Category Archives: Digital ecosystems and student learning

Technology Agnostic

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Recognise that in the school’s evolutionary journey and the quest to normalise the use of the digital you’ll be working towards a situation where the school is technology agnostic: where it doesn’t matter what personal technologies or operating systems those within the school community choose to use.

So long as the chosen technologies can readily access the Net as far as the school is concerned it doesn’t matter which folk choose.  While it is likely wise for schools to provide continually updated advice, part of the trusting and empowering of the school community is letting each member make the choice of the desired personal technologies.

Let the user, the learner, the client decide.

We appreciate for many raised and trained during the Microsoft hegemony, who experienced the Apple – Windows ‘conflict’ and who believed that all in the school had not only to use the one operating system but also the same model of computer this will call might sound sacrilegious.

The technical imperative for the school to use the one operating system disappeared at least 5-6 years ago with the emergence of digital ecosystems able to readily accommodate the many different mobile operating systems.  One has only to note the ease of providing all manner of smartphones, phablets and tablets instant access to the Net to appreciate why all schools to be technology agnostic as soon as feasible.

The assumption that all students and teachers must use the same hardware and software in the teaching and learning more to do with the

  • desire by the school – and its ‘ICT experts’ – to retain unilateral control of all aspects of the teaching, learning and technology resourcing
  • focus on the technology and its maintenance rather than on the desired learning
  • belief the young learn best how to use the technology when taught in a highly linear lock step manner, with the teacher in control, with all using the same technology, often with the school being able to monitor every key stroke
  • school’s distrust of and lack of respect for its students, parents and indeed most of its teachers
  • school’s insular mindset that focuses on that happening within the school walls, to the virtual exclusion of any student usage of the digital in the real world.

As schools mature digitally, genuinely collaborate with their homes, socially network, come increasingly to respect, trust and empower all within the school’s community and create a culture and adopt a mindset where the use of the digital is normalised the control over thinking disappears.

All come to appreciate that what matters is the facility of the technology – or more likely the student’s suite of digital technologies – to perform the desired functions.  In authoring an e-book it matters not whether the student uses an Apple, Android, Windows, Tizen or Firefox based system, or a mix thereof to create the final product.  While the ‘ICT experts’ will have their preference so too will each client.

That said, one can mount a case for a graduated shift and schools with limited technology staff opting to stay for a time with a common operating system.  However even those that have started this way soon open the doors for the students to use the kit they desire.

In embarking on your digital journey your school evolve at pace but so too will the technology and the practises one employs to derive the most from the current technology.

Work as fast as is feasible to shift from the traditional prescribed personal technology model to one that is technology agnostic.

Collaboration in Learning. Transcending the School Walls

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Mal Lee and Lorrae Ward published their research on the growing school – home nexus in 2013 in their ACER Press publication Collaboration in Learning: Transcending the School Walls. That work not only examined the nature of the collaboration in case study schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia and its many benefits, but also the importance of developing a mode of schooling and teaching apposite for an ever evolving digital and increasingly socially networked world.

Lee elaborated upon that work in ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’ (2014) and fleshed out how schools in their genuine collaboration with their homes could markedly improve the student learning. By

  • improving the home – school collaboration
  • empowering the parents and students and furthering their understanding of what is being learnt outside the classroom
  • making learning more relevant and attractive
  • lifting time in learning
  • adopting more individualised teaching
  • making greater use of peer supported learning
  • teaching more in context and
  • making apt use of increasingly sophisticated technology

the belief was schools should be able to markedly improve each child’s education.

The intention here is not to elaborate upon that work nor is it to repeat the points made in ‘Home – School – Community Collaboration’ (Lee and Broadie, 2016), but rather to comment on the developments that have occurred since writing the earlier works, and to place the developments in context.

What is increasingly apparent is that genuine home – school collaboration and teaching and learning that transcends the classroom walls is primarily a feature of a higher order mode of schooling. It is likely to be found only in those schools that have a digital operational base, recognise the learning happening outside the school walls and which are of a mind and have a culture accepting of genuine collaboration. While as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2016) educational leaders and governments have for decades extolled the benefits of home – school collaboration and spent vast monies and efforts in the quest, genuine collaboration – except in some niche school settings – doesn’t take hold until schools have gone digital, begun to socially network and are of a mind to nurture the desired collaboration.

What is also clearer is that genuine collaboration between the school, its homes and community is critical to the on-going digital evolution of schools, the shaping of school ecosystems that merge the expertise and resources of all the teacher’s of the young and in time the development of a curriculum for the 24/7/365 mode of schooling. Until schools are ready to collaborate, to listen to their homes and the young, to value the contribution all parties can make to the 24/7/365 teaching of the young and have in place a culture and digital infrastructure that will facilitate the collaboration they have little chance of creating and resourcing the desired ever evolving school ecosystem or of providing an instructional program for a socially networked community, that successfully involves all the teachers of the young. Rather the schools will continue as insular, site fixated teacher controlled organisations, increasingly divorced from the real world.

