Category Archives: System wide digital school transformation

The Uniqueness of Sustained School Organisational Change

Greg McKay

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The art of sustaining, and in time revitalising core organisational change in schools, and school systems is unique; markedly different to that in other organisations.

It is an emerging reality all interested in school development should consider. 

While there are many similarities to all other organisations in the sustaining of the change it is critical to understand what sets schools apart, and not perpetuate the mistake many have made trying to apply in toto the tenets or models of organisational change in business, and indeed the public service, to schools.

Schools, and school systems are unique organisational forms, requiring apt sustaining and revitalisation strategies.

The school organisational change literature not only doesn’t recognise the marked difference between making the initial organisational change and its sustaining (Lee and Broadie, 2019) but also doesn’t acknowledge schools organisationally differ in at least six fundamental aspects to all other organisations, private and public sector.

Their remit, the societal dependence on them, the time spent developing the nation’s young, school’s perpetual existence, government’s political control, and invariably ownership, and their need to balance ‘normalisation’ with evolution combine to set them apart.

No school can be independent of the education system they are part of, be it local, parochial, provincial, national or international. All must work within the established parameters, address the set targets and meet an array of obligations.

The same combination of factors, plus the many others that impact organisational change make core school, and system change, and the sustaining of that change very challenging, with history revealing the odds strongly favour the retention of, and invariably the return to, the traditional organisational form.

  • Remit

Businesses exist to make money, schools to educate, and to care for the nation’s young, within a physical place called school.

The young, their parents, the wider community, and vitally the electorate expect those schools to play those roles day after day, year after year.

While accepting schools will be efficiently and effectively managed, and make good use of the funding provided schools are not perceived to be profit making enterprises.  

  • Societal dependence

Rather they exist to serve their society, they been given the prime responsibility for educating the nation’s young, and caring for and nurturing them while the parents work.

They are moreover expected to play that role in the contemporary world in a consistent manner, on a specified number of days each year, within given hours, and break for holidays on approximately the same dates year after year – advertising the school term dates several years in advance.

Globally modern societies, and indeed economies build their lives and workings around those school operating times and term dates, with there been virtually no likelihood of ever varying the term dates. Life in the northern hemisphere is for example still profoundly impacted hundreds of years on by a pattern of school holidays that emerged out of the agrarian year.

Societies’ dependence is invariably strengthened by governments’ mandating that all the nation’s young attend school for X years of their lives.

150 plus years on society has also come to expect – rightly or wrongly – schools to ready compliant citizens, ensure the ‘right’ material is taught, sort and sift the students, and certificate the student’s ability. 

  • Time spent developing the young

Schools must factor into any strategy that seeks to sustain change, and particularly to revitalise that change the responsibility they have for educating each age cohort of students over a long, invariably twelve plus year period, and doing so in a lockstep, linear manner.

While most organisations, private and public sector have only a brief interaction with the clients, schools work with them every day, for years, each year taking in a new cohort of students, while exiting another. To create a significant change in the learning behaviour of say nine year olds, it may be necessary to start that change with the children when they are only five.

Approximately 20% of the nation’s young’s learning time annually will be spent at school.

Core organisational change invariably has thus to be phased in, and the change continued with until the last student cohort departs the school.

Schools can’t like most other organisations make, and even markedly refine a core change the moment it thinks apt. They have work with the givens. 

  • Perpetual organisations

Schools as organisations will continue their operations while ever there is a community for which to cater; an electorate to satisfy. While non-government schools might come, and go governments must ensure communities have a school

Schools have literally existed for hundreds of years, and are on track do so for many more.

In marked contrast to business that must operate at the cutting-edge to remain viable, the viability of most schools is seldom under threat.

While it is highly desirable schools provide a quality apt contemporary education in many respects it matters not how poorly run or how dated and irrelevant is the teaching. The government schools will continue while ever there are students wanting to attend.

The demand on their ‘child care’ role, particularly at a point in history where both parents work, will see most average, and even poor schools continue to operate.

It is difficult to imagine any democratic government, wanting to stay in office opting to take up Perelman’s (1992) suggestion of closing the schools, and teaching solely online.

