Category Archives: networked family

The Importance of Students Using Their Own Digital Kit.

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

This seemingly mundane management issue, that most educators view as just that, challenges the very nature of schooling.

Are schools in democracies places where the state compels a compliant youth to learn what and how government believes is appropriate, or are they organisations that assist an increasingly digitally empowered young ready themselves for life, work and learning in a rapidly evolving, often uncertain, digitally based, connected and socially networked world?

Are they physical institutions that must unilaterally control every aspect of learning of an appropriately compliant, subservient youth within the school walls, or are they learning organisations that work with all the ‘teachers’ of the young in assisting provide an apt, balanced, holistic and largely individualised education?

The litmus test to these questions is whether the school believes it must unilaterally control the choice and use of the personal technology within the school walls, or whether it is willing to trust and empower its students, and give them the freedom and responsibility to use their own suite of digital technologies astutely in all facets of their learning, including that within the school.

Educators as a group don’t appear to have grasped how important it is for the world’s young to be digitally empowered, and to learn from naturally using that capability. It is akin to owning one’s first car, but much more. It is not simply having one’s own highly sophisticated, immensely powerful technologies. It is having the agency to use those technologies largely as one desires, and taking control of one’s use and learning with those technologies. And being able to do so very early in life, before they can read and write, and to do so 24/7/365 lifelong.

It is an agency enjoyed by near 70% of the world’s young (ITU, 2017), (UNICEFF, 2017) – albeit outside the school walls, with the trend line moving at pace to near universal digital connectivity.

UNICEF’s 2017 study rightly observed:

Digital technology has already changed the world – and as more and more children go online around the world,
it is increasingly changing childhood (UNICEF, 2017, p1).

Until schools and their governments appreciate that digitally empowered young are the new normal, and are willing to adjust their ways, to relax their control, to trust and empower those young people to use their ‘own’ kit astutely and creatively in class schools will never normalise the use of the digital, nor play any meaningful role in assisting the nation’s young grow being digital.

Schools will remain doing the digitalwithout ever being digital.

It is appreciated that won’t unduly worry many teachers and governments.

But it does means most schools developmentally will move into a state of evolutionary equilibrium, unable to evolve as digitally mature organisations which can continually transform their operations and accommodate the accelerating digital evolution. Daily they will lag ever further behind the young’s everyday learning with the digital outside the school; their teaching becoming increasingly dated and irrelevant.

The national implications are considerable, particularly when the research (Lee and Broadie, 2018) suggests 70% – 80% of the nation’s schools show no inclination to forgo their control. Most will thus do little or nothing to enhance the capability of the vast human resource digital economies have in their digitally connected young.

The moment schools decide they – and not the students – must choose the personal technology the young will use in the classroom they forgo any hope of assisting grow the nation’s young being digital, having the digital invisibly underpin all school learning, of moving the school from an analogue to digital operational mode, and having it join and assist grow a networked society.

The decision relegates the school to the digital backwater.

In announcing its unilateral control of the technology, the school is proclaiming that it intends to maintain its traditional ‘control over’ ways, and that any use of the digital must fit within those ways. It is saying to the students and their families that not only do we know best, but we distrust you, are not willing to empower you, and we don’t value or recognise the lead role you have played – and are playing – in learning with the digital.

It is saying being digital is unimportant, and that a digitally empowered young – working with their teachers – are incapable of using the digital astutely and creatively in enhancing their learning in all areas of the curriculum, at all stages of learning.

Schools and governments worldwide seemingly don’t appreciate the very powerful messages they send when they make seemingly innocuous management decisions about the control of the digital technology.

It is imperative as a school leader you understand, and are aware of the wider educational and national ramifications of the decision.

The critical conditions.

Five conditions are critical to the sustained natural growth in learning with the digital (Lee, Broadie and Twining, 2018).

  1. Ready access to the personal, preferably mobile technology
  2. Digital connectivity
  3. Support, empowerment and trust
  4. Largely unfettered use
  5. Self-directed learning, able to collaborate when desired (Lee, Broadie and Twining, 2018).

Those five, closely related conditions go a long way to explaining why over two billion young (ITU, 2017), (UNICEF, 2017) are digitally connected, digitally empowered and have normalised their everyday use of the digital, and why so few schools have yet to do so.

If – and we appreciate it is a huge ‘if’ that pertains to the nature of schooling you wish to provide – your school wants to normalise the use of the technology, assist grow the students being digital, and vitally use the digital to enhance all their school learning it needs to understand why the digitally connected families – and the exceptional schools – have succeeded, and why most schools have failed.

