Category Archives: 24/7/365 schooling

Being Digital

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 In 1995 Nicholas Negroponte wrote in his seminal work of ‘being digital’.

The book didn’t define what was meant by ‘being digital’, but simply exemplified what it was likely to mean.

Twenty plus years later, and the movement from an analogue to digital society and with more than half the world digitally connected we can go a long way to clarifying what is ‘being digital’, and to attest why the growth of this capability is critical to the life and education of world’s young, from birth onwards.

Over the last twenty plus years, but particularly the last ten society worldwide has largely unwittingly adapted it ways to accommodate the Digital Revolution and naturally evolved a mode of learning with the digital, from birth onwards (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

It is the state of being digital.

It is already core to the young’s learning worldwide outside the schools, on trend to grow in importance as the digital technologies evolve, becomes increasingly sophisticated and powerful, and digital ecosystems underpin virtually all areas of learning.

It is far more than digital proficiency. While dependent on that proficiency, it is a mindset, a mode of thinking, an expression of values, a set of ever rising expectations, an ability to draw on many connected elements, a way of learning and understanding how to learn, a taking charge of one’s own learning, being able to network, to accommodate accelerating change, to continually grow the capabilities and to use them 24/7/365, lifelong.

It is a suite of linked attributes that will naturally evolve in harmony with the evolving digital technologies, technological practises and changing social mores.

It is a suite that simultaneously draws upon and enhances the other areas of learning.

It is moreover a suite that while containing many common features is individualised, with each child in being digital having the capabilities needed to pursue their interests and passions.

It is most emphatically far more than a variant of handwriting or digital literacy.

It is a connected way of learning that is richer, higher order and more diverse, which can amplify all the non-digital learning interactions.

As the children within digitally connected families grow, mature, develop their cognitive, inter and intrapersonal abilities, become sexually aware, build relationships, socially network, operate at a higher order of thinking and continually attune their ways to the evolving technology so they will develop their own form of being digital – and will continue doing so, in subtly different ways, at the various stages of life.

Being digital as a low caste child in Mumbai, a Masai herder’s boy, a seven year old girl in Riyadh, a ten year old in outback Australia, an Inuit teen or a sixteen year old in Vancouver, Seoul, Sao Paulo or Edinburgh will in many ways be different. But that said all those young people will also have many common attributes, not least is being digitally connected and able to take charge of their learning with the digital lifelong – albeit in their respective cultures, outside the classroom.

The global variability, the continual evolution, and the individualised and highly integrated nature of being digital should quash any moves by education authorities to try and assess the capability, and particularly to try and compare student attainment nationally and internationally. But let us be clear and affirm that the billion plus digitally connected young have never had need for their being digital to be formally assessed (Lee and Broadie, 2018) and that it would be educationally invalid, inappropriate and unnecessary to do so.

Rather let’s recognise what being digital is, and appreciate that in many respects it mirrors the development, importance and the way schools handle children’s ability to speak.

They both grow naturally from birth onwards, if not earlier.

Both likely build on inherent capabilities. With speech those inherent capabilities have been obvious for thousands of years.  Being digital draws extensively, particularly with the very young, upon what has been for centuries a largely dormant visual intelligence (Strom and Strom, 2009) that was most obviously brought into play from 2007 and the release of the various touchscreen technologies. While employed increasingly from the 90’s the visuals controls of the iPhone were a game changer, allowing all the young, and not just the teens to readily use and learn with the technology (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

The visual cues on the touchscreen suddenly made it simple for those in the first year of life to mimic their parents and siblings use of the technology, and by the age of three to largely establish the approach to learning with the digital they would use lifelong. By three most children born into digitally connected families will have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital, to the extent its use is so natural as to be invisible.

Both are of critical educational importance in a digital economy, and need to underpin all learning.

Tellingly both have been naturally grown by the family, with government and its pre- schools and schools playing a limited or no part, except with children who have difficulties.

Tellingly – but invariably forgotten – in an era where the focus is on the basics and testing the young’s ability to speak has rarely been rarely formally assessed. The development has been left to the family.

The big difference between the two vital capabilities is that while the importance of speaking has been understood for literally thousands of years the educational centrality of being digital is a long way from being fully appreciated by most in authority.

Most governments and schools worldwide have over the last twenty to thirty years have tinkered with aspects of learning with the digital. They have focussed on some of the parts and never the totality of being digital. They have toyed with programming, web design, learning to use Office, cyber safety and more recently coding, but only ever within the school walls, always deciding which aspects of being digital are appropriate to be taught and assessed – and which should not.

It is difficult to find schools that have naturally grown Negroponte’s concept of being digital.

It is similarly difficult to find schools or education authorities who recognise being digital is a state of mind, with immediate access to an integrated suite of digitally based capabilities, coupled with the facility to use any of the capabilities and the understanding of how to learn when desired 24/7/365. They seem not to have grasped that the suite has evolved naturally, been individually shaped and can’t – like the facility to speak – be validly measured.

They most assuredly haven’t been formally recognised in their teaching, assessment or resourcing the young’s being digital outside the school walls, or the central role the digitally connected families of the world have played over the last twenty plus years (Lee and Broadie, 2018) in facilitating and supporting the growth of that development.

It is time this critical capability is seen, understood and accorded the kind of recognition given the ability to speak, and the educational, social, economic and logistical implications of being digital addressed as part of a wider contemporary education.

The latter we’ll tackle in a follow up article.

With the advantage of hindsight and historical analysis (Lee and Broadie, 2018) there might be value in pursuing the reading example further, accepting with being digital that the die will be largely cast by the age of three, that the young of the world will lifelong employ in their use of and learning with the digital the suite of attributes associated with being digital – regardless of what government of schools might desire – and leave the core digitally based education to the families.

