Category Archives: networked schools and society

Pathfinder Schools Enter the New Frontier

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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The first of the pathfinder schools are entering a new historic frontier, taking schooling into the world of the unknown.

Importantly they are very well prepared to make that move and thrive with the on-going uncertainty, evolution and organisational transformation.

It is a development that governments and education’s decision makers would do well to recognise and to build upon.

One is talking about those as yet rare schools that have moved beyond the Digital Normalisation stage where they normalised the whole of school community use of the digital and which are building upon that digital platform to provide an as yet embryonic 24/7/365 mode of schooling (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

In so doing they are entering a world where no schools have entered and which from hereon the early adopter schools, as self regulating units, will be obliged to continually shape their desired future.

It is a new reality that the digital masters in business have learned to thrive within but it is something very new – and possibly very scary – for traditionally risk adverse education policy makers. Digitally evolved organisations exchange the certainty of hierarchical control for trusting relationships where improvement is devolved by empowering staff, with apparently more scope for failure but in reality far more success, from the breadth and depth of innovation well outweighing the risks

What lies ahead for those schools, what form the schools, as ever evolving complex adaptive systems, that are interfacing with all manner of other digital ecosystems within an increasingly socially networked world will take no one knows. The futurists can make their guesses but that is all they can do. Yes the schools will be able to benefit from some research on specific teaching initiatives but always the research’s relevance will need to be adjudged in context.

Significantly the pathfinder schools in their shaping of their digitally based socially networked ecosystems have unwittingly readied themselves to thrive in the unknown.

The pathfinder schools have positioned themselves to continually thrive and take advantage of the virtually endless educational options opened by the Digital Revolution by;

  • taking control of their own growth,
  • embracing a culture of change,
  • empowering their communities,
  • identifying and focussing on the desired shaping educational vision,
  • collaborating closely with and listening to their clients,
  • distributing the control of the teaching,
  • learning and resourcing,
  • building a strong underpinning digital base
  • and normalising the whole of school community use of the digital.

The schools are by virtue of their digital normalisation free of most of the constructs of the paper based world and its strong ‘site’ based thinking (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994) and are of a mind to continually attune their operations to the changing environment.

They are finally in the position, as largely autonomous self regulating units, to exercise considerable control in shaping the mode of schooling – the school ecosystem – that they believe will best meet the needs of their students in an increasingly sophisticated digital and socially networked society.

We say ‘considerable control’ advisedly because although the pathfinders are developmentally years ahead of the government decision makers and have in many areas become the de facto policy makers they, like all other schools are obliged to work with a suit of givens. All for example will be constrained by the resourcing, staffing agreements, physical plant, the obligation to care for the students within a specified time and the laws of the land, to name but a few of those givens.

We also say ‘considerable control’ because the schools are very much part of a wider continually evolving digital and socially networked society, impacted by all the forces at play in the society. They are also complex adaptive systems that will experience considerable and likely increasing natural growth and transformation – much of which will be common of schools at this evolutionary stage globally (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

That said the pathfinders have shown their ability to shed the ways of the traditional paper based school and to shape increasingly sophisticated digitally based school ecosystems with the agility to thrive in the seeming chaos of the frontier. They have become the type of self-regulating unit that Helbing (2014) has flagged as being essential to future organisational growth and evolution in the Digital Revolution, where the pace of change and degree of uncertainty renders the traditional centrally controlled bureaucracy archaic.

The key is for all to recognise that the pathfinder schools, like their counterparts in business will from hereon – largely regardless of the dictates of government – work in unchartered territory, taking charge of their own growth and evolution, heavily dependent on the professional staff collaborating closely with an empowered community in identifying the best way forward.

It also important that governments in particular appreciate that these schools are well prepared to continually thrive within the unchartered frontier and that government instead of relying on the traditional ‘expert’ committee that invariably identifies the way forward by looking through the rear vision mirror would do well to learn from and actively support the pathfinders.

What is clearly apparent is that the schools and their communities have through astute leadership been readied to enter the new frontier with their minds open, accepting of on –going change and evolution, with an organisational form and culture that allows them to readily adjust course when required.