Own’ kit and connectivity

Critical is that digitally empowered students can use their ‘own’ suite of digital technologies largely unfettered within the school walls, and have ready connectivity.

That carries with it the school’s and teacher’s appreciation of how best to build upon that ownership to grow the learners and their learning.  It entails a willingness to trust students to use in their everyday school learning the technologies they already use 24/7/365, the need to empower them, recognise, to value and build upon the students being digital, while understanding how they can take advantage of that capability in their teaching.

It obliges the school to understand this is a digitally empowered generation, with a digital mindset, ever rising expectations, who have long taken charge of their learning with the digital, who will do so lifelong, who have grown being digital by naturally using the apt technologies in near every facet of their lives and knowing how best to take advantage of that digital skillset.

The schools can, if they desire complement and add value to the students being digital, but only if they are prepared to support already empowered students use of their own kit in the ways they are accustomed.

Understand it is not about the technology per se.

It about how each of us in a digitally connected world, from around the age of three through to death, can control the use of, and learning with that suite of continually evolving technologies.

It is about being able to do largely what we want, when and how we want.

None who are digitally empowered tolerate ‘big brother’ telling them what they can and can’t do with their personal technology. That intolerance is amplified with a young that have only ever known a digital world, who have long taken charge of its everyday use everywhere except within the school, that have successfully individualised its application and which are likely to be more digitally proficient with the current technologies than most of their teachers.

While it might come as a surprise to many, educators need understand the world’s digitally connected young will only use the teacher directed, structured, linear approach to learning with the digital used by schools when compelled.

It is antithetical to the all-pervasive, highly integrated laissez faire approach they use every day.

  • Control over’ schools

History affirms (Lee and Broadie, 2018) that when the schools insist on tightly controlling the student’s choice and every use of the digital it will do little or nothing to enhance their being digital, their learning how to learn with the technology or crucially their learning in all areas of the curriculum.

All it does is reinforce the traditional analogue mode of schooling, its hierarchical operations, its unilateral control of teaching and largely closes the door for digitally empowered young to use their very considerable, digital capabilities and digital tool kit in their school learning.

Under the ‘control over’ model the ‘experts’ invariably decide on an ‘appropriate’ device, the operating system, software, apps, set up, storage, maintenance arrangements, upgrades and replacements. Their focus is the group, on all students using the same set up, with scant if any regard given to personalising the set up or individualised learning. It is the technology that matters not the learner. The ‘experts’ decide on the school’s ‘acceptable use policy’ (AUP). And how the technology will be deployed, used and monitored. Significantly they also decide – for the students and teachers – which digital technology will not be allowed; from the mid 1990’s banning most of the personal digital technologies and online services the students used 24/7/365 outside the school (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

In most schools, particularly at the secondary level, the technology will likely only be used within specific ‘computing’ or ‘ICT’ classes.

Net connectivity is tightly controlled and censored. Teacher permission is needed, and usually only allowed when the teacher thinks it is appropriate.

The focus is insular, on that happening within the school walls, within its operating hours, less than 20% of the young’s annual learning time.

Digitally empowered students and parents have no say in the technology used, the curriculum, the teaching or the assessment, they simply complying with the experts and teachers dictates.

  • Student choice schools

In letting the students use their own suite of digital technologies the school – perhaps unwittingly – takes a significant step towards adopting a more inclusive, networked mode of schooling, that seeks to genuinely collaborate with its students, families and community in providing an apt education for an ever evolving digitally connected world.

By distributing its control of the resourcing and teaching, and sharing it with the individual learners and their families the school is readying the move from an analogue to digital mode of schooling.

It positions the school and its teachers – at no cost – to continually work in class with students using the cutting-edge or near cutting-edge technology, and to largely overcome the growing technology lag evident in the ‘control over’ schools.

It allows the students to continue to direct much of their learning with the digital, to use the tools they know and use 24/7/365, that they have tailored for their learning style and to use those parts of their kit they – and not the experts – believe will best do the job at hand.

It provides teachers the freedom to work closely with their students, to take on their ideas, to be flexible and when is all is working well to step to the side and let the learners direct their learning.

In working with the student’s technologies, the teachers quickly recognise the individual learner’s interests and capabilities, able to tailor their teaching accordingly. Importantly it also provides the school with a bridge to the families, providing an insight into the capabilities and resources of each, making it that much easier to support and add value to the efforts of the families.