It is a radical thought, with immense implications, but there is much to be said for formal education complementing and adding value to the work of the digitally connected families, and ceasing senselessly trying to compete with the families in growing the young’s ‘being digital’.

Conclusion

At this point in history ask any digitally aware parent or grandparent what they understand by ‘being digital’ and they’ll likely quickly grasp the concept, but initially only at a rudimentary level, and that it will likely be only when prompted will they appreciate the many linked universal elements and their significance.

The same folk will likely also pick up the reality that they – like the other 3.65 billion plus digitally connected of all ages are also ‘being digital’. While the strength will vary let’s remember there will be seventy year olds who have played a lead role in using and learning with the digital since the 1970’s who in their thinking and actions have long ‘being digital’.

The new but largely unrecognised reality is that in the twenty plus years since Negroponte postulated being digital the world’s digitally connected peoples have become so.

  • 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 Digital Sydney Hodder and Stoughton
  • Strom, P and Strom, R.D (2009) Adolescents in the Internet Age Charlotte, Information Age Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Educational Implications of Natural Sustained Informal Learning with the Digital

Mal Lee

The article posted yesterday on the young’s out of school learning with the digital raises all manner of questions, and potentially has many profound implications for the education and schooling of the young.

It addresses a series of global developments that have thus far rarely been discussed or even considered by educators.

In this brief post, I’d like to flag but a few, and bid folk think about the implications.

  1. Probably the most significant is thenatural sustained and informal nature of the learning with the digital. – albeit outside the schools

What the history of the last twenty plus year’s reveals is that a billion plus digitally connected young worldwide have of their own volition, in a completely laissez faire environment, naturally learned a suite of common capabilities. All emerged unplanned, unintended from the seeming chaos of the Digital Revolution.

Most schools, teachers and governments have played no part in that learning, and the digital connectivity of near on 60% of the world’s young.

Of note is that by as early as 1998 the Tapscott research had noted the natural informal learning at play in the emergence of the universal mores the young of the world had adopted in their use of the Net.

In 2004, a very good Futurelab study by Sefton-Green succinctly flagged the growing importance of the informal out of school learning with the digital – at a point before the full impact of the mobile and particularly the smartphone technology had kicked in.

In readying the Digitally Connected Families Roger Broadie and I identified as mentioned 28 common capabilities.

Depending how on how one does the clarification there could be 26 – there could be 30.

What was clear was that out of the seeming chaos had come order.

That challenged the concept that all learning had to be planned, structured and sequential – and taught by school teachers.

  1. Focus on learning how to learn. Of note in yesterday’s paper is that only about a quarter of the common capabilities had to do with the digital proficiency.

The rest had to do with how an empowered young, directing their own learning with the digital learned how to learn – to take charge of all their learning with the technology, and to position themselves to do so lifelong.

And critically to do so in any area of learning they wish.

The great educational thinkers have long urged the development of this key capability but it is rarely tackled in schools.

The implications of this development alone are profound – particularly as the technology becomes more sophisticated.

  1. The third point relates to the sustained naturally evolving nature of the learningwith the digital.

In contrast to the schools there was in the learning no sense of a beginning or an ending, rather the sense that learning with the digital would be on-going, lifelong, naturally evolving and changing as the technology evolved.

Outside the school one is looking at a dynamic model – while that in the school is constant. Within the school seemingly there must always be a specified period for the learning – specified outcomes to be achieved and specified pass grade, after which one can say the learning has been done.

Telling with the out of school the only assessment is personal.

There is moreover an acceptance of the imperative of continually staying current lifelong.

  1. The fourth issue is the ability of schools to genuinely assist the learning with the digital.

The time has come to seriously ask can schools assist enhance the out of school learning with the digital – or might most hold it back?

Aside from the exceptional, most schools, even if they wanted to assist, would be unwilling to accept the five conditions critical to achieving digital normalization.

Schools that are of a mind to ban the kids gear will not be of a mind to assist the parents

And sadly, most schools as linear hierarchical Industrial Age organisations, tightly constrained by government lack the agility/the flexibility to remain abreast of the accelerating technological change – and to support kids operating at the cutting edge – even they were of a mind to do so!

 

As we move at pace to a totally digitally connected planet, with near every child from around age three normalizing the 24/7/365 use of the digital it is time to start discussing the likely implications – rather than opting to ban and totally abrogate the responsibility.

 

Natural Sustained Informal Learning with the Digital

 

Outside the School Walls

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The last twenty plus years reveal how successful the young of the world and their digitally connected families have been in learning with the digital informally in a naturally sustained manner – albeit outside the school walls (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

Sadly, that learning, like the success of the digitally connected families has been largely unseen.

It is time it is. and its global and historic significance is recognised, and the vital learning built upon.

Most when thinking about the young’s learning with the digital focus on the technological proficiency of the billion plus digitally connected young.

That proficiency with the current personal technologies is critical to the young’s all pervasive use and learning with the digital. However, in the total scheme of things far more important is the young, with the support of their families naturally taking charge of their learning with the technology, learning how to learn of their volition and with others, and being able to naturally sustain the learning in whatever domain/s they wish, lifelong.

Remarkably the billion plus digitally connected young have in a completely laissez faire, seemingly chaotic world in their use and learning with the digital naturally grown a suite of remarkably common capabilities. None of them have been planned, but are a natural unintended flow on from the Digital Revolution and the digital empowerment of the young. We’ve identified twenty-eight (Lee and Broadie, in press). Time and research might identify a few more, or few less.

What is important is that three quarters of the capabilities relate to the young’s learning how to learn, and only a quarter with the digital proficiency.