The perpetuity of the organisation, its longevity means staff appointed to schools will, likely unwittingly, play a custodial role in preserving and growing the history of the school, for what invariably will only be a relatively short time in the organisation’s operations. They will play their role and leave it to others to continue and hopefully grow their work. It is not unusual for there to be a 20% plus turnover of staff annually, and only rarely will the teachers stay in a K-12 school the same length as the students.

The same holds at the system level, probably even more so, particularly in those organisations that staff the central office with limited term contracts. 

Interestingly, aside from staff in schools with a long history, the authors’ strong impression is that most teachers, administrators and even politicians don’t see schools operating in perpetuity, or the staff being custodians of but a period in the organisation’s history. While greater research is needed, the authors combined 80 year plus association with schools and systems points to a focus on the now, and the immediate future, that combined with a lack of corporate memory and documented history likely sees few staff regarding themselves as custodians of a heritage. The contrast with role played by staff in a museum, or even the police or fire services is likely marked, with the shortcoming needing to be factored into any change sustaining or revitalisation strategy. 

Schools linked to religious organisations are also invariably limited in the degree of change they can implement by the usually conservative tenets of their governing bodies.

  • Government control, ownership and politics

Another great difference between sustaining, and particularly revitalising organisational change in business and in schools is that schooling is controlled by government, in most instances the schools are owned by the government, and any core change will always depend on its electoral, political and government acceptance.

Globally governments, be they local, provincial or national control the operations of the nation’s schools – even if not directly owning them. While the nature and degree of sway varies the control of such variables as the overarching legislation, working conditions, pay rates, the funding, the curriculum authority, the examination’s board/s, teacher registration, school accreditation and teacher training ensures the government of the day will always have a powerful voice.

The power is amplified many fold when they own the schools.

With government control/ownership there will always be the continuing, often very quick turnover of the senior decision makers. Governments only have limited tenure, the ministers of education even shorter and system chief executive will on experience rarely stay more than six years.

The limited tenure, the electoral imperative to impress in the short time and the constant jockeying for power strongly inclines governments, ministers of education and their bureaucrats to favour shorter term initiatives, and to shy away from change likely to alienate the electorate.

School systems in contrast to business, invariably have senior decision makers who aren’t versed in the business at hand. Contemporary educational administration is highly likely to have a minister, political advisers and heads of the administration with no training in or experience in high level educational change. Most moreover will have little or no corporate memory.

Their expertise is politics and providing the electorate what it finds acceptable.

Sustained change must be electorally acceptable, preferably owned by the community to the extent that successive governments will be wary of intervening other than to enrich the change.

Any major revitalisation of the original core organisational change, such as shifting from a paper to digitally based operational construct will need to be electorally attractive, be embraced by the teachers and school leadership and vitally provide wins for most of the senior decision makers, the political advisers, the minister, the system executive, and in many situations also the union/s. 

While accepting small ‘p’ politics is important in all sustained organisational change with schools the facility to play the small and capital ‘P’ political game is paramount.

  • Accommodating ‘normalisation’ and evolution

Schooling has the immense, and growing challenge of ‘normalising’ the everyday school experience while simultaneously evolving its form to ensure the schools continue to provide an apt contemporary education, and meet their society’s rising expectations.

Much of the business literature regards normalisation as an anathema to sustained organisational change, Lewin as far back as 1947 commented on the necessity of ‘unfreezing’ the organisation. Normalisation is considered by the many of the change theorists to be a sign of failure, an indicator that the organisation had ossified and moved to a state of evolutionary equilibrium.

Those theorists reveal they don’t understand the unique nature of sustaining organisational change in schools.

Swift acceptance and ‘normalisation’ of the change by the students, staff, parents and the wider community is imperative in schooling if the core change is to succeed and be sustained over the decades. In keeping with the above mentioned factors the change needs to be perceived to be successful, and accepted by the electorate for it to have any hope of being sustained as governments and senior executive come and go.

That normalisation needs to be astutely engineered, with the electorate, as well as the staff, students and particularly the parents being educated on the merits of the core change. 