In exploring the work of those exceptional schools (Lee and Levins, 2016) that for some time have encouraged their students to use their own technologies the authors were struck by their willingness to genuinely collaborate with their families, to value and build on the out of school learning, to remove from the curriculum material already learned and to integrate the use of the digital in all areas of learning, and all school operations.

Everything appeared so natural. No one thought twice about ceasing to teach digital proficiency and simply building upon the student’s learning.

That said while the use of the digital was central to all operations, and Net access was appreciably greater than the ‘control over’ schools, connectivity was primarily through the school’s network, and as such appreciably more constrained than outside the school.

It was also evident – a reality confirmed by the case study follow up – all the schools studied were aware that at this point in the history their efforts to vary the mode of schooling were dependent on the current head, and that a change in the principalship or government could see the school revert to its traditional form, with years of effort wasted.

Conclusion

Within the developed nations of the world virtually all the young are digitally connected, and empowered, having only ever known a digital and socially networked society.

Their upbringing has been – and continues to be – within digitally connected families, with ready access to all manner of highly sophisticated personal digital technologies, and increasingly powerful, tightly integrated digital ecosystems.

From very early in life they have been provided their ‘own’ kit, connectivity and trusted, empowered and supported to use that technology largely unfettered.

By three most children born into digitally connected families will be digitally empowered, and have begun the lifelong journey of taking charge of their use and learning with the digital, understanding how to learn with it, and naturally and confidently growing their being digital.

They are never going to relinquish that power.

While ever schools refuse to attune their ways to the new reality the young, with the support of their digitally connected families, will continue grow their being digital outside the school walls, continually evolving their capability, and daily widening the gap between the in and out of school use of the technology.

Digitally empowered young are never going to going to embrace a highly structured ‘control over’ approach to learning with the digital where they are disempowered, devalued and subservient.

Rather as a vast, growing and evermore powerful cohort they will likely increasingly expect society and its schools to accommodate the changing world, and to attune their ways and adopt a mode of schooling where digitally empowered young normalise the use of their personal technologies.

As a school leader contemplating the way forward appreciate you are deciding on the desired nature of the schooling, and not simply a minor management issue.

Bibliography

 

 

  • ITU (2017) Measuring the Information Society Report 2017 Volume 1 Geneva International Telecommunications Union – https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/publications/mis2017.aspx
  • Johansen, S.L, Larsen, M.C and Ernst, M.J (2016) Young Children and Digital Technology– Aarhus University, Aalborg University, Danish Media Council for Children and Young People, February, 2016 – http://www.aau.dk/digitalAssets/201/201213_national-report_2015_denmark_proofread-2-.pdf
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2018) Digitally Connected Families. And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Lee, M, Broadie, R, and Twining, P (2018). Your Kids Being Digital. A Guide for Digitally Connected Families.Armidale Australia
  • Meeker. M (2018) Internet Trends 2018Kleiner Perkins May 30, 2018 – http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Digital: At Three. The Implications

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Children born into digitally connected families will likely by the age of three be displaying the key attributes of being digital: attributes they will evolve and naturally grow lifelong.

It matters not whether the families are in the developed, underdeveloped or developing world.

This development of the last decade, post the release of the iPhone and global uptake of the touchscreen technology goes a long way to explaining why near 70% of the world’s young are digitally connected (ITU, 2017) and two billion plus young people (UNICEF, 2017) have normalised the use of the digital and naturally grown being digital.

What we now know is that children born into a digitally connected family – a family that uses the digital technology invisibly in near ever every facet of its lives – will from the day of birth begin observing and mimicking the family’s ever use of the various technologies. By the latter part of the first year of life the children will likely try to operate mum’s smartphone. By the latter part of year two, but most assuredly by three the children will be digitally proficient (Chaudron, et.al, 2018), demonstrating the attributes critical to them taking charge of their learning with the digital, lifelong (Erikson, 2106), (Chaudron, et.al, 2018).

Significantly the children will have taken charge before they can read and write, they using what has been a largely latent inherent visual intelligence from birth to naturally grow their being digital.

Tellingly it appears the digitally connected families of the world have instinctively and naturally – and likely unwittingly – grown their children’s being digital in a remarkably similar manner, observing five key conditions (Lee, Broadie and Twining, 2018) – with no guidance or funding from government or its schools.