They are not aberrant outliers but a vital insight into how all schools can be readied to continually thrive in a rapidly evolving digital and networked society, where no one can tell with certainty what lies ahead.

In many respects the pathfinders in schooling are no different to their counterparts in architecture or engineering in that they provide the later adopter organisations an important understanding of the evolutionary path ahead.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages: Evolution within the Threads, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com
  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

 

 

Home – School – Community Collaboration

Collaborative Teaching 2Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In moving to a digital operational base the school begins collaborating evermore closely and genuinely with its homes and community, in time marrying the in school teaching, learning and resourcing with the out of school.

It is a marked contrast to most traditional schools where most of the collaboration with the homes is tokenistic (Lee and Ward, 2013) and often one way, with the school informing the parents what they need to do for the school (Grant, 2012). While the literature, government policies and the research (Hattie, 2009) have long advocated genuine home-school collaboration it has rarely been achieved in a significant way until recently (McKenzie, 2010) with most parents reluctant to enter the school gates.

All that invariably begins to change, and to change rapidly and markedly when the school goes digital, and the principal and the teachers begin using the technology to reach out beyond the school walls and ‘socially network’ – using the latter term in its wider sense of ‘a network of social interactions and personal relationships’ (OED).

What one sees is a natural, largely unprompted change with the school becoming increasingly aware of the nature of the teaching, learning and digital resourcing outside the school walls, and the educational – and indeed social, economic, administrative and promotional – benefit of the school and its homes collaborating more closely in the holistic teaching of the young (Project Tomorrow, 2011).

Invariably the initial moves will be diffident, by the homes, community and the school, with it often being two steps forward and one back but in time with the school showing by deed its genuine desire to collaborate and the wider school community recognising the old barriers have been removed and the school gate opened the collaboration becomes normal and begins providing all manner of benefits.

With the collaboration comes:

  • a greater respect for the part the families play in the teaching of their children from birth onwards
  • a recognition of the extent and value of the student learning occurring outside the school walls, unharnessed by the school
  • a greater appreciation of the children’s 24/7/365 use of and proficiency with their personal digital technologies (Project Tomorrow, 2014)
  • an insight into how a collaborative, digitally based 24/7/365 mode of schooling where the young can be taught in context anywhere anytime can markedly improve each child’s learning
  • an awareness of why the school should empower its homes and the local community and enhance their ‘teaching’ contribution
  • the realisation the school should in a socially networked society distribute the control of the teaching and learning and over time to marry the in and out of school teaching
  • an appreciation of the wisdom in a socially networked school community of pooling the expertise and resources of the home, the community and the school in the 24/7/365 schooling of the young
  • a plethora of both intended and unintended benefits – with the latter likely growing as the level of collaboration and social networking grows
  • the recognition that schooling in the networked world should transcend the physical walls of the classroom.

The collaboration will, from the experiences of the pathfinder schools place an extra load on the school and the principal in particular. However over time the astute all- pervasive use of the digital technology will help lessen that load.

Almost inevitably there will be teething problems, dealings with over enthusiastic parents that will likely incline the principal at times to say ‘forget it’, but that downside is more than offset by the immense contribution the homes and the local community will bring to the school’s teaching, operations, its resourcing and its continued growth, and the continued evolution of an increasingly powerful and productive school ecosystem.

When schools open their doors, involve the parents in the school and genuinely collaborate with them in the 24/7/365 teaching of their children the nature of the schooling will be irrevocably transformed, with the parents forever onwards expecting to be involved in all the school’s work – and not shut out and disempowered as in the past.

  • Grant, L (2010) Developing the home-school relationship using digital technologies A Futurelab Handbook February 2010
  • Hattie, J (2009), Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, Routledge, Abingdon
  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Mackenzie, J (2010) Family Learning: Engagements with Parents Edinburgh Dunedin Press
  • 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
  • Project Tomorrow (2014) The New digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations Project Tomorrow 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014 at – http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/SU13DigitalLearningPlaybook_StudentReport.html

 

 

 

Trust and School Evolution

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Trust is critical to the digital evolution of the school and achieving digital normalisation.

