Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Challenge of Creating a Digital School

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The challenge of leading, growing and sustaining the evolution of a digital school is immense.

Few globally have succeeded in creating, let alone sustaining the evolution of such schools.

Few school leaders have moved schools from a paper to a digitally based construct. Hundreds of thousands have acquired extensive digital technologies, with many teachers making astute of that technology, but virtually all are doing so within the traditional paper based construct, continuing to use the traditional. linear Industrial Age organisational structures and processes.

The schooling remains site based, unilaterally controlled by the head, with the teaching conducted within specified dates, at set times, for a prescribed period, with defined outcomes, invariably taught by solitary teachers who control everything within their classroom.

Most schools today structurally and organisationally are much the same as those 60-70, likely 100 plus years ago.

There are many reasons why, but likely the greatest is the constraints societies, their governments and bureaucrats impose on schools. They are immense, multifaceted and likely growing.

They are rarely mentioned in the school change literature or considered when major school change, like moving from a paper to a digital operational mode are contemplated.

History strongly affirms their consideration is far more important than the actual technology, both as relates to creating, and sustaining the evolution of a digitally mature school. 

That said schooling’s poor track record, and propensity for near all core school change to regress to the traditional ways does not mean that digital schools can’t be created and grown.

It will simply be challenging.

The key is to understand both the constraints and the factors that will allow you to go digital, and what it meant by create a digital organisation.

In researching the digital evolution of schooling globally (Lee and Broadie, 2018) and the young’s learning with the technology in and out of school over the last twenty-five years the authors’, as two experienced school administrators, were struck by the enormity and array of constraints facing today’s heads.

For a time, we seriously asked ourselves whether any change was possible, but slowly as we reflected on the ways forward, and Mal examined a core whole of system change that has been sustained for forty plus years we appreciated it was achievable, provided one observed the key tenets of organisational change, understood the constraints, and appreciated that working within a digital paradigm would allow astute, committed heads to overcome most of the hurdles.

The major constraint facing most of the world’s schools today is that very few governments or bureaucracies are committed to genuine school change. Every so often there is a committed national or provincial government wanting to provide an apt contemporary education but if you look back fifty years at your situation you’ll likely find few. Indeed, where fifty years ago school innovation and change was deemed paramount, today the focus of most governments is fine tuning the status quo. Most want to continue their control of all schooling, universally reluctant to foster the digital evolution and transformation of schooling.

Aiding their cause is the suite of structural, organisational, cultural, human, legislative, historical and societal impediments that most societies have unwittingly grown, most of which are intertwined, and many of which likely can never be varied. 

Atop those institutional constraints is a layer of society wide realities that impact school operations, the likes of OHS, sexual harassment, bullying, the privacy laws and the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

The Constraints.

  • Structural  

Schooling globally is still largely conducted in linear, hierarchical Industrial Age organisations, employing many Industrial Age practises and processes, still employing a paper based construct, readying students for the 1960s.  

As the world has found in its quest to accommodate accelerating digital transformation this type of rigid structure lacks the agility and flexibility needed to accommodate the rapid, unintended, uncertain change of the Digital Revolution.

The corporate world soon appreciated substantial restructuring, and a move away from the model was essential if organisations were to become digitally mature, able to continually meet rapidly evolving client expectations.  

That need seemingly has never been recognised with schooling, and indeed over time the workings of ‘schools’ industry’ has acted to reinforce the existing structure.  Procedures have been documented, institutionalised and handbooks written declaring what can and can’t be done. Funds have been locked away in time honoured budget categories, with it near impossible to free them for new priorities. 

Most school systems continue to employ a variant of the ‘Westminster’ system of administration with ‘ministers of education’, who invariably have no teaching experience, are advised by ‘departmental heads’ who increasingly are public service administrators with no background in schooling; lacking the educational understanding, drive and vision to lead or even facilitate core change.