The educational implications of this historic global development are profound and game changing for parents, children, educators and governments worldwide – even if governments and their institutions choose to ignore the changes that have occurred. UNICEF in its Children in a Digital Worldstudy rightly concluded:

Digital technology has already changed the world – and as more and more children go online around the world,
it is increasingly changing childhood (UNICEF, 2017, p1).

Nature of the learning

By three most children in their use of and learning with the digital technologies have instinctively adopted the same laissez faire approach used by the young of the world – outside the school walls. It is a highly fluid, unstructured, non-linear approach where the children learn informally, invariably through play, just in time and mostly in context, generally astutely guided and supported by the family.  Driven by an innate curiosity it is usually discovery based, highly integrated, with the children using all the facilities available to learn what they want, when they want.

Theirs is a digital, largely visual and aural world, where video is dominant and where they instinctively first look to the touchscreen technology to access the desired entertainment, communications facilities and information.  The early indications are that the very young increasingly use the digital, and particularly the visual and aural facilities to assist grow their vocabulary, speech and ability to write, both with the keyboard and in time with a pen. This has been particularly evident since the introduction of the multi-modal communication facility on touchscreen technology that enables children, particularly in the undeveloped world, to by-pass the QWERTY keyboard.

By three the very young are showing clear signs of taking charge of their learning with the digital (Chaudron, et.al, 2018), deciding what they want to learn and how – ready to tell nanny ‘no I want to use my thumbs to navigate, not my fingers’. Very soon each child’s learning is individualised, with seemingly all unwittingly acquiring a common suite of capabilities (Lee, Broadie and Twining, in press) while also growing the skills that allow them to pursue their interests and passions.

By three it would appear the young worldwide have adopted the same approach to learning with the digital, that they will use 24/7/365 throughout life.

The capability is succinctly, if surprisingly, summed up in the Mark Billingham’s 2018 thriller The Killing Habit.

‘Got one!’ Without a clue what was going on, Thorne leaned down to watch, amazed as always, at how frighteningly adept the child was with the technology. At how kids could play games like this before they could read, could open apps, and navigate screens before they could manage joined up writing. He remembered Alfie, eighteen months younger than he was now, trying to swipe the picture of the TV and announcing loudly it was ‘rubbish’ (Billingham, 2018, p 349).

The nature of the learning – as you’ll appreciate – is antithetical to the traditional highly controlled, ‘one size fits all’, expert determined, teacher directed, structured linear teaching used in schools.

Two billion young plus affirm the world’s young have no desire to use the traditional approach, and that there is nothing government or schools can do outside the school walls to change that reality. They can if they wish support, complement and add value to the children’s out of school mode of learning. But they are never going to remove the agency and control the young now have over a key aspect of modern life – except within government controlled classrooms.

Core to the sustained natural learning with the digital, and digital normalisation – as we elaborate upon in Your Kid’s Being Digital (Lee, Broadie, and Twining, 2018) – are five conditions, that families globally appear to have instinctively observed.

  1. Ready access to the personal, preferably mobile technology
  2. Digital connectivity
  3. Support, empowerment and trust
  4. Largely unfettered use
  5. Self-directed learning, able to collaborate when desired.

Collectively the conditions have worked to naturally grow the children’s being digital.

Being digital

Being digital is far more than digital proficiency, and being able to use the evolving digital media 24/7/365 efficiently and effectively. It is about having a mindset, a mode of thinking, an expression of values, a set of ever rising expectations, an ability to draw on many connected elements, a way of learning and understanding how to learn, a taking charge of one’s own learning, being able to network, to accommodate accelerating change, to continually develop, lifelong (Lee and Broadie, 2018,a).

Proficiency wise, as Billingham observes, the children by three have demonstrated their ability to readily work the core functionality of the current personal and family digital technologies (Chaudron, 2015, Chaudron, et.al, 2018).

Well before they can read, write or begin school they have learned to use the visual, and increasingly the audio AI controls to navigate the networked world, and use the digital media to access the desired functions.

Moreover, they have learnt to use the various digital communications facilities, strongly favouring video.

With their strong digital mindset, their first step is to use the digital and the connectivity, with that propensity normalised before they start to read and write. The book to them is a second order technology

They are very much a digital, not a pen and paper generation.

In having the agency and capability to use the technology largely unfettered the children globally have shown they will – as they have for thousands of years – pursue their interests and passions, aided today with increasingly sophisticated and powerful digital tools (Ito, et.al, 2013). UK’s Ofcom for example has noted that in 2017 42% of 3-4 year olds used YouTube, up 10% on the year before (Ofcom, 2016, 2017).

