Category Archives: lead role of young and family in digital 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

 

 

 

 

 

Failure of School Digital Education

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

August 2017

The digital education provided by the schools of the world over the last quarter of a century warrants a strong F grade.

In educating the young for a digital society it is imperative they have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital, and that it underpins their learning and growth.

Most schools globally have demonstrated for twenty plus years their inability to normalise the use of the digital.

In 2016 3.4 billion plus people globally were using their digital connectivity daily (ITU, 2016) (Meeker, 2017).

Near on a billion young people were doing so, from as young as two years of age (Futuresource, 2017).

And yet few acquired that digital capability in a school.

Since the latter 2000s the digitally connected families of the developed world have normalised the use of the digital in every facet of their lives (Wellman, et.al, 2008) (Lee and Broadie, 2017a).  The digital underpins every facet of the families’ life, work and learning.

But not in most schools.

Despite governments treating schools as the sole providers of the digital education of the young, giving them a monopoly and investing billions of dollars, schools globally in 2017 markedly lagged the societal digital norm, daily falling ever further behind (Lee and Broadie, in press).

Since the launch of the World Wide Web in 1993 thousands upon thousands of teachers globally devoted millions of hours striving to provide the young the desired digital education. Many devoted their lives to the quest.

The reality is that all were obliged to do so within a traditional, linear hierarchical Industrial Age organizational structure, with factory like processes, mindset and culture. They were schools where the heads invariably had – and still have – little understanding of the digital, and where the government, despite the rhetoric, attached little importance to every child growing their learning through the digital (Lee and Broadie, in press).

The authors saw far too many highly able and devoted teachers leave teaching, burnt out, disenchanted and utterly frustrated by ineffectual heads, bureaucrats and network managers who imposed inordinate, often irrational controls on their teaching.

With the advantage of hindsight history reveals the teachers were asked to provide a digital education for a rapidly evolving world in a dated inflexible organisational structure, with their hands tied. They were expected to do the near impossible.

The level of control placed on the teachers, and increasingly the school heads, by government, the bureaucracy and the network managers was crushing and counterproductive. While often working behind the facade of school autonomy every aspect of the teacher’s work was constrained, by the likes off the hierarchical controls, the professional disempowerment, the level of resourcing, the working conditions, the legal obligations, a mandated curriculum, external exams, buying procedures, auditors, national standards and the endless requirement to provide the ‘office’ accountability data (Lee and Broadie, in press).

The teaching of the digital was invariably addressed in a discrete subject, highly structured, linear, sequential and regularly assessed and reported upon. It was done over the year, when scheduled, within the school walls and firewall, without regard to context, student need or indeed what student learning occurred outside the walls. The teachers were obliged to use a centuries old Industrial Age learning model to educate the children on the application of exponentially evolving media.

Atop those constraints, the network managers imposed their own, often unilaterally controlling every facet of digital usage. For most of the last twenty plus years they employed a one size fits all approach K-12, deciding on the operating system, device, software the students would and would not use, the network controls, preventing the use of any student technologies.

While admittedly extreme these two examples exemplify the kind of controls teachers had to work within.

In Rhode Island (USA) the education authority mandated the following:

  • All 22 school districts with 1;1 programs require parents to acknowledge there is no expectation of privacy in the use of the device, even if the schools explicitly allow the device to be used by parents or for non-school purposes.

  • Eleven districts specify that they can remotely access student’s 1:1 device at any time and for any reason

  • Only six districts that indicate that they have the authority to remotely access state that such access does not include monitoring via the camera or microphone (ACLU, 2017. P1).

It allowed the network managers to watch the young girls and boys in the privacy of their bedrooms.

How this was supposed to enhance learning is difficult to deduce. One can however see why the American Council of Civil Liberties was concerned.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) education department in its wisdom decided to ban the use of all Apple technology in its schools, a ban in place today.   It was done at a time when the rest of society had long been technology agnostic, Apple was the world’s largest technology company and global digital leader, and one assumes in the belief it would enhance the children’s digital education. Ironically it was also done at a time when the ACT government had won office on the promise of providing every child an iPad!

One can but wonder why.

