Category Archives: Primary school evolution

Schools as Digital Constructs

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In moving schooling from a paper to digital construct the way is opened to shift to an increasingly sophisticated, powerful, flexible and naturally evolving operational base, and allow schools to continually provide an apt, ever richer, contemporary 24/7/365 education.

Critically the shift in thinking enables schools and systems to better accommodate the world of accelerating, seemingly chaotic, often uncertain digital and societal evolution they are operating within, and importantly to evolve and grow in harmony with the rest of society.

Theoretically, as indicated in the last post (Lee and Broadie, 2019), the possibilities for teaching and learning opened by a digital construct are virtually unlimited, with possibilities being added daily as the thinking develops and the technology evolves. 

While that might hold in many fields of endeavour, schools as formal government controlled institutions with defined obligations, having to contend with societal expectations will always be more constrained than most other organisations. 

That said the success of the schools that have gone digital, and adopted a socially networked mode have demonstrated schools can move some distance along the digital evolutionary continuum, and with apt leadership and support can evolve ad infinitum.

The facility to do so will differ markedly with the type of school, likely the size and type of education authority, and the government of the day. Independent, and largely autonomous schools will invariably have greater scope to move, as will smaller government systems. 

While individual schools can make a significant shift ultimately the government of the day must play a lead role if the schools/system is to move from Industrial Age staff selection criteria, working conditions and remuneration or to remove the blockages imposed by the likes of statutory examinations boards, basic skills tests and inspectorates. 

Tellingly, mostly unnoticed, many nations now have in their distance education schools/system ground breaking digital constructs, that have long abandoned their correspondence schools, which astutely couple the evolving technologies, social networking and face to face teaching, and provide an important insight into what is possible. Significantly many of those schools already have working conditions and remuneration arrangements markedly different to the mainstream schools.

The key variable in any construct shift will be human, with the decision makers opting to move to a digital construct or choosing to reject or minimise the opportunities opened and stay with the lower order variant.  

Thus far, near all the world’s education authorities and schools have chosen, consciously or not, to stay with the latter, to fend off digital disruption and natural evolution, and to largely deny the opportunities opened by a digital construct.

While most schools and systems have chosen to retain, and laud the paper construct, outside their walls the world continues to evolve at an accelerating rate, daily distancing the young’s in from the out of school use of and learning with the digital (Friedman, 2016). The digitally connected young outside the school naturally, and unconsciously employing a digital mindset, embracing networked learning, taking charge of their 24/7/365 learning with the technology, and daily growing their version of being digital (Lee, Twining and Broadie, 2018).

The paper construct, with its focus on learning within the physical site and virtual disregard for any learning outside the school has likely inclined most to disregard the reality that formal schooling occupies less than 20% of the young’s annual learning time. They seem conveniently to forget today’s schools are operating within a rapidly evolving, chaotic, increasingly connected world where most global change happens naturally, unplanned, with myriads of consequences and unintended benefits and disbenefits. Disruption, seeming chaos will invariably result in order, and a new normal.

Among the many challenges in shifting to a digital construct is to obviate the inefficiencies of natural evolution (Pascale, Millemann and Gioja, 2000). There is need to marry the natural with planned change, to continually take advantage of the pertinent global megatrends in creating and shaping the desired learning environment and culture.

The early adopter schools have demonstrated how that can be done.

But ultimately governments must lead the way for school construct change to happen and be sustained widely.

While visionary, often maverick heads and governments have orchestrated pronounced construct change, history reveals all too often that change is ‘rectified’ and the dents removed with the change of head, or government. Invariably the dents are removed by the application of stultifying carry overs of the paper construct. The great dampener, is the use of principal selection criteria that favour those wanting to maintain the status quo, and which accords no importance to the new head being able to grow the construct shift underway.

Governments must be responsible for the human construct it employs within its schools. If it opts to stay with the traditional then it should bear the political, educational and economic consequences. If it chooses to shift it needs to ensure the total construct, the total digitally based ecosystem is attuned to realising the shaping educational vision.

The Opportunities 

Even at this still relatively early phase of the Digital Revolution the opportunities opened for schools moving to a digital operational construct are immense, and largely limited by the human imagination. 

Many of the possibilities the authors have examined in earlier writings, all of which can be read on the Digital Evolution of Schooling website.

There are a few that merit special mention.