While kids have always had this capacity in their informal learning the parent’s provision of the technology, connectivity and agency overnight removed the traditional adult gatekeepers of the information and gave children the freedom to access the resources of the networked world, the moment desired.

It moreover enabled them to decide the best approach to the learning. They – and not an adult – decide when to employ a discovery based, didactic or highly repetitive learning approach.

Similarly, each child chooses the digital tools they need for the task at hand.

Implications

The implications of the young being digital by three are profound and far reaching, for the young, their parents, families, schools and governments and society in general.

They are yet little appreciated, particularly by most educators, governments and the media – that appear to be more focussed on the dangers of the technology rather than the profound impact it has had, and will continue to have worldwide, both on the up and the down side.

It has, as the UNICEF study (2017) notes changed the nature of both youth, and youth education – albeit outside the school walls.

It is vital the young as they mature better understand the implications of taking charge of their learning with the digital, learning how to learn and becoming increasingly autonomous learners.

While 70% of the world’s young are digitally connected 30% are not. They are, educationally, socially and economically disadvantaged.

Connectivity can be a game changer for some of the world’s most marginalized children, helping them fulfil their potential and break intergenerational cycles of poverty (UNICEF, 2017. P1).

The parents of the young need to better appreciate the many implications of playing the lead role in growing their children being digital from birth, to understand the family’s educational strengths in this area far outweigh the schools (Lee and Broadie, 2108, b) and that they cannot rely on the schools to assist grow their children taking charge of their 24/7/365 learning with the digital.

Schools and governments need to grasp that they have no control over the world’s young growing their being digital, and never will while ever they continue with their insular, school focussed, structured, ‘control over’ approach to digital learning, and dismiss the learning occurring naturally in the families from birth.

Governments could better assist by investing a fraction of the millions spent on technology in schools by giving the monies directly to the families in need.

Conclusion

By the age of three the die is largely cast on the young’s adoption of their approach to learning with the digital. As the children mature and naturally grow and evolve their being digital so they will develop as largely autonomous learners and do so lifelong everywhere – other than the classroom.

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empower and Educate: Not Ban

 

Avoid Damaging the Schools

 Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Being digital in a universally connected world is a core educational capability all the young will require.

At first glance, it is logical to expect schools to lead the way in growing that capability.

When a nation like France decides to ban the use of smartphones in all its schools many will ask how is it going to ready its young for being digital?  The same holds of schools that chose to ban the children’s kit.

Isn’t it better to educate them on the use of the digital astutely, than to ban the technology and abrogate responsibility? Shouldn’t the nation’s schools, funded to educate the young, be nurturing that core capability?

As a general principle, the answer is yes.

That said one must simultaneously also ask a question rarely posed – who is best placed to grow the young’s being digital?

History (Lee and Broadie, 2018) affirms that while ‘being digital’ is in part an inherent capability, that will largely naturally grow from birth onwards it does require the astute guidance of elders to support and shape its appropriate growth.

Seemingly highly logical.

The answer as to who is best placed is however not black and white.

Twenty plus years of history and digital disruption (Lee and Broadie, 2018) suggests the best way forward is rather more nuanced.

Governments, schools, many academics and even the media seemingly have no doubt it should be the schools, with the teachers implementing the policies of government.

History and near two billion digitally connected young say it should – and will be – the digitally connected families of the world.

And that parents globally have – largely unseen – already adopted the new global normal, where the families play the lead role, from the day the child is born. The trend is very strongly for the digitally connected families to play an increasingly central role in nurturing the children’s learning with the digital, and for the schools at best to play a complementary role, and critically only when they are prepared to create a learning culture akin to, and build upon the leadership of the families.

This development is a natural flow on from the Digital Revolution, and the continuing exponential digital evolution.

The current reality is that it will make little or no difference to the world’s young being digital if most schools and governments ban the use of the children’s personal digital technologies in the classrooms. It hasn’t made any difference since the mid 1990’s when society began going digital, and the schools retreated behind their cyber walls and successfully repelled the Digital, and Mobile Revolutions (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

Ironically the bans will likely negatively impact the schools more than the young.

The natural growth of the young’s being digital will, on current trends, continue unabated.

Most schools have long been dealt out of the main play in the young’s learning with the digital.

Near on 70% (ITU, 2017) of the world’s young are digitally connected and have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital, from the age of three upwards.

Governments and most schools globally have played no significant part in that connectivity.

It has been – and continues to be – the digitally connected families of the world that have funded the technology and connectivity, and been willing to empower and trust their children to take charge of their learning with the digital, largely unfettered.

