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.
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.
- Lee, M (2014) ‘Leading a Digital School’, Educational Technology Solutions 58, 2014 – http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/tag/leading-a-digital-school/
- McKinsey and Company (2014) ‘Bullish on digital: McKinsey Global Survey results’ – McKinsey –http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/bullish_on_digital_mckinsey_global_survey_results
- Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press
- Solis, B, Lieb, R and Szymanski, J (2014) The 2014 State of Digital Transformation Altimeter – http://www.altimetergroup.com/2014/09/the-2014-state-of-digital-transformation-infographic/
- Suh, C (2014) ‘Is 2014 The Year of the Chief Digital Officer?’ Wired – http://www.wired.com/2014/01/2014-year-chief-digital-officer/
- Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
Complex adaptive systems are at risk when in equilibrium. Equilibrium is a precursor to death.4
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.)
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.
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
- Helbing, D (2014) ‘What the digital revolution means to us’. Science Business 12 June 2014 – http://bulletin.sciencebusiness.net/news/76591/What-the-digital-revolution-means-for-us
- Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press
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.