Category Archives: Digital normalisation and staffing

Staff Development in the Mature Digital School

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In venturing into staff development in the digital school the authors do so with some trepidation in that we have not experienced in our research as clear a global picture as was found in the other areas of school evolution.

It might well be that the order has yet to appear out of the chaos but not withstanding there a number of developments and trends that have transpired globally that bear noting.

With staff development we are particularly mindful that the practices of astutely led digital schools could in some regards be different in the later adopter schools. It is an issue to bear in mind in shaping your school’s digital evolution and staff development.

That said there are a number of significant developments that we can comment upon with certainty.

  • Focus on the ecosystem, not the parts

The first and foremost with the mature digital schools is that staff development is addressed in the main as an integral part of the everyday workings and growth of the school’s ecosystem.

As with the other facets of digital evolution it is critical with the staff development to see it as one of the many vital parts needed to create the desired totality, not as done traditionally to address it by providing a suite of disparate, often seemingly ‘bolt on’ programs.

Traditionally much school staff development was coordinated by a member of the executive encouraging interested staff to undertake training programs, externally or in house and/or pursue post graduate study, hoping those loosely connected programs would improve the teaching and the effectiveness of the school.

The contrast of the traditional with the digitally mature schools is pronounced.

The focus in those schools is on seamlessly integrating most of the staff development into the everyday workings of the school, in a culture of change where all staff are daily striving to strengthen the totality and to better realise the school’s shaping vision. The staff development – the personal growth, the enhancement of the particular expertise and the heightened understanding of the school’s macro workings – all are addressed in the daily operations, in the teaching, discussions, everyday interactions, collaboration and reflection. Be it lesson design with colleagues, conversations with the principal, student’s suggesting new apps, the technology coach demonstrating a new approach or simply working within a transformative culture the staff learning is naturally integrated into everyday operations. The approach not only saves time but also is also significantly more targeted, effective and efficient, with the staff learning when pertinent.

It is often near impossible to decouple the staff development from the daily efforts to grow the organisation’s ecosystem.

  • Creation of transformative culture

Allied has been the conscious creation by the leadership of a culture of change, of shaping a start up like culture where anything is possible, that encourages and supports on-going staff growth, risk taking and the continued quest by all staff to take full advantage of the opportunities opened by the digital.

In many respects much of the staff development happens naturally and unwittingly. Key attributes like confidence, a digital mindset, the belief that anything is possible educationally, the willingness to embrace on going change, to collaborate, to distribute the control of the teaching and learning and to respect, trust and empower all the teachers of the young are all naturally – and best – developed naturally in context, in a supportive culture.

An important part of the quest has been the principal’s setting of high expectations for the school and its professionals, daily encouraging the staff to take the schooling to a higher plane.

Of note is that in creating the culture of change while some staff have found the going too challenging to stay the same culture has attracted other highly committed professionals to the school, unwittingly assisting further grow the other staff, the school’s culture and its ecosystem.

In many respects it is the transformative culture of the school that assists grow the students, the school’s community and the staff.

  • Think Digital

This is particularly apparent in the development of the vital digital mindset (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 28), and the willingness to socially network.

The digital mindset grows gradually, largely naturally and unwittingly and in context, with it becoming ever stronger as the school evolves digitally.

Indeed at this point in time the authors find it, as indicated, difficult to envision growing the digital mindset other than in context, in a culture that daily strengthens that way of thinking.

In seeking to professionally develop the staff it is now clear it is important to ‘think digitally’ and to employ strategies appropriate for a socially networked school community.

  • Macro understanding

Unquestionably one of the greater challenges in schools going digital is to get all staff to better understand the macro workings of the school and for them in turn to provide leadership at all levels.

That evolution in the digital schools has come in large from empowering the professional staff, the setting of high expectations, developing the staff’s macro understanding of the workings of the school, having them play a lead role and by daily involving the professionals in the decision making and providing them when apt the opportunity to reflect and discuss the continued growth and evolution of the school. Of note is that the MIT Sloan (2016) study of mature digital organisations found a similar concern to grow the macro understanding, with the leaders when asked about the most important skills for leaders in a digital environment

only 18% of respondents listed technological skills as most important. Instead, they highlighted managerial attributes such as having a transformative vision (22%), being a forward thinker (20%), having a change- oriented mindset (18%), or other leadership and collaborative skills (22%) (Kane, et.al, 2016, p2).