But in so doing the community needs also to understand that in a time of accelerating digital evolution and organisational transformation ‘normalisation’ should be viewed as a continually evolving – not static – concept, a phenomenon where the ‘old normal’ is regularly replaced by the ‘new normal’. This is particularly apparent in the daily use of rapidly evolving digital technologies where the old ways are continually being superseded by the new, without a moment’s thought. It is however apparent in near every facet of life, work and learning where what was normal ten years ago has been supplanted.

This iterative normalisation is particularly important to the evolution of schooling, where a host of often seemingly small enhancements can combine to ensure apt adjustments are made for the evolving context; refinements readily accepted by the students, staff, electorate and government.

We’ve identified six attributes that set schooling apart for other sustained organisational change. There might well be others.

Conclusion

The point remains schools are unique organisations.

That uniqueness needs to be better recognised in shaping the strategies to sustain core school and system wide organisational change, and when appropriate to build upon and revitalise the core change.

While schooling should draw upon the general thinking and research on general organisational change it is imperative the decision makers contextualise their thinking and appreciate schooling is unique.

Is Core System Wide School Change Possible, and Sustainable?

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The short answer is yes, on both counts.

But it is extremely rare, far rarer than most governments, politicians, the media and educational leaders would have you believe.

Historically one will struggle to find an education authority, local, provincial or national, anywhere in the world that has achieved core system wide school change, and then sustained that change for more than a few decades.

Virtually all the system wide innovation made globally in the 60s and 70’s has largely disappeared, with the schools returning, some might say regressing, to the traditional mode.

One will moreover struggle to find a major change that has not only been sustained, but built upon in a significant way.

And yet daily academics, the media, politicians and educational administrators glibly envision markedly different schools of the future. 

Most schools in 2040 will, on current trends likely be the same as today, the same as they were fifty years ago, the same as they were a century ago, only they will be more dated relative to the rest of society.

The current indicators strongly suggest many could be more regressive than the schools of the 1970s.

Most will likely still be paper based constructs, site based, linear, hierarchical Industrial Age organisations, using Industrial Age processes, micro-managed by governments and bureaucrats to the nth degree.

New technologies in Industrial Age classrooms doesn’t change the nature of schooling. They never have, and never will.

There will be notable exceptions globally led by governments that recognise the imperative of providing an apt contemporary education for all, that understand the immensity of the constraints to be overcome and what is required for successful sustained digital evolution and transformation, conscious of the time and effort needed to make the paradigm shift, but they will be few. 

The rarity of sustained system change has not been for any want of desire, effort of investment.  The last century plus has seen all manner of thoughtfully conceived, well-funded initiatives, the likes of model schools, the Dewey based progressive school’s movement, the many ‘schools of the future’ and lighthouse schools, open plan schooling, vast national initiatives like the UK’s ‘Harnessing the Technology’ and more recently the various national ‘digital revolutions’. Some of those initiatives made a difference, at least for a time, but importantly few got anywhere near 100% school uptake, and have been sustained over time. 

We’d like to table for discussion the seemingly outrageous proposition that core system-wide school change might in most situations be impossible, particularly over a sustained period.

We’re most assuredly not making this observation as cynical old pessimists, but rather in the quest to assist principals, education authorities and politicians, wanting to move from a paper to digitally based construct to understand the magnitude of the task ahead, and the reality they’ll have to address. 

History says that while change has been possible at the individual school level sustained core change across a total system, be it parochial, provincial or national level, has been much rarer.

That rarity should set off the warning bells.

Political challenges.

Sustained, core system change is only possible if both the political and logistical elements are successfully addressed from the outset, and then on an-going basis.  While for convenience we’ve separated the political from the logistical challenges the two are invariably intertwined.

Within the democracies of the world using the Westminster system of government, or a variant thereof core system change in government schools can only happen when led and supported by the leader of the government and his/her minister/superintendent. It is a given, without which there is no chance of sustained success. 

History reveals much, likely most system wide innovation did not pay due regard to the politics of the change. Invariably the focus has been on the mechanics of the change with scant thought was given to the reality of political churn, the continual change of governments, the seemingly endless cycle of progressive and conservative governments and electoral acceptance. History is festooned with educational innovation that died with the change of government, and even change of minister. Invariably new governments, new ministers of education, school superintendents like to quickly display their credentials, happy to throw out millions of dollars of achievement to demonstrate their way is best. 