The principal needs to trust and empower all staff, the students, the parents and the supporting community. That trust will be repaid in numerous, very positive ways.

Trust fundamentally changes the nature of the schooling and opens the way for a more collaborative 24/7/365 mode of schooling and resourcing.

The traditional hierarchically structured school is based on distrust. It is deemed imperative that a small executive team exercises unilateral control over all school operations. Neither the classroom teachers, the support staff, the students, the parents or the community can be trusted, and their roles must be carefully managed from on high. The ethos is at root one of teachers and pupils doing what they are required to do on pain of sanctions, rather than an ethos of mutual expectation that what is required will be done because that is the job that the whole community is collaboratively engaged in.

The history of the use of instructional technology in schools (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) over the last century has been characterised by its distrust of teachers to use the technology wisely. That history sees teachers being obliged to secure licenses to use the gear, instructional technologies being ‘teacher proofed’ and ironically from around 1984 the ‘ICT experts’ controlling every facet of the digital technology. That distrust extends through to current times, as witnessed by the California iPad debacle.

That distrust might well be evident throughout your school operations today.

The distrust stymies the school’s facility to make best use of its greatest resource, its people – its salaried staff, students, families and community. All feel disempowered and unrecognised, most unwilling to put in the extra yards to assist the school’s growth.

The experience of the pathfinder schools, extensively documented in the authors’ Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages (2016) is that when schools move to a digital operational mode they begin to use the technology to reach out beyond the school walls, to genuinely collaborate with their parent community and to recognise and respect the contribution the teachers, support staff, students, families and wider community can make to the holistic teaching of each child. If this process is not led by the Principal it is very likely to start happening surreptitiously, particularly amongst the pupils but with aware teachers also starting to use online systems and social networks

These schools begin to appreciate the benefits of more fully trusting all, empowering them and distributing the control of the teaching and learning.

That said it invariably takes time – likely years – before the leadership, and indeed the teachers, are willing to cede some of their power and distribute the control of the teaching, learning and significantly the digital technology resourcing.

In many school settings, as the work by Lee and Levins (2016) will attest, some of the most reluctant to cede that control and trust others are the ‘ICT experts’. Yes – for many the ICT ‘empire’ has been their power base, but if schools are to normalise the whole of school community use of the digital the control has to be distributed and all within the school’s community trusted.

The principal’s willingness to trust will be crucially tested when faced with the decision of letting the children use in class the suit of digital technologies they already use 24/7/365. Is the head prepared to trust the children and parents and go with BYOT or declare his/her continued distrust by going the BYOD route where the school specifies the personal technology? Is the principal willing to trust the students and parents, accepting what to him/her might not appear be a perfect solution but which in time with genuine collaboration will not only work well but yield many other dividends?

It is a critical decision in the school’s digital evolution.

Until the principal is willing to trust and respect each student’s and parent’s choice of technologies, and to genuinely collaborate with them in the teaching, learning and technology resourcing the school’s digital evolution will be stalled and digital normalisation unachievable. While there are schools with ‘successful’ (though expensive) approaches that provide all pupils with the same device, at the root of this is the school wishing to dictate the use of certain software or device. This puts the focus on the technology rather than on the task to be achieved and denies innovation as the devices and software inevitably age. Far better to decide what human and interaction functionality is necessary for all pupils to use their devices.

Reflect for a moment on your children’s normalised out of school use of the digital and you’ll appreciate it is dependent on your trust in them to use and maintain the technology wisely. Your children will invariably respect and build upon that trust such that in a relatively short time their use of the technology becomes so normal as to be largely invisible.

That is what is wanted within the school walls, but it is only achievable when the school has created a whole of school culture – ecology – that trusts, respects and empowers the students and their parents, and values the contribution they can make to the workings, safety, resourcing and growth of the school.

  • Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2009) The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages. 2nd Edition Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

 

 

 

Digital Evolution of Schools and School Libraries

Mal Lee

(The following article can be found in the May/June 2016 edition of ALIA’s magazine, Incite)

At a time when the Australian Government is espousing the importance of highly agile innovative organisations, the digital technology is transforming all manner of organisations and schools are moving at pace to a digital operational mode it is critical Australia’s school libraries and teacher librarians take advantage of the opportunities opened. They need move quickly and proactively to ensure their contribution is central to the workings of rapidly evolving, increasingly integrated schools.