Genuine collaboration is thus one of the critical steps in the school’s digital evolution.

With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to examine the operations of schools that have moved beyond the Digital Normalisation stage it is also clearer that in genuinely collaborating with the student’s homes and the community in improving the education provided the schools will – without any significant extra effort or expense – also simultaneously enhance the school’s

  • social networking
  • ecosystem
  • resourcing
  • administration and communication
  • marketing and promotion, and
  • growth and viability.

Genuine collaboration with the school’s clients in the school’s prime business – the holistic education of its young – will in a digitally based, socially networked school largely naturally fuel the growth of the total school ecosystem.

While the silo like nature of traditional schooling inclines one to consider the teaching and learning – the educational element – in isolation, the situation within increasingly integrated evolving complex adaptive systems obliges all associated with the school, but in particular its leaders to always look at the integrated totality, and how the enhancement of a critical facet of the ecosystem will likely impact all the other parts.

Within an integrated school ecosystem the old division of operational responsibilities largely disappears. The focus is on the desired learning, with the school looking to use whatever it deems appropriate to enhance that learning. It matters not if it makes use of a community organisation, a communications tool, a student team, an online resource or a combination of ‘resources’. What matters, is the desired learning.

Achieve genuine collaboration in the learning and the school will be well positioned to continually grow its total ecosystem and productivity.

  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M (2014) ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’, Educational Technology Solutions – July 15 2014

 

Marrying the in and out of school learning

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The rationale is simple.

Integrate the teaching and learning of the school with that happening outside its walls and the education of every child can be markedly enhanced.

Make better use of both the 80% of the child’s annual learning and teaching time spent outside the schoolroom and the 20% within and it should be possible to significantly lift national student attainment and productivity.

Astute socio-economically advantaged parents have for generations complemented the school’s teaching with their own, providing their children the books, the culture, the expectations and the teaching in context, anywhere anytime. If schools making astute use of the digital technology could assist more parents provide that kind of holistic 24/7/365 teaching many more children could benefit.

The young have of their own volition for the past 20 plus years embraced the use of the digital and the online in every facet of their lives, with the technology markedly impacting the thinking, expectations, learning and teaching of the Net Generation, the Millennials. Two decades of literature (Lee. 1996) (Tapscott, 1998) (Meredith, et al, 1998) (Green and Hannon, 2007) (Tapscott, 2009) (Ito et al, 2010, 2013) (Lee and Finger, 2010), (boyd, 2014) (Project Tomorrow, 2003 – 2016) (Lee and Levins, 2016) has documented the nature and profound impact of that seemingly chaotic laissez-faire mode of learning and teaching. It has moreover highlighted the almost complete absence or support for the out of school learning by the schools and government, and the very considerable potential yet to be tapped.

That said it also it is one thing to recognise the potential, to accept the rationale and another to begin harnessing that potential, particularly when most governments and education authorities have yet to adopt a digital mindset or understand the vital role schools can play in growing a socially networked society.

The task of marrying the in and out of school teaching and learning, of better and more productively integrating the efforts of the school, the homes and community has been largely left to the pathfinder digital schools globally.

Moreover it is a challenge being primarily faced by those digitally mature schools that are of a mind to reap the many benefits that flow from genuinely collaborating with all the teachers of the young in the provision of a 24/7/365 mode of schooling.

When your school reaches the evolutionary stage where it wants marry in the in and out of learning, it like the early adopters, should begin asking and addressing these kinds of questions: who

  • best teaches a particular attribute/concept
  • where
  • when
  • and what age?

For example who, or which combination of teachers in and outside the school walls best teaches

  • reading
  • digital literacy
  • quantum physics
  • the art of social networking
  • patience
  • teamwork
  • goal setting and time management

Do you continue with the prevailing belief that all of the above the teaching should only be taught

  • by a professional teacher
  • within the classroom
  • at the time determined by external curriculum experts?

Or do you work towards a distributed model of teaching and learning that actively involves all the teachers of the young, and where the school provides direction and support?

If you opt for the latter you need ask and critically identify

  • what competencies, mindset and expectations do the children – at different development stages in their learning – bring to the classroom?
  • what mode of teaching do they use outside the classroom and if it consonant with that within? Do the children employ the highly linear teacher controlled approach favoured by teachers or does their teaching with the support of their peers and the digital differ?
  • what form will the instructional program of a socially networked school community take?