Core system change is very unlikely to be sustained unless it is accepted, and in time normalised by the electorate. Experience suggests all too often well-intentioned educators have mapped out major change without giving a thought to the political context, implications or long term community acceptance. One will struggle find mention in the educational change literature the imperative of factoring into the change implementation the electorates likely acceptance of the innovation.

Logistical

Logistically the many challenges facing change at the individual school level, that we identified in ‘The Challenge of Creating a Digital School’ are amplified many fold at the system level, and to those many considerable constraints are added those at the system level. 

These are but some of the hurdles to be overcome.

The challenge of simply running an education system in a time of accelerating change is immense.

Running that system while also implementing core system wide change takes the challenge to another, for many possibly unattainable, level. In analysing the history of one of those rarities that has sustained the system change forty plus years ago while the challenge of making the change in the 1970s was immense the system was, in relative terms working with largely known constants. Paper as the technology core to the construct was largely unchanging. That was a world where it was accepted that one had around a week to respond to an important letter, a ‘leisurely’ turnaround that continued until the early 1990’s.

Fifty plus years after the identification of Moore’s Law (Wikipedia, 2019) the rate of digital evolution continues to accelerate largely as projected, with few organisations, let alone school systems, able to stay abreast of the rate of technological change (Friedman, 2016), (Deloitte, 2017). To the already considerable challenge of conducting a complex human organisation is added the pace of continual social, political, economic, environmental and technological change, including uncertainty, disruption, digital convergence, evolutionary chaos, and continual unintended and unplanned global change. 

An allied challenge, all education authorities will eventually have to a face, is that they are operating – whether desired or not –in a world of chaotic change (Pascale, Millemann and Gioja, 2000). They’ll need to grasp that within that world their long-held belief that development can only occur when rationally, logically planned and implemented must be tempered by the reality that increasingly much development will occur as a natural flow on of digital evolution; unplanned, unintended and remarkably similar worldwide.

Governments, education authorities and schools have ultimately to accommodate both planned and unplanned change, and be aware of, and be ready to optimise the unintended benefits, and the new normal that emerges out of the seeming chaos. Near all the major global changes in the learning and education of the world’s young in the last twenty-five years have flown naturally and unplanned from the Digital Revolution. No planned national or international educational change comes close to having anything near the global impact of unintended, unplanned change (Lee and Broadie, 2018). 

Business from the mid 1990’s recognised in their planning they had to accommodate the intended and the unintended change (Thorpe, 1998).

The digital masters in schooling also appreciated this new imperative (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

The history of schooling since the world went online in 1993 with Mosaic reveals most schools, and education authorities didn’t (Lee and Broadie, 2018), but recent conversations suggest some are, and in so doing are aware they will need to bring the teachers and community with them in that realisation.

Natural evolutionary change is invariably inefficient (Pascale, Millemann and Gioja, 2000). It needs to be shaped to advantage by astute leaders aware of the world megatrends.

Core system change must thus still be planned astutely, with due regard given the many interconnected parts but that planning and the outcomes desired should be more open and flexible, able to accommodate the naturally emerging unintended benefits, and to address the undesired disbenefits.

A telling feature of the successful system change analysed was the integrated totality of the change design and implementation (Lee, in press). It was built on core, timeless educational principles that underpinned every facet of the change. Forty plus years on that was still apparent.

All too often efforts at core school change are piecemeal, delivered by discrete cells within the central office, without regard to the desired totality or electoral acceptance, that soon wither with the change in government, and funding priorities.

The immensity and complexity of the challenges to sustained core system change demand leaders in Government, the central administration and every school capable and astute enough to normalise the desired change.  It necessitates systems continually having educational leaders able to sit in the helicopter and understand the evolving macro scene, the interrelatedness of the many parts, able to ensure evolving, increasingly integrated and complex digitally based school ecosystems sustain and grow the desired change.

The challenge of growing and appointing school leaders able to play that role, and to do so over the decades might be a step too far for most education systems, struggling as most are to find principals simply able to manage the status quo.