Structurally teaching still mainly occurs within the physical place called school, within the prescribed dates and hours.  The focus continues to be site based, schools largely rejecting any moves to recognise out of school learning, or to collaborate and network with any other parties in the education of the young. 

The schools, like the factories of old, still operate as stand-alone entities, the curriculum, teaching, student assessment and everyday operations intended for use only within the classrooms, in class hours.

Physical and digital access to the school’s workings continues to be limited, with the parents having scant understanding of and no say in the teaching occurring behind closed classroom doors. 

The students move as age cohorts along a 12/13 year ‘production’ line, where there is still a strong division of labour, with the students invariably taught in class groups, with solitary teachers teaching their designated part of the K-12 curriculum. 

In being obliged to focus on the micro most classroom teachers, particularly at the secondary level, are professionally disempowered, lacking the macro understanding of the school’s total workings needed to assist bring about organisational change.

The teaching, like the movement of the age cohort, continues to be linear in nature, planned, tightly structured, teacher controlled, with most areas of learning taught year on year. In most situations, the time to be spent on teaching various areas of the curriculum is prescribed, with there being little scope for spontaneous, integrated, collaborative teaching or the use of micro-credentials.  

Most school teaching, learning, student assessment and certification continues to have a strong academic focus, with tertiary academics invariably shaping the teaching program, ensuring academic ‘standards’ are maintained and that the ‘right’ students are readied for university.  The workplace continues to have relatively little sway on school teaching, running a distant second to the academics.

Globally schooling, through the internal and external testing regime continues to sort and sift, with the final, invariably paper based handwritten exams rewarding future management personnel.

Significantly the data gathered in conducting the Industrial Age academic tests has grown its own industry, private and public sector, who in turn use that data to reinforce the status quo. 

The ‘quality’ and ‘effectiveness’ of the production line is tightly overseen by a brace of in and out school authorities. Within the school the teachers are controlled by their unit managers, who in turn are obliged to follow the dictates of a suite of external control groups, the likes of the central office bureaucrats, auditors, inspectors, curriculum agencies, exam boards, and the teacher registration, and teaching standards authorities.

Staff remuneration and rewards, for teachers, the professional support, executive and heads is still based on the traditional thinking. Reward is given the ability to maintain the status quo, in a risk-free manner, with rarely any incentive given to innovate. 

While governments globally continue to laud the opening of their latest ‘school of the future’ the system school building code invariably continues to ready plant for running the traditional school. 

  • Organisational

Organisationally schools continue in the main to be strongly hierarchical, with the principal atop the pyramid being the prime decision maker, mostly unwilling to distribute the unilateral control, and empower others.

Most schools, heads and even governments moreover seemingly believe that only the professionals, working on the school site can and should teach, invariably unwilling to recognise any out of schooling learning or teaching. 

Student assessment and credentialing is zealously monopolised by the schools and education authorities.

It is appreciated that over the last century there have been schools at all levels that sought to flatten the hierarchy and empower more of the community, and shift away from the bell curve, but they remain as ever a minority.

In most the head, and a small executive run the school.

Most teachers and professional support staff remain disempowered, micromanaged, restricted to their area of responsibility, with little or no say in the macro workings of the school.

The parents and students, the clients, sit at the bottom of the pyramid, having no real say in the school’s operations, with the children, having no voice in the teaching or their learning, obliged to instantly comply with all staff demands.

The professionals know best, with the clients expected to appreciate that expertise.

While over the decades, significant organisational change has been attempted, most schools today, and particularly the secondary remain strongly segmented, with the units/faculties having significant authority over ‘their’ operations, and the teachers continuing to work alone with ‘their’ students’. Efforts to better integrate the teaching, to have teachers collaborate are often frustrated by faculties refusing to cede power.

  • Cultural

Culturally most schools have changed little in the last century.

The ‘masters’, even though now mostly female, remain very much in control, dictating the students’ every move.

The learning culture is invariably autocratic in nature.