The move provides the opportunity to:

  • Return to first principles and clarify the desired shaping educational vision. It bids all associated with the school to question, and to continually question the aptness of all paper construct practises in a digital context.
  • Have all associated with the school/s, but particularly the leadership approach contemporary schooling, and the wider education of the young, with a digital, and networked mindset – not as now with an analogue.
  • Ensure the educational vision, the clear sense of purpose guides the creation and daily shaping of a school ecosystem and culture that facilitates the desired learning and resourcing. 
  • Identify those facets of schooling to be retained within the digital construct – which are likely to be many.
  • Evolve the school/s, largely in step with society’s ever rising expectations – rather than as now daily falling further behind.
  • Have schools play a more integral and productive part within a networked society and economy, moving them out of their current insular situation, making them more efficient, effective, economic and productive, contributing more fully to the growth of not only the young but also the local and national economy. 
  • Transform paper constructs into digitally mature organisations, built in large upon a tightly integrated, ever evolving, increasingly sophisticated, synergistic digital ecosystem, able to readily interface with and contribute to the networked world.
  • Realise John Dewey’s (1916) century old desire of more consciously cultivating both the informal, out of school learning with the formal, in school in the holistic education of each child.
  • Better individualise every child’s education, and build upon the young, from around the age of three taking charge of their use of and learning with the digital, learning to learn and naturally growing their being digital.
  • Have the schools genuinely collaborate with their digitally connected families in the education of each child, with both parties aware of where they should focus their efforts in growing the child’s holistic education. 
  • Accommodate both planned, and unintended change, and to optimise the benefits that flow naturally from chaotic evolution.
  • Grow a set of operational parameters for a continually evolving digitally based ecosystem and culture, where the young are trusted and empowered – rather than, as now trying to accommodate the young being digital within an aged paper construct where they are distrusted.
  • Have the digital underpin all school operations, normalising its ubiquitous use in and outside the classroom, using it to complement the other media, and accrue the efficiencies, economies, synergies and enhancement that can be achieved, intended and unintended.
  • Have the schools, as formal institutions recognise that while they can never lead the way in the young’s use of and learning with the digital they can better recognise, build upon and provide direction to the 24/7/365 use and learning.
  • Rethink the current Industrial Age structures, processes, working conditions and remuneration and gradually move to those befitting a digital construct. 
  • Complement the site based with networked teaching, learning and assessment, that can occur 24/7/365, anywhere, anytime.  In the upper secondary years, strong arguments can be mounted for much of the learning to happen off site, in jobs, apprenticeships, internships or intensive workshops.
  • Employ a more networked mode of school resourcing, where the school and the families pool their resources and expertise, and where schools can draw upon the resources of a networked society, and lessen its near total reliance on government/parent funds.

The educational vision

As we detailed in the last post, the paper construct has led to approaches to schooling, teaching and learning that we continue to accept as ‘normal and correct’ without thinking. Having pursued those ‘normals’ for aeons we understand the type of learning they produce. But we have yet to identify the learning possible within a digital construct.

These now need to become the subject of acute observation and research. 

The most obvious of these new affordances are:

  • Time learning. If students accept and enjoy the learning challenges that schools lead them into, they can radically extend the time they spend learning. This makes student engagement vital, so that learning is driven more by their internal desire to learn rather than external pressures.
  • Just in time access to information. ‘Road-bumps’ in learning, caused by lack of knowledge or understanding can be rapidly overcome, so that they don’t inhibit and damage the flow of learning.
  • Individual learners taking charge of their learning 24/7/365, lifelong. The implications of the learner, and not so much the ‘authority’, taking charge of their use of and learning with the digital, from around the age of three through to death are profound.
  • Connection to people. Ideas can be discussed online, and forums allow learners to follow the discussions of others. This can bring a multiplicity of people into students’ learning networks and raise the importance of students verbalising and discussing their current understanding.
  • The importance of learning to learn, relative to learning a formal curriculum. A key feature of the digital world is the extremely rapid growth of knowledge, which necessitates life-long learning for all. This also implies that state derived curricula and assessments need to focus on competence in a field, and to change as the societal perceptions to be competent evolve.

The Way Forward

The move to a digital operational construct necessitates schools having school principals willing and able to orchestrate the shift, and its continued evolution.

This has been strikingly apparent in the schools that have made the shift(Lee and Winzenried, 2009), (Lee and Broadie, 2018),and indeed in the digital evolution and transformation of all private and public sector organisations.

Without an astute chief executive officer, with digital acumen, able to set the expectations, communicate the vision and daily orchestrate the daily workings and growth of a digitally based school ecosystem there is little chance the shift will occur, let alone be sustained.  Great deputy heads, highly committed staff and supportive communities can all assist, but the head must lead.