To normalise, sustain, and in time grow the core change over the decades the system requires leadership identification, growth and appointment processes that will go a long way to providing the desired personnel.

Most systems, where the focus is very much on appointing heads to manage the status quo, are years away from the desired, with the question having to be asked if the desired can ever be achieved.

A related ‘leadership’ challenge facing near all systems is that the implementation of the change is invariably entrusted to a mature, invariably highly segmented bureaucracy. They use staff, structures and processes employed to maintain the status – quo. That group likely not only lacks the understanding, mindset, drive to implement significant organisational change but also the structural agility to do so. 

It is a recipe for failure, that can be obviated, but from the track record is rarely done. 

Successful sustained core system requires the designers to accept school change must be done from within the school, and increasingly the school community, and done eventually by every school in the system.

The designers can’t wave a magic wand, or simply issue a media release and assume the change will happen.  It won’t.

Allied is the imperative of recognising that every school is unique, with each requiring its own change strategy.

It is appreciated this runs counter to the prevailing views of many bureaucrats and likely governments, but every school has a unique context, history, community, culture, mix of staff, challenges, and sits at different points along the school evolutionary continuum.  Moreover, each has a head with his/her own desires, capabilities, leadership style and facility to orchestrate major organisational change.

While Government and the system leadership must provide direction and support history affirms that leadership must be willing to trust and empower its professionals and communities if it wishes them to normalise, sustain and in time grow the core change.

The willingness to distribute that power is something historically few systems have been prepared to contemplate, but until they do, and cease micro managing and distrusting their professionals the chance of sustained core change will remain remote. 

A telling but largely unacknowledged factor in achieving core system change, that stood out in the analysis of the successful change, (Lee, in press) is the timing of the change.  Achieving the initial momentum and acceptance is the hard part. Normalising and sustaining the change is that much easier if the ball is rolling. It was likely somewhat easier to innovate in the socially progressive world of the late 60s and 70’s than immediately post 9/11. Similarly, it is often easier to introduce major change after a resounding electoral success than at the end of a tired government.

It bids Governments and system administrators to think carefully about context and the timing of a change they want sustained for decades to come. 

Conclusion

Yes, core system change is possible, and sustainable, but it is easy to see why the track record globally is so poor, and likely to remain so.

If, and it is a big ‘if’, governments want to provide an apt contemporary education for all its students and to make changes that will be sustained governments, policy makers, educational administrators, and indeed teachers, the media and society in general must appreciate the immense difficulty of the move, and the real chance of failure.

They need also understand in a world of ever accelerating technological and social change the challenge is growing daily.

It is time to cease being glib about core school change, to appreciate the magnitude of the constraints, to approach the change with the eyes wide open to both the political and logistical challenges and to laud those systems that have made and sustained core change over the decades.

Bibliography

  • Friedman, T (2016) Thank you for Being LateNew York Farrer, Straus Giroux
  • 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 (in press).Creating, Sustaining and Revitalising the ACT Secondary College Model.
  • Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of ChaosNY Three Rivers Press
  • Wikipedia (2019) ‘Moore’s Law’, 2 July 2019 at – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore’s_law

Is Sustained Core School Change Possible?

I

An alert for those wanting to lead a digital school.

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The historic, universal, unwritten assumptions are that fundamental school change is not only possible, but is desired by those in authority and can be readily sustained.

Underpinning virtually every education plan and staff development program in the last century has likely been the desire to change and enhance schooling. Myriads of books have been published, studies conducted, reports written and likely millions of conferences conducted globally detailing how. 

Daily politicians continue to espouse the changes they are initiating, giving the impression that the governments of the world actively want significant educational innovation and change.

We’d suggest the time has come to seriously question all three assumptions. 

We accept that merely questioning the assumptions is akin to killing Bambi, but if schooling is to educate the young for a rapidly evolving world the validity of these first order premises should be examined, and the reality addressed.

COSN recently released an excellent study on the hurdles constraining Driving K-12 Innovation (COSN, 2019). The problem was that barriers identified were second order and assumed governments and schools wanted to innovate, could do so, and could sustain the changes made.