The students K-12 are distrusted, disempowered, having no voice in their learning, what is taught or assessed, when or how. Their very considerable out of school learning with the digital is rarely recognised. The contrast between in and out of school learning cultures is ever greater, with the digitally connected young globally being trusted and empowered to take charge of their learning with the digital.

While the schools continue to ban the in-school use of the young’s personal technologies the student’s families actively support their children’s astute 24/7/365 use of those technologies in their learning.

Fear remains very real from the early childhood years onwards. Today, as was so a century ago, the students are expected to immediately comply, to conform, understanding that if they don’t they will be disciplined, no matter how petty or daft the instructions.

Likely most parents, except on special occasions will be reluctant to enter the school, particularly if to see the head.

The ‘jocks and burnouts’ scenario so aptly described by Eckert in 1989 still holds globally. The academic achievers, who know how to play the game are rewarded, and those whose interests and talents lie elsewhere are largely disregarded, unless they act out.

  • Human

The human resources provided the schools are those readied by the universities and employers to maintain the status quo, where everyone knows their place.

Few, if any of those institutions have sought to develop principals with the appropriate skill and mindset, able to successfully lead and grow a continually evolving, increasingly integrated, highly complex digitally mature organisation.

The small cadre of heads able to play that role and successfully lead a digital school are largely self-developed.

Their leadership, like the CEO’s of the digital master’s in business (Westerman, et.al, 2014) is critical to the successful digital evolution and transformation of schooling.

While employers speak continually about appointing ‘leaders’ as heads they invariably appoint ‘managers’ who can do the state’s bidding, lacking the ability or desire to markedly change a school, or importantly continue the work of an innovative head. 

Those ‘managers’ are one of the most telling constraints on significant school change, regardless of how good is the staff. 

The authors know of few selection criteria designed to appoint leaders of digital schools.

Interestingly in a connected world few schools or education authorities have opted 

to take advantage of what Shirky (2012) terms the cognitive surplus of networked societies, that seemingly unbounded willingness for people online to assist others.

Rather the focus appears to be on imposing ever more controls on the existing limited human resources, lifting the accountability, restricting the ability to draw others in to the learning, obliging police checks, mandating national standards and requiring regular accreditation.

Conclusion

To these already considerable constraints one needs to add the many legislative, historical and societal hurdles.

You’ll invariably think of others.

It is easy to see why most schools haven’t fundamentally changed in the last fifty years, why so little innovation is sustained and why most schools will likely stay the same for many years to come – despite the need to evolve.

Pleasingly the experience of the pathfinder schools reveals the shift from a paper to increasingly digital base enables the school to overcome many of the impediments, but others will remain, frustrating your efforts.

The key is to understand they exist, that some can’t be changed or even by-passed but most can if approached astutely as a school community.

 Schools as formal state approved organisations will never have the freedom of digitally connected families but as digital constructs they can be configured to provide a far more apt contemporary education than now.

In opting to lead a digital school, and to provide what you believe to be the desired education you could well be flying solo, without the support of most heads, the education authority, tertiary educators or government. 

Some might even actively oppose your quest.

But that said change at the individual school level is possible.

So too is the capacity to sustain that change.

But it requires astute committed heads with vision who understand the challenges and realities, and who are willing to bear the burden that comes from wanting to do best by one’s students.

Bibliography

  • Eckert, P (1989) Jocks and BurnoutsNY Teachers College Press
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2018) Digitally Connected Families. And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/–  
  • Shirky, C (2012) Cognitive SurplusNew York Penguin
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

Five Conditions Critical for Sustained Learning with the Digital

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The young and their digitally connected families globally have highlighted over the last twenty-five plus years five conditions critical to the young’s natural sustained learning with the digital (Lee and Broadie, in press) (Twining et.al, 2017).

Not the schools.

Those conditions are:

  • Ready access to personal, preferably mobile technologies
  • 24/7/365 digital connectivity
  • Empowerment and trust
  • Largely unfettered use of the digital
  • Self-directed learning, collaborating when desired.