  • Readying for the unknown

The schools that have normalised the use of the digital have entered the evolutionary position where everyday they will be entering unexplored territory, requiring of the leadership and staff a mindset, a suite of skills and an organisational structure and culture that that allows them to continually thrive and deliver as they work with the many unknowns.

The pathfinders in schooling, like those in industry will forever on work without charts in determining the best way to continually realise the shaping vision. There is no best practise research or experience to call upon.

In ‘Teaching in the Digital School’ we identified the kind of attributes the staff will need in that kind of environment. In all likelihood other attributes will emerge the further the school travels into the unknown and transforms it’s operations.

Each of those key attributes will need to be nurtured, and vitally developed in context as the school ecosystem continues to evolve.

To what extent the later adopter schools will learn from the efforts of the pathfinders has yet to be evidenced.

  • Critical importance of staff development

What we do know is that every school studied regarded ongoing staff development as central to the school’s continued growth. All were very conscious the staff was the school’s greatest resource and that it had to continually have the desired wherewithal, individually and collectively, if the school was to evolve in the desired manner.

Tellingly the 2016 MIT Sloan Review noted:

Digitally maturing organizations invest in their own talent: More than 75% of digitally maturing organizations surveyed provide their employees with resources and opportunities to develop their digital acumen, compared to only 14% of early-stage companies. Success appears to breed success — 71% of digitally maturing companies say they are able to attract new talent based on their use of digital, while only 10% of their early-stage peers can do so (Kane, et.al, 2016).

Significantly all the schools studied similarly provide all their staff – and not just the teachers – the digital tools and resources required.

Do you?

  • All staff

A notable development, that is applicable to the digital evolution of all schools, has been the move to involve all the staff – teaching and professional support – in the staff development and view all of them as professionals.

It has been recognised that in evermore tightly integrated school ecosystems where all need have a macro understanding of the school’s operations it is vital the total group is continually grown, both collectively and individually, in context and through specific programs.

This is a key development.

Do you still view the academic only as ‘the staff’ or are you addressing the apt growth of all the professional staff, and naturally involving every one in ‘staff’ meetings?

  • Primarily in-house

In light of the moves to grow the staff in context it will come as no surprise that the vast majority of the staff development has been done in house.

Indeed one notes that in their digital evolutionary journey (Lee and Broadie, 2016) the mature digital schools have opted to increasingly rely on the in-house development and to complement that work with the occasional specific program.

Ironically that shift to the in house away from the traditional central offerings could well have been assisted by the moves by governments, particularly since the GFC, to cut the funding of authority run professional development programs and post graduate study.

The other reality is that the schools have been in their rapid evolution and movement into unchartered terrain found few from outside the school that understand their situation and which can assist the school.

Later adopter schools should be able to benefit from the work of the pathfinders, both in schooling and industry.

  • Limited funding

Allied has been the reality that few of the early adopter schools, particularly over the last decade have had the funds to purchase external expertise, even if it existed. As indicated in BYOT and The Digital Evolution of Schooling (Lee and Levins, 2016) staff development monies have normally to come from the highly competed for 10%-15% of recurrent funding not spent on staff salaries.

As a generalisation the vast majority of schools, particularly state schools, don’t have sufficient monies to purchase all the desired staff development.

While governments have acknowledged the critical importance of staff development politically none have appeared willing to wear the flack of allowing schools to take those funds from the staffing allocation.

Moreover many governments have also taken the view that they know what was best for ‘their’ schools and have dictated how what little monies were available for staff development should be spent.

The early adopters like most other schools have thus had to contend with those constraints and seek where they can alternative sources of staff development funding, as likely will you.

That said in opting to use the in-house integrated staff development the schools have not only saved monies but also provided a markedly more effective integrated model of staff development that is closely aligned to the continued enhancement of the school’s ecosystem and the school’s shaping vision.

  • Complementary programs

In addition to the integrated staff development most of the pathfinders have used a variety of complementary, purpose specific programs. Many were whole of staff or team specific exercises linked to the introduction of new or revised teaching program or policy while others were mini conferences convened to assist both the local schools and the school fund further staff development.

The value of mini-conferences as whole of staff, whole of school development exercises can be considerable.

  • Technology coaches

Tellingly all the schools studied had some type of staff technology coach or unit. While the title of the person or unit varied from school to school all had teaching staff whose task it was to assist other staff with the evolving digital technologies. The position/s were created by the astute allocation of the staffing budget. Most of the support was individualised and curriculum related but every so often, particularly with the release of breakthrough technologies like Google Applications For Education (GAFE) or a school app, whole of staff orientation sessions were conducted.