Since the emergence of the Net while governments and schools globally have mouthed the right words and have spent considerable monies, the quest to have the digital underpin every aspect of the children’s learning and development has rarely been a high priority.  The focus was, like today, on the basics, PISA scores, maintaining the status quo and the traditional insular place called school.  Examine the state/provincial priorities set principals and you’ll not find digitally based learning.

35 years plus years after the personal computer surge of the 80s schools globally still employ pen and paper exams in every subject, including symbolically all Year 12 digital education courses.

The fact that today’s young are a digital, and not a paper and pencil generation, or that none could apply for a job with a hand-written note is conveniently forgotten.

Brian Solis, a leading authority on the digital evolution and transformation of organisations talks of Digital Darwinism

….when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt. (Solis, et.al, 2014)’.

That succinctly sums up the situation with most of the world’s schools.

In the last twenty plus years saw the world moved from an analogue to digital base, with all the associated ramifications. It affirmed the inability of inflexible, Industrial Age organisations, with factory like processes, mindset and culture – and particularly those like schools also tightly controlled by government and bureaucrats – to accommodate exponential digital evolution.

As the vast body of digital transformation literature (Westerman, et.al, 2014, Economist, 2015. Forrester, 2015, Accenture, 2016) and the closure of thousands upon thousands of analogue industries attests unless organisations can move to a digitally operational mode, operate as agile self-regulating units and create an evolving tightly integrated digitally based ecosystem and culture that accommodates the rapid on-going change they will fall ever further behind, and eventually close (Lee, 2015).

Most schools have been unable to make that move.

In marked contrast the young of the world and their digitally connected families have since the advent of the Web (Lee and Broadie, 2017a) readily accommodated that rapid change, and have since ‘93 used the current technologies and practices.

In many respects their success accentuates the schools’ failure.

In believing the digital to be vital to their children’s education and life chances, in buying the current technology and empowering the young to use it largely unfettered 24/7/365, the digitally connected families of the world did what the schools failed to do – ensure the digital underpinned every aspect of each child’s life and learning.

Moreover, in adopting the laissez faire model of digital education to learn how to use and apply the evolving technology outside the school walls (Lee and Broadie, 2017b) the families went a long way towards to ensuring the young would not only take control of their digital education but would do so for the rest of their lives.

As we delved further in our research it became apparent that

  • the 3.4 billion users globally of the technology acquired their digital understanding using the same laissez faire model of digital education, outside the learning institutions
  • the dated model employed in the schools was the odd one – and not the norm
  • unwittingly and unseen the people of the world have for near quarter of a century naturally grown their digital education, with the trend for billions more to soon do so, and to do so lifelong.

Critically the highly successful laissez faire model employed by the digitally connected families of the world

  • cost governments nothing, and was employed without any government effort
  • will continue to grow, evolve and be used by the peoples of the world – regardless of what governments and schools opt to do. Without knowing, governments globally have long since lost their control of the digital education of the peoples of the world.

In contrast the structured model of digital learning used in the schools, that ran parallel to the laissez faire model cost governments billions for limited returns.

In commenting on the success of the digitally connected families and the laissez faire model we are not saying all is perfect, or cannot be improved. There are many areas for improvement, not least of which is the need to lift the digital capability, but the reality is that 3.4 billion plus people have already proven the effectiveness of the model.

The structured, tightly controlled Industrial Age model used by the schools has after a quarter of a century of concerted effort and investment has not only failed to deliver, but shows few signs of ever doing so.

The Way Forward

It is surely time for nations to fundamentally rethink the role of schools in the digital education of the young, and the continued investment therein.

The track record of governments and schools would suggest that most will continue with the status quo, regardless.

The hope is that some will recognise that since 1993 the Digital Revolution has transformed the world and the lives of its people, with the nature of youth, and youth education having fundamentally and irrevocably changed.

Globally there are exceptional schools that have successfully normalised the use of the digital, which are genuinely collaborating with their digitally connected families and that have shown what is possible. Such schools are empowering young people to learn independently and collaboratively, and progressively adjusting their curriculum to complement the learning that happens outside of school. But they are having to do this despite governmental and education authority bureaucratic control and within official accountability and assessment systems that ignore the realities of the digital transformation that has happened in society.