Take for example early childhood students a year into their schooling. We know most have likely been using the digital competently for several years at home. The recent Erikson study (2016) found not only did virtually all the pre-primary use the suite of digital technologies in the home but that 85% of the parents were engaged in teaching the balanced use of that technology. What are the digital competencies that teaching partnership brings to the classroom in 2016? Perhaps equally importantly what mindset and expectations re the use of the digital technology do they bring? You won’t find the answer in any national technology syllabus, or even the likes of ISTE’s excellent 2016 Standards for Students. What might be the digital competencies and expectations of the 2018 intake of children?

Who within the school community best nurtures those competencies and expectations? Is it the parents, the students, the teachers or all collaboratively?

What kind of ‘instructional program’, what kind of matrix or guide should be used?

Where can the school look for support in tackling these questions?

The introduction of BYOT, the decision to trust the children to use the digital technology of their choosing, the expectation that those students will understand the general workings of their chosen kit and that the teachers will focus on applying the children’s competencies in higher order learning tasks obliges the teachers understand – at least in general terms – the digital competencies, mindset and expectations each child is bringing to the classroom.

This early childhood example constitutes a small but very real part of the kind of thinking needed when schools begin marrying the in and out of school teaching.

It is as flagged a very considerable undertaking that should be approached with the eyes wide open and gradually.

The task is likely to be too onerous for the one school. It is however one that can be tackled collaboratively by like-minded schools globally and indeed with the support of professional associations liaising with their international counterparts.

Conclusion

The key is to recognise that in embarking on the seemingly very natural and logical quest to coalesce the efforts of the school and the home you are in fact well on the way to fundamentally changing the nature of the school curriculum and creating one appropriate for a digital and socially networked world and the 24/7/365 schooling of the young.

  • Boyd, D (2014) Its Complicated. The social lives of networked teens Yale University Press – http://www.danah.org/itscomplicated/
  • Erikson Institute (2016) Technology and Young Children in the Digital Age. Erikson Institute August 2016
  • Ito et al (2010) Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out. Kids Living with the New Media Cambridge US MIT Press retrieved 20 June 2014 at – https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262013369%20_Hanging_Out.pdf
  • 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.
  • Lee, M (1996),‘The educated home’, The Practising Administrator, vol. 18, no. 3.
  • Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) (2010) Developing a Networked School Community, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • 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. at – http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SU10_3EofEducation_Educators.pdf
  • Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York
  • Tapscott, D (2009) Grown up digital. How the net generation is changing our world McGraw Hill, New York

 

Engaging each learner

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In shaping the digital evolution of your school and creating the desired 24/7/365 teaching and learning environment we suggest it is important to address something schools have not done well – engage each and every learner.

Take advantage of the digital operational base and the opportunities opened by the digital to engage an appreciably greater percentage of the student cohort.

Despite generations of hype, and thousands of well-intended efforts schools globally have a long way to travel before they can seriously engage all learners.

With over a 100 years experience with schools between us we are realistic enough to acknowledge, that despite the important ideals of government and educators, schools as institutions might never engage every student but they can do appreciably better than now.

The Fall 2015 US Gallop Poll (Gallop, 2015) found 50% of secondary respondents were disaffected with the schooling provided.

While the figures might be vary slightly from nation to nation in all there will still be a significant proportion of the students disaffected, particularly within the secondary school and within the lower quartile of the primary school.

Thirty years ago Eckert in Jocks and Burnouts (1989) classically identified the 30% plus of students who knew how to play the ‘school game’ well and succeed, and the very considerable percentage of ‘burnouts’ who very early on lost interest in playing that game and succeeding academically at school.

Secondary schooling – whatever the local nature of the school game might be – is still failing too many students. Despite the many, often punitive, efforts of government, the percentage of students completing schooling has largely plateaued.

In many respects that should not come as a surprise in that the nature of schooling and the culture therein in most schools has not fundamentally changed in the last fifty plus years. The vast majority of schools, particularly high schools are still insular, paper based, risk adverse organisations focused on readying the ‘good’ students for tertiary entrance.

The movement to the digital operational mode, the young’s normalised use of the digital, the gradual shift in schools from a total preoccupation with teaching and learning within a physical place to the recognition that it can happen anywhere anytime 24/7/365 opens the way for schools at all levels to take risks and try new ways of engaging more students.

The digital and the socially networked is not going to be the answer for all, and most assuredly not overnight, but it does provide educators with a plethora a of options unavailable to those working with paper as the underlying technology.

Critically by going digital school can more readily look to:

  • move the learner to the centre and make learning more intrinsic
  • better individualise and differentiate the teaching and learning
  • shed the reliance on the physical site, and have the teaching and learning occur anywhere, anytime and in context
  • make learning and teaching more attractive and relevant for the full spectrum of students
  • recognise and build upon each students out of school digitally based mode of learning and self -teaching, passions and achievements
  • appreciate most young in their use of the digital don’t employ the traditional highly linear mode of teaching and learning
  • make greater use of peer teaching
  • take risks and try different modes of teaching, learning and assessment.