All are capabilities the young learn very early, well before school age and then grow throughout life.

With each child taking charge of his/her learning with the digital, and pursuing their interests and passions in addition to the common capabilities each will also have their own special capabilities, some being of a very high order.

A telling and fundamental difference between the young’s learning with the digital in and outside the school walls is that while of the school learning is constant that outside is dynamic, and naturally evolving, lifelong.

It is a significant difference, that few have noted.

In the school teaching the experts determine what is to be learned, how, by when and how it will be assessed and reported upon at the course conclusion. There is very much a beginning and an ending, and with the final assessment the sense that the learning – or at least a segment of – is completed.

In contrast the learning with the digital outside the school is decided upon and directed by the learner, learning what is desired, when and how, with there being no obvious beginning or end to the learning.  It begins at birth and will likely continue to death, as the digital continues its evolution. The control and nature of the learning will evolve in harmony with the technological change, going a long way to ensuring the young naturally accommodate exponential change.

Digital proficiency

The digital proficiency of the young is probably best expressed in the reality that near 60%, soon to be 70% of the world’s young are digitally connected (Ericsson, 2016), (Futuresource, 2017) and have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the current personal technologies in most every facet of their lives and learning.

The proficiency has to do with what the young at various stages of life want to do with the digital in their daily lives now, rather than what the ‘experts’ believe should be mastered for future application.

While the level of proficiency will vary with age, interest, expertise and support the bottom line for the first time in human history over half the world’s young are digitally connected, on trend in not many years for virtually all to be connected, able to instantly access and work largely unfettered the learning and resources of the networked world.

It a stark new reality, with immense implications that most governments, bureaucrats and schools have yet to seemingly grasp.

As is the reality that the young of the world have learnt – and will forever on learn – what they want, not simply what those in authority desire.

Moreover, twenty plus years reveals the digitally connected young will continue to grow the capabilities they desire outside the school walls – regardless of what governments or schools believe is important.

In their learning, they have demonstrated from around age three their ability to readily work the core functionality of the current personal and family digital technologies (Chaudron, 2015) – the smartphones, tablets remote controls, digital peripherals, games consoles, digital and video cameras, digital TVs, PVRs, home entertainment systems and the increasingly integrated family ecosystem.

Well before they can read, or start school they have learned to navigate the networked world and use the apt medium to access the desired functions.

Moreover, they have learnt to use the various digital communications facilities, largely toll free, strongly favouring the latest video communication technologies.

Over the last twenty plus years they have also learnt to use the new media creatively in the pursuit of their passions, unbounded by the traditional ways, and once again to do so from a very early age.  You’ve undoubtedly observed the many diverse and creative ways your own children or grandchildren have used the technology.

Contrary to the views expressed by many politicians and older members of society the research affirms (Lenhart, et.al, 2013). (Lee and Broadie, in press) teens have for many years been tech-savvy. Invariably they – operating as they are at the cutting edge – understand the dangers well before their elders and the policy makers.  That said the very young, with still forming minds require family guidance, and in general terms are not cognitively ready to use the Net unsupervised until around ten (Strom and Strom, 2010).

Learning how to learn

In examining the learning with the digital outside the school walls over the last twenty plus years what stands out is the young’s ability to take charge of their learning, to do so from the outset, to direct and individualise that learning and to learn how to learn (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

And as indicated to do so in a naturally sustained manner lifelong.

With their strong digital mindset, and rising expectations the digital technology underpins all their learning.  Their first step is to use the digital and the connectivity, unlike many older folk who default to the traditional ways.

Allied is their ability to teach other folk, particularly those older to use the new technology, and naturally contribute to the family’s learning.

They very quickly – well before formal schooling – become self-learners, with that vital educational ability to shape their learning with the digital, underpinning all they do.

In being empowered and trusted, and given the freedom to use the technology largely unfettered they soon learn what they want to learn, how and when, and vitally quickly identify when they need to improve that capability and how best to do so.  They very quickly, from the mid 90’s onwards, and from early life learned the art of improving the learning by themselves, with the aid of the technology or in collaboration with the family, peers and social network (Lee and Broadie, 2018). As the Pew research notes (Purcell, et.al, 2012) Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and the peers are called upon far more than any teacher.

And they don’t need to be tested!  Like all of us they reflect on their performance and when desired improved it.

In being free to use the digital as desired the young soon learn to use the technology and the Net to pursue their interests and passions, enhancing their learning in the area/s of interest, to an often very considerable extent (Ito, et.al, 2013). It matters not if it is pursuing an interest in contemporary music, astronomy, blogging, fashion design, apiary, drone piloting, professional gaming or coding apps. While kids have always had this freedom in their informal learning the parent’s provision of the technology overnight removed the traditional adult gatekeepers and allowed them to draw upon resources of the Net, the moment desired.

It moreover enabled them to decide the best approach to the learning. They – and not an adult – decide when to employ a discovery based, didactic or highly repetitive learning approach.

Similarly, each child chooses the digital tools they needed for the task at hand.

From the mid 90’s the adolescents and in time the very young – like all of us – soon learned the unwritten ways of the digital and online worlds, the parameters to work within, the universal mores to be observed and when they had crossed the boundaries.

Allied, in taking charge of the use of and learning with the digital the young from the 1990s have made extensive and increasing use of the connected world and human networking, it long being a natural, almost invisible part of their normalised use of the digital. Unwittingly, and initially unseen, the young increasingly build the number of contacts they can readily call upon for all manner of support when desired.

Very quickly the young abandoned the traditional academic boundaries used in the schools, and adopted a more integrated approach to learning, drawing on whatever areas of learning thought suitable (Lee and Broadie, in press).