There is now a clear understanding in all organisations, including schools, that organisations have to go digital to remain viable (Lee, 2015). The efficiencies, economies, benefits and enhanced capability of the digital organisation far surpasses that of the traditional paper based operation.

Moreover there is the growing recognition that all digitally based organisations, as complex adaptive systems will continually evolve (Pascale, et. al. 2000), and will do so more rapidly, taking advantage of the digital convergence to become evermore integrated. They will abandon their old ‘silo like’, ‘loosely coupled’ (Weick, 1976) structures and discrete operations, and adopt an increasingly integrated and networked form.

The word ‘critical’ was chosen carefully.

‘Silo like’ school libraries that sit alone, operate largely autonomously, that are perceived to be paper focussed and removed from the core workings of the school can be readily dispensed with in the creation of more tightly integrated and productive school ecosystems.

To thrive and to continue making a significant contribution in any rapidly evolving digital organisation – be it a company, university or school – the library and librarian need play an integral and lead role in the organisation’s workings and its on-going evolution.

Most schools have been slow to move to a digital operational mode but teacher librarians have only to talk with their colleagues within the pathfinder schools, business and the public sector to recognise the pattern of change.

School libraries and teacher librarians need to position themselves where their service is perceived by the principal and staff to be central to the school’s vision, operations and growth, and where the role played grows and evolves naturally – and largely unwittingly – as the school’s total ecosystem matures.

That is easy to say, but it is difficult to achieve, particularly when the principal lacks vision, digital acumen and the willingness to lead.

It is appreciated most teacher librarians now have as their focus the teaching, with little interest in the macro workings of the school.

However the stark reality in most schools and education authorities is that unless the teacher librarian looks after his/her own situation, has a sound appreciation of the macro workings of the school, its vision and its digital evolution and is proactive and positions the information services at the centre of all operations no one else will do so.

Accept the folly of trying to defend the bastions against digital evolution.

Recognise that by being proactive you can assist in shaping the desired future, and lessen the risk of becoming a digital casualty.

The experience of the pathfinder schools suggests the following could assist that quest.

  • It is not personal. It is natural to feel that. The Digital Revolution is simply impacting you.
  • Understand the macro workings of the school. In tightly integrated school ecosystems it is vital all staff, teaching and professional support – and not just those atop the apex – understand the macro workings of the school, able to contribute as professionals to its growth (www.digitalevolutionofschools.net).
  • Appreciate the evolution of complex adaptive systems. Those with a science background will already understand the importance, but all staff need to recognise the implications of working with seeming chaos and constant change, and the new order the disturbance creates.
  • Thrive on chaos. Embrace and promote a culture of change and support all one’s colleagues in their work, continued growth and evolution.
  • Adopt a digital and networked mindset. Grasp the marked contrast between analogue and digital thinkers provided by Bhaduri and Fischer (2015). Then you’ll appreciate why a pathfinder school in a networked society has chosen to ‘outsource’ its e-book services to the local library.
  • Integrate the school ‘library’ and ICT services. Move to the centre of school operations. Look to the kind of iCentre model advocated by Hay (2010, 2015) and have it play a lead role in the digital workings and evolution of the school.
  • Support the principal’s leadership. Provide the principal, the staff and the wider school community the on-going support and information services they will need – as well as supporting the students.
  • Make your services indispensable.

Conclusion

The Digital Revolution is daily occasioning immense on-going organisational transformation that could, unharnessed hurt many.

School libraries and teacher librarians are on trend to be hurt badly, unless each teacher librarian genuinely collaborates with his/her colleagues and the school leadership in positioning the school library’s programs and services at the centre of the school’s digital evolution.