After 40-50 years of continued failure it is surely time to stop flogging a dead horse, to move from the one size fits all approach, to make greater use of in context teaching and learning and to try alternative approaches.

Seriously ask what percentage of your current cohort are disaffected or disengaged and how you could better use the digital to engage those students.

In asking that question look at the full array of students and appreciate that many of the capable students are as bored and disengaged as the less capable.

  • Eckert, P (1989) Jocks and Burnouts NY Teachers College Press
  • Gallup Student Poll (2015) Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow Fall 2015 Gallup – http://www.gallup.com/services/189926/student-poll-2015-results.aspx

 

 

A Curriculum for a Socially Networked Society

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 This hopefully will challenge the conventional thinking – that is still largely schooling children for the 1950s.

All schools should in their teaching today be guided by a curriculum for digital and socially networked society, where the young are in essence being schooled 24/7/365.

All ideally need a curriculum that is current, appropriate to the school’s situation, which readily accommodates continual rapid, uncertain change and school differences, apposite for socially networked learning, that increasingly integrates the in and out of school teaching and which readies each child to thrive in a seemingly chaotic, ever evolving digital and socially networked world. That said the curriculum should also continue to address the core learning, of the type fleshed by Pellegrino and Hilton in their Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century (2012) and the values and human rights of contemporary society.

Crucially they’ll want a curriculum where the teaching and learning can happen anywhere, anytime, in context in the socially networked world, and not as now that is fixated on learning within a physical site, within a restricted time frame and which disregards the learning and teaching occurring outside the school walls. Why shouldn’t all manner of upper secondary students build upon their out of school learning and be able to receive part of their teaching outside the classroom, in context, collaborating with the likes of start-ups, international aid agencies, tertiary faculties, theatre companies, digital marketers, hospitality, fashion houses or automotive electricians?

Allied is the necessity of providing guidance for all the teachers of the young, as they work evermore collaboratively in the 24/7/365 development of the children’s cognitive, inter and intrapersonal competencies (Pellegrino and Hilton, 2012). While the focus of the curriculum should rightly be on the professional teacher and the critical intensive teaching that occurs within the school walls the curriculum should also guide all assisting educate the young, be they the children themselves, the parents, carers, grandparents or the community mentors, or local businesses and service groups. The teaching and the curriculum should be intertwined, with the student’s needs guiding all. As the schools distribute the control of the teaching and learning, and work to enhance the contribution of the volunteers so the latter teachers will need instructional guidance. Some might argue to leave to the ‘out of school’ teaching completely laissez faire, but the authors’ suggest the vast majority of parents would benefit from schools providing somewhat more curriculum direction and support than now.

In looking to provide that curriculum it is vital schools and government understand that schools will need to:

  1. be genuinely committed to collaboration with their homes and communities, with other schools, and professional associations to be a successful networked school community
  2. develop and enact a digital, networked mindset
  3. have a supportive digital ecosystem and culture
  4. have the agency and agility to design, implement and assess curriculum that is relevant and meaningful for their context, by responding to and shaping societal and technological changes
  5. recognise that in an evolving socially networked society where the young learn more than ever 24/7/365 much of that learning – and teaching – will be seemingly chaotic, non-linear, synergistic, naturally yielding often unintended benefits
  6. address equity issues regarding access to, participation, and outcomes of its students in relation to technologies and learning.

All are vital preconditions.

In brief the schools need to be ready to successfully teach to a curriculum for a socially networked society.

Critically that curriculum should be delivered by a school that is digitally based, socially networked and which has an ecosystem and culture that naturally promotes and supports in everything it does a 24/7/365 mode of schooling. It is near impossible to teach to a curriculum that seeks to empower the young, promote risk taking, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, reflection, agility, social networking, team work and collaboration in a school that is risk adverse, site fixated, micro managed, tightly controlled and where the curriculum is dated and the students are disempowered. Even the greatest of teachers will struggle to provide a 24/7/365 education in the latter environment.

Michio Kaku rightly observed at the 2016 ISTE conference that most schools, by their very nature are still geared to educating the young for the 1950s (Nagel, 2016).

It is impossible – despite the government and bureaucratic spin – for the traditional, centrally developed national and provincial curricula to provide schools a current and appropriate curriculum for a rapidly evolving, socially networked world. Their development invariably takes years of committee work, and as such they are dated well before implementation and antiquated by their next revision. They are a product of a world of constancy, continuity and government desire for control.