Largely unseen the young also learned to make ever greater use of their visual intelligence in all they did.  This was particularly apparent in the two and three-year old children’s use of the touchscreen mobile technology (Chaubron, 2015), but it was – as you might have noted – apparent at all age levels and in the burgeoning use of video and images.

From the mid 2000’s the young increasingly grew the art of mobile learning, and using the resources in their hands, 24/7/365, just in time and in context. That preference for the mobile technologies is evidenced even when at home, where desktops in designated rooms gather dust. The young from very early in life don’t see the need to learn only in a physical place; unlike governments and schools that remain site fixated.

What should be stressed is that these are all vital educational capabilities in a rapidly evolving, uncertain and complex world, where it is essential to know how to learn with the digital, lifelong.

They might not feature in government education priorities but they are the vital generic capabilities the great educational thinkers have been arguing schools should develop for aeons.

Enhancing the learning

Over the last quarter of a century the young of the world have in historic terms learned to learn with the digital remarkably quickly and well, not only continually enhancing their digital proficiency but also their ability to take charge of their own learning with the technology.

However, the exponential digital evolution, with its increasingly powerful, sophisticated, integrated and complex technology and practises, and their global impact demands the world’s young continually enhance their capability.

Much will on current trends will continue to happen naturally. As the technology evolves so naturally will the requisite personal learning.

But there is the opportunity to lift the learning with the digital even higher, particularly now we better understand what has been learned and how.

The natural inclination is to look to schools to provide that enhancement.

Sadly, twenty plus years of history (Lee and Broadie, 2018) suggests aside from some exceptional schools that enhancement is not likely to come from them. Not only aren’t most of a mind to collaborate with the families, nor are culturally ready to embrace the five critical conditions required but all are still operating in linear, hierarchical Industrial Age organisations that lack the agility to accommodate accelerating change – even if governments allowed the schools to change.

Most lag so far behind where the young are at attitudinally and with the cutting-edge technologies all they would do is impede the young’s enhancement.

We accept that governments and most educators would not be of that view.

But the reality is that governments and schools that ban or markedly constrain the in-class use of the student’s mobile technologies and by default throw the responsibility to the family are not likely to provide any worthwhile assistance.

The enhancement most likely will come from the family building upon its better understanding the learning with the digital, its increasingly powerful digitally based ecosystem and it more deliberately growing the learning. It is its better understanding of how to learn, providing an increasingly sophisticated and powerful ecosystem, and as family more openly addressing the enhancement that will bring the improvement.

It will hopefully in time be the digitally connected families of the world shouting from the rooftops what they have achieved that will open society’s, government’s and school’s eyes to what has been achieved and what is possible.

Conclusion

The best learning practice with the digital has for years been evidenced in the digitally connected families of the world – and most assuredly not in its Industrial Age schools.

It is appreciated this view runs counter to the in-school and government thinking but it is time for educators and governments to look outside the school walls and recognise the natural sustained learning with the digital that has occurred, and is occurring daily, with most of the world’s young – outside the school.

With the digital it is imperative to examine what has happened, is happening and the major global trends, not simply at what governments want to happen.

In the natural, sustained learning with the digital most schools and governments have long been dealt out of the main game.

 

Five Conditions Critical for Sustained Learning with the Digital

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

Not the schools.

Those conditions are:

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

All five of the conditions are closely linked.

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

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

The five conditions

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

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

Ready access to the personal, preferably mobile technologies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24/7/365 connectivity.

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

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

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

Empowered and trusted

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

Nor can families or schools.

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

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

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

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

Largely unfettered use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-directed learning, collaborating when desired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The school scenario

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

Reflect on your own.

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

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

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

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

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

Twining and his colleagues in the UK concluded

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

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

Conclusion

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

We suspect the answer will be none.

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

The current very strong global trend is to do nothing.

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

 

 

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

 

Bibliography

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Parent Responsibility for Learning with the Digital

 

Mal Lee

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

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

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

Moreover, you’ll be responsible until adulthood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digitally Connected Families – Update

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

(This is an update of the earlier version, that will appear in the Educational Technology Solutions).

The digitally connected families of the world over the last two decades have played a remarkably successful, yet largely unseen, role in the digital education of the world’s young.

In researching the impact of personal mobile technologies on the 24/7/365 digital education of the world’s young since the advent of the World Wide Web the lead role of the family became increasingly apparent. It was the young with their families support that primarily provided the requisite digital tools and education – not the schools.

In 2016 3.4 billion plus people (ITU, 2016) (Meeker, 2017), near half the world’s population, accessed the networked world.

Well over a billion were young people (Futuresource, 2017).

Few learned to use that current, mainly mobile, digital technology in schools. Rather their understanding was acquired in the developed, developing and underdeveloped worlds with the monies and support of their families.

It is time the world – and particularly the parents, the young themselves, educators, policy makers and governments – recognises, and builds upon that remarkable achievement.

Critically it is also time to understand that those families employed – unwittingly but naturally – a laissez faire model of digital education. It was – and remains today – fundamentally different to the highly controlled, structured and linear approach used by most schools. Importantly they used an approach appropriate for a rapidly evolving digital and socially networked world. Schools in comparison still mostly used a teaching model from the Industrial Age, that struggled to accommodate rapid digital evolution.

The education in using the digital and particularly the personal mobile devices from the outset occurred primarily outside the school walls. For the parents this happened in a completely market driven, naturally evolving environment where government had no voice and provided no support. For the young it enabled learning from incidental opportunistic moments to in some cases very focused and intense self-driven learning. It was the young with the monies and support of their families who took control of the learning. Critically it was the parents who believed in the educational importance of the digital for their children who funded the technology, and empowered and supported their children’s largely unfettered use.

