Category Archives: School evolution continuum

Schools take charge of evolution and technology

Mal Lee

There are pleasing signs globally and across Australia that evermore schools are recognising they have to take charge of their own evolutionary development and the digital technology they employ to achieve that sustained development.

Evermore are recognising they have to be the prime unit of change, and as such they, and not the government of the day or their local education authority, are responsible for successfully addressing the plethora of variables that will allow them to evolve at pace and achieve the desired digital normalisation and provide an apposite 21st century education.

They are long past waiting for government or the system to provide the answers and funding for the way forward.  Yes, they will most assuredly use any apposite support provided by external agencies but they understand they have to take control of their own destiny.

The stark reality is that while in some fortunate situations the ‘system’ is providing apposite support most central offices are currently demonstrating little appreciation of what is occurring with the pathfinders, of the evolutionary continuum or how the continuum can assist individual schools in their journey. Many are adding little value to the teaching in the schools and simply frustrating the school’s evolution.

In many respects it matters not to the individual school what the Federal Government of the day is, whether it be the Greens, Labor or Liberal or indeed who wins the next election.

While governments of all persuasion globally, and not simply in Australia, like to project the profound impact they have upon the running and performance of the nation’s schools, and imagine that by the end of their term in office all ‘their’ schools will naturally have embraced and benefitted from the government’s policies the reality is that most government’s have limited impact on the school’s culture and operations.

The power lies primarily within the school.  To read more Schools Take Charge of Evolution

This article has been published in Educational Technology Solutions September 12 2013 – http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/

Constancy and Sameness: On-going Evolution and Uniqueness

Mal Lee

Few teachers, principals or head teachers will have failed to notice the ever-greater transformative impact digital technology is having upon schooling.

Few parents will have failed to see the very considerable impact of the digital on their workplace and the fundamental structural and organisational changes that technology has occasioned and continues to occasion in the business world.

All of us will have watched with fascination and delight the young’s – indeed the very young’s – embrace and normalised use of the digital 24/7/365, their love of and excitement with the new and the impact that technology is having upon their lives and learning, particularly in their homes and on the move.

Yet despite this profound societal and organisational change most governments and education authorities continue to project the image that schooling is generally constant in nature, unchanging, largely immutable, not at all impacted by the digital and that all they need do is to fine tune the workings of an approach we have known for the past 40-50 years and all will be fine.  They might try charter schools, middle schools, specialist schools or academies but basically the place called school, operating within its physical walls should continue unchanged.

The same authorities also project – possibly unwittingly – that all their schools are much the same, at the same stage of development and as such they can validly apply top down ‘one size fits all’ solutions for all the schools in the country or region.  As all the schools are the same they can successfully introduce common interactive whiteboard, laptop, phonics or staff development programs into all the schools in the same way.

My reading is that most teachers and school leaders – probably also unwittingly – work from a base premise of constancy and sameness.

When an a new program, or major technology is introduced implicit is the assumption is that it will operate successfully and appropriately for many years, even though folk deep down know society and the technology is evolving at pace.

It is an outlook that fuels the retention of the status quo – even when it is becoming ever more irrelevant – and the idea that change is difficult and is to be avoided.

The constancy and sameness underpins the belief that central offices or national governments can validly prepare the same teaching materials for all its schools, employ the same tests and accountability processes, use common pay scales and leadership programs, apply the one technology model to every school or indeed that all the schools in a region can profitably come together and benefit from a common staff development program.

This thinking stands in marked contrast to that within those schools operating at the Digital Normalisation Stage where all within the school’s community – the leadership, the staff, the students and the homes – have accepted that change and on-going evolution is the norm with schooling, that the excitement associated with opening ever more learning opportunities is natural and that all within the school’s community are welcome to join in the on-going quest to provide the best possible education.  It is an environment that fosters excitement, strong student, parent and community involvement and ownership, collaboration, risk taking, flexibility, responsiveness, the adoption of solutions particular to the school’s situation at a stage in its evolution and vitally an on-going focus on the desired educational vision.