It is vital support we’d suggest you seriously consider.

  • Bureaucratic obligations

Of note the pathfinders – like all other schools – have had to undertake – often with little or no funds – staff development programs mandated by government, on issues the government of the day or its bureaucrats deem to be politically desirable. You know the kind.

It is a burden that most schools, state or independent, globally have to bear.

It is appreciated some of the programs are critical but others are mandated for political reasons or the whim of bureaucrats.

What we could well be seeing globally is the remnants of the traditional central course approach and the hand over of all staff development to the schools as self-regulating units.

  • Personal development

In addition to the school’s staff development of note were the various forms of professional development undertaken by the individual staff, using all manner of learning opportunities, both online and face-to-face.

It is as if the palpable excitement of working in highly energised school cultures is prompting the staff to further their personal growth. While still early days the impact of the school culture on the personal development of the staff bears further scrutiny.

  • Post graduate education study

It would appear, at least in Australia and the UK that teachers in the more mature digital schools are not pursuing post graduate study in education to anywhere near the extent of previous generations. While the increased cost of such programs could well be a factor so could the failure of many universities to offer programs relevant to those in rapidly evolving digitally based school ecosystems.

The authors have for example been unable to find any post-graduate programs in the UK or Australia specifically designed for leaders of digital schools.

Conclusion

What we are seeing – albeit at an early stage – with the staff development in digital schools is the same kind of paradigm shift we have witnessed in all other facets of digital evolution. There is the movement from a highly insular and segmented operation where the separate parts of the school operated largely autonomously to an increasingly integrated, socially networked approach focussed on ensuring all school operations are directed to the growth of the school ecosystem and the continued realisation of the shaping educational vision.

There is the growing recognition that each school is unique and is best placed to shape a staff development model that most effectively and efficiently enhances the school’s productivity and continued evolution, while at the same time growing the professionalism of all the staff.

It is important in tackling staff development in the evolving school to feel at ease in adopting a significantly different approach – in keeping with the above – and not feel obligated to retain that of the traditional paper based school.

You are readying your staff for a very different operational paradigm.

  • Kane, G.C, Palmer, D, Phillips, A.N, Kiron, D, Buckley, N (2016) Aligning the Organisation for its Digital Future. MIT Sloan Management Review, July 2016, Massachusetts MIT SMR/Deloitte University Press – http://sloanreview.mit.edu/projects/aligning-for-digital-future/
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages. 2nd Edition Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

 

Getting Your Staff to Fly

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In empowering your professionals the ultimate desire should be to have those staff fly, and for them to use their professionalism and the trust and autonomy accorded to continually search for the best possible education in a continually evolving world.

Lipnack and Stamps (1994, p18) in identifying the underlying principles of a networked organisation twenty plus years ago wrote of the importance in rapidly evolving, socially networked, increasingly integrated organisations of

  • Unifying purpose
  • Independent members
  • Voluntary links
  • Multiple leaders
  • Integrated levels

In elaborating on the concept of ‘independent members’ Lipnack and Stamps presciently observed

Independence is a prerequisite for interdependence. Each member of the network, whether a person, company or country can stand on its own while benefitting from being parts of the whole (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994, p18).

That is vital, but oft forgotten.

Digitally based, socially networked and ever evolving organisations need professionals with the mindset, confidence, wherewithal, independence and support to take risks, to grasp the emerging opportunities, to try things out, to work alone, with others or in teams and who can astutely adjudge when to push forward or to take another course of action. They need team players who can think independently and question the organisation’s practises and long held assumptions as the organisation evolves and transforms its operations.

Schools need staff – teaching and professional support – at all levels, and within all areas of the school willing and able to take the lead in enhancing the school’s operations, who understand the school’s shaping vision – its unifying purpose – and who can do so astutely at pace.

They are professionals who can fly, who can continually explore new paths, question current practises and continually energise and grow the school. They, as mentioned earlier, go to make the pathfinder schools the exciting places of learning they are, assisting create schools with cultures more akin to the ‘start ups’ than that those found in most traditional schools. Critically those ‘flying’ and taking advantage of the opportunities being opened are invariably the everyday staff of old who the school has empowered and assisted to grow. They are most assuredly no some specially trained change agent.

They are also staff that in many instances will opt to fly into leadership roles, often in other schools, helping in time grow the staff in the new settings.