They are designed on the dated belief that all schools are the same, and will remain so for years to come. Schools at significantly different evolutionary stages (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 12), offering appreciably different modes of schooling, are expected to gain guidance and direction from the one document. Schools that have normalised the whole school use of the digital and which are building upon the digital competencies their students bring to every classroom are expected to follow the same Technology curriculum as those paper based schools where the children are obliged to ‘learn’ how to use computers in the lab.

Globally education authorities continue to ready the curriculum for their particular bailiwick, their own patch of the world, very often strongly swayed by the government of the day. Little or no thought is given to the reality of the socially networked world or ever evolving complex adaptive systems that geographic boundaries matter little as both the schools and their instructional programs naturally evolve in a remarkably common manner globally. The young are learning and being taught, whether the authorities like it or not, in a boundary less socially networked world over which governments have limited control.

Little is the wonder that the early adopter digital schools globally have chosen to largely disregard the ‘official’ curriculum and work with like-minded schools worldwide in the design their own.

At first glance it could be argued that the various education authorities could in time, particularly if they adopted a digital mindset, produce a curriculum for 24/7/365 schooling. Leaving aside the inherent inability of bureaucracies to accommodate rapid change there is also the telling reality that schools can’t hope to successfully use a 24/7/365 curriculum until the school has readied a supportive higher order digitally based ecosystem and culture, where all within the school’s community are ready to collaborate in advancing that mode of teaching.

All can see the folly of governments trying to impose a 24/7/365 socially networked curriculum on insular inward looking schools unwilling to genuinely collaborate with their communities, to distribute the control of the teaching and learning, to network and which are lacking the digital infrastructure and processes critical for ready collaboration.

In brief a sizeable proportion of the schools would be unwilling or unable to work with such a curriculum.

The key is to recognise that schools, even within the one authority, are at different evolutionary stages (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 43), to understand that those differences are on trend to grow at pace and to endorse the lead of the pathfinder schools and formally support school based curriculum design.

By all means provide if desired system and national guides for the various areas of learning, and matrices suggesting which of the teachers of the young might best teach what attributes, but understand in the curriculum design that schools will never be the same again, each is unique and should shape its own curriculum. Of note is that globally many professional associations already provide these guides.

While some might recoil at the mere idea of school based curriculum and student assessment remember that there are globally education authorities that have been successfully using school based curriculum, and indeed school based student assessment, for generations. The empowering of the professionals and expecting them to provide instructional leadership is not new.

Helbing in discussing the impact of the Digital Revolution (Helbing, 2014) made the telling observation that the accelerating pace of organisational evolution and transformation, and the inability of bureaucracies to handle that change obliges the societal adoption of self-regulating units that have the agility to thrive with the on-going change, seeming chaos and uncertainty.

The pathfinder schools have adapted to that reality.

Conclusion

In writing this piece we don’t expect most education authorities or governments to relinquish their control over the curriculum at any time in the near future. We most assuredly don’t expect most to cede their control of student assessment and adopt procedures consonant with a school-based curriculum.

What they could do is to revisit the warning John Dewey, one of the world’s great educators, who a century ago offered in Democracy and Education:

As formal teaching and training grow in extent, there is the danger of creating an undesirable split between the experience gained in more direct associations and what is acquired in school, This danger was never greater than at the present time, on account of the rapid growth in the last few centuries of knowledge and technical modes of skill (Dewey, 1966. p11).

One hundred years on his concerns about society disregarding the ‘more direct associations’; the informal learning; the 80% plus of learning time available to the young outside the school walls are that much more critical.

Largely unwittingly schooling has in its formalising of the curriculum in the twentieth century created highly insular, dated learning institutions, largely removed from the real world.

It is time to heed Dewey’s advice, to re-establish the connection and to create schools and provide a curriculum appropriate for a rapidly evolving, socially networked society.

Acknowledgements.

The authors would like to acknowledge the support and advice given by Professor Glenn Finger (Griffith University) and Greg Whitby (Executive Director Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta) in the preparation of this piece.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016, 12) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages. 2nd Edition Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/ =
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016, 43) ‘School Difference as the New Norm’, Digital Evolution of Schooling at www.digitalevolutionofschooling .net
  • Nagel, D (2016) ‘Education in the ‘Fourth Wave’ of Science driven Economic Advancement’. T.H.E. Journal June 2016
  • Pellegrino, J.W and Hilton, M.L., (eds) (2012) Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century, Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills; Center for Education; Division on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council

 

Getting Your Staff to Fly

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

That is vital, but oft forgotten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowering the School Community

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Tellingly all the schools studied have gradually but very surely empowered their total school community – giving their teachers, professional support staff, students, families and the school’s wider community- a greater voice in the school’s teaching, learning, resourcing and direction setting – markedly expanding the school’s capability and improving its productivity.