It is suggested that

  • For most it might be impossible to fundamentally change the traditional mode of schooling in a sustained way. It can in exceptional circumstances happen with individual schools, at least for a time, but as we explore in later posts historically it has been near impossible to sustain across a total system.
  • it is extremely unlikely most schools will evolve as digitally mature organisations (Kane, et al, 2016) being digital (Negroponte, 1995) in the foreseeable future.
  • most governments and educators have no real desire to significantly change the nature of schooling. They want constancy, continuity, sameness and control, free of electoral risk.

School leaders should better understand what is possible to change and is sustainable, be aware of the myriad of constraints to significant school change, and appreciate where transformation is possible, and likely impossible. 

History reveals that sustaining the change is likely as difficult as making the initial change. It also suggests this key facet of organisational change hasn’t been given the attention due. 

It is time to mix vision with pragmatism, to adopt a more reasoned approach to change, to accept there are givens, and to stop tilting at windmills in areas when there is little or no likelihood of marked variation of the current practises. 

In talking about core school change one is addressing fundamental variations in the traditional mode of schooling. New buildings, technologies, curriculum or assessment procedures don’t in themselves mean core change, particularly when they are simply a variant of the old. One is looking at the likes of schools without walls, open plan schools and the move to a 24/7/365 mode of schooling that integrates the networked with the site based learning.

Heads must recognise from their appointment they will lead the school transformation process for a finite time, with very real likelihood that any significant changes they make to the traditional ways being reversed on their departure. Despite the best efforts of likely millions of very capable heads globally history is festooned with examples, particularly within systems, of the laudable efforts being dismantled or abandoned by less able replacements.

For centuries school planners have worked on the assumption they can, with calm rationale thought shape whatever kind of schools they want. They can’t.  There are immense, likely growing constraints and barriers inhibiting core change. 

It is time for all educational decision makers, but particularly principals to better understand, and work with that reality. We now know what can and likely can’t be changed, that which is immutable and that where enhancement is possible. For example, after two hundred plus years of governments in the northern hemisphere basing their school term dates on the agrarian year, and those dates impacting near every facet of life, the economy, and learning there is no way to markedly change the term times. There are like givens those wanting change must work with.

School leaders should also appreciate that most governments and education decision don’t want any significant change.  Most educational administrations are about control and being risk adverse, committed to ‘protecting and promoting the minister’, concerned not to alienate the electorate or media. While politicians and their educational administrators speak of change the difference between the rhetoric and the reality can be vast. Granted some governments have genuinely wanted enhancement, but history reveals most only want controlled change. Twenty-five years on from the world going digital, and the Digital Revolution transforming all manner of organisations worldwide most of the world’s schools have avoided or been sand bagged against any significant digital disruption (Lee and Broadie, 2018a). Most schools use of the digital the same way as they did a quarter of a century ago, albeit with access to the online.

Conclusion

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore through a series of short blogs the realities facing all school leaders, but particularly those wanting to lead a digital school.

If you would like to comment further do write Mal Lee at – mallee@mac.com

Bibliography

  • 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 (2018) Digitally Connected Families. And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/–  
  • Negroponte, N (1995) Being DigitalSydney Hodder and Stoughton

Ecosystems within Ecosystems

Digital Schools Growing Their Community

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In contemplating the digital evolution of your school and the creation of the desired school ecosystem appreciate that as your school’s digital ecosystem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_ecosystem) grows so too will it increasingly interact with other ecosystems, local, regional and national unwittingly assisting those respective communities grow, while simultaneously furthering the school’s growth.

In making this observation the author is conscious it likely takes the reader into an as yet unexplored aspect of schooling.

The suggestion is you recognise:

  • the digital evolution of schools is occurring within an increasingly socially networked society
  • schools as social institutions are, and should be an integral part of that networked society, not as many would have us believe stand alone entities divorced from that world
  • social networking, while increasingly all pervasive and a potentially powerful educational facility is also an unbridled development, impacting – intentionally and unintentionally – all parts of the networked world, playing a significant part in the growth of all complex adaptive organisations
  • any consideration of the impact of the digital on schooling in a socially networked society needs to address the intended and the very considerable unintended impact, both within the school – as is normally done – but also upon the school’s community. With digital normalisation consideration should be given to the key ecosystems that interface with the schools, particularly the local and regional.