While the focus will naturally be on the teachers it is equally important the professional support staff have the independence to assist grow the school. Indeed within increasingly integrated school ecosystems it will be important not only to have ‘multiple leaders’ within all areas but also the ready facility for voluntary links with leaders from different operational areas.

It is appreciated the concept staff independence, the letting of all to fly and taking risks will be an anathema to most schools and the ‘teaching standards’ bodies but if schooling is to evolve at a pace that meets the rising digital expectations of society – and not lag as it now does – it needs embrace the change. Bureaucracies micro managing schools every move will see the schools lag ever further behind societal expectations, move into a state of equilibrium and the place the viability of many schools in question (Lee, 2015, 5).

In staff flying and the schools moving at pace into the unknown schooling will experience the same kind of evolutionary journey as all other digitally based and socially networked organisations, business or public sector. Mistakes will be made, and valuable lessons will be learned as these highly dynamic organisations pursue their shaping vision.

Peter Drucker at the end of his illustrious career astutely observed:

‘To try and make the future is highly risky. It is less risky, however, than not to try make it (Drucker, 2001, p93).

Schools need very much to get their staff to fly, and fly at pace if they are to shape that desired future.

  • Drucker, P (2001) Management Challenges for the 21st Century, NY Harper Business
  • Lee, M (2015, 5) ‘Schools have to go digital to remain viable’. Educational Technology Solutions August 2015
  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York

Selecting the right principal

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In general terms the choice of principal will make or break your school’s immediate digital evolution and possibly its long-term viability.

An astute principal, with the appropriate skill and mindset (Lee and Broadie, 2016   ) who is willing to lead a digitally evolved school can move the school at relative pace along the evolutionary continuum and markedly enhance its performance and attractiveness.

A principal, lacking the vision, drive and acumen unwilling or unable to lead the digital evolution will at best place the school in a holding pattern and might well take the school backwards – all the while diminishing its client attraction.

Some make the fatuous suggestion that when a culture of change is embedded the school can withstand the appointment of an ineffectual head. While that culture might well help, globally the authors have witnessed the deleterious impact of principals unwilling or unable to evolve the school digitally and to create the desired change. Decades of astute effort by a school and its community can be soon dismantled by the poor choice of head.

Improved learning in a digitally evolved school stems from all enhancing how they interact to help other learners learn and teachers teach. If the principal does not understand the importance of this and continuously promote it pupils and teachers can quite quickly start putting their own needs ahead of the needs of the team. A principal who does not understand a socially networked way of working can easily destroy the culture.

It is thus critical that every effort be made to select the right leader.

While it is appreciated that no selection process is infallible and that many ‘state’ schools use processes where the school and its community have little say, do all you can – formally and informally – to get the right person.

Don’t leave the appointment to chance.

Put in place the thoughtfully crafted selection criteria and questions that will bring the desired leaders to the fore. Look at the skill set fleshed out in ‘Leading a Digital School’ (Lee and Broadie, 2016 ….). Specify if you can, demonstrated performance.

Ensure the actual selection processes identify those able and willing to lead, and if needs be weight certain criteria.

If the opportunity exists opt for a fixed term renewable contract, and the capacity to terminate the contract even earlier if the person selected fails to demonstrate the desired leadership. That said also be realistic about your situation, the challenges to be addressed and the time it will take the new principal to shape the desired school ecosystem.

If you have the facility be prepared to pay above the norm.

Use your personal networks to ensure the right kind of people apply, and if needs be assist folk with their applications.   Do your homework.

From the publication of the initial advertisement stress the applicants will be expected to indicate how they will lead the school’s continued digital evolution, shape the desired culture and strengthen its ecosystem. Set the bar high, and expect the applicants to have done their homework on the school’s current situation.

Ensure the panel selection processes do address the demonstrated capability of the applicants to lead a digital school and are not preoccupied with the lower level mechanics that can beset public sector interview processes.

Do your utmost throughout to ensure you look only for those who have demonstrated they can perform at the higher level and genuinely lead. All too often ineffectual people are ‘refereed’ up and out of a school to clear another school of its problem.

If the opportunity exists and the concerns remain be willing to interview non- specified referees. It is the right principal that is the key. View the processes simply as a means to selecting an apt principal.

If the field of applicants is found wanting be prepared to re advertise. Better to wait than to be sorry.

The ramifications of a poor choice are too great.

Conscious of the likely shortage of quality applicants, particularly those able to take over the reins of a rapidly evolving school be willing to grow a person, even in a temporary role before re-advertising the position.