The head must moreover understand that the construct shift is first and foremost a human challenge, where the school community shapes – on the fly – an organisation it believes can best deliver the desired education.

It is not, contrary to the current approach, a technological challenge, best left to the ‘ICT experts’. 

For well over a quarter of a century the universal propensity has been for teachers, ICT coordinators, principals, administrators and particularly governments to focus on the technology, and often only the technology (Lee and Winzenried, 2009), (Lee and Broadie, 2018). Invariably the first step has been to purchase the latest gear, and to laud its purchase. Few appear to understand they have simply been trying to shoehorn a limited use of the digital technology into a paper construct, constrained by Industrial Age structures, processes and mindset.

Not surprisingly the billions spent on digital technology for schools hasn’t magically occasioned construct change, nor will it.

The challenge is for school leaders to identify and gradually shape an organisational structure, a learning environment and culture that takes advantage of the evolving digital technology to provide the desired contemporary education.

The schools and education authorities that have moved to a digital construct have recognised the imperative of putting the educational agenda to the fore and then addressing the many human and technological variables that assist further the agenda.

They have also appreciated they can hasten the shift from the paper to digital construct by tackling those variables largely unconstrained within the existing construct. The shift from an analogue to digital mindset, distributing the control of the teaching and learning, trusting and empowering all, enhancing the family-school collaboration, ensuring all students have the technology, recognising out of school learning with the digital, pooling the home and school resources and expertise, the establishment of an integrated school ecosystem, social networking, and the adoption of a culture of change can all for example be fostered within the existing operational parameters, with few involving an overt clash with the established ways.

History suggests the evolution in schools will be gradual, the schools moving along an increasingly higher order evolutionary continuum, shedding the ways of the paper construct, overcoming the impediments to change, working increasingly within a digital construct.

The authors’ research with the early adopter schools (Lee and Broadie, 2016), points strongly to;

  • The schools, while each shaping their own course, in a seemingly chaotic world will move through remarkably similar evolutionary stages as they shift from the paper to increasingly digital construct
  • Each displaying, regardless of type or context, common attributes at each stage
  • Most schools in their evolution and shift to a higher order of operation needing to move through each of the evolutionary stages
  • The evolutionary continuum continually lengthening as the thinking, expectations and technology becomes more sophisticated
  • Primary/elementary schools moving faster along the continuum than the secondary.
  • The schools lessening their dependence on the physical site for much learning, taking increasing advantage of networked learning and teaching. 

Movement along the continuum will rarely be constant, more often it will be the case of two steps forward, and one step back, often with a change of head the school regressing to the world of paper (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

The unplanned commonality evidenced globally in the young’s use of the Net (Tapscott, 1998), and more recently in the children’s use of and learning with the digital (Lee, Twining and Broadie, 2018) is seemingly mirrored globally in schools shift to digital construct. 

Conclusion.

While still early days, with appreciably more research to be undertaken the strong suggestion for any school, or education authority seeking to move to a digital construct is to note the key traits evidenced in the evolution of all digitally mature organisations. 

  • Dewey, J (1916), Democracy and education, New York Macmillan.
  • Friedman, T (2016) Thank you for Being LateNew York Farrer, Straus Giroux
  • Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2009) The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages. 2ndEdition Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • 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/–  
  • Lee, M. Broadie, R and Twining, P (2018) Your Kids Being Digital. A Guide for Digitally Connected Families. Armidale. Australia Douglas and Brown http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2019) ‘Moving Schooling from a Paper to Digital Construct’. Linkedin -19 August 2019 – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/moving-schooling-from-paper-based-digital-construct-mal-lee/
  • Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press
  • Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York

Primary Schools Will Evolve Faster

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

A decade plus study of the digital evolution of the pathfinder affirms to the authors that in general terms primary – or what others know as elementary or preparatory – schools will evolve faster than their secondary/high school counterparts.

The current primary school mindset, culture and organisational mode makes digital evolution appreciably easier than in the secondary school where the strong subject and exam focus, silo like organisational configuration, semi – autonomous ‘power blocs’ and size makes ready transformation difficult.

Critically the pointers are indicating the difference will grow.

We are already seeing primary school graduates moving from a higher order digitally based mode of teaching, where the children naturally use their own digital kit, to a lower order mode of teaching in the high school where the use of the student’s technology is still banned.

Not surprisingly the students and their parents are frustrated and invariably they are looking for those high schools where the disconnection is least.