What is increasingly apparent is that as schools grow their digital ecosystem, the school’s growth will simultaneously and unwittingly grow the digital capability of the school and its community (Lee, 2015). In communicating the educational importance of the digital, in using it astutely and naturally in the everyday teaching and all the school’s operations, in assisting the children to use their own suit of digital technologies in and outside the school walls the pathfinder schools are also unintentionally saying to their communities, and in particular to the parents, carers, grandparents and each of those folk’s social networks the digital is important.

At the same time the school – particularly through the students – is assisting enhance the digital proficiency of all within its immediate community. The use of a school app for communication and interaction, the encouragement of the children to use of apt technologies and the children’s exploration of the emerging technologies all impact on the extended family’s 24/7/365 use of and thinking about the digital. The unwitting pressure for all in the extended family to use the current technology sees those loath to use the digital technology normalise its everyday usage.

Quite unintentionally – at least at this stage in history – the school is assisting grow the digital prowess of its community.

That is particularly apparent in those regional communities with pathfinder schools, where the digital prowess and application is appreciably greater than nearby towns where the school is not providing the digital enhancement.

Significantly as the school’s community enhances its digital proficiency so its expectations of and support for the digital in the school will rise.

The parents, the relatives of the children within that ‘digital community’ will invariably wear numerous hats, as town planners, business owners, software developers and work within other regional digital ecosystems. They will see the benefits for their children and the wider community in the various ecosystems interacting and collectively working to develop an environment that grows the total region.

That is what the author, along with Morris and Lowe found in the far south coast of Australia (Lee, Morris and Lowe, 2015).

The trend is very much suggesting, like it is with the digital masters in industry that the digital pathfinders in growing their school ecosystem will also grow their community, its life, culture, its digital proficiency and in time its industry.

If that is so it takes the role of schooling, and in particular digital schools into a new, different and very powerful position.

The author appreciates the above is cutting edge and needs far more research but as you address your school’s digital evolution it is suggested you look carefully at the interaction with other digital and networked ecosystems, the impact and the implications.

Bibliography

  • Lee, M (2015) ‘Digital Schools Grow Digital Communities’. Digital Evolution of Schooling. October 2015 – at www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net
  • Lee, M, Morris, P, and Lowe, S (2016) ‘Hub and Spoke Networking Model: On Reflection.’ Digital Evolution of Schooling February 2016 – at www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net

Thriving on Chaos and Constant Evolution

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In observing the workings of the pathfinder schools that have normalised the use of the digital one is struck by the palpable excitement, the professionalism of the staff, their quest for continued enhancement, the embrace of change, the mess and seeming chaos, the social networking, the belief that anything is possible, the risk taking and teachers singly and in ad hoc combinations ‘flying’, seeking to take advantage of the ever emerging opportunities.

In many respects the culture is akin to that of start up companies.

The contrast with the traditional school culture with its constancy, continuity, conformity, set procedures, micro management, adverseness to risk and change and its body of disempowered, seemingly tired staff going through the motions is pronounced.

It is however a culture that has taken years, an astute leadership and a supportive digital ecosystem to create.

But it is one that every school should aspire to work within.

Contrary to the myth that teachers will not accept change the reality is that the above mentioned cultural shift has occurred in normal, everyday schools with a typical mix of staff. Yes in time the more capable professionals seek out the pathfinders and add to their attraction but early on the pathfinders had the usual staff ‘challenges’.

For schools, like businesses to grow in a rapidly evolving, often uncertain digital and networked world they need a supportive organisational culture that thrives in seeming chaos and with constant evolution.

Peters (1987) in Thriving on Chaos, and Deal and Kennedy (1982) in their work on apt organisational cultures recognised that imperative thirty plus years ago.

It has taken some time but finally the pathfinder schools globally have demonstrated the critical importance of having a culture that fosters and supports their digital evolution.

The challenge is very much primarily human and not technological.

It calls for an astute principal willing and able to create and grow that culture over time, able to roll with the inevitable frustrations.