All five of the conditions are closely linked.

Vital also are parents who believe the digital is very important to their children’s education and life chances, a learning environment, a culture that facilitates and supports those conditions and a digital mindset that shapes the expectations and the use and learning with the digital.

If you pause for a moment and reflect you’ll appreciate those five conditions have also allowed you and the 3.65 billion plus ** others digitally connected to sustain your natural lifelong learning with the digital – at no expense to government.

The five conditions

With the advantage of historical reflection (Lee and Broadie, in press) and a contemporary study by Twining and his team (Twining, et.al, 2017), the five conditions, plus the importance attached by the parents and the supportive learning environment have been evident since the launch of the Web in 1993.  While in the next twenty-five years society moved from an analogue to a digital world, the percentage of the young using the technology skyrocketed, the age of the users plummeted and the digital mindset strengthened the five critical remained as important as ever.

In retrospect, they go a long way towards explaining why more than half the world’s young are digitally connected, using the digital in every facet of their lives and learning and are able stay abreast of exponentially evolving technology – with no support from government or most of the world’s schools.

Ready access to the personal, preferably mobile technologies

Without the gear the young can’t use it in their learning.

Without their own kit, they can’t normalise its 24/7/365 use.

History underscores the importance of the young having ready, 24/7/365 use of ‘their own’ relatively current digital technologies.  They need to configure it as desired, to ready it for their immediate use, to select the software and peripherals that fit their learning style, to continually upgrade its functionality and to appreciate the ownership of the kit affirms the trust and responsibility accorded them.

From the early 2000’s – but particularly since the advent of the iPhone in 2007 – the young have shown a strong preference for mobile technologies that allow them to learn anywhere, just in time, in context, when wanted.

The App Revolution allowed the young of all ages to personalise their mobile tool kit, and to use that desired. Where previously the functionality was built into the device from the mid 2000s and the shift to smartphones increasingly software solutions replaced much of the old in-built, allowing each of us to choose the apps we wanted.

Compare the apps on your mobiles with your partners and the kids and you’ll quickly appreciate the extent to which all of us have personalised, indeed individualised, our digital tool kit.

In 2016, a study revealed 42% of Danish children under seven owned their own tablet, and 91% had ready usage (Johansen, et.al, 2016).  Comparable figures will be found in all developed nations. They point to a young that will forever on expect to have and use their own mobile technologies 24/7/365.

24/7/365 connectivity.

The same young will expect, as they do now, to use a device, an app or to connect to network the moment desired. They, like you and me, believe they have the right to do so, and will moreover expect the connection to be fast and reliable. It has been the norm for young of the world for near on twenty years, a norm that has been strengthened by the increasingly sophisticated and convergent technology. The young, again like us, will expect to immediately take a video of the whale breeching off the beach, to check the details on Wikipedia, and to edit the video and add a voiceover before posting to YouTube.

Moreover, they will expect to be able to video conference with friends free of charge about the happening, and to show it to the family on a large HD screen.

Without that connectivity, most of the learning can’t happen.

Empowered and trusted

Without the empowerment of, the trust in and the possession of the personal technology the young can’t normalise the use of the digital.

Nor can families or schools.

This has been evident globally – outside the school walls – since the advent of the Web twenty-five years ago when the first families empowered and trusted their children to use the digital astutely.

Since then millions upon millions globally have opted – seemingly naturally – to do the same.

While over the period the technology has become increasingly sophisticated, powerful and all pervasive, and changed all manner of practices the digitally connected families of the world have continued to empower and trust their children’s use and learning with the digital. The young have grasped the opportunity, fundamentally changing the nature of youth (Lee and Broadie, in press), exploring new worlds and pursuing their interests and passions, all comfortable using the latest technologies, with many becoming highly competent in their area/s of interest (Ito, et al 2013) (Twining et al, 2017).