It is a development that has very real student enrolment implications for the high schools.

However on present indications it is a development that most high schools could struggle to redress in the near future.

While not for a moment seeking to defend those high schools wedded to the paper based world the strong suggestion is that

  • the different rate of evolution between the primary and secondary schools be better understood, by both primary and secondary educators, and the parents and students informed of some of the main impediments potentially impacting the high school
  • the evolution of the two sectors of schooling be viewed separately and while understanding that both will ultimately move along the same evolutionary path and move through the same evolutionary stages the high school evolution will in general terms be slower.

In making the latter observation it must be stressed that one is talking in general terms, knowing full well there are secondary schools years ahead in their evolution than some barely moving primary schools.

It should also be underscored that the primary – high school difference is also likely to be evidenced within K-12 schools, albeit possibly slightly later if the school has adopted a middle school model.

Related is the importance of high schools comparing their evolutionary journey with that of like high schools and most assuredly not the typical primary school. One needs compare oranges with oranges.

The now clear and challenging reality, as yet few are seeing, is that the primary schools in general will evolve at an ever greater rate, in so doing increasingly adopt a digitally based, ever higher mode of schooling apposite for a socially networked world, very often moving their graduates into a more dated educational experience.

In bears reflecting why this might so.

The traditional form, size, focus, culture, mindset, teaching of the primary school, coupled with the greater collaboration between the school and the home makes is that easier for astute primary school principals to orchestrate their school’s on-going evolution than their high school counterparts.

Size and the relative smallness of most primary schools, and in turn the significantly fewer staff makes it that much more manageable to shape the desired ever evolving, evermore integrated, complex and higher order school ecosystem.

Primary schools have for decades had as a focus the learner and the desired holistic learning of all children, and when coupled with their use of an organisational structure with set classes or class groupings that emphasis provides a ready platform upon which to enhance all the staff’s macro understanding of the school’s workings and to collaborate evermore closely with the children’s homes.

Rarely does the primary school have the largely autonomous, subject based faculties or ‘empires’ found in the high school where middle managers are often reluctant to cede their power or vary their micro focus.

Rather the focus of all staff, the principal, the executive, the teachers and the professional support is a quality holistic education for every child. That focus, that thinking is relatively easy to build upon as the school begins lowering its walls, seeks to take advantage of the educational opportunities of the networked world, begins collaborating with its homes and community, and marrying the in and out of school learning and teaching.

Where genuine collaboration between the school and the home in the secondary years has invariably been minimal there is scarcely a primary school where the early childhood teachers have not worked closely with the parents. Once again that is a base that can be readily built upon and extended across all the primary school. In contrast most high schools have rarely collaborated with their homes, they unilaterally controlling the in school teaching and learning and as such in moving to a digital operational base and recognising the very considerable value of collaboration are basically having to start from scratch.

Importantly, except in the likes of England, most primary schools across the developed world have not had to contend with the stultifying external paper based exams that markedly impact the workings and thinking of the upper secondary school.

In brief it has been, and continues to be that much easier for the primary schools to move to a digital operational base, to build upon the opportunities availed, to ready their total staff and the wider school community for the on-going evolutionary journey and to evolve at accelerating pace.

 

Silo Like to Integrated Schools

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

A significant part of your digital evolutionary journey will be the school’s historic movement from its inefficient silo like organisational structure of Industrial Age origins to an increasingly integrated, efficient and productive one befitting a digital and socially networked society.

You’ll shift from the traditional arrangement where the various cells within the school – the classroom teacher, the faculty, the ICT unit, the library, the front office – operate largely autonomously to a significantly more integrated structure where all operations are interconnected and focussed on realising the school’s shaping vision.

A major – and again largely unwitting – driver of the shift will be the school’s move to a digital operational base and the recognition of the many benefits that flow from convergence and organisational integration. Digital congruence is the key. The physical networking of the school and the ubiquitous use of all manner of digital technologies that can talk to each other make redundant many practises and quickly remove the strict divisions between the operational units.

The vast majority of the world’s schools, and in particular the secondary are still impacted by the factory model with its strong division of labour and the assumption that if each unit on the production line does its job the students would graduate with an appropriate holistic education.

Many over the last fifty years have questioned that assumption and some schools have made major strides in adopting organisational structures that open the way for a more holistic education.

Until relatively recently the major impediment to the running of a more integrated school has been its underlying paper base. Paper as a technology has major limitations, the most important of which is the requirement that the information thereon has to be physically transported to its recipient/s. The high level use of that technology necessitated close physical proximity. The delivery of a paper to another member of staff meant getting up and physically delivering the information.

