Category Archives: impact of mobile technology on children’s education

The Impact of the Unintended on the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The history of the digital education of the world’s young over the last twenty plus years reveals the natural unintended, unplanned enhancement has been far greater, and far more effective than the planned.

The emergence of the digitally connected family, the global adoption of the laissez faire model of digital education, the historic change in the nature of youth, and youth education, the very young’s embrace of touch screen technology, the global move to 24/7/365 mobile learning and the facility for the illiterate young to use the networked world were all a natural consequence of the Digital Revolution.

The same natural unintended flow on was evidenced throughout society.

None of the developments were planned.

All evolved naturally, unintended and cost governments nothing.

In contrast, all the planned, highly resourced tightly controlled efforts by the governments and schools of the world to enhance the young’s digital education had miniscule impact (Lee and Broadie, in press). None of the hyped national ICT or digital technology plans, or the plethora of politically motivated roll outs of the latest technology or the billions spent on those initiatives go close to matching the enhancement brought by the unintended.

That said the success of the unintended was markedly aided by astute individuals, singly, in families and organisations who understood how to shape the megatrends to advantage, and the shortcomings of the totally planned was amplified by governments and schools that believed they were in total control, and didn’t need to address the megatrends or change.

The prevalence of the unintended, the naturally evolving, is a new reality, a major variable that needs to be better understood by all associated with the education of the world’s young. While the focus here is on the megatrends, the Digital Revolution has impacted every facet of the lives of the world’s peoples, fundamentally changing the way all ages and organisations go about their daily business. That now begins with the opening of the apps, and not the newspaper. Not even schools can escape that impact.

In examining the digital education provided worldwide in the period 1993 – 2016, in and outside the schools it was those that simultaneously saw the megatrends, recognised the importance of going digital, had the agency and the leadership that succeeded in shaping the evolving megatrends to advantage. This was evidenced in the digitally connected families of the world, those exceptional schools that normalised the use of the digital and the digital masters, in business (Westerman, et.al, 2014).  They recognised the importance of the digital underpinning all, of identifying and using the megatrends, of operating as self-regulating units and playing a lead role in shaping the desired future (Katzenbach and Khan, 2009), (Helbing, 2014), (Kane, et.al, 2017), (Lee and Broadie, 2017).

Kane in commenting upon the 2017 MIT Sloan study of digital transformation observed:

The need for transformation won’t abate, even if you successfully transform. It involves ongoing scanning of the environment to recognize evolving trends, continual experimentation to determine how to effectively respond to those trends, and then propagating successful experiments across the company (Kane, 2017).

All understood the imperative of continually identifying, building upon and shaping the evolving megatrends, the necessity of continually adapting operations and accommodating the unintended in one’s planning, and the importance of simultaneously accommodating planned linear enhancement and unintended non-linear developments (Thorpe, 1998) (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015). All moreover appreciated that most operations, particularly in organisations like schools and businesses, do have to be carefully planned, managed and measured, but that there are a growing number related to the megatrends that don’t and shouldn’t, and that it requires an astute leadership to get the balance right and to optimize the desired unintended benefits.

The businesses of the world particularly recognised the imperative of getting that balance right, and very real danger of disregarding or resisting the megatrends. All were very aware of what Solis referred to as Digital Darwinism,

…….the phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt. (Solis, 2014)

Over the last twenty plus years, as we detail in our forthcoming book on the Digitally Connected Family, most governments and schools did not see – or opt to see – the megatrends, placed limited importance on the digital operational mode, saw no need to distribute their unilateral control of the digital education or to lead the way in shaping a mode of schooling for an exponentially evolving digital and socially networked society. As far back as the early 80’s Naisbitt wrote in Megatrends of the need for the likes of schools to look to:

a network model of organisation and communication, which has its roots in in the natural, egalitarian, and spontaneous formation of groups of like-minded people (Naisbitt, 1984, p217).

Most chose instead to do what they had done for aeons, provide what they believed was best for the young, within the physical place called school, using a highly structured linear education where every aspect was meticulously planned and controlled.  They believed they could, with the help of the experts, could provide the desired digital education within the walls of the traditional hierarchical Industrial Age organisation.

Tellingly from the outset of the Digital Revolution until today they implicitly believed they could control, and if needs be resist the global megatrends, and decide which aspects should be banned and prevented from disrupting the teaching.  This was particularly evidenced in their choice of ‘appropriate’ technologies, the banning of all others and their rejection of the Mobile Revolution. In 2016, judging from the inordinate level of control imposed externally and internally on most teachers use of the digital (Lee and Broadie, in press), the governments of the world likely believed they had total control of the young’s digital education.

Ironically, they lost control the twenty plus years ago. They were slow to, or did not, understand, that 80% plus of the young’s learning time annually was and is spent outside the school walls.  While they unilaterally controlled the artificial world behind the school walls they had long been dealt out of the main game.