It necessitates the principal trusting and empowering a usually disempowered staff, student body and parent group, and being willing to distribute the control of the teaching and learning.

The genuine empowerment of the teachers and the professional support staff is particularly important, working to ensure all are treated as professionals – and not factory line workers – who are educated in the macro workings of the school as well as their speciality area/s.

It requires an apt, mature, appropriately governed professionally maintained digital ecosystem that supports and fosters the desired teaching and learning culture and which can accommodate staff wishing to fly while still maintaining a high level of efficiency and reliability.

It most assuredly requires each school to take charge of its own evolution and for the educational bureaucrats to support each school’s decision making and cease using the technology to micro manage the school’s operations and frustrate the growth of the desired culture.

The creation of the desired culture will take years and constant nurturing but the going becomes that much easier when the school moves to a digital operational base and begins shaping the desired school ecosystem.

  • Deal, D.E, and Kennedy, T (1982), Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Harmondsworth, Penguin
  • Peters, T (1987) Thriving on Chaos NY Alfred A. Knopf

Hub and Spoke Networking Model: On Reflection

Mal Lee, Paul Morris and Sue Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Key Indicators

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

  1. Post –conference survey

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

What emerged from the analysis of the survey is the:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resourcing

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Leading Your School’s Digital Evolution

A10-week program for school leaders globally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through this program you will:

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

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

Roger Broadie

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

Mal Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They will 15 places in each ten-week program.

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

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

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

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

Interested colleagues.

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

PDF Promo – Leading Your School’s Digital Ev…

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

 

 

 

Facilitating System Change

with a

Hub and Spoke Networking Model

Paul Morris, Mal Lee and Sue Lowe

The movement of schools globally to a digital operational base has, largely unseen, fundamentally changed the way those schools, and schooling in general needs to be developed.

Like all other digitally based organisations, be they banks, newspapers or retailers schools in going digital very much need to take charge of their own evolution, drawing where they can on the apt support of the pathfinder schools and their education authority.

What is now evident globally, both within industry (Westerman, et al 2014) and schooling (Lee, 2014 b) is that the digital masters who have taken control of their growth are evolving at an accelerating rate, daily becoming increasingly different to their more traditional confreres.

The digital pathfinders in all areas are fundamentally transforming their ‘industry’ at pace and obliging the later adopters to employ growth strategies apposite for a rapidly evolving digital world  and to forego the ways of the paper based world.

That is happening worldwide, again largely unseen with schools. The pathfinder schools have taken charge of their evolution, have attuned their ways for the digital, have already transformed the mode of schooling they are providing and are on trend to accelerate their difference with the traditional paper based school.

….what can safely be said it is now clear is that the new norm with schooling globally will be the accelerating differences between schools, and the mode of schooling each provides (Lee, 2015).

The digital transformation literature (Solis, et al, 2014) talks of ‘Digital Darwinism’ where those organisations that capitalise upon the ever evolving technology thrive, and those which stay in the past struggle. Projections are made of the number of Fortune 500 companies that will fall out that group in the next five years unless they become digital masters.

Atop the transformative impact of the digital technology have been the global moves to give schools and their principals a greater voice in and increased responsibility for the running and growth of each school. In New South Wales (Australia) that devolution is expressed in the Government’s ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ policy.

The immense – and only slowly realised – challenge facing education systems globally is how do they best facilitate whole of system change in a digital environment, where the differences between the schools is accelerating. How do they contend with in the one system astutely led digital masters where the students want to go and slow mover schools clients see as irrelevant? The traditional ‘one size fits all’ model cannot accommodate the vast and growing differences.

The Far South Network of the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities (NSW DEC) has opted to employ an educational variant of the hub and spoke network model to address that challenge, and to facilitate whole of Network change.

It is a significant step in the search for a solution apposite for school systems seeking to lead and provide schools the appropriate support in an ever evolving digital world, where schools will increasingly be ‘surfing at the edge of chaos’ (Pascale, Millemann and Gioja, 2000), needing to thrive and deliver while living with on-going rapid, often uncertain non linear change, evolution and transformation.

To read and download the full article click here – Facilitating System Change Final