The governments and schools have provided the families of the young little or no funding or support, all the while spending billions of taxpayer’s monies ineffectually on school technology.

Indeed, from the mid 1990’s most schools have operated behind their walls, isolating themselves from an increasingly connected world, refusing to recognise the out of school learning with the digital, preventing the classroom use of the children’s mobile digital technologies, and leaving the families to fend for themselves.

Significantly the schools have not – and still don’t – attach great importance on the digital underpinning all learning. They see no need to grow the children’s being digital as a core capability, or to move away from their use of the traditional highly controlled and structured, linear teaching, within what are still Industrial Age organisations.

Critically most schools have not given their students agency over their learning with the digital. The students are disempowered, distrusted, have no voice in what is taught, are obliged to learn what the experts believe right, are compelled to use the school technology and to follow the dictates of the teacher.

In marked contrast the digitally connected families of the world, from the 1990’s onwards believed being digital in an increasingly connected and networked world was vital for their children’s education and life chances (Lee and Broadie, 2018). Revealingly a 2018 US Gallup survey on digital devices concluded while 87.5% of parents believed they were important to their children’s education only 36% of teachers held that belief (Busteed and Dugan (2018). Tellingly the same poll revealed that while only 13% of parents believed the devices could be harmful to the children’s education 69% of teachers believed they would (Busteed and Dugan, 2018).

While US figures little is the wonder that scant if any notice is taken of educators’ invariably negative advice on the acquisition and use of the most sought after devices in human history; devices that daily are becoming more central to life, learning and work in a digitally connected world.

Significantly the families not only provided their children the technology but supported their use of a strongly laissez faire, non-linear, naturally evolving approach to learning, where the children largely took charge of their use and learning with the digital.

As the technology evolved and became simpler to use so the age of those using the digital outside the school walls plummeted.

For at least the last five years, most children born into digitally connected families will by three have largely naturally grown the key elements of being digital, capabilities they will use, and grow lifelong – regardless of what schools or governments desire.

The die is largely cast before governments and their schools come into the children’s education.

The young will only use the structured learning approach of schools when compelled.

The several billion digitally connected young – and those millions being connected weekly – are not about to give up the agency over their learning, and abandon their highly successful, enjoyable and strongly individualised approach that naturally keeps them at the cutting edge. They are not about to revert to a dated, ineffectual approach, where their learning with the digital outside the classroom isn’t recognised, and they are distrusted and disempowered.

Governments and schools could learn much about who is best placed to grow the young’s being digital by comparing the development with the young’s learning to speak.

Both are inherent capabilities, naturally grown by the parents in the family setting, ‘operational’ with most children well before starting school.

Tellingly learning to speak – although one of the most basic of educational capabilities – isn’t formally taught by the schools, except with children struggling. A core skill that underpins all learning is naturally collaboratively built upon by the school and family.

The growing of the nation’s young ‘being digital’ from birth onwards, and having it underpin all learning 24/7/365 could and likely should be approached the same way.

It would necessitate the schools – and government – recognising the families’ lead. It would oblige them to appreciate that for decades the best teaching practice with the digital has been be found outside the school. It would entail schools growing a learning culture like the families, and being willing to empower and trust the young. The schools – like with speaking – would be complementing the efforts of and adding value to the efforts of the digitally connected families.

That is what is happening with those exceptional schools globally that have long ceased doing the digitaland are being digital.

Schools, governments can continue to operate alone, controlling every facet of learning with the digital within the school, dismissing the efforts of the digitally connected families, banning the student’s use of the personal technologies and declining to build upon the children’s digital base but all that will do is lessen the standing and relevance of the schools.

Children and families that have only ever known a digitally connected world will regard those schools increasingly as out of touch with reality, dated and irrelevant, with the students becoming increasingly disengaged and likely alienated.

Hand written exams are not their world.

The young – with the support of their family, peers, networks – will continue to take charge of their learning with the digital, to grow their learning how to learn and to apply that talent in an increasingly connected world to learn what they desire, by-passing the schools when they want.

Schools that try and compete with the families will lose. What little influence they have with the digital will continue to decline as those schools lag increasingly behind the families’ thinking and usage.