The hope is that some governments and education authorities will recognise that in

the last twenty plus years the Digital Revolution has transformed the world and the

lives of its people, and that since the advent of the Web the nature of youth, and youth education has fundamentally and irrevocably changed.

But even starting to recognise this requires schools, governments and the bureaucrats to be willing to do a major rethink.

Bibliography

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2107b) ‘The In and Out of Schools Digital Education Models’, Educational Technology Solutions
  • Lee, M and Broadie (In press). Digitally Connected Families; And the Digital Education of the World’s Young 1993 – 2016.
  • Meeker, M (2017) Internet Trends 2017, Code Conference, Kleiner Perkins May 31. 2017 – kpcb.com/InternetTrends
  • Solis, B, Lieb, R and Szymanski, J (2014) The 2014 State of Digital Transformation Altimeter – http://www.altimetergroup.com/pdf/reports/The-2014-State-of-Digital-Transformation.pdf
  • Wellman, B, Smith, A, Wells, A and Kennedy, T (2008) ‘Networked Families’, Pew Internet October 19, 2008 – http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/10/19/networked-families/
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

 

Digitally Connected Families – Update

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was happening naturally and largely unseen globally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

It is a reality governments and educators need better understand.

Bibliography

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

Pre-Primary Digital Normalisation

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

[ Sitting beside us at a restaurant last Friday night a two year old was very happily immersed in the Australian Play School app]

Largely unseen, the digitally connected families of the world have over the last four to five years taken a lead role in providing their pre-primary children, from the first year of life onwards, the start of a quality 24/7/365 lifelong digital education.

Critically they have employed the same naturally evolving, highly individualised laissez faire model of teaching used so successfully by the digitally connected families of the world in providing millions upon millions of their older children the desired education.

It is a success that should be proclaimed universally and the parents commended for their success in contending with a rapidly evolving, uncertain digital environment.

The very real challenge for pre-primary parents worldwide will be to build upon that model, to proclaim its success and prevent bureaucrats and educators – no matter how well intentioned – from instituting the stultifying structured approach found so wanting within the schools.

The pre-primary children of the developed, and increasingly the underdeveloped world, are on track to begin formal schooling having normalised the astute use of the digital, and for the digital to play a central role in their upbringing, lives and learning.

The implications of the pre-primary digital normalisation are immense and are only now becoming apparent.  They will impact on every facet of the children’s vital early childhood upbringing and education, whether governments desire it or not.

It is a development all need to better understand if it is to be used astutely and enhanced.

Evolution of pre-primary digital normalisation

The origins of the development are to be found soon after the emergence of the WWW in 1993, in the historic change to the nature of youth, and youth education, that flowed from the digital empowerment of the world’s young, the evolution of the digitally connected families and the introduction of digital touch screen technologies.

The move by parents globally twenty plus years ago to empower the young outside the school and provide them with largely unfettered use of the online and the digital has as mentioned had profound implications.

By the early 2000’s the adolescents of the developed and increasingly the developing world had with the vital support of their families normalised the use of the digital, albeit outside the school walls.

As indicated by around 2007 – 2009 the digitally connected family had become the norm across the developed and increasingly the developing world, with the digitally empowered parents taking a greater lead role in their children’s 24/7/365 digital education.

It bears remembering that until the mid 2000’s digital usage by the world’s young was primarily by the teens, and while much younger children used the technology the keyboard and the mouse were not exactly child friendly.

The release of all manner of touchscreen technologies in the 2007 – 2010 period – the iPhone, the iPod Touch, the Android mobile operating system, Apple’s App store, the iPad and the Android based tablets– changed the scene irrevocably overnight.

Very quickly the age of those of using the mobile technologies plummeted. Devices like the iPod Touch and the iPad became very popular with the young, with many a young child also accessing mum and dad’s smartphone.

By 2012 – 2014 children as young as two or three were readily using iPads and the various Android tablets, with the parents having to contend with the development.

