Category Archives: lead role of young and family in digital education

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.

 

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.