Significantly the schools that try and compete, and which ban the technology will deny the nation’s digitally empowered young the opportunity to work with many talented professionals, who if empowered and allowed to fly can take the children’s thinking and learning to an appreciably higher order. The untapped potential of the digital remains immense. All the nation’s young – and not just the ‘self-starters’ – need to be challenged and extended. It is not enough for the young to be digitally proficient – all should be continually challenged and supported by astute teachers and innovative teaching to operate at a high plane lifelong – whatever the young’s interests and passions.

Conclusion

While the history, research and logic strongly suggests governments and their schools should move immediately to genuinely collaborate with the digitally connected families the same history, and governments near universal desire to control every facet of schooling, suggests very strongly it isn’t about to happen.

There will be exceptional schools, and likely more exceptional schools that will be willing to distribute their control of the teaching and learning, and genuinely collaborate with their families, but most will not (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

Most schools, usually with the support of government, will continue with their insular Industrial Age ways, placing limited importance on being digital or empowering the young to take charge of their learning, and banning or inordinately controlling the young’s school use of the technologies they use 24/7/365.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digitally Connected Families: And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Three years ago, we embarked in researching the history of the digital education of the world’s young between 1993 and 2016, concerned the world’s schools were making little progress in going digital.

The journey took us into unchartered, and largely unseen and yet fascinating territory where the families of the young globally had for the past twenty plus years successfully readied the young worldwide to learn with the digital, from birth.

More than 60% of the world’s young are now digitally connected, and have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital – with no financial support from government.

We are delighted to be able to now share our insights into this historic educational development – with the release of Digitally Connected Families: And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016.

It is available at – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

At this stage, it is only available as an e-book.

It is – as far as we know – the first historical analysis of the young’s learning with the digital, in and out of schools, in the period 1993 – 2016, from the release of Mosaic and the world going online, through to roughly today.

The desire was to provide a research base upon which the authors’ and others could build.

The chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Digital Revolution and the Changed Nature of Youth, and Youth Education
  3. The Young, and the Evolution of the Personal Mobile Technologies
  4. Schools, Digital Education and Mobile Technologies
  5. The Evolution of the Digitally Connected Family
  6. The Two Models of Digital Education
  7. The Digital Learning Environments
  8. Learning with the Digital
  9. Pre-Primary Digital Education
  10. The Mobile Revolution
  11. On Reflection
  12. Conclusion

Being Digital

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

 In 1995 Nicholas Negroponte wrote in his seminal work of ‘being digital’.

The book didn’t define what was meant by ‘being digital’, but simply exemplified what it was likely to mean.

Twenty plus years later, and the movement from an analogue to digital society and with more than half the world digitally connected we can go a long way to clarifying what is ‘being digital’, and to attest why the growth of this capability is critical to the life and education of world’s young, from birth onwards.

Over the last twenty plus years, but particularly the last ten society worldwide has largely unwittingly adapted it ways to accommodate the Digital Revolution and naturally evolved a mode of learning with the digital, from birth onwards (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

It is the state of being digital.

It is already core to the young’s learning worldwide outside the schools, on trend to grow in importance as the digital technologies evolve, becomes increasingly sophisticated and powerful, and digital ecosystems underpin virtually all areas of learning.

It is far more than digital proficiency. While dependent on that proficiency, it is a mindset, a mode of thinking, an expression of values, a set of ever rising expectations, an ability to draw on many connected elements, a way of learning and understanding how to learn, a taking charge of one’s own learning, being able to network, to accommodate accelerating change, to continually grow the capabilities and to use them 24/7/365, lifelong.

It is a suite of linked attributes that will naturally evolve in harmony with the evolving digital technologies, technological practises and changing social mores.

It is a suite that simultaneously draws upon and enhances the other areas of learning.

It is moreover a suite that while containing many common features is individualised, with each child in being digital having the capabilities needed to pursue their interests and passions.

It is most emphatically far more than a variant of handwriting or digital literacy.

It is a connected way of learning that is richer, higher order and more diverse, which can amplify all the non-digital learning interactions.

As the children within digitally connected families grow, mature, develop their cognitive, inter and intrapersonal abilities, become sexually aware, build relationships, socially network, operate at a higher order of thinking and continually attune their ways to the evolving technology so they will develop their own form of being digital – and will continue doing so, in subtly different ways, at the various stages of life.

Being digital as a low caste child in Mumbai, a Masai herder’s boy, a seven year old girl in Riyadh, a ten year old in outback Australia, an Inuit teen or a sixteen year old in Vancouver, Seoul, Sao Paulo or Edinburgh will in many ways be different. But that said all those young people will also have many common attributes, not least is being digitally connected and able to take charge of their learning with the digital lifelong – albeit in their respective cultures, outside the classroom.