It was – as most are aware – an informal education, largely self-directed, highly individualised where the learning was invariably non-linear, seemingly chaotic, dynamic, undertaken in context and just in time. It was an approach the young found highly appealing, exciting, relevant and intrinsically motivating. From the advent of the WWW the learning started to take place 24/7/365, and by the early 2000s the evolving technology allowed it to happen anywhere, anytime.

Ironically from the outset the role of the young and the family was bolstered by the schools’ insularity, their worldwide retreat to behind their cyber walls and their purported desire to protect the children from the dangers of the Net.  The young and their families were left by default to fend for themselves in that 80% of learning time available annually outside the school walls.

Disturbingly today many, if not most schools still work behind those walls not recognising, supporting or building upon the out of school digital learning and education. The schools that are notable exceptions to this are engaging with families and supporting the children’s independent learning because of their own drive to do so, often battling education authority regulations and systems.

Free of the controls of formal schooling and government, the young and their families took charge of the digital education, continually growing their capability as the technology grew in power and sophistication.  Internet uptake figures globally reveal the families of the young led the way (Allen and Raine, 2002), (Lee and Winzenried, 2009). In 1999, a comprehensive study of the use of computers in Australian schools concluded:

The majority of the students who have the basic skills developed them at home (Meredyth, et.al, 1999, pxvii).

That was happening naturally and largely unseen globally.

As the young evolved their digital capability and facility to readily use of all manner of current technologies so too did their parents, as evermore used the technology in their work and came to rely on the increasingly sophisticated mobile technology.

In 2008 Pew Internet released a study entitled ‘The Networked Family’ (Wellman, et.al, 2008) which noted the US had reached the evolutionary stage where the new norm was for all within the family, the parents and the children to base their lives around the everyday use of the digital. They were working within a digital and socially networked mindset, normalising the use of all manner of digital technologies in every facet of their lives.

….this survey finds that couples use their phones to connect and coordinate their lives, especially if they have children at home. American spouses often go their separate ways during the day, but remain connected by cell phones and to some extent by internet communications. When they return home, they often have shared moments of exploration and entertainment on the internet (Wellman, et.al, 2008).

The Pew findings, coming as they did around the time of the release of the iPhone in 2007, correspond with our own which saw in the period 2007 – 2009 those families becoming the norm across the developed and increasingly the developing world.

The authors and the 50 plus eminent observers interviewed in our research, had concerns about the term ‘networked family’, conscious of the ambiguity that comes with the physical networking of organisations and homes.

The strong preference was for the term ‘digitally connected families’, aware that it was the all-pervasive connectedness provided by the digital that allowed both the nuclear and extended family to employ the technologies in all facets of their lives.

Digitally connected families are those where the parents and children use the evolving suite of digital technologies naturally in every desired facet of their lives, that employ a digital mindset and which have – or nearly have-  normalised the use of the digital.

They created a home environment where the new norm was for all the family – the children, parents or increasingly the grandparents – to naturally, almost unwittingly contribute to the on-going digital learning of all members. How often does one hear – dad, you can do it easier this way?

In the decade after the release of the iPhone and the touchscreen technology the educational capability and leadership of the digitally connected families grew at pace. As the parents normalised the use of the digital, became more digitally empowered and embraced the mobile and app revolutions and the families of the developing and underdeveloped world employed the technology in ways unbounded by Western educational traditions so the gap between the digital education provided in and out of the schools grew ever wider – with most schools lagging ever further behind the societal norm.

The capability and lead role of the digitally connected families of the world was evidenced in the last 3-4 years of the period under study when pre-primary children from as young as two and three embraced the mobile touch screen technology. As the 2015, European Commission study (Chaubron, 2015) of eleven European nations attests the families of the young very successfully guided their children’s learning with the technology.  They, like the other digitally connected families of the world led the teaching, well before most schools and decision makers understood that the pre-primary children of the developed and increasingly the developing world would enter formal schooling having normalised the use of the digital.

We are not suggesting for a moment that everything was or is perfect with the digital education provided by the digitally connected families of the world.  There is a substantial gap between families in their ability support their children’s astute application of the digital.  As Ito and her colleagues (2013) attest in a laissez faire environment the advantaged continue to be advantaged and the disadvantaged possibly further disadvantaged, unless there is astute intervention.

The way forward, as we address in a forthcoming publication on the Digitally Connected Family, entails some major rethinking.

Conclusion

But for that to occur governments and educators must recognise that for twenty plus years – at no expense to government – the digitally connected families of the world have played the lead role on the digital education of the world’s young, and are on trend to so – regardless of what governments or schools might desire.

In 1993, the schools were given a monopoly of digital education. Since then billions have been spent by governments supporting a monopoly where the digital education provided by the schools in 2016 markedly lagged that of the families and the societal norm.

While the digitally connected families of the world have been able to successfully normalise the use of the digital with a billion plus young people few schools in 2016 had succeeded in normalising its use.

It is a reality governments and educators need better understand.

Bibliography

  • Allen, K and Raine, L ‘Parents Online’ Pew Internet November 17 2002 – http://www.pewinternet.org/2002/11/17/parents-online/
  • Chaudron, S (2015) Young Children (0-8) and Digital Technology Luxembourg, European Commission JRC and Policy Reports 2015 –http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC93239
  • Futuresource (2017) Personal interview
  • Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.
  • ITU (2016) Measuring the Information Society Report 2016 – Geneva International Telecommunications Union – http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/publications/mis2016.aspx
  • Meeker, M (2017) Internet Trends 2017, Code Conference, Kleiner Perkins May 31. 2017 – kpcb.com/InternetTrends
  • Meredyth, D, Russell, N, Blackwood, L, Thomas, J & Wise, P (1998), Real time: Computers, change and schooling, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra
  • Wellman, B, Smith, A, Wells, A and Kennedy, T (2008) ‘Networked Families’ Pew Internet October 19, 2008 – http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/10/19/networked-families/

Two Models of Digital Education

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

From the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1993 the young of the world have experienced two models of digital education, that outside the school walls and that within.