By the Digital Normalisation Stage all within the school’s community accept their school is unique, and that while it can learn much from other schools at the same evolutionary stage they require educational solutions apposite for their school’s situation and evolutionary stage.

With the benefit of hindsight what is now evident is that:

  • constancy and sameness is the thinking of the paper based stage
  • in moving along the evolutionary continuum and through the evolutionary stages the schools will gradually shed that thinking, such
  • by the digital normalisation stage all within the school’s community will assume on-evolution and school uniqueness are the norm.

 

Application of the Evolutionary Continuum

In constructing the school evolutionary stages continuum and in writing the soon to be released Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages our desire was to provide all associated with schooling globally a simple measure they could readily apply to position their school and identify the road that lies ahead for their school.

We’ve consciously aimed to provide a facility all can use – and not as happens so often in education a measure that can only be applied by someone skilled in psychometrics.

The desire is to provide an indicative measure that can be readily used

  • to further parents and grandparent’s understanding of the school’s position
  • to give the students greater voice
  • in assisting empower all the staff, the teaching and vitally also the professional support
  • to assist the development of principals
  • to foster whole school evolution and on-going enhancement
  • to highlight the individual school – and not the system per se – as the unit of change
  • in helping the political decision makers better understand the global commonality of school evolution, and the growing variability between schools
  • by those in teacher training to better understand the schools they will be entering
  • by educational researchers to develop measures that can be realistically used in ever more integrated, rapidly evolving schools.

Our hope is that the continuum can be applied without assistance but if help is required Roger at – roger@broadieassociates.co.uk and Mal at – mallee@mac.com can assist.

Skype and the astute juggling of time zones should make it possible to assist wherever you are in the world.

In applying the measure in a group setting do bear in mind the earlier post by Roger.

Helping schools along the evolutionary path

We hope that people and organisations that are working with schools, to help them advance their educational offering, will make use of the evolutionary stages taxonomy and the resources you will find in this blog. We do however have a concern that sometimes those leading programmes for teachers and school leaders do not practice what they preach.

If we wish schools to provide an outstanding education for young people in the connected world, programmes to help them do this should be run by outstanding tutors. In the UK this has been considered very carefully in the creation of the Naace TOTAL programme for school leaders – “Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning”. Being an outstanding tutor requires approaches very similar to those required of an outstanding teacher. As a result the way that tutors run their courses will model good teaching practice, as follows.

That this is being done should be made explicit to the course participants, to help them realise that their experiences on the course are in some ways similar to the kinds of learning experiences pupils should be experiencing in their school. For example, to help them realise why pupils might want to use their mobile phones, how much a visualiser can help learning, the ways that online classroom management tools work to stimulate better learning, or how much better collaborative aids understanding compared to just listening to the teacher.

High Expectations. Courses need to be tailored to the level and needs of participants. Relative to this the expectations of what the participants will achieve on the course and how their practice will change as a result need to be set high – and the participants made aware of this.

Using technology where appropriate. This means using the kinds of technology that you expect schools will adopt as they fully embed the use of digital and change pedagogy as a result. It is important that the technology works reliably for tutor and participant so check carefully what is available. Make sure the participants bring their own technology and expect them to use it whenever they need to.

– Internet access is of course required. If not available on site use a mobile phone hotspot. References to Internet sites that support what the course is dealing with need to be provided, in the presentation slides that will be made available to participants, or even as QR codes.

– Projector is required. If there is an interactive whiteboard endeavour to use it interactively, with the participants.

– Use of personal phones should be incorporated, for things such as taking photos of group work.

– A visualiser is required, preferably with some use by participants as well as by the tutor, so they can personally experience how they can demonstrate something to the whole group much more effectively.

– The courses should to be blended. Files should be both downloaded and uploaded during the course and the online platform is to be available pre and post the course, so that they appreciate how online resources can be used to support and extend the learning.