The young of the world and their families have long taken control of the digital education from near the beginning of the children’s life onwards (Chaubron, 2015) (Lee and Broadie, 2017c).  From the 90’s all within the digitally connected families of the world naturally adopted the laissez faire model of digital model of digital education, using it unwittingly everyday 24/7/365, continually enhancing their capability. It is a new global norm that goes hand in hand with the ubiquitous use of the personal mobile technology.

The other new but now long established norm is that all worldwide, from two to three years onwards, will for the rest of their lives take charge of their own digital education, learning how to use what they want, when they want (Chaubron, 2015). It will, on the experience of the last twenty plus years, be a highly individualised digital education, where each person shapes the evolving technology as desired.

The only way governments and schools can, twenty plus years on, effectively impact the digital education of the world’s young is to recognise the global use of the laissez faire model, and work to complement and enhance that model.

The Implications.

The implications that flow from the natural evolution and the unintended on the digital education of the world’s young are profound and on trend to grow. As the exponential nature of Moore’s Law kicks in, so the unintended impact of the Digital Revolution will accelerate and widen (Helbing, 2014).

The implications for the governments, education authorities, schools and education researchers of the world are particularly profound. Any who have worked in education, and particularly educational administration and research, will be aware of the belief by those in government, the bureaucracy and school leadership that all operations must be planned, documented, reported upon, evaluated and quantified, with nothing left to chance. Allied was the premise that all change had to be linear in nature and controlled. There was – and is today – no place for natural evolution, unintended benefits or non-linear development. Any who have readied a grant’s, innovation or a research bid will be aware of the mindset, the detail required and the underpinning idea that every outcome can and must be identified.

There was also the assumption that the school was a unique stand-alone, gated community unaffected by the wider digital and socially networked world.

The global impact of the unintended and natural evolution has shattered that convenient illusion.

While mention has been made in previous articles on the natural evolution of the digitally connected family (Lee and Broadie, 2017a), the laissez faire model of digital education (Lee and Broadie, 2017 b) and the pre-primary digital normalisation (Lee and Broadie, 2017 c) it bears reflecting on another very recent unplanned development, that is already on trend to be another game changer. Largely unnoticed in the developed world all the main mail and messaging services have in the last couple of years taken advantage of the developments in artificial intelligence, voice recognition and video compression to provide a simple to operate multi-modal communications facility. One can dictate a note with 95% accuracy (Google, 2017), send a text, audio or video, with a couple clicks. All these facilities are available on $US22 smartphone in Nairobi.

Overnight the illiterate or semi-illiterate young of India, China, Africa and the Americas found themselves able to use their verbal and visual intelligence to communicate with the networked world, using YouTube and the like, without having to use text or the keyboard. They suddenly had in a $US22 smartphone an educational tool that took them into a digital world that would enhance their education, literacy and life chances – regardless of schools or government.

 Conclusion

Over the last twenty plus years the young and the digitally connected families of the world have taken the lead in the digital education of the young, and indeed the wider family, having normalised the whole of family use of the digital for at least a decade (Lee and Broadie, in press) and being part of the of the 3.4 billion plus (ITU, 2016) connected peoples of the world using the digital every day.

Critically they have done it so naturally, successfully, efficiently, at no cost to government, without any grand plan.

Schools and governments have played little or no part in that natural unintended evolution.

As we argue in the Digitally Connected Family, governments and schools could play a significant role in enhancing the digital capability of the world’s young and go some way to redressing the shortcomings of the laissez faire model, but it will require a major rethink on the part of government and its educators.

They will need to acknowledge the natural unintended evolution, recognise they can only ever shape the megatrends, acknowledge they are part of a networked society and appreciate that if schools continue as stand- alone insular institutions they will continue to be dealt out of the play.

 

  • Kane, G.C ‘Digital Transformation’ Is a Misnomer’ (2017)  MIT Sloan Review August 7 2017
  • Kane, G.C, Palmer, D, Phillips, A.N, Kiron, D and Buckley, N. “Achieving Digital Maturity” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, July 2017 – https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/digital-maturity/digital-mindset-mit-smr-report.html
  • Katzenbach, J.R and Khan, Z (2006) ‘Mobilizing Emotions for Performance: Making th4 Most of Infdormal Organisations.’ In Hesselbeinm, F and Goldsmith, M (eds) (2009) The Organization of the Future 2 San Francisco Jossey-Bass
  • Naisbitt, J (1984) Megatrends London Futura
  • Solis, B, Lieb, R and Szymanski, J (2014) The 2014 State of Digital Transformation Altimeter
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

 

 

 

 

The Global Leadership of Digitally Connected Families

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parents struggled to find that support.

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

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

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

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

But it all came down to attitude.

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

Most governments and school don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digitally Connected Families

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

(This is the first of four short blogs on the work we are currently undertaking on the impact of the digitally connected families of the world on the 24/7/365 digital education of the young, in the period 1993 – 2016.  For years the focus has been on the schools. We are strongly suggesting the world needs to better understand the lead, and highly laudatory roles of the young and their families, and their 20 plus years use of a highly successful laissez faire learning model.)