They, like the digitally connected families before them, moved naturally to using an informal, non-linear, highly fluid, self-directed, individualised, play based, parent or older sibling guided model of learning. Any who have sat and observed the very young at play on an iPad will have soon noted the children’s excitement, the use of the visual – and rarely the verbal –  intelligence in navigating the device, the integrated approach, the speed of learning but also the vital role the family members play in assisting the children over hurdles, and bringing the usage to an end.

The digital connected families of the world have – largely of their own volition –  accommodated the surge in pre-primary use very well.  A read of the European Commission’s study (Chaubron, 2015) of 0-8 digital learning in eleven European countries or the Erikson (2016) study of US families reveals the common sense, the balance and networked learning brought to play by the parents, and the limited contribution made by educators.

It bears noting that the UK Ofcom (Ofcom, 2016) reported that 37% of 3-4 year olds accessed YouTube from a mobile device in 2016.

We suspect every parent with a pre-primary child would appreciate some support and direction in the use of the digital, but the vital message should be one of commendation for their success in a period of rapid, accelerating and uncertain digital evolution and transformation, where few experts globally have much more insight into the path ahead.

In many respects the success should not come as a surprise. The current digitally connected families are among the most educated in their nation’s history, who have long normalised the everyday use of the digital. They have, particularly in the last decade, grown their ability to lead the out of school 24/7/365 digital education of the young and to use a learning model that continually delivers in an era of rapid uncertain digital evolution and societal transformation.

The Way Forward

In looking forward and providing advice to the parents of pre-primary children we’d suggest they

  • approach the role with confidence, and as a digitally connected family
  • continue using common sense, and treat each child as a unique individual
  • continually look forward, and not seek answers or ‘best practise’ from an analogue mode
  • reject all moves to structure and assess the learning except where this is part of the child’s delight in gaining mastery
  • continue drawing upon the emerging global research on pre-primary digital education
  • appreciate the pre-primary children’s application of their visual intelligence to their digitally based learning will likely over time occasion a reworking of at least sections of the Piagetian base upon which educator’s work.
  • become intolerant of schools that continue to refuse to recognise the very valid and important learning that happens in the out-of-school and in the family environment.

Appreciate as part of a digitally connected family parents are embarking upon a lifelong education, that will invariably entail all continually making the best use and application of an ever evolving, increasingly powerful, sophisticated and integrating suite of digital technologies.

One most assuredly is not on a short sprint where the parents will hand all digital education over to the school. Schools that do not collaborate with their families and listen to their pupils on the digital will not only fail their societal remit but will educationally, socially and economically disadvantage their students.

If very fortunate the children will attend a digitally mature school which will respect and build the children’s learning and genuinely collaborate. Sadly most schools won’t be interested and will expect the children to conform with the traditional one size fits all highly structured teaching program.

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Models of Digital Education

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The learning environments.

  • Digitally connected families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Digital learning in the school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The teaching models

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increasingly the course taught and assessed became dated and irrelevant.

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

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

The way forward.

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Global Leadership of Digitally Connected Families

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parents struggled to find that support.

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

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

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

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

But it all came down to attitude.

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

Most governments and school don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Making learning addictive

We are increasingly addicted to our computers and phones. This is not an accident. The companies devising those online offerings that grab and hold our attention know precisely what they are doing. It was at a conference back in about 2008 that I first heard people talking about this, so the understanding of how to get people addicted to your website isn’t new. This was all brought back to my attention this week by New Scientist who reviewed a book by Adam Alter “Why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching”.

While we may decry the amount of time young people (and many older) spend glued to their phones, the article did make the point that we can also use technology to motivate good behaviours. In fact it doesn’t need tech at all, though tech can be very powerful in multiplying the impact of what you do to addict people to good behaviours.

What has made me put words into a blog is that the techniques being used to addict us to online systems are identical to the approaches being used by the schools that have gained the Naace Third Millennium Learning Award, which are a good sample of digitally-evolved schools. They have shown us in their videos what they do to increase engagement in learning by their pupils. These schools are essentially addicting young people to learning. I cannot see this as anything other than a good thing to do. The choice of where these young people will direct their attention to fulfil this addiction is entirely theirs. Their teachers and parents will suggest and guide so that they hopefully direct their learning attention to good things, and most young people want to learn the positive things life offers. Addiction to learning is in a completely different category to addiction to things that bring harm or merely absorb time.