Significantly the schools have

  • fully empowered their professional staff
  • accorded all in their community greater respect
  • recognised the part all can play in enhancing the 24/7/365 education provided by the school
  • collaborated with all in lifting their understanding of the macro workings of the school and the school’s shaping vision
  • in the process distributed the control of the teaching, learning and school resourcing.

Yes – in all the distribution of control, the collaboration and the empowerment has added to the load on the school leadership, but paradoxically it has simultaneously provided the school principal considerable untapped support and additional resources. All the principals commented on the time needed to genuinely collaborate and listen, the many frustrations and the seemingly inevitable rectification of well intentioned mistakes, but on the upside the empowerment has added appreciably to the teaching and learning capability of the school, its resourcing, and the support and social capital the principal can call upon in growing the school and its attractiveness.

Schools in the developed world historically are working with their nation’s most educated cohort of parents and grandparents who since their child’s/children’s birth have recognised the importance of a quality education for ‘their’ children and who in their home and hands have a suit of digital resources that markedly exceeds that in most classrooms. All moreover have in their community a sizeable and growing body of retirees with considerable expertise, time on their hand and a desire to be valued.

The above alone is a vast source of expertise and additional resourcing the pathfinder schools in their social networking and empowerment are only beginning to tap.

Within a matter of years the now digitally mature schools in their digital journey have moved culturally from the stage where most within the school’s community were disempowered and had little or no voice in the workings and growth of the school to the point where the total school community is naturally contributing to the daily operations of the school.

It is a historic shift that has been led by the principals – a move that has to be led by the principal.

The move has been graduated, often seeing two steps forward and one back, but inexorably reaching the stage where the empowered expect to be involved in the decision making, if only to be informed of a development that clearly improves the school’s quest to realise its shaping vision. In empowering the school’s community, and vitally by bringing the parents into the 24/7/365 teaching of their children, schooling as we have known it – where the professionals unilaterally controlled the teaching and learning – has likely irrevocably changed.

The digital interface with the school’s community that allows ‘time poor’ members to be consulted and informed about key developments has been – and likely will always be – critical.

That said the empowerment will not be without its moments, particularly as a previously disempowered staff and school community attune their antenna to the extent to which they will be able to express their thoughts and use their new found power. That situation will – as mentioned – be compounded by the ever changing student cohorts and the school leadership having to contend with those new to the school’s culture and ways.

Here again the astute leadership of the principal is critical as she/he works to harness the potential of the empowered while simultaneously maintaining the focus on realising the school’s shaping vision and providing each child an apt education.

It calls for some very skilful balancing but also remembering that in undertaking the digital journey all the adults – teachers and parents – will be experiencing a mode of schooling significantly different to that they knew in their youth.

 

Cutting Through the Technology Hype

Minimising the waste and maximising the effectiveness

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaxnaaaajgvmymrmnmy4ltg5zdgtngvlny1im2vkltvhymy4ymi5mwe4ng

A growing and perpetual challenge schools will face in their digital evolution is that of successfully cutting through the immense and often very sophisticated hype associated with all emerging digital technologies, to acquire the technology needed and to avoid wasting scarce monies, social capital and teacher’s time with the unnecessary and the ineffectual.

This is where the principal’s digital acumen is tested.

While the technology companies have over the last century plus displayed considerable marketing expertise in winning over the school market globally (Lee and Winzenried. 2009) their efforts in recent years have become that much more sophisticated – and in some instances one might say insidious. Most of the companies are simply doing their utmost to sell their product, but recent studies on a development known as ‘edubusiness’ indicate a few could be using their involvement in educational testing to ‘validate’ the selling of their instructional technology.

The studies by the likes of Hogan (http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/11666, http://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?tag=anna-hogan) and Lingard (http://www.educationincrisis.net/blog/item/1243-complementarities-and-contradiction-in-the-pearson-agenda) provide an insight into the techniques some of the multinationals employ to secure and hold the school’s custom.

Those studies underscore why the head, as the school’s chief architect and final decision maker, has to be able to cut through the technology hype (Lee and Finger, 2017), and why it is vital the school has a ‘chief digital officer’ (Lee, 2016, 1) who can provide the principal the requisite expert advice.

While those of us studying the evolution of the digital technology in schooling have observed the finite hype cycles of all the major instructional technologies over the last fifty plus years, and the often still very considerable gap between the technology rhetoric and the reality, daily we continue to watch schools and governments spend vast monies on dated and dubious technological ‘solutions’.

Schools, education authorities and indeed governments globally have over the last forty plus years wasted millions of scarce dollars acquiring inappropriate and unnecessary digital technologies. They continue doing so today. Election after election globally one sees the ‘in technology’ offered up to the voters. The poor decision- making is not only costly but also wastes the teachers’ time and impairs the productive use of the apt technology.