In your planning for the appointment identify the support processes the school will use to assist the new principal get up to speed as soon as feasible. Even the best of principals find new appointments challenging and lonely. All too often good people fail from the want of support.

Understand the critical importance of the principal’s position in a digitally evolving school and do everything to choose and to appropriately support the right person.

Earlier we made mention of the vital role of the principal in fostering a culture where all the ‘teachers’ within the school’s community collaborate and support each other, challenging all to reach greater heights and grow the thirst for learning and teaching across the whole school. The importance of that capability cannot be over emphasised. Though we are in some ways still short of the vocabulary for this conversation, it can be incorporated into the central mission of the school. For example in the way Showk Badat, Principal of Essa Academy (UK) describes his school’s mission as “All children will succeed”, adding “And that’s ALL not most and WILL not might.” Or in the motto of Trondheim School (Norway), that is drilled into the children from the day they arrive, that “Nobody is perfect but a team can be”, reinforced by the way the teachers found ways to ‘reach’ all children and give them success as the basis on which to build challenge (their key way of ‘reaching’ the children being music – 98% played a musical instrument). Note that these ways of talking about the impact of digital evolution focus not on the digital but on the human reasons why digitally evolved schools achieve more.

 

 

 

24/7/365 Schooling: The Implications

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

The attached article does both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

24-7-365 Schooling

Invitation to Join Digital Evolution of Schooling Google Group

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

We are looking at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Strategy not Technology Drives Digital Transformation

The MIT Sloan Management Review in – its 2015 research report – on ‘Strategy not Technology Drives Digital Transformation’ is well worth downloading and analysing.

Go to – http://sloanreview.mit.edu/projects/strategy-drives-digital-transformation/

While drawing on the developments within industry it is highly applicable to the digital evolution and transformation of schools.

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.

 

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

Mal Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their life will be difficult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One hopes that would not be so.

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Bibliography

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

 

 

Digital convergence, ever tighter integration and growing organisational complexity

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In moving to the digital operational base schools are – usually unwittingly – simultaneously moving themselves along the path to the ever-greater convergence of all the school operations, ever-tighter integration and associated ever-greater organizational complexity.

It is path all schools moving to a digital base will likely experience.

Inherent in the ubiquitous use of the digital technology in and outside the school walls is ever-greater digital convergence. Binary software allows the myriad of digital technologies being used within a school community to communicate and interact, in a way simply impossible with paper or analogue technology. That digital convergence not only markedly enhances the relatedness of operations, their synchronisation, efficiency, economies, communication, access to information, the automation of many mundane clerical tasks and the opportunity for synergies impossible with a paper base, but vitally also removes the walls around the myriad of silo like operations that have characterised so many schools and increasingly integrates the school’s operations.

Think back to the old analogue sound and TV systems, where largely separate units had to be patched together by a plethora of wires and compare it with the integrated sound and vision facility in your iPad where all works seamlessly – without a moment’s thought from you – and you’ll begin to appreciate the impact ever-greater, ever-more sophisticated digital convergence has had on the operations of schools that have normalised the use of the digital.

With digital normalisation comes ever more tightly integrated schooling, where all the school’s operations, educational and administrative are interrelated.

Bear in mind that the pathfinder schools are not only evolving at pace and daily seeking ever better educational opportunities, but are increasingly providing a 24/7/365 holistic education, collaborating ever more closely with all the teachers of the young and merging the in and out of school teaching.

All new programs and indeed the natural growth have to be thoughtfully factored into that ever more integrated ecology, the school always shaping the operations to the desired end.

In brief schools are moving away at pace – regardless of most government desires – from the traditional relatively simple, largely constant and continuous operation where separate cells or siloes administered their own patch to ever-evolving, ever-higher order, ever more tightly integrated, and complex organisations.

They are organisations that unwittingly demand of all the staff, teaching and professional support, but in particular the school leadership and the principal, the facility to thrive in ever higher order, often messy and seemingly paradoxical organizations, and to possess a macro understanding of the purpose of the school and how all facets of the school’s operations fit. While all staff will have their designated responsibility/ies they all need to understand the macro workings of the school if they are contribute collectively to its desired evolution.

Homer-Dixon (2000, p211) notes

Yaneer Bar-Yam, the American complexity theorist, …argues that the level of complexity of modern human society has recently overtaken the complexity of any one person belonging to it.. So as modern human society becomes more complex than we are individually, it begins to exceed out adaptive ability. In effect we are too short a repertoire of response to adjust effectively to our changing circumstances.