The digitally connected families of the world over the last two decades have played a remarkably successful, yet largely unseen, role in enabling their children to secure an ever evolving 24/7/365 digital education.

In researching a forthcoming publication on the impact of personal mobile technologies on the digital education of the world’s young, since the advent of the WWW the role of the family rapidly became clear. It is the young with their families outside the school walls that have primarily provided the requisite digital tools and education – not the schools.

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

Well over a billion were likely young people.

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

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

Critically it is also time to understand that those families employed – unwittingly but naturally – a laisse faire model of learning and teaching fundamentally different to the traditional highly controlled, structured and sequential school approach. Vitally they have used an approach appropriate for a rapidly evolving digital and socially networked world. Schools in comparison are still very largely using an educational model from the Industrial Age.

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

It is – as most are aware – an informal education, largely self – directed, highly individualised where the learning is invariably non-linear, seemingly chaotic, dynamic, undertaken in context and just in time. It is an approach the young found highly appealing, exciting, relevant and intrinsically motivating. From 1993, the advent of the WWW the learning started to take place 24/7/365, and by the early 2000s the evolving technology allowed it to happen anywhere, anytime.

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

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

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

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

That was happening naturally and largely unseen globally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A key facet of the digital mindset (Bhaduri and Fischer,2015) is its acceptance of the rapidly evolving nature of the technology, and the transformation it has and will continue to occasion. This is widening the gap between the young’s experience of learning in and out of school

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

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

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

We are not suggesting for a moment that everything is perfect with the 24/7/365 education provided by the digitally connected families of the world.  There is a substantial gap between families in their ability support their children’s astute application of the digital.  As Ito and her colleagues (2013) attest in a laissez faire environment, like that of many schools, the educationally advantaged continue to be advantaged and the disadvantaged possibly further disadvantaged.

Rather the desire in this short post it is to

  • highlight the importance of recognising their immense achievement of digitally connected families
  • flag their use of a dynamic, freewheeling learning and teaching model which has successfully educated the world’s young in the use of the current technology, at no cost to governments
  • highlight the ease with which the model has accommodated rapid digital evolution and transformation – at a time when most schools struggled and remain in a state of evolutionary equilibrium
  • begin the thinking on the implications of this historically important development.

In the next post, we’ll address more fully the digital leadership of the digitally connected families and the opportunities that flow.

Bibliography

The impact of personal mobile technologies on the 24/7/365 education of the world’s young, 1993 – 2017

 

The digital leadership of the young and their homes

An invitation to reflect

Roger Broadie and Mal Lee are researching a monograph on ‘The impact of personal mobile technologies on the 24/7/365 education of the world’s young, 1993 – 2017’. We hope this will provide a foundation for further work on how government, schools and families can best support children’s learning in a connected world.

It will explore the impact of the evolving personal technologies since the release of Mosaic in 1993 on the young of the world, both in and outside the school walls, the changes in technology and technological practises that influenced usage, and the role played by the young, their families and the school.

Importantly it will address the evolving scene globally, and not simply that in the developed nations.

Moreover it will examine the nature of the digital education acquired in the 80% of annual learning time available to the young outside the school over the last twenty plus years, as well as that acquired within the classroom.

Twenty plus years since the advent of the WWW the world is watching the operation and impact of two distinct digital education modes – the out of school laissez faire mode that has successfully educated the young of the world in the use of the rapidly evolving technology at no cost to government and the formal, in school tightly controlled mode that annually costs governments billions of dollars – with questionable dividends.

We suggest it is time to pause, reflect and decide on the way forward.

Bear in mind around 3.4 billion people globally (ITU, 2016) daily successfully use the networked world, with few having being taught by teachers.

The research will explore these kind of big ideas, that

  • the nature of youth, and youth education changed historically with the advent of the Web and the facility accorded the young to access the information of the networked world directly and not through adult filters

 

  • the young and their families, operating in a laissez faire, seemingly chaotic world – and not formal schooling – have led the 24/7/365 digital education of the young for the past twenty plus years, and are track to play even greater leadership role

 

  • the digitally connected family became the norm in the developed world, around 2007 – 2008, with those families likely increasingly taking charge of their children’s 24/7/365 digital education.

 

  • most children in the developed, and evermore in the developing world will start school having normalised the use of the digital.

 

  • While cell/smartphones are integral to 24/7/365 lives and learning of the world’s teens scant or no use was made of that capability in most schools, with the few that are succeeding being largely ignored by governments in policy setting and the accountability measures for all schools.

To assist our efforts we are planning to interview a cross section of eminent educators globally who have observed, experienced, researched and/or commented upon the digital education of the young in and out of schools over the last two decades.

If you – or your colleagues – would like to reflect on the past twenty plus years with Roger or Mal we would love to hear from you.

Simply email Mal at mallee@mac.com and we’ll set up a Skype interview when convenient.