While philosophically and organisationally the school might have wanted to integrate its efforts while ever it retained its paper operational base its efforts would be frustrated.

Networks and the digital technology change the game. Not only does the digital operational base negate the physical and logistical shortcomings, stimulate operational integration but it also allows full multimedia creation, 24/7/365 communication, interaction and storage – all at pace and with little cost. Few have yet to sit back and analyse the impact alone of the physical networking of schools in that 90’s and early 2000’s.

The experience of the pathfinder schools would suggest the shift from the loosely to more tightly coupled school will be gradual, incremental and will accelerate the more the school matures its ecosystem.

That acceleration will be assisted by the school’s:

  • tightening focus on its shaping educational vision
  • efforts to ensure all school operations are directed to realising that vision
  • rising digital expectations
  • recognition that digital congruence is the crux
  • trust and empowerment of its staff and community, and efforts to ensure all have a better macro understanding of the school’s workings
  • endeavours to shape an increasingly mature and powerful school ecosystem
  • daily efforts to create an evermore productive ecosystem, that marries the in and out of school learning and resourcing

Experience has demonstrated that the integration will in general terms occur much faster in the primary or elementary school than in the high schools. The structural hurdles and cultural mores of the high school are far harder to overcome than those in the primary school.

In the secondary school in addition to the challenge of changing the culture, and shifting the focus away from paper based external exams there is the invariable silo like organizational structure and the fiefdoms and their warlords keen to retain their power base.

In brief if you are leading a secondary school on its evolutionary journey be prepared for a long and at times painful graduated shift.

 

Address the Totality, Not the Parts

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

One of the more challenging tasks in shaping a digitally based school ecosystem is to focus on the desired totality, not the parts. School leaders need to shed their traditional school development thinking and its preoccupation with the parts, and put to the fore the shaping of the new ever evolving total entity.

Unwittingly, and here we include ourselves, we have a generation of school leaders, and indeed politicians who have been weaned on a factory model of organisational development, strongly impacted by Frederick Taylor’s work (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Winslow_Taylor), that has had us believe that by enhancing parts of the production line the overall organisation would be more effective and competitive.

That thinking might have been appropriate in the Industrial Age, but is not within a Digital Revolution, where the successful organisations are those tightly integrated school ecosystems evolving at pace.

Globally one continues to observe governments and all manner of educational leaders contending that if schools improve a segment of the school’s operations their overall performance and relevance will be enhanced. We thus see calls to improve the likes of the curriculum, the quality of teacher selection, pedagogy, professional development, resourcing and the digital technology but surprisingly few calls to create schools that can continually deliver in a rapidly evolving world.

Seemingly unaware of the Digital Revolution, the digital transformation that has fundamentally reshaped all manner of businesses and public sector organisations and the critical importance of increasingly productive digitally based ecosystems, globally in 2016 one finds scant call by educators to create schools appropriate for a digital and socially networked society.

It is simply assumed the old factory organisational model can play that role if parts are updated.

There appears to be little appreciation in education that digitally based organisations are fundamentally different to their old paper based counterparts.

The pathfinder schools understand the very considerable difference and are daily transforming their nature and form on the fly to better educate the young for today’s world.

Their focus is on shaping the desired evermore tightly integrated, mature, higher order and productive ecology – where the culture and all operations are directed towards realising the school’s shaping vision.

In that transformation they appreciate the kind of resourcing, teaching, professional development, digital ecosystem and program evaluation required in a digitally based, strongly socially networked 24/7/365 mode of schooling, that marries the in and out of school teaching and learning will be appreciably different to that off the traditional stand alone paper based school.

Simply focus on the parts, and moreover do so but within the school walls, and one will fail to understand the workings and requirements of socially networked school communities.

Release of 2016 Edition A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

Release of 2016 Edition A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

Roger Broadie and I have markedly updated our Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

A copy is freely available on the Douglas and Browne website at – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

As is Mal Lee’s and Martin Levin’s updated version of their work on BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling.

There is the choice of e-book or PDF

The updated Taxonomy explores in depth the attributes demonstrated in the pathfinder schools at the Digital Normalisation and 24/7/365 Schooling evolutionary stages and links the digital transformation evidenced to that found in other complex adaptive systems in business and the wider public sector.

Significantly the updated evolutionary continuum allows schools globally to get a quick indication of where they are at on their digital evolutionary journey.