Having pupils in your school addicted to learning also creates major spin-off benefits for the school staff and even the school budget. Pupils excited about learning, with an appetite for learning, who practise learning and reinforce the learning of others is what we all want. Teaching becomes a joy, achievement rockets and everyone in the school has the satisfaction of knowing their pupils are well equipped for the learning challenges they will continually face beyond school.

So what are these techniques to addict people. They are things that stimulate our brains to release dopamine, giving intense feelings of pleasure and making us want more. They are:
– Feedback
– Goals, which should be just beyond reach.
– Progress, through a sense of incremental mastery.
– Escalation, via progressively more difficult tasks.
– Cliffhangers, to produce tension that demands resolution.
– Strong social connections.

Anyone familiar with computer games knows how they use these techniques. But you will surely recognise that social networks are also using them to grab our attention.

These are also the defining characteristics of schools that are providing an education that surpasses good traditional learning:

1) Really good feedback, from the teacher, from lots of audiences through in-school celebration of work and collaborative activities, through parental and family engagement, and through involvement of the community.

2) Aspirational targets agreed by pupils, made possible because the schools have installed a growth mindset and made failure the first step to success.

3) A very strong focus on progress, which makes it easier to set agreed aspirational targets as all pupils can see clearly their progress, even if it is from a low base. Mastery is celebrated and rewarded through peer tutoring and many pupils taking leadership roles in the school (one third of the pupils have leadership roles in one school we have looked at).

4) Escalation of the difficulty of the challenges teachers set pupils as soon as they successfully master the original challenge. With ‘stretch and challenge’ resources available for pupils to independently move themselves on to.

5) Cliffhangers introduced by teachers in numerous ways such as timed tasks, deadlines to present work to other pupils, collaborative activities in which pupils challenge each other, performances, competitions and real-life tasks where pupils interact with others outside the school.

6) Strong social connections weaving their way through all of the above, through class discussions, collaboration, peer tutoring, class experts, pupil leaders, numerous audiences in-school and online, and high visibility of pupils’ output to others as a normal part of the work they do in school.

All this is of course possible without use of technology, but immensely more powerful when the school makes the online systems available to underpin all these. Visibility of work, audiences, collaboration and feedback, clarity of progress, availability of escalating challenges, and setting of high expectations can all be immeasurably stronger with effective use of technology. Not to mention the tools and resources for the work challenges that technology brings.

It is time that more schools realised that it is not enough to bemoan that children are becoming addicted to their phones. It is time to make what happens in school and in classes more addictive than the pleasures they get through their phones. And to use the fact that children have smartphones to complement, reinforce and make more addictive what happens in class, making children desire to continue feeding this learning addiction out of class.

This shouldn’t be hard given that schools have trained adults on site and the face-to-face social environment in which teachers can build addiction to learning, as well as what comes to children through their screens – provided of course that the school has not banned the pupils from bringing their mobile devices into school. The school’s online presence, together with real humans for several hours a day, can be much compelling than a cleverly designed algorithm.

Marrying the in and out of school learning

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The rationale is simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

  • Boyd, D (2014) Its Complicated. The social lives of networked teens Yale University Press – http://www.danah.org/itscomplicated/
  • Erikson Institute (2016) Technology and Young Children in the Digital Age. Erikson Institute August 2016
  • Ito et al (2010) Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out. Kids Living with the New Media Cambridge US MIT Press retrieved 20 June 2014 at – https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262013369%20_Hanging_Out.pdf
  • Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.
  • Lee, M (1996),‘The educated home’, The Practising Administrator, vol. 18, no. 3.
  • Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) (2010) Developing a Networked School Community, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Meredyth, D, Russell, N, Blackwood, L, Thomas, J & Wise, P (1998), Real time: Computers, change and schooling, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra.
  • Project Tomorrow (2011) The New Three E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered Speak Up 2010 National Findings Project Tomorrow 2011. at – http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SU10_3EofEducation_Educators.pdf
  • Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York
  • Tapscott, D (2009) Grown up digital. How the net generation is changing our world McGraw Hill, New York

 

Empowering the School Community

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

Significantly the schools have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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