Very early in the piece (Tapscott, 1998) the parents recognised that for the first time in history the young knew more about a domain of learning than their elders, and that there was much to be gained by supporting the children’s learning and the young assisting the family grow its learning.

Largely unfettered use

From the outset in the early 90’s the parents opted – of their own volition – not only to empower and trust their children but also gave them the freedom to use the digital largely unfettered.

It is appreciated that in the 90s there was a mystic around the online and that many of the parents had little understanding of computing but over time as their understanding grew and they came to appreciate they had to better ready their children for the digital and networked world and more closely monitor the use they still allowed even the very young considerable freedom – albeit within the bounds agreed by the family, and unwittingly by the networked society.

While little is written, it is intriguing to note how millions upon millions of young people globally for twenty plus years have observed the universal operational mores and etiquette.

While the degree of freedom varied with the developmental stages and the responsibility shown the young of the world have for many years had the freedom to go directly to the learning of the world online, and by-pass the traditional gatekeepers.

They have moreover had from the outset the freedom to use the digital to create what they like and to communicate with whom they wished – more and more free of any toll – everywhere except in the school (Twining, et.al 2017).

From the early 2000’s the young globally have embraced the emerging mobile technology making it very much their own, central to their lives and learning, doing largely as they wish, particularly from the upper primary years upwards.

It bears remembering that in 2009 around 25% of the world’s young were digitally connected, by 2016 the percentage had risen to around 50% and is on track to reach 70% by 2022 (Ericsson, 2016).

That connectedness coupled with the freedom accorded has and will continue to change lives regardless of any desires by those in authority.

Self-directed learning, collaborating when desired

The learning culture, the trust, empowerment, freedom and the technology all combine to allow the young to direct their learning with the digital lifelong.

It places them in charge of learning what they believe is apt, when and where, and with the support of whom.

They – and not some external party – decide when they need to improve their capability and how they will do so.

Tellingly history shows the young naturally taking control of their use of and learning with the digital from their initial use of the technology. If you’ve not already done so observe watch a two or three year using an iPad and you’ll soon find they want to take charge, to explore, to discover, to use if they want their thumbs rather than their index finger, disliking being told what to do, except when stuck.

Whether this is a natural trait time and research will tell.

Educationally from the outset of the young have acquired a core life skill they will use and enhance for the rest of life.

In placing the responsibility on the individual and supporting their efforts the families have grown the vital ability to naturally sustain the learning with the digital, that in a continually evolving world needs to be lifelong.

That core skill soon sees the young individualising their capability with the digital, and while many of the capabilities will be common, others, as with all of us will be distinct.

While taking charge the young are very ready to call upon others, particularly in the family or peer group the moment the need arises.

The school scenario

Few schools globally would in 2018 countenance these conditions in the student’s learning with the digital.

Reflect on your own.

Most schools still ban the in-class use of the young’s suite of mobile technologies. France for example in 2017 chose to ban smartphones in all its schools.

Digitally connectivity in virtually all schools is tightly controlled, with the teachers deciding when and if it permitted. Few would likely tolerate the idea of children instantly going online to find the information.

The school and its ICT experts know what is best. The children, the parents, and often most staff have no say, and are expected to comply with the school’s instructions.

The student use of the digital is tightly controlled and structured, very firmly based on distrust, with every student operation, often keystroke monitored.

Globally schools, at the behest of government, the curriculum authorities and the network managers, decide how – and how not – the children will learn with the digital, with no recognition given the out of school attainment or consideration given to the young learning how to take charge of their sustained lifelong learning with the digital.

Twining and his colleagues in the UK concluded

Schools seldom replicated how children’s digital practices develop outside school, especially with regard to providing opportunities for sustained and increasing participation with others who shared similar interests. Instead, children’s ICT use in schools tended to be short term and discrete (Twining, et.al, 2017. P.vii).