Active learning by participants.

– content delivery by the tutor, while some will be necessary, must be balanced by activities in which participants will lead their own learning and engage in discussion and activities.

– courses are likely to be more intensive than school lessons and hence examples of active learning used on the course may be curtailed compared to what would be done with pupils, but it is desirable to model such things as enquiry-based learning if possible and sensible in the course.

Collaborative learning.

– teachers are generally quicker to learn than pupils (except about technology) so the pace of collaborative activities can be set high. However teachers love to talk and will often go off at a tangent to issues not directly relevant to the collaborative activity, so the conversations need to be kept focused on the task.

– collaborative discussions need to be facilitated well, with the tutor avoiding too much provision of input and concentrating on drawing issues out from the participants.

Use of classroom management tools. Online tools can support various innovative approaches to teaching and learning, for example:

– use a random name selector to select participants for tasks.

– use an online voting system to RAG assess understanding.

– use a wiki to collate views on a topic.

Flipped learning.

– Some kind of pre-prep for the course should be provided and that this has been done should be checked up on.

– If the course is spread across two days (overnight, or with time in between as for TOTAL) there should be tasks to be done or thought about between the two days.

– There should be some follow-up activities proposed for participants to do, that are linked to their ‘day-job’ needs.

Assessment for learning.

– It is desirable to build in some kind of AfL processes, at least at the level of checks on understanding on each session, and possibly through technology (another possible use for their mobile phones).

Progression.

– the course must produce evidence of the work the participants have done. Where at all possible this should be tasks that relate to their real job needs and that they can take further in their job roles (e.g. starting to create lesson plans to be completed later, doing first-stage technology development plans for their school).

– there must be some evidence of progression visible, which requires that their starting points are identified and evidence of these is captured so that it can later be related to where their thinking or skills have developed to.

– and the progression should not stop at the end of the course. On the TOTAL courses we use “Postcards from the future”, with the participants noting on a postcard what they expect to have achieved in their school in three months’ time, as a result of attending the programme – which we mail back to them in 3 months as a reminder of their intentions.

 

In schools that have normalised digital the quality of teaching and learning is improving very fast, driven by the teachers’ professional development networking and by the pupils showing how they can learn better, and discussing this explicitly with each other and their teachers. Very few current teachers and even fewer school leaders have any experience of what digitally-enabled outstanding teaching and learning feels like. Don’t waste the golden opportunity of them gaining some first-hand experience of outstanding teaching and learning when they attend your programme.

 

School Websites – as Indicators of School’s Evolutionary Position

Mal Lee

Every school’s website provides a telling insight into where it sits on the international school evolutionary continuum.

Within minutes those conversant with the school evolutionary stage indicators – as discussed in the last post – can obtain an insight into the school’s current position.

Possibly unwittingly your website invariably provides all interested a window to the school’s workings.

Vitally it also provides an excellent insight into the school’s leadership’s thinking.

Have you looked lately at the message – intended and unintended – your school website communicates?

In researching the evolution of schooling in the UK, US, NZ and Australia over the last 5-6 years, in exploring the impact of digital normalisation on school transformation I’ve had occasion to examine many, many school websites.

It has become increasingly apparent, particularly now the first schools are moving into the Digital Normalisation stage that astute educators and parents globally – current and prospective – can and do increasingly use the school website as a quick and valid indicator of the evolutionary stage the school is at and if it is a school where one wants to send the children.

Governments and education authorities like to perpetuate the perception that all of their schools are the same.  Most moreover seek to reinforce that myth by trying to have all ‘their’ schools use a standard website.

The reality is that schools are by no means the same. There is now immense and growing variability.  All sit at different points along an ever-evolving, ever lengthening continuum, where the difference between the schooling provided at each end of the continuum is already dramatic and growing daily.

Variability is the new norm, fostered by the moves nationally and internationally to devolve greater autonomy to each school.

That variability is readily evidenced in the school website.