Digital Evolution of Schools and School Libraries

Bibliography

Bhaduri, A and Fischer, B (2015) ‘Are You an Analogue or Digital Leader?’ Forbes 19/2/2015 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfischer/2015/03/19/are-you-an-analog-or-digital-leader

Hay, L (2010) ‘Shift happens. It’s time to rethink, rebuild and rebrand’. Access, 24(4), pp. 5 http://www.asla.org.au/publications/access/access-commentaries/shift-happens.aspx

Hay, L (2015) ‘The evolution of the iCentre model: Leading inquiry, digital citizenship and innovation in schools.’ Teacher Librarian, 42 (4), 15-19.

Lee, M (2015) ‘Why Schools Have to Go Digital to Remain Viable’, Educational Technology Solutions August 2015

Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press

Weick, K (1976) ‘Educational organisations as loosely coupled systems’. Administrative Science Quarterly 21 1976

 

 

 

 

Address the Totality, Not the Parts

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harnessing the Social Networking

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In alerting those on the digital evolutionary journey of the potential positives of digitally based school ecosystems we neglected to address the likely negatives and the potential considerable pitfalls of unbridled social networking, and the importance of schools more consciously ‘controlling’ and harnessing the power of social networking.

Social networking, as many an individual and organisation can attest has, can be damaging.

Schools are not immune, and yet globally many are schools naively entering into the world of digitally based social networking, hoping for a positive experience, but being ill equipped to control its power.

In shaping of the desired school ecosystem look factor into your thinking the desired controls, the avoidance of undue risk and ways to use the power to the school’s advantage.

Understand the instant schools opt to communicate digitally they immediately – and usually unwittingly – markedly up their involvement with the unbridled world and power of digitally based social networking. While hoping for benefits the school immediately also exposes itself to many potential negatives. In using the expression ‘communicate digitally’ we are referring to the many forms of digital communication and social networking used by the schools – the class blogs, online forums, websites, e-newsletters, email, school apps, online surveys and not simply the mainstream social media facilities.

Indeed it bears noting that many of the pathfinder schools have consciously opted not to use the latter social media in their digital communications suite, rightly believing they had no control over them.

In seeking to control the social networking the authors suggest viewing the facility in its traditional, wider sense of ‘a network of social interactions and personal relationships’ (OED). By adopting that perspective and appreciating the digital element is but part of the organisations effort to enhance all manner of human networking and collaboration one can more readily appreciate that part to be played in shaping the school’s ecosystem.

Intriguingly human networking has always rightly been viewed positively and the home-school collaboration it engenders has been shown to enhance student performance (Hattie, 2009) but the instant the digital is added the thinking changes. Emotions invariably rise, folk become paranoid and the positives that flow from humans networking and collaboration are often forgotten.

That said the pathfinders, like the authors recognise that by adding the digital to the social networking the schools enter into a vast, rapidly growing, largely ungoverned world that can hurt the school and its students. Within seconds of digitally distributing information the school’s message, often with an accompanying comment is redistributed throughout the social networks of the immediate and wider school community. The hope is that the accompanying comments will be positive and supportive but there is no surety.

The message coming through very strongly is that the schools that have successfully normalised the use of the digital will be appreciably better placed to control the social networks and manage the risk than other schools. The years of concerted and astute effort the schools have invested will invariably see them viewed positively by ‘their’ social networks. If per chance there were an untoward comment the school’s digital community would likely take ‘control’. Digital normalisation is only possible when the school has been willing to distribute the control of teaching and learning, and create a culture where the total school community is trusted, respected, empowered, and through genuine collaboration is made aware of all the school’s purpose and shaping educational vision (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

The related reality is that when schools – like all other organisations – attract a significant number of friends the algorithms underpinning the social media garner supporters and the social dynamics of the online make if that much harder for people to criticize the school.

Those without that ecosystem, that culture and years of concerted and astute homework and detailed understanding of the digital and networked world are far more vulnerable. They are highly susceptible to negative social networking, unable to call upon the kind of controls, the ecosystem support or the digital and networking acumen found in the digital leaders.

The message for all schools, at all points along the digital evolutionary continuum is be wary of the power of digitally based social networking, opt for digital communications facilities over which the school has reasonable control, avoid using high risk services and move as fast as possible out of the danger zone and into a digital environment where the school can exercise greater control over the message.