Not only don’t most schools support the five critical conditions but they don’t nurture in the young the ability and responsibility for naturally sustaining their learning with the digital lifelong. They are geared to a past world of constancy

Conclusion

Ask yourself what chance has my school, or that of my children, of meeting the five conditions critical to the natural sustained learning with the digital, that the young can draw upon and grow throughout life.

We suspect the answer will be none.

The next question is a huge one – what if anything is the school going to do?

The current very strong global trend is to do nothing.

And let the young will continue to develop their learning with the digital outside the school walls, continuing to deal the school out of the play.

 

 

** 3.65 billion is a conservative figure. The very real challenge with the figures is weeding out the multiple ownership and inactive subscriptions. The Ericsson Mobility Report of November 2017 (Ericsson, 2017) places a figure of 7.8 billion on the number of mobiles subscriptions, 5.8 billion on the number of broadband subscriptions and 4.4 billion smartphone subscriptions.

 

Bibliography

 

  • Ericsson (2016) Ericsson Mobility Report 2016 Ericsson November 2016 – https://www.ericsson.com/assets/local/mobility-report/documents/2016/ericsson-mobility-report-november-2016.pdf
  • Johansen, S. L, Larsen, M.C and Ernst, M.J (2016) Young Children and Digital Technology – Aarhus University, Aalborg University, Danish Media Council for Children and Young People, February, 2016 – http://www.aau.dk/digitalAssets/201/201213_national-report_2015_denmark_proofread-2-.pdf

 

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (in press) Digitally Connected Families. And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

 

  • Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York

 

  • Twining, P et al. (2017) NP3 – New Purposes, New Practices, New Pedagogy: Meta-analysis report. London: Society for Educational Studies.http://edfutures.net/NP3

 

 

 

Parent Responsibility for Learning with the Digital

 

Mal Lee

[ This is intended as a discussion starter for use with both the parents and the staff, addressing a core issue rarely discussed].

The moment you give your children the digital technology you are responsible for its use and your children’s learning with the digital.

Not the school, not government, nor the technology companies, the internet providers, siblings or grandparents, but you. All the others can, and should assist, but ultimately you are responsible – likely to an extent few have thought about.

Moreover, you’ll be responsible until adulthood.

Not only do the parents have the moral, legal and ultimately the educational responsibility, but twenty years of history and over a billion digitally connected young globally have demonstrated that the parents are far better placed than any other body to enhance their children’s learning with the digital.

It is time to recognise the responsibility shown by the parents of the digitally connected young, to laud their achievements and to acknowledge the educational leadership role they have played and must continue to play, from the beginning of their children’s lives.

But it is also time for society to build on their success and understand that it will be the young and their digitally connected families – and not the schools – that will increasingly lead the way in learning with the digital – regardless of what schools or governments desire.

Governments, and particularly the schools like to believe that they are charge, and that only they have the expertise to provide the desired digital education. Indeed, most governments would contend that in closely controlling the use of the digital in the schools they are complete control of the young’s digital education.

They are not. And have not been for twenty plus years (Lee and Broadie, in press).

They assume learning equates with schooling, and that learning with the digital only takes place in schools.  They don’t appear to understand that 80% plus of the young’s learning time annually is spent outside the school walls, that more than half the world’s young have successfully learned to use the current technologies outside the school walls or that increasingly pre-primary children will start school having already normalised the use of the digital – with no input from the schools or government.

Globally governments and most schools have long demonstrated little or no understanding of learning with the digital in a Digital Revolution that is daily transforming the ways of the world (Lee and Broadie, 2017) (Lee and Broadie, in press). They mostly opted to stay with the traditional ways, within insular hierarchically controlled Industrial Age organisations, where teachers teach and assess year in and year out much the same as when you were young. There has invariably been no place in those schools for the children’s digital technologies or that learned with the digital outside the school walls. Indeed, France in late 2017 decided to ban mobiles in all its schools.

Not surprisingly the schools were very early dealt out of the digital education play, likely to remain so.