Outside the young and the digitally connected families of the world employed –  unseen – the naturally evolving laissez faire model.  Within the school the young worked within the traditional, highly structured model.

It is time the difference is understood, the global success and benefits of the laissez faire recognised and lauded, and the serious shortcomings of the highly structured understood and addressed.

For much of the period the two models ran in parallel, with most schools showing little or no interest in the out of school digital education.

Around 2010 – 2012 the scene began to change when a handful of digitally mature schools began genuinely collaborating with their families in the 24/7/365 digital education of the children.  Those schools had reached the evolutionary stage where their teaching model and culture closely mirrored that of the families. They revealed what was possible with collaboration.

That said it took time for that collaboration to take hold more widely and for the most part the parallel models continue in operation today, with the difference between the in and out of school teaching growing at pace.

It is surely time for schools and government to question the retention of the parallel modes and to ask if taxpayers are getting value for the millions upon millions spent solely on schools when the digitally connected families receive no support.

Might it be time to employ a more collaborative approach where the schools complement and add value to the contribution of the families?

Without going into detail, it bears reflecting on the distinguishing features of the learning environment and digital education model, of both the digitally connected family and the school, and asking what is the best way forward,

The learning environments.

  • Digitally connected families

That of the families we know well. It has been built around the home’s warmth and support, and the priority the parents attached to their children having a digital education that would improve their education and life chances. The focus has always been on the child – the individual learner – with the children from the outset being provided the current technology by their family and empowered to use that technology largely unfettered.

Importantly the family as a small regulating unit, with direct responsibility for a small number of children could readily trust each, and monitor, guide and value their learning from birth onwards, assisting ensure each child had use of the current technology and that the use was wise and balanced.

The learning occurred within a freewheeling, dynamic, market driven, naturally evolving environment, anywhere, anytime, just in time and invariably in context. Those interested could operate at the cutting edge and the depth desired.

Very early on the young’s use of the digital was normalised, with the learning occurring as a natural part of life, totally integrated, with no regard for boundaries

The time available to the digitally connected family was – and continues to be – at least four/five times greater than that in the school.

It was to many seemingly chaotic, but also naturally evolving.

Very quickly the family learning environment became collaborative, socially networked, global in its outlook, highly enjoyable and creative where the young believed anything was possible.

By the latter 2000’s most families had created – largely unwittingly – their own increasingly integrated and sophisticated digital ecosystem, operating in the main on the personal mobile devices that connected all in the family to all manner of other ecosystems globally.

  • Digital learning in the school.

The general feature of the school digital learning environment has been invariably one of unilateral control, where the ICT experts controlled every facet of the technology and its teaching.

They chose, configured and controlled the use of both the hardware and software, invariably opting for one device, one operating system and a standard suite of applications.

The students were taught within class groups, using highly structured, sequential, teacher directed, regularly assessed instructional programs.

The school knew best. The clients – the parents and students – were expected to acquiesce.  There was little or no recognition of the out of school learning or technology or desire to collaborate with the digitally connected families.

The teaching was insular, inward looking, highly site fixated.

In reflecting on school’s teaching with the digital between 1993 and 2016 there was an all-pervasive sense of constancy, continuity, with no real rush to change. There was little sense that the schools were readying the total student body to thrive within in a rapidly evolving digitally based world.

Significantly by 2016 only a relatively small proportion of schools globally were operating as mature digital organisations, growing increasingly integrated, powerful higher order digitally based ecosystems.

The reality was that while the learning environment of the digitally connected families evolved naturally at pace that of most schools changed only little, with most schools struggling to accommodate rapid digital evolution and transformation.

The teaching models

With the advantage of hindsight, it is quite remarkable how hidden the laissez faire model has remained for twenty plus years, bearing in mind it has been employed globally since the advent of the WWW.

For years, it was seen simply as a different, largely chaotic approach used by the kids – with the focus being on the technological breakthroughs and the changing practices rather than on the underlying model of learning that was being employed.

It wasn’t until the authors identified and documented the lead role of the digitally connected families of the world did we appreciate all were using basically the same learning approach. The pre-primary developments of the last few years affirmed the global application of the model.

We saw at play a natural model that was embraced by the diverse families of the world.

All were using the same model – a naturally evolving model where the parents were ‘letting things take their own course ‘(OED).

The learning was highly individualized, with no controls other than the occasional parent nudge. That said the learning was simultaneously highly collegial, with the young calling upon and collaborating with their siblings, family members, peers and social networks when desired.

Interestingly from early on the young found themselves often knowing more about the technology in some areas than their elders – experiencing what Tapscott (1998) termed an ‘inverted authority’ – being able to assist them use the technology.

Each child was free to learn how to use, and apply those aspects of the desired technologies they wanted, and to draw upon any resources or people if needed.

In the process the children worldwide – from as young as two – directed their own learning, opting usually for a discovery based approach, where the learning occurred anytime, anywhere 24/7/365. Most of the learning was just in time, done in context and was current, relevant, highly appealing and intrinsically motivating. Invariably it was highly integrated, with no thought given to old boundaries – like was it educational, entertainment, communication, social science or history.

In contrast the school digital teaching model has always been highly structured and focused on what the school or education authority ‘experts’ believed to be appropriate.

Throughout the period the teaching has been unilaterally controlled, directed by the classroom teacher, with the students disempowered, distrusted and obliged to do as told.