Disturbingly this has been so with all manner of instructional technologies since the magic lantern (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) and is likely to continue until schools – and principals in particular – exercise the requisite acumen and leadership in shaping the desired totality.

How great that waste of money and time has been no one knows. Suffice it to say any who have been associated with digital technology in schools for any time will be aware of the monies that have been, and are currently being wasted, the staff’s frustration of being lumbered with inappropriate technology and the damage caused the digital evolutionary quest when ill conceived decisions are inflected on the school. For example in the recent elections in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) the subsequently successful Labour Party pledged to provide every student an iPad. This ‘one size fits all approach’, that would be controlled by the Government’s ICT experts, without regard to each school’s situation was offered to some of the most affluent electorates, in one of the world’s most affluent nations. No thought was seemingly given to the reality that virtually every child in that wealthy city state already had a suite of personally selected digital technologies, that the children from a very early age had already normalised the use of the digital 24/7/365 and that the government was both duplicating the home buys and imposing a ‘solution’ that would stymy the digital evolution of its schools.

Sadly the ACT scenario is being replicated worldwide, probably daily by other governments, education authorities and schools. All are still focussing on the parts, and not the creation of the desired tightly integrated digitally based ecosystem (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 17).

It takes astute decision makers, supported by apt processes to acquire and secure access to the digital technologies required, to see through the hype and spin, to reject the unwarranted, and to minimise the waste and maximise the effectiveness of the technology.

It requires of them very good crap detectors.

Fortuitously it would appear the first of the schools have attained a digital maturity and an understanding of the desired totality where they can markedly minimise the risk of acquiring the unnecessary technologies, while simultaneously ensuring their staff, students and parents have the digital tools and resources required.

That said we’d suggest it is impossible for schools not to make mistakes. Digital evolution and transformation is by its very nature risky, the way forward uncertain and while the digital technology has improved markedly there is still often a large gap between the promised and actual performance. Mistakes, some substantial were made by all the schools studied. All one can ever do is to minimise the risk.

That risk can be markedly reduced by:

  1. Giving schools the power and responsibility for ‘acquiring’ the digital instructional technologies they require, getting the central office ‘ICT experts’ out of the play with the personal technologies (Lee and Levins, 2016) and having the latter focus on providing the bandwidth and where apt the network infrastructure. Be willing to say no to undesired technological solutions offered by the ‘ICT experts’, be they in or out of house.
  2. Ensuring the Principal and ‘CDO’ oversee all key digital technology decisions. All buys should enhance the desired school digital ecosystem and as such one needs both a whole of school digital technology budget, and most assuredly not the traditional discrete faculty/unit budgets, and simple checklists and processes that lessen the chance of the school purchasing inappropriate technology solutions.
  1. Moving the school to an increasingly mature digital operational base, distributing the control, empowering the school’s community and having all better understand the role the balanced use of the digital and socially networking can play in creating the desired culture and digital ecosystem. Having all, rather than a few ‘experts’ understand the desired role of the technology is vital.
  1. Pooling the digital technologies of the student’s homes, the school and its community and distributing the risk, particularly with short life cycle technologies. Schools don’t have to own the desired personal technologies to ‘acquire’ them. Indeed it is far wiser not to buy them, except in special circumstances.
  1. Adopting a BYOT policy, and in turn normalising the whole of school use of the student’s own suit of evolving digital technologies. BYOT – and having each student select, acquire, support and upgrade each of his/her chosen suite of hardware and software places control in the hands of each user and largely removes all the risk for the school and government associated with most of the short life personal technologies. With BYOT the school basically removes from its remit the near impossible task of continually funding and selecting the desired personal technologies for each child, while at the same time empowering its clients. By all means offer advice but the school and vitally government has no longer to worry about all the hype and risk surrounding the plethora of short-term personal technologies.
  1. Appreciating that the richness of the educational resources on the Net and the multi-media digital creation facilities and apps in the student’s hands significantly reduces digitally based schools having to buy packaged teaching resources – digital or print.
  1. Networking or working collaboratively with other ‘educational’ services, distributing or totally removing the risk to the school.
  1. Renting apt Cloud or app services. Many schools have over time built very extensive and expensive hosting facilities, the services on which have to be continually updated with the associated risk and costs. The rental of continually upgraded apps and Cloud based services removes much of that hosting cost and the many associated risks.