To read full post

Websites as Indicators – online version

The Evolutionary Stages of Schooling and Stage Indicators

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

As mentioned in the previous post we have identified six stages in the evolution of schooling thus far, and within each of the stages a set of indicators; benchmarks that provide schools – at least within the English – speaking world – an international measure that allows them to readily position themselves on the school evolutionary continuum.

Importantly the indicators allow all within the school’s community – and not just the professionals – to both position the school and vitally to quickly identify the kind of variables to be addressed if the school is to evolve as desired.

Feel free to download the stages and the stage indicators. (Part B of the stages threads is being finalised.)

Evolutionary Stages of Schooling

Evolutionary stages threads A 2Jul13

Purpose of Blog

 

The desire with this blog is to help promote international discussion on

  • the concepts allied to the notion that once schools as organisations go digital they will progress along an ever-expanding evolutionary continuum
  • the many profound implications that flow for associated with schooling from an acceptance and understanding of those concepts.

The authors’ research suggests that

  • all schools will move along an evolutionary continuum once they leave their traditional paper operational base and move to one that is digital and networked.  Once organisations go digital and networked – be they banks, newspapers, hospitals or schools – they will move from era of relative constancy and continuity to one of on-going, often rapid and uncertain change and evolution.
  • that continuum will be ever-evolving, ever-expanding and vitally will be largely common in form regardless of school type or size, level of schooling, socio-economic standing or context, at least within the schools of the English speaking world
  • all schools will moreover move through a series of common stages, with each stage having a suite of remarkably common, interrelated attributes.

In 2013 the authors have identified the six below stages but are conscious the pathfinder schools are moving at pace to another.

  • the vast majority of schools will need to move through each of the stages before they are ready to move to the next.  To view the six stages and the stage indicators click here.
  • In moving along the evolutionary continuum the schools will undergo on-going organisational transformation and become ever more tightly integrated and unique ecologies.
  • Each school, and in particular its leadership has to chart and be responsible for its own movement along the evolutionary continuum.  While education authorities can assist individual schools the school itself has to take responsibility.
  • Once schools become digitally based organisations they will experience a significant degree of natural growth – regardless of government aspirations – and will need to shape that raw growth to ensure the desired education is provided.

In 2013 all of the above are novel concepts.

Governments in most instances like to project the image that all ‘its’ schools are basically the same.

Schools, education authorities and governments globally also perpetuate the perception that the basic form of the school is somehow immutable and unchanging, and that all that is required to enhance the schools’ effectiveness and relevance is some simple tinkering with the existing structure.  Daily one reads of the latest simplistic ‘silver bullet’ fix mooted by the governments of the world.

Allied is the assumption that government’s have in ‘their’ schools institutions over which they have near complete control.

The reality is that schools across the world sit at different points along a continuum, and indeed an evolutionary continuum that is growing ever-longer by the day, where the variability between the schools is becoming ever greater.

Vitally most governments, education authorities and indeed policy makers and educational researchers have prefaced their operations – probably unwittingly – on the assumption that schooling will always be largely constant in form.

That is not so and hasn’t been so since the early 2000’s.

The Research

Previous research (Lee and Gaffney, 2008) revealed that around 2002/2003 the first schools globally finally succeeded in getting all their teachers to use the digital technology in their everyday teaching, to achieve digital take off, to shift to a digital operational base and to embark on the path of on-going evolution.

Over the last five years Mal Lee has focussed his research on the work of those pathfinding schools globally (Lee and Winzenried (2009), (Lee and Finger, 2010), (Lee and Levins, 2012) (Lee and Ward, 2013) as they capitalised upon the opportunities opened by the digital technology and moved along the evolutionary continuum.

Conscious that 2013 was a decade on since the first schools succeeded in achieving total teacher use of the digital and 20 years on since the launch of Mosaic Mal embarked on the writing of a major work on Digital Normalisation and School Transformation that would explore the impact of the digital technology on all facets of the school’s operations in those pathfinders that had or nearly had normalised the use of the digital.