The teaching built upon linear, sequential instructional programs where the digital education was invariably treated like all other subjects, shoehorned into an already crowded curriculum and continually assessed.  Some authorities made the ‘subject’ compulsory, others made it optional.

The focus – in keeping with the other ‘subjects’ in the curriculum – was academic. There was little interest in providing the young the digital understanding for everyday life.

The teaching took place within a cyber walled community, at the time determined by the teaching program.

Increasingly the course taught and assessed became dated and irrelevant.

In considering why the young and the digitally connected families of the world have embraced the laissez faire model of digital education aside from the young’s innate curiosity and desire to learn we might do well to examine the model of digital learning we have used over the last twenty plus years and reflect on how closely it approximates that adopted by the young.

Might they be following that ancient practice of modelling the behaviour of their parents?

The way forward.

Near a quarter of a century on since the introduction of the WWW and an era of profound technological and social change it is surely time for governments and educators globally to

  • publicly recognise the remarkable success of the digitally connected families and the laissez faire teaching model in the 24/7/365 digital education of both the children and the wider family
  • understand the digitally connected families are on trend to play an even greater lead role
  • identify how best to support the family’s efforts without damaging the very successful teaching model employed
  • consider how best to enhance the educational contribution of all the digitally connected families in the nation, including the educationally disadvantaged
  • rethink the existing, somewhat questionable contribution of most schools and the concept of schools as the sole provider of digital education for the young
  • examine where scarce taxpayer monies can best be used to improve the digital education in the networked world.

Let us all finally recognise the core qualities and the remarkable global success of the laissez faire digital education model and build upon its achievements.

Bibliography

  • Lee, M (1996), ‘The educated home’, The Practising Administrator, vol. 18, no. 3 1996.
  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Meredyth, D, Russell, N, Blackwood, L, Thomas, J & Wise, P (1998), Real time: Computers, change and schooling, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra
  • Project Tomorrow (2011) The New Three E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered Speak Up 2010 National Findings Project Tomorrow 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2014 at – http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SU10_3EofEducation_Educators.pd
  • Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Global Leadership of Digitally Connected Families

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parents struggled to find that support.

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

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

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

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

But it all came down to attitude.

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

Most governments and school don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digitizing the School Administration

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

An oft forgotten but increasingly important aspect of digital evolution and creating the desired increasingly effective and productive school ecosystem is the digitization of the school administration. In the same way, the move to a digital operational paradigm obliges the school to markedly transform its culture, organizational structures, teaching and communications so too it needs simultaneously to develop an administration appropriate for an ever evolving digital and socially networked school, and society.

Within the traditional, highly segmented, paper based school with its pronounced division of labour, where most of the administration and communication was handled by the ‘office staff’ school administration barely rated a mention in the literature on the school development.

It was a largely ancillary operation that most educators, including many in leadership roles, knew or cared little about.

All that changes and changes significantly when the school moves to a digital operational mode and creates a tightly integrated digitally based ecosystem.  The old divisions of labour are blurred and the internal walls are lowered or removed as the educational and the administrative operations are seamlessly intertwined. Educators who previously needed the services of an administrator to carry out a task can now usually do the task themselves, while administrators who previously required teachers to be involved in the process of communicating administration functions to pupils and parents and in following up to ensure completion can now often do this directly.

The digitization of the administration directly impacts the growth and evolution of the total school ecosystem, and helps drives the increased productivity, effectiveness and efficiency of all school operations, educational as well as administrative. An increasingly sophisticated, integrated, effective and secure, client focussed, user friendly digitally based administration is critical in helping position the school for continued growth and the enhancement of learning.

It thus vital from the start of the evolutionary journey the school leadership factors into the shaping of the desired totality the apt digitization of the school administration, linking it integrally with all the other developments.

The modifier ‘apt’ is very important. Invariably schools have for years made greater use of the digital in the administration than in their teaching, but while usage is invariably spotted, silo like and seldom tied to the creation of the desired culture and ecosystem and the realisation of the school’s shaping vision.  It needs to be. Forty years ago, Mal was associated with the digitization of the student assessment in the Australian Capital Territory’s secondary colleges.  It was rightly seen as an administrative breakthrough but was not directly linked to the creation of an integrated learning environment. The same continues to happen today.  Indeed, many of the moves with administrative systems, particularly those imposed on schools by government and education authorities work to create a culture antithetical to that the school is wishing to create.

It is very important to both choose and configure systems that support the school’s shaping vision.

It is moreover important to employ digital systems that also enhance the school’s productivity, and minimise the administrative load of the users, the staff and the clients. Sadly, the history of the use of the digital in school administration is characterised by the rhetoric far exceeding the reality and the inability of the technology providers to deliver their promises. While great advances have been made in recent years and there are some highly sophisticated and effective apps and Cloud services schools can use, all too often schools globally are obliged to use systems that add to the user’s workload and frustration.

Going digital is not some magic panacea. It must be done well, always supporting the realisation of the school’s shaping educational vision.

Schools should work from the outset on the assumption that the school will want not only to astutely digitize all its administration but also to have all its operations in a form, and with an appropriate level of security, where virtually every facet can be accessed 24/7/365.  Understand that you’ll want to;

  • merge the digitization of the administration with the shaping of the desired totality
  • move all the current paper based practises to the digital
  • do so as soon as is feasible, aware the timing needs fit with other ecosystem developments
  • use digital services consonant with the school’s shaping vision and the desired culture and ecosystem, and which enhance the school’s productivity
  • distribute the administrative load enabling wherever feasible the users to control their ‘accounts’, be it to edit an email, change an address, to notify an absence, to complete a form or to make a payment.
  • a structure that allows the school to readily and inexpensively to update services and to take advantage of better apps, Cloud services and yet unknown facilities when the moment comes.