It also helps if the leadership:

  1. Understands the Gartner Hype Cycle (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle,) and those technologies whose life cycle is shortening. Appreciate – as Lee and Winzenried identified in their 2009 study and description of the life cycle of instructional technologies – many of those technologies will never move beyond the ‘hype’ phase, dying before they are viable. This harsh reality tends to be overlooked in the more recent Gartner studies. Think of the literally thousands of education apps and software solutions – many created and promoted by governments – that never really moved beyond the hype phase and ‘sit’ unused. The other point to appreciate is that in general terms the life cycles of even the economically successful instructional technologies are getting shorter.
  2. Avoids the acquisition or leasing of short life cycle digital technologies. The prevailing perception of likely most schools and the auditors is that the technology will remain current for years. The fact that it won’t and will be soon superseded needs to be understood.
  3. Recognises the total cost of ownership of the technology, and the importance financially, operationally and user wise of very high reliability, low maintenance and the ease of being integrated in the school’s digital ecosystem.
  4. Is aware of the moves by the major technology companies globally to ‘own’ the school and its data, their desire to ‘hook’ schools financially into long term financial commitments and is very wary about entering into any long term financial agreements with those technology companies.
  5. Is continually alert to the likely unintended impact and benefits that will flow from the 24/7/365 use of the digital and the importance of optimising the desired (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 21).

Conclusion

The ability of the head – with the help of the ‘CDO’ – to cut through the digital technology hype, to ask the telling questions and identify if the technology can assist the school realise its shaping vision is a critical leadership skill increasingly required in all digital schools. The failure to do so can at the extreme, as too many schools and education authorities have found, bankrupt the organisation or at the very least deprive the school and authority for years of scarce resources.

That is an unwarranted risk that can be easily avoided if the school’s leadership continually asks if the suggested new technology is needed and ensures the due diligence is undertaken.

 

  • Gartner (2016) ‘Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies’ Garner Newsroom, August 2016 – http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3412017
  • Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2009) The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016, 21) ‘Optimising the Intended and Unintended Benefits’, Digital Evolution of Schooling June 2016 – http://schoolevolutionarystages.net/?m=201606

 

 

Empowering the School Community

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Tellingly all the schools studied have gradually but very surely empowered their total school community – giving their teachers, professional support staff, students, families and the school’s wider community- a greater voice in the school’s teaching, learning, resourcing and direction setting – markedly expanding the school’s capability and improving its productivity.

Significantly the schools have

  • fully empowered their professional staff
  • accorded all in their community greater respect
  • recognised the part all can play in enhancing the 24/7/365 education provided by the school
  • collaborated with all in lifting their understanding of the macro workings of the school and the school’s shaping vision
  • in the process distributed the control of the teaching, learning and school resourcing.

Yes – in all the distribution of control, the collaboration and the empowerment has added to the load on the school leadership, but paradoxically it has simultaneously provided the school principal considerable untapped support and additional resources. All the principals commented on the time needed to genuinely collaborate and listen, the many frustrations and the seemingly inevitable rectification of well intentioned mistakes, but on the upside the empowerment has added appreciably to the teaching and learning capability of the school, its resourcing, and the support and social capital the principal can call upon in growing the school and its attractiveness.

Schools in the developed world historically are working with their nation’s most educated cohort of parents and grandparents who since their child’s/children’s birth have recognised the importance of a quality education for ‘their’ children and who in their home and hands have a suit of digital resources that markedly exceeds that in most classrooms. All moreover have in their community a sizeable and growing body of retirees with considerable expertise, time on their hand and a desire to be valued.

The above alone is a vast source of expertise and additional resourcing the pathfinder schools in their social networking and empowerment are only beginning to tap.

Within a matter of years the early adopter schools in their digital journey have moved culturally from the stage where most within the school’s community were disempowered and had little or no voice in the workings and growth of the school to the point where the total school community is naturally contributing to the daily operations of the school.

It is a historic shift that has been led by the principals – a move that has to be led by the principal.

The move has been graduated, often seeing two steps forward and one back, but inexorably reaching the stage where the empowered expect to be involved in the decision making, if only to be informed of a development that clearly improves the school’s quest to realise its shaping vision. In empowering the school’s community, and vitally by bringing the parents into the 24/7/365 teaching of their children, schooling as we have known it – where the professionals unilaterally controlled the teaching and learning – has likely irrevocably changed.

The digital interface with the school’s community that allows ‘time poor’ members to be consulted and informed about key developments has been – and likely will always be – critical.

That said the empowerment will not be without its moments, particularly as a previously disempowered staff and school community attune their antenna to the extent to which they will be able to express their thoughts and use their new found power. That situation will – as mentioned – be compounded by the ever changing student cohorts and the school leadership having to contend with those new to the school’s culture and ways.

Here again the astute leadership of the principal is critical as she/he works to harness the potential of the empowered while simultaneously maintaining the focus on realising the school’s shaping vision and providing each child an apt education.

It calls for some very skilful balancing but also remembering that in undertaking the digital journey all the adults – teachers and parents – will be experiencing a mode of schooling significantly different to that they knew in their youth.

 

Primary Schools Will Evolve Faster

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

Critically the pointers are indicating the difference will grow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In bears reflecting why this might so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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