The ability of schools, even the most visionary, to match the learning with the digital provided outside the school walls, is impossible. Schools as public institutions controlled by government, bureaucrats, resourcing, working conditions, legislation, law, accountability requirements, inflexible organizational structures and history can never respond to the accelerating digital evolution and transformation in the same way as the highly agile digitally connected families of the world. Even if governments wanted its schools to change, or indeed to collaborate with the families.

In a world where the young are digitally connected 24/7/365 and expect to use their personally configured mobile technologies to learn in context the moment desired, anywhere, anytime, at speed, and largely unfettered they are not going to find that opportunity in most schools. Rather they will find themselves distrusted and disempowered, with the limited learning time tightly controlled, their every use of the digital supervised, connectivity restricted, their use of their personal technologies likely banned and the facility to direct their own learning with the digital denied – all supposedly for their protection and well-being.

The history of learning with the digital over the last quarter of a century has seen the schools each year lag ever further behind the out of school use, struggling – or not even attempting – to handle the accelerating pace of digital evolution.

As the research (Friedman, 2016), (Deloitte, 2017), and common sense will attest only the young within highly agile and supportive digitally connected families can hope to accommodate the current exponential digital evolution. All organisations, even the digital masters are now struggling to keep pace with fifty plus years of exponential change.

Over the last twenty plus years the young of the world have been to the fore with virtually every technological development – and are on trend to continue to be so – in large because of the support of their parents and digitally connected families.

What parents need to do now is to appreciate the role they have played, consider how they can better play that role and why it must be the parents of the digitally connected young who take ultimate responsibility for their children’s learning with the digital.

The Global Leadership of Digitally Connected Families

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In addition to taking prime responsibility for the 24/7/365 digital education of the world’s young the digitally connected families over the last two decades unwittingly took an increasingly greater lead role in the provision of that education.

Critically – and largely unseen- they took that lead worldwide. What we have witnessed over the last twenty plus years – and see today worldwide – is a naturally evolving phenomenon, over which governments and education authorities had held no sway.

In examining the past 20 plus years it soon became obvious that the digitally connected families had – and continue to have – significant advantages over formal schooling in providing the desired rapidly evolving 24/7/365 digital education.

Since the advent of the WWW an empowered young, with the support of their families, have played a lead role in the out of school digital education. Over time they have naturally accommodated the accelerating digital evolution and transformation, while the schools struggled.  The young, with time to explore and a strong desire to share, are often ahead of their parents in the use of digital connectivity. And considerably ahead of their teachers.

With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to see why, and why even the most visionary and well led of schools took so many years to achieve digital normalisation. The reasons lie in the organisational arrangements, the educational model used and the attitude adopted.

Organisationally the established schools of the world continued to use the tightly controlled, inflexible linear and hierarchical structures that emerged in the Industrial Age, while the digitally connected families employed a highly agile model, able to evolve naturally at pace.

Helbing in commenting on the Digital Revolution reiterated the inability of all manner of bureaucracies to accommodate rapid, uncertain change and the importance of moving to the use of highly agile self-regulating units.

In a rapidly changing world, which is hard to predict and plan, we must create feedback loops that enable systems to flexibly adapt in real time to local conditions and needs (Helbing, 2014).

The shift globally to greater school autonomy was a step in that direction but in examining the plethora of controls imposed by governments and their bureaucrats – controls over the likes of working conditions, the allocation and use of funds, school times, purchasing, imposed digital systems, reconciliation of accounts, treatment of students, the curriculum and the mode and time of assessment it was apparent that ‘autonomy’ was limited.

In contrast the digitally connected homes of the world, operating as small self-regulating units, within a laissez faire environment with their own resources, and responsible for their own children had no such constraints. They could instantly acquire the technologies they wanted and use them as they wished. Quietly over time they have taken advantage of the dynamic highly fluid nature of their situation to quietly create increasingly integrated and powerful digital ecosystems.