 

 

Ecosystems within Ecosystems

Digital Schools Growing Their Community

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

The suggestion is you recognise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

Hub and Spoke Networking Model: On Reflection

Mal Lee, Paul Morris and Sue Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Key Indicators

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

  1. Post –conference survey

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

What emerged from the analysis of the survey is the:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resourcing

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Digital Schools Grow Digital Communities

Mal Lee

It is becoming increasingly apparent that when schools normalise the use of the digital, employ a mature digital ecosystem and become networked school communities the schools not only markedly enhance the learning of the students, but they also develop a synergistic relationship with their community, that assists both it and the school to grow digitally.

We have been aware for some time it takes a digital village to educate the child in a socially networked world.

What is becoming clearer is that digital schools in playing that lead role in providing that education are unwittingly, simultaneously and without any concerted effort assisting grow the school’s digital community and that community in turn is assisting grow the school.

Digital schools are unwittingly and naturally helping to grow the lives and economic capability of their community.

Traditionally schools researchers have focussed on the student learning within the school walls, and the impact of the various variables within the school upon the learners.

In a digital and networked society when schools become networked school communities, whose impact transcends the school walls and where increasingly unintended dividends flow from the evolution of schools as complex adaptive systems it is vital one addresses all the changes being made by the digital, the intended and the unintended, the educational and the far wider.

It is time to look outside the box, to look not simply at the impact on student learning, and to identify and optimise the desired unintended benefits – as is done in industry. As organisations become more integrated, with all the operations interconnected and ever evolving it is critical to examine the evolving totality.

It is also time for school leaders, education authorities and governments, local and national, to recognise that when schools go digital and networked the school will impact on the wider socially networked society and as such that impact needs to be understood and where apt built upon.

In going digital and networked schooling should no longer be regarded as a stand-alone enclave that is the preserve of the professional educators, but rather as integral part of the evolving networked society and economy.

While the prime focus of schools should be the provision of the desired student learning when digital schools can simultaneously and without any extra effort or expense markedly assist the growth of digital communities and their earning capacity that capability should be tapped.

The Digital School and its Community.

In normalising the total school community’s use of the digital largely unwittingly the pathfinder schools have

  • strongly proclaimed and daily demonstrated to their homes – their clients – the critical importance of the digital in the children’s 24/7/365 schooling and growth
  • grown not only the digital competence and creativity of the students but simultaneously that of the parents, siblings, carers, grandparents and family friends
  • forever changed the parents – the clients – view and expectations of schooling and helped them recognise the school’s dynamic, ever evolving nature
  • assisted strengthen the parent’s digital mindset, enhanced their understanding of digital learning ecologies, and on-going transformation and the need in an evolving digital world of shaping the desired future, taking risks and learning on the move
  • assisted open the eyes of those in the homes to the emerging possibilities with the digital in their own lives, work and education
  • enhanced the homes’ appreciation of the critical importance of astutely integrated digital ecosystems
  • in their trust of and close collaboration with their homes daily, without any extra effort or expense on the school’s part accounted for their teaching practises and strongly marketed the school
  • moved the school to the position where the ecology naturally educates current and prospective parents on the evolving nature and expectations of the digital school.

Interestingly most of this has been done as an unintended ‘by product’ of digital normalisation and the move to a 24/7/365 mode of schooling, with minimal effort or expense from the school. Yes all the pathfinder schools have in going digital spent time and effort early on educating their parents to the new ways but as the change took hold with both the students and parents, and the digital ecosystem matured so that need decreased as the natural evolutionary growth impacted.

In being proactive, fostering a culture of change, distributing the control of the teaching and learning, in genuinely collaborating with the parents, in trusting the children to use their own digital kit, in adopting open websites and opening the door to the school’s workings and critically in having the digital underpin all school operations the school is not only better educating the children but is simultaneously unwittingly bidding and supporting all within the homes to lift their digital competence. Those parents, and in particular those grandparents not using current digital technologies feel compelled to get and keep up to speed. All within the home largely unsaid lift their digital capability. Home networks are upgraded. Birthdays and Christmas become important technology upgrade occasions. As the children make use in and out of school of the emerging apps, the various online offerings and facilities like Google’s applications for education so there is a natural desire by all in the family to be able to use those facilities as well.