While the school principal, as the organisation’s CEO and ultimate decision maker must be across the total operations it is increasingly important to develop and invoke the collective capacity of the staff, and indeed increasingly the school’s wider community as the schools organisations shape their desired future.

 

Homer-Dixon, T (2000) The Ingenuity Gap Toronto Knopf

 

 

Empowering All

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Paralleling the pathfinder school’s graduated move to distribute the control of the teaching and learning was their quest to markedly empower all the members of the school’s community and enable them all to have a greater and more effective say in the on-going operation and enhancement of the school.

An important part of that empowerment was the more distributed control of the teaching and learning, however it entailed significantly more, particularly in relation to the empowerment of the salaried officers of the school.

The desire in all the schools – in keeping with other networked organisations – was to take advantage of the technology that made it that much easier for all to better understand the workings of the organisation and contribute to its enhancement.  Lipnack and Stamps (1994) in commenting on the opportunities opened in networked organisations speak of the importance of encouraging leaders at multiple levels and staff having the autonomy, the independence and the encouragement to take risks in enhancing the organisation’s agenda.

That is apparent in all the pathfinder schools and not simply with the staff but also in the parent and student contributions.  While the business literature spoke only of the staff the schools looked to all in the school’s community

Once again that quest was in marked contrast to what was found in traditional highly hierarchically organised schools at the Paper Based evolutionary stage.  In those schools not only are the students and parents disempowered but so too are a very sizeable proportion of the teaching and professional support staff.

The traditional, strongly hierarchical ‘Taylor like’ organisational structure found in many schools, ensures only the few managers at the apex understand the macro workings of the school.  The rest of the teachers are bid concentrate on their part of the assembly line.  Theirs is very much a highly convergent and micro focus that invariably leads to them viewing school enhancement through their particular micro perspective be it as a maths, physics, drama, special needs or early childhood teacher.  Possibly unwittingly, the ‘assembly line workers’ were professionally disempowered.

All of the pathfinder schools commented on the imperative of ensuring the school’s greatest resource, its human capital was used to best advantage.  One thus sees in the evolutionary stage attributes the graduated empowerment of all the teachers, the development of their macro understanding of ever-evolving, ever more networked and integrated schools and the opportunity for all to contribute to the school’s enhancement both holistically and in their specialist area/s.

The same kind of empowerment has been evident with the professional support staff, readying all to play a fuller part in the ever more integrated school operations.   In strong hierarchical school structures the support staff sat at the bottom of the pecking order, to do the bidding of the teachers and focussing only on their specified duties.  Invariably the professional support officers, even when involved in the teaching were not included in ‘staff meetings’ or provided any digital tools.

Jump forward to the Digital Normalisation stage and into the tightly integrated school ecologies where the traditional walls and boundaries have disappeared, operations are interlinked and where every member of the staff needs have at least a macro understanding of the purpose of the school, the desired educational benefits and its workings and you’ll find the professional support staff strongly empowered and assisting all the school’s work.

The children, their homes and the school community had little or no real voice in the shaping, implementation or enhancement of the paper based school (McKenzie, 2009), (Lee and Ward, 2013).  While a few might have a voice on a representative council or school board their views were often not representative or acted upon.

As the 2011 Project Tomorrow study revealed one is talking digitally empowered parents and students wanting to collaborate with their schools, wanting to acquire the technology their children will use in those schools but being denied that opportunity by school principals unwilling to cede their unilateral control.

In moving to the digital operational base that situation begins to change rapidly such by the Digital Normalisation stage all within the school’s community have not only been empowered but folk from all quarters are contributing to and helping enhance the school’s operations.

The normalised, all pervasive use of the technology, and in particular hand held technology makes it simple, swift and inexpensive for the school to communicate with all its community, to keep them informed, to provide the desired support and when desired to quickly secure and analyse its views.

Significantly the digital communication was complemented by extensive face-to -face communication, be it in formal meetings, focus groups, parking lot conversations or chats on the football sideline.

One is struck by the openness of the pathfinder schools’ activities and the all pervasive sense that all within the school community can readily talk to the teachers or the principal, and if needs be express their thoughts.  It might simply be to express a concern about their daughter but they have the power to share that concern.

It is largely antithetical to the schools we knew.

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

Lipnack, J & Stamps, J (1994), The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

Mackenzie, J (2009), Family learning: Engaging with parents, Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh.

Project Tomorrow (2011), The new three E’s of education: Enabled, engaged and empowered,

Speak Up 2010, National Findings Project Tomorrow. www.tomorrow.org.