all of the schools studied were performing above their socio-economic status and adding value to the student learning. That said all were moreover astutely led and managed, highly efficient, with an empowered staff that had embraced a culture of change, of a mind to take risks and work to make best educational use of the openings afforded by all within the school’s community having the digital in their hands. They were all good schools.

The Implications.

The implications flowing from the emergence of these digitally based school ecosystems are many, profound, often unexpected and are only now becoming apparent, and then only in that as yet rare cadre of schools with a mature digital ecosystem.

That said, there are two areas of flow on that warrant close immediate consideration.

  • Research on the impact of the digital technology

Surely the time has come for those in schools, education authorities and tertiary institutions to cease looking for a linear connection between the technology and enhanced learning, and to address the impact of the digital school ecosystem – and all its associated and closely interrelated elements – upon each child’s learning and how that impact might be enhanced.

Higgins and his colleagues at Durham in their meta-analysis of the impact of the digital on learning concluded

Taken together, the correlational and experimental evidence does not offer a convincing case for the general impact of digital technology on learning outcome (Higgins et al, 2012, p3).

In researching and writing The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) and examining the claims made of and research undertaken on each of the major instructional technologies of the 20th century the author found the Durham conclusion consistent with the findings on the impact of all the earlier technologies.

The challenge of analysing and researching unique, tightly integrated, rapidly evolving, ever transforming school ecologies experiencing considerable natural organisational growth is likely to be immense, and will require some fundamental rethinking and different methodologies. This is a very different mode of schooling to the traditional insular, loosely coupled, silo like, paper based school characterised by its constancy and continuity. Where in the latter one could readily conduct a two or year longitudinal study in a digital ecosystem a plethora of key variables, not least of which will be the software, are likely to change significantly within months.

  • Potential opportunities to enhance student learning

A digitally based school ecosystem, where all within the school’s community have in their hands a suite of evermore sophisticated digital technologies they can use anywhere, anytime 24/7/365, provides – as evidenced in the operations of the pathfinders – a platform from which to harness all manner of opportunities to enhance the learning of each child.

Those opportunities are explored in depth in ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’ (http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2014/07/15/digital-technology-and-student-learning-the-impact-of-the-ecology/).

Suffice it to say that the pathfinder schools have already taken advantage of the digital to cultivate opportunities simply impossible or impracticable without the digital platform to

  • markedly strengthen the degree of home-school collaboration
  • adopt an increasingly 24/7/365 mode of networked schooling
  • use the personal technology to better individualise the teaching
  • make the teaching more relevant and attractive to appreciably more students
  • adopt an increasingly higher order mode of teaching
  • enhance teacher efficiency
  • achieve previously impossible synergies.

Importantly the schools, like business (Thorpe, 1998) have also recognised that even with the most prescient of benefits identification in this rapidly evolving environment unintended benefits will emerge, benefits that need to be immediately optimised.

Conclusion

The digital transformation of schooling and the emergence of unique, evolving digital school ecosystems that transcend the school walls fundamentally alters the way educators need to address schooling, teaching and learning and enhancing each child’s learning.

Bibliography

Higgins, S., Xiao, Z., & Katsipataki, M. (2012). The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation London: EEF. Available at: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_FULL_REPORT_(2012).pdf

Lee, M (2014) ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’, Educational Technology Solutions – July 15, 2014 – http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2014/07/15/digital-technology-and-student-learning-the-impact-of-the-ecology/

Lee, M and Broadie, R (2015) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages Broulee Australia – www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net

Thorpe, J (1998) The Information Paradox Toronto McGraw-Hill

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

24/7/365 Schooling: The Implications

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

While Roger and I have made mention in our writings on the digital evolution of schooling of the shift to an increasingly 24/7/365 mode of schooling until now we’ve not paused and specifically addressed its form, nor vitally the many and profound implications for schools, education authorities, teacher educators, governments and indeed society in general.

The attached article does both.

Unwittingly most associated with schooling work on the assumption it is a constant, that organisationally it will continue as it has for the last 50 to 60 years and for some reason will not be impacted by the digital revolution.

In 2015 one still sees globally few politicians, academics or school leaders commenting on the many and profound implications that flow the evolution occurring in schooling.

All see it in industry and discuss the profound implications, but not at yet in schooling.

The national teaching standards, such as those used across Australia in teacher appraisal, recruitment and increasingly in the payment of teachers, are for example based on a paper based mode of schooling that is constant in form, which is assumed will be in place for years and which is highly risk adverse, insular and strongly hierarchical.

Many of the attributes promoted are antithetical to those valued and deemed as essential in a 24/7/365 mode of schooling.

That said the standards are but one of the myriad of current school related practises that will be markedly impacted by the emergence of the 24/7/365 mode of schooling attached.

24-7-365 Schooling

Schools Have to Go Digital to Remain Viable

Mal Lee

The cover article in this month’s Educational Technology Solutions is one by me that contends all schools have to go digital to remain viable.

A copy of that article is attached or can be got from the Educational Technology Solutions website.

Interestingly in presenting to three groups of school leaders in the past two weeks no one has questioned the suggestion.

Rather the immediate focus has been what does our school have to do.

Why Schools Have to Go Digital

Invitation to Join Digital Evolution of Schooling Google Group

Roger Broadie, Martin Levins and Mal Lee have created a new a new forum – using Google groups – for those globally interested in advancing, researching and analysing the digital evolution and transformation of schooling.

We are looking at

  • those leading the way in the pathfinder schools
  • those monitoring and researching their moves
  • the education decision and policy makers shaping future schooling and
  • leaders at all levels within later adopter schools wanting to create the desired ever evolving digital school ecosystem.

It is appreciated there are many excellent forums that examine the use of digital technologies in schooling. There is no desire to replicate them.

The focus of most is however the micro usage of the digital technology within existing school structures and operational parameters.

Few, if any, address the digital evolution or transformation of schooling or its parallels with the evolution and transformation of other digital organisations.

Indeed there is in 2015 remarkably few forums supporting individual schools and their leaders undergo the desired digital evolution and transformation.

This new group will focus on the macro impact of the digital on the changing nature of schooling, on schools as complex adaptive systems, ever evolving, ever transforming, creating increasingly integrated and networked digital ecosystems that address the 24/7/365 holistic education of each child.

The desire is to use the collective wisdom of the forum get a better appreciation of the on-going impact of the digital revolution on schooling.

The desire is also to use a global platform like Google groups that allows for the in-depth discussion of an increasing complex scenario where our understanding of the new is limited.

The group is open to all interested, anywhere in the networked world that are playing a lead role – at any level – in the digital evolution and transformation of school ecosystems.

If you or a colleague would like to receive an invitation to join email Mal Lee – mallee@icloud.com or Martin Levins – mlevins@as.edu.au or Roger Broadie – roger@broadieassociates.co.uk.

Alternatively you can post to this group, send email to digital-evolution-of-schooling@googlegroups.com