The teaching model employed by schools was – and continues to be – highly structured and controlled. It was throughout the period insular in nature, inward looking and fixated on the physical place called school. Education in the use of digital devices was invariably taught within class groups as a discrete subject. The schools followed a set, linear curriculum where the class teacher directed the teaching and student assessment, accommodating all manner of external controls and management checks.

In contrast the digital education model outside the school was completely laissez faire, freewheeling, seemingly chaotic, invariably non-linear, done ‘just in time’, undertaken anytime, anywhere, invariably in context.  It was wholly individualised, directed by the learner’s desires, with she/her deciding where to turn if support was needed.  That said the nature of the teaching and learning adopted was remarkably similar worldwide. It very soon became the new universal normal for the young.

Importantly the self-directed learning with the digital was highly appealing to the young, exciting, intrinsically motivating, with no need for any assessment other than by oneself and through recognition by their peers.

Significantly throughout the period – even though in hindsight they did very well – many parents continually looked for support and direction, and to collaborate with the schools. In the first half of the period this reflected the lack of digital understanding and in the second when the increasingly sophisticated converging technology took the learning to a continually higher plane.

Parents struggled to find that support.

In 2002 Pew Internet studied the digital disconnect between the schools and the homes, noting

Students are frustrated and increasingly dissatisfied by the digital disconnect they are experiencing at school (Pew Internet, 2002).

The genuine collaboration didn’t begin until the late 2000s when the first schools moved to a digital operational mode and recognised its educational sense.  As Lee and Ward (2013) observe, it would appear the home – school collaboration will not occur until schools have gone digital and are ready attitudinally.

The work of the digitally mature schools globally from around 2010 – 2012 demonstrated that schools could with the right principal and mindset play a lead role in the 24/7/365 education of the young – if they are of a mind to recognise and build upon the out of school learning, and genuinely collaborate with their digitally connected families. They had the educational expertise desired by most families, and the ability in a 24/7/365 setting to take the young’s working knowledge of the digital to a significantly higher level.

But it all came down to attitude.

The young and the parents of the world have shown from the advent of the Web – like the visionary school leaders – the importance they attach to their children’s digital learning.

Most governments and school don’t.

Despite the fine sounding rhetoric about the digital the priorities of developed nations are expressed in their basic skills tests.  The priorities expected of principals invariably relate to the perceived basics like PISA score performance and most assuredly not an appropriate holistic education for an evolving digital and socially networked world.

While there are ‘maverick’ digitally mature schools globally pursuing the latter in 2017 they are still rare.

Disturbingly not only are most schools unable to accommodate exponential digital evolution and change, but most – along with their governments – are not interested in so doing.  Even when schools have developed approaches to the use of digital that empower young people and which listen to how they learn best in the digital world, these approaches can atrophy and disappear when leadership changes. This suggests that the ways most teachers perceive their accountability are so strongly linked to traditional industry-age schooling that this can rapidly outweigh the benefits they see of digitally empowering the young, as soon as the school leaders cease to make this a priority.

A telling reality is that a quarter of a century after the advent of the WWW and decades of societal digital transformation globally, digital education performance in schools is still being assessed by paper based exams.

Little is the wonder that the digitally connected homes of the world are taking an increasing lead the 24/7/365 digital education of the young.  Tellingly the 2011 Project Tomorrow report (Project Tomorrow, 2011) noted that while the digitally empowered parents wanted to collaborate with the schools if the schools chose not to the parents would take the lead,

That is what is happening globally, largely unseen. As the strength of the young’s capability to use digital grows, and as industry-age schooling continues to produce only meagre advances in the learning of the young, the stage is being set for a breakdown in parents’ belief in how well their children’s schools are preparing them for life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Educational Importance of BYOT

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

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

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

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

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

It is reality few as yet appreciate.

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

Are you an analogue or digital leader?

Mal Lee

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Reflections on the Steve Jobs Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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