While there is in the pathfinder schools a spread of digital expertise the parents, from information industry professionals through to the early users, it appears the digital understanding and mindset of the total group is continually being lifted as the technology becomes more sophisticated, knowledge of its possibilities grows, the school continually updates its practises and the expectations rise. While still embryonic it is interesting to observe the number associated with a pathfinder school also desirous of promoting the creation of digital start ups.

While further research is needed talk to any within the parent community of the pathfinder schools and you’ll soon appreciate how strongly and naturally they have embraced the digital and switched on they are to the digital possibilities. This is a clientele, increasingly Millennial, as Westerman et.al (2014) reveal, who no longer differentiate between online and face-to-face experiences, who out the school walls have already normalised the use of the digital.

The school community wide impact of the digital upon the wider school community can be evidenced in two seemingly small examples, the adoption of the school app, and the integrated teaching of coding from the early childhood upwards.

In opting to formally communicate with the children’s homes and the school’s wider community via a school app, and an app intended primarily for mobile technology the school community soon abandoned long established paper based practises and limited expectations and embraced a mode for clients living and working in an ever evolving, time short digital world. The apps readily and inexpensively handled all types of tailored digital communiques, from regular lengthy e-newsletters, reports, quick surveys and emergency notices. They completely replaced all manner of slow and inefficient paper communiques. In observing how the parents of children on a year cohort excursion were notified digitally of a delay because of traffic it struck me:

  • how attuned the school was to its client’s, and their 2015 expectations
  • how poor had schools been in looking after their clients, all too often using the communications challenge to do nothing.

Similarly in observing the ease with which a group of 6-7 year olds had incorporated coding – using Scratch – in their small group creation of an e-book for English it impressed how

  • at ease were the children with the facility and applying its underpinning logic
  • many skills and concepts they were simultaneously addressing and developing in the one integrating task
  • different it was to traditional segmented silo like teaching
  • transferable were the suite of skills and attributes being developed to most other areas of future study, work and life
  • important it was for the parents and the wider school community to understand and build upon the children’s 21st century capabilities.

When one encounters young ones eager to demonstrate their coding skills and hears 7 year olds casually commenting that the image for the e-book is in her Dropbox one can soon appreciate why the parents are daily experiencing a mode of schooling and teaching through their children’s eyes dramatically different to their own but which they can see is appreciably more relevant and meaningful.

In accommodating these new digital practises, in understanding and supporting their children’s digitally based learning, in appreciating its 24/7/365 nature the parent community will continually enhance its digital understanding, capability and connectedness.

As it does, as it strengthens its bond with the school, as it pools its resources and expertise with those of the school and comes to ‘own the school’, as the community members involve themselves in other digital initiatives the parent community like the school staff will continue to lift its understanding of the digital, to better appreciate the kind of opportunities opened by digital evolution and will continually lift its expectations of the school.

It will, usually unwittingly, continually expect that much more of already very good schools but in contrast to the past where they had been shut out will build on the close ties with and macro understanding of the school and assist in all manner of ways the school to grow and continue its digital evolution and transformation.

What is already apparent globally is that as the digital standing of the pathfinder schools grows so too will be the demand to enrol extra students in the school. The corollary is that the demand for places in nearby paper based and late adopter schools will likely fall and put the viability of those schools under serious question.

Conclusion

In making these observations it is appreciated that in 2015 the number of pathfinder schools globally that have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital and grown their digital community is small.

Notwithstanding those schools are the vanguard of what is to come, the attributes they are displaying being a logical extension of the trends evidenced in their evolutionary journey (Lee and Broadie, 2015) and consistent with the wider digital transformation of organisations.

The micro ecosystems these pathfinder schools are impacting are most readily apparent in villages and small regional towns, but the likely reality is that on closer examination they’ll also be found around the pathfinders in the cities.

The hope is that this short note will open eyes and minds to the societal and economic implications of the development and what astute communities and their leaders could do.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2015) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages Broulee Australia – Retrieved 20 April 2015 – http://www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press