The approach should be one of identifying who is the most appropriate person to have responsibility for a task and to enable that person to complete the whole task, communicating with and involving others digitally as appropriate. Junior people are enabled to take greater responsibility while senior people can avoid putting loads onto others through being able to time-effectively complete those parts of the task they have previously delegate to others

In going digital, and networked the school has always to be conscious of the security of the services. But in saying the school should also be realistic and nuanced, and identify which administrative processes can be made freely available to all and which need some degree of security.

While the initial digitization moves should rightly be the shift away from the paper based practises allied should be the replacement of dated non Web based systems with those than can be accessed anywhere, anytime 24/7/365.

Carefully scrutinise the school’s continued use of any tailored digital systems, particularly those hosted by the school that might be better performed, more cheaply by Cloud based services.

Understanding the current situation in your school identify which of the current

  • paper based processes should be digitized first
  • digital operations need to be updated by an app or Web based service
  • operations (if any) aren’t consonant with the kind of ecosystem and culture you want to create and which the school needs to try and rectify.

It is appreciated that many schools will be obliged to use systems dictated by government.  Bureaucracies have become very adept at using the networked administrative systems to control and micro manage ‘their’ schools.

Do your utmost to take charge of the school’s digitized administration and communication, and adopt solutions that advance the creation of the desired ecosystem and culture, understanding that at times the school will be obliged to use the mandated systems.

Set the goal of providing your staff and clients with a digitized administration at least on par with the best SME offerings, that continually reduces their workload while simultaneously improving the intuitively, efficiency, effectiveness, economies and productivity.

Recognise with the digitization of the administration you will likely experience, like elsewhere in the ecosystem, both the intended and unintended benefits, but also going on experience undesirable disbenefits. While the unintended should be optimised, the disbenefits will have to be removed.

Conclusion

While left to the end in this series the digitization of the school’s administration is no less important in the total scheme of things than any other of the many variables flagged for attention.

Indeed, in many respects the school’s app and its Web based administration will likely be many clients first encounter with the school.

Failure to get the administration to the level expected by a digital society and the school’s image will be markedly damaged and the school’s facility to offer an apt education for a digital and socially networked world seriously questioned.

It is a vital performance indicator.

 

Integrated Client Support

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 An effective and highly efficient digital communications suite is critical if the digital school is to provide the kind of integrated client support expected in a digital and socially networked society.

What is now apparent (Westerman, et.al, 2014) – particularly with business but increasingly in the public sector – is that clients no longer differentiate between a face to face and an online experience; it is but an experience.

The term – and indeed the concept of – integrated client support is rarely as yet experienced in schools. A Google search will unearth few references specifically pertaining to schooling.  It is more commonly used in the corporate sector and areas like family law, health and psychological support (Queensland Council of Social Services (2013). However, the provision of well orchestrated, quality support for all students and their families is something every good school has for generations believed is essential.

It is partly that schools haven’t seen the need to label that student support and pastoral care, but it also that most schools still don’t regard their parents and students as clients. We recommended in an earlier post that to thrive and remain viable digital schools would benefit from focussing on meeting and indeed exceeding their client’s needs and expectations.  This is an area where one can use the smarts of the digital to that.

All schools could benefit from having an integrated increasingly sophisticated client support arrangement, even if they choose not to label it as such. The aim should be to provide all teachers and counsellors ready access to the latest information and data on each child and family, packaged in a way that can provide the best possible support.  Most schools tare likely still working with a variant of the old teacher mark book, without ready access to the plethora of other information on the child’s development, in and outside the school. In a socially networked environment there should also the ready digital facility to share appropriate information with other agencies supporting the client.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is now also clear that most school’s paper operational base, and the associated inward looking, physical site fixated mindset has markedly impaired school’s ability to provide the requisite individualised high quality client support.

That shortcoming will continue while ever schools continue to operate within an analogue paradigm. While many schools have begun to tinker with the digital, employing the likes of online bookings for parent teacher interviews the reality is that they require a mature digitally based ecosystem before they can readily provide the apt, integrated, individualised, efficient and effective client support.

The system needs to be integrated within the wider school ecosystem and consonant with the ways and expectations of an evolving digital and socially networked society, where teaching and learning is happening 24/7/365 and geared to time poor parents highly reliant on their mobile technology.

Long gone are the days where the support can be only site based, reliant on the physical attendance at the place called school.  It is the client that needs to be to the fore, not those supporting the clients.

It needs to be a system that sits – and evolves readily – within the school’s wider ecosystem and where the supporting information and data is readied in the main as a normal part of the school’s everyday operations.

It will be a system where the relevant staff play a lead role but where their contribution – whether face to face or online – will be supported by a suite of pertinent information and data.

Ideally the clients should be able to access much of the desired information and the current data when convenient online at either at the school or the complementary agencies websites.  If the client wants additional support they should be able to do so initially digitally and only when truly needed face to face.

The key is to envision the desired digitally based ‘integrated client support’ arrangement from the outset, to identify the likely information and data required, to liaise with the pertinent complementary agencies and services in its creation and to build the model as one shapes the school ecosystem, gathers and makes available the data and creates the digital communications suite.

Done astutely and in conjunction with the shaping of the school’s digital communications suite and refinement of its student data and management system schools shouldn’t need for the expensive integrated client support systems being pitched at the health and social service markets.

  • Queensland Council of Social Service (2013) A Guide to Integrated Delivery to Clients 2013 -http://communitydoor.org.au/sites/default/files/A_GUIDE_TO_INTEGRATED_SERVICE_DELIVERY_TO_CLIENTS.pdf
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press