Evolutionary Stages 2016 Final

Feel free to tell interested colleagues of the work

Mal and Roger

Take Charge of Your School’s Growth

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Schools, more than ever have to take charge of their own growth and evolution (Lee 2015) – Taking Charge of Your School’s Evolution – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/taking-charge-of-your-schools-evolution

).

Only those within each unique school setting can hope to understand the intimate workings of that school and the myriad variables – human and technological – to be addressed in growing the school.

That said the research on the digital evolution of schooling, and on the digital transformation of organisations reveals the very considerable common traits of evolving digitally based operations, and that schools globally will move through the same evolutionary stages and display at each stage a suite of common attributes.

The imperative is that each school takes operational responsibility for its growth and evolution, learns from the digital transformation research and the pathfinder school and adopts a development strategy appropriate and suit of performance indicators for it’s unique setting, mix of staff, community, shaping vision and state of digital evolution.

It is folly in 2016 for schools to wait for the educational bureaucracy to grow the school.

Sadly too many schools are still doing just that, following the management dictates of their education authority, seemingly unwilling to vary the status quo, placing the continued relevance and viability of the school at risk

Bureaucracies as an organisational form are designed to manage operations (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994). They are incapable of handling the speed and uncertainty of organisational change occasioned by the digital revolution or understanding the myriad of interconnected variables needing to be addressed as each school shapes its increasingly mature and powerful ecosystem (Helbing, 2014).

For schools to thrive and grow in a digital and networked world they have to be highly agile, responsive largely self governing organisations with a culture that embraces on-going, often uncertain change and evolution.

Governments globally have recognised that need and given most schools and principals the degree of autonomy needed to take charge of the school’s future. Yes sometimes the rhetoric is not always matched by the reality but notwithstanding it is critical each school principal works to create a culture where the school and its community – and most assuredly not the central office – shapes the way forward.

The onus is on the principal. He/she must lead.

The question you need ask has your school taken charge of its growth and is shaping its desired future? If not why not?

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

 

 

Hub and Spoke Networking Model: On Reflection

Mal Lee, Paul Morris and Sue Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Key Indicators

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

  1. Post –conference survey

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

What emerged from the analysis of the survey is the:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resourcing

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Pathfinder School Works as a Hub in System Change Model

 Mal Lee

Broulee Public School (Australia), one of those as yet rare cadre of pathfinder schools that have normalised the whole school use of the digital and created a 24/7/365 digital school ecosystem, is playing a central role in a new model of system wide school development that is being implemented by New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education and Communities.

The Department in conjunction with Broulee Public School is implementing a ‘hub and spoke networking model’ to foster the movement of the state schools in the Far South Coast Network of NSW to a digital operational base.

Supported by funding through the Department’s Rural and Remote Blueprint the model recognises the very different position of schools on the digital evolutionary continuum, the importance of each school, primary and secondary, taking charge of its own growth and the amount schools can learn in a very practical way from the experiences of their colleagues in  pathfinder schools.

In the same way that teachers network with and learn from their colleagues globally so the idea is that the Network’s schools can learn from the school at the centre of the hub and like the spokes of the bike the ideas will radiate out to others.  While the initial moves are being made in the Far South Coast Network the thinking is very much that the model could be used elsewhere in the State, and in particular within the regional areas.

The impetus is being provided by the hub school, Broulee PS conducting an initial conference for departmental schools on Building Digital Schools on August 13/14 2015. The aim is to have the school, its leadership, teachers and community share with their colleagues, primary and secondary, the factors that they have addressed in the school’s digital evolution and what they are now able to do within an ever evolving, constantly transforming digital ecosystem.

The hub school is not saying it has any magic solution, but rather it will share the many lessons learned in the school’s 15 years plus digital evolution journey.

If you are NSW Department of Education and Communities school and would like to attend I’d suggest getting in early as there is only limited places.

Significantly this school – system initiative has emerged out of the NSW Minister of Education’s policy of ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ that gives NSW public schools – like others globally – the facility take control of their own future.  It is a very good example of how the policy enables school initiatives to be coupled those of the education authority to create greater synergy.

One of the things largely absent from the digital evolution of schooling literature is how best to get all the other schools in an education authority to normalise the use of the digital in the educative process.  The traditional top down, one size fits all has no place in a world where schools have the autonomy and indeed responsibility to shape their own growth and where the differences between schools on the digital evolution continuum is widening daily.

The hub and spoke networking model appears to tick all the right boxes and thus it will be interesting to watch how this New South Wales’ approach impacts.