In researching that publication Mal set out to interview around 70 pathfinder schools/school leaders in the UK, US, NZ and Australia.

After interviewing around 60 it became apparent all the schools in reaching their current position had addressed in the region of 50 key interrelated variables and had experienced remarkably similar journeys, regardless of their situation, school size and type, financial situation and government.

A copy of those variables can be got here.

When each of the remaining schools affirmed the same experience it hit home that was one was not only looking at a potentially global common evolutionary continuum but also common stages with remarkably common attributes.

In sharing those observations with Professor Peter Twining at the Open University – who was analysing the evolution of 22 schools in the UK – and Roger Broadie from NACCE (the UK ICT educators professional association) who had been involved in examining some 70 UK schools for the Association’s 3rd Millennium Awards it was decided share the thoughts with educators globally both via this site and through the publication of a Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages.  Work is progressing at pace on the latter.

Coincidental with this decision the Project Tomorrow team published its reflective on the 10 years of the US Speak Up research initiative (Project Tomorrow, 2013) and in so doing re-affirmed the fundamental transformation that had occurred in the education of the young in the US in their normalised usage of the US, sadly primarily outside the school walls.

Our study of the journeys of the global pathfinder schools mirrored that transformation, but within the walls of an as yet rare cadre of schools.

What must be stressed is that the current six evolutionary stages and the stage indicators are indicative in nature.

They are a human construct designed to assist all with an interest in schooling address the notion of school evolution.

They most assuredly are not the perfect recipes for school evolution.  Some of the stage indicators could well be evidenced earlier or later in your school.

They, and indeed the Taxonomy and this blog, are intended to provide an insight into what is happening in the pathfinder schools in four English -speaking nations.  We suspect the same kind of evolutionary continuum will be evidenced in other developed nations but the research has yet to be done.

As stressed at the outset we recognise the concepts are novel and need more work by those with far more resources than us but in light of the potential benefits they provide and the many implications that flow it was decided to share them.

Before moving on to the implications it should be stressed that the research affirms the reality that while it was the digital technology and the shift to a digital operational mode that has occasioned and continues to occasion the transformation of schooling the overwhelming message coming from the pathfinders is the focus and major challenge for the later adopter schools has to be on promoting human and cultural evolution.  The technology is the simple part of the evolutionary process.

The Implications

In the evolutionary continuum and six stages, and in particular the stage indicators, schools and educational decision makers finally have a common international scale and set of benchmarks that schools and vitally their communities can readily use to adjudge the current position of the school and what is required if it is to move evolve as desired.

The implications flowing from that facility, as you’d appreciate are immense.

While as stressed only indicative in nature the continuum and the stages not only provide the later adopter schools an insight into where they at and what they have yet to address but vitally provide the pathfinder schools and policy makers with a suite of trend lines they can use to assist the schools’ movement into unchartered territory.

Importantly the associated suite of concepts affirm the imperative of schools, educational administrators, governments and vitally the media recognising they are not dealing with the one size fits all approach of the traditional world of school constancy and continuity but rather with immense and growing school variability with all schools at different points along an ever evolving continuum, each needing to a development solution apposite for its situation and community.

As we flesh out in the Taxonomy the implications are particularly profound for school principals, school councils/boards, education authorities, teacher development, professional development agencies, educational researchers, policy makers and governments.

There is in the global commonality of the evolution and the degree of common natural growth more than a hint that governments don’t have the degree of control over the development of schools, as they invariably like to imagine.

Vitally there is also the affirmation – contrary to so much government and technology corporation spin – that it takes years – not months – for schools to move along the evolutionary continuum and fundamentally to change their cultures.

The pathfinders studied have reached their current position after 15/20 years of visioning, astute proactive leadership and concerted effort.  While it should not take the later adopters as long one is still in most instances talking years – not months – to reach the digital normalisation stage.