The global variability, the continual evolution, and the individualised and highly integrated nature of being digital should quash any moves by education authorities to try and assess the capability, and particularly to try and compare student attainment nationally and internationally. But let us be clear and affirm that the billion plus digitally connected young have never had need for their being digital to be formally assessed (Lee and Broadie, 2018) and that it would be educationally invalid, inappropriate and unnecessary to do so.

Rather let’s recognise what being digital is, and appreciate that in many respects it mirrors the development, importance and the way schools handle children’s ability to speak.

They both grow naturally from birth onwards, if not earlier.

Both likely build on inherent capabilities. With speech those inherent capabilities have been obvious for thousands of years.  Being digital draws extensively, particularly with the very young, upon what has been for centuries a largely dormant visual intelligence (Strom and Strom, 2009) that was most obviously brought into play from 2007 and the release of the various touchscreen technologies. While employed increasingly from the 90’s the visuals controls of the iPhone were a game changer, allowing all the young, and not just the teens to readily use and learn with the technology (Lee and Broadie, 2018).

The visual cues on the touchscreen suddenly made it simple for those in the first year of life to mimic their parents and siblings use of the technology, and by the age of three to largely establish the approach to learning with the digital they would use lifelong. By three most children born into digitally connected families will have normalised the 24/7/365 use of the digital, to the extent its use is so natural as to be invisible.

Both are of critical educational importance in a digital economy, and need to underpin all learning.

Tellingly both have been naturally grown by the family, with government and its pre- schools and schools playing a limited or no part, except with children who have difficulties.

Tellingly – but invariably forgotten – in an era where the focus is on the basics and testing the young’s ability to speak has rarely been rarely formally assessed. The development has been left to the family.

The big difference between the two vital capabilities is that while the importance of speaking has been understood for literally thousands of years the educational centrality of being digital is a long way from being fully appreciated by most in authority.

Most governments and schools worldwide have over the last twenty to thirty years have tinkered with aspects of learning with the digital. They have focussed on some of the parts and never the totality of being digital. They have toyed with programming, web design, learning to use Office, cyber safety and more recently coding, but only ever within the school walls, always deciding which aspects of being digital are appropriate to be taught and assessed – and which should not.

It is difficult to find schools that have naturally grown Negroponte’s concept of being digital.

It is similarly difficult to find schools or education authorities who recognise being digital is a state of mind, with immediate access to an integrated suite of digitally based capabilities, coupled with the facility to use any of the capabilities and the understanding of how to learn when desired 24/7/365. They seem not to have grasped that the suite has evolved naturally, been individually shaped and can’t – like the facility to speak – be validly measured.

They most assuredly haven’t been formally recognised in their teaching, assessment or resourcing the young’s being digital outside the school walls, or the central role the digitally connected families of the world have played over the last twenty plus years (Lee and Broadie, 2018) in facilitating and supporting the growth of that development.

It is time this critical capability is seen, understood and accorded the kind of recognition given the ability to speak, and the educational, social, economic and logistical implications of being digital addressed as part of a wider contemporary education.

The latter we’ll tackle in a follow up article.

With the advantage of hindsight and historical analysis (Lee and Broadie, 2018) there might be value in pursuing the reading example further, accepting with being digital that the die will be largely cast by the age of three, that the young of the world will lifelong employ in their use of and learning with the digital the suite of attributes associated with being digital – regardless of what government of schools might desire – and leave the core digitally based education to the families.

It is a radical thought, with immense implications, but there is much to be said for formal education complementing and adding value to the work of the digitally connected families, and ceasing senselessly trying to compete with the families in growing the young’s ‘being digital’.

Conclusion

At this point in history ask any digitally aware parent or grandparent what they understand by ‘being digital’ and they’ll likely quickly grasp the concept, but initially only at a rudimentary level, and that it will likely be only when prompted will they appreciate the many linked universal elements and their significance.

The same folk will likely also pick up the reality that they – like the other 3.65 billion plus digitally connected of all ages are also ‘being digital’. While the strength will vary let’s remember there will be seventy year olds who have played a lead role in using and learning with the digital since the 1970’s who in their thinking and actions have long ‘being digital’.

The new but largely unrecognised reality is that in the twenty plus years since Negroponte postulated being digital the world’s digitally connected peoples have become so.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2018) Digitally Connected Families. And the Digital Education of the World’s Young, 1993 – 2016, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Negroponte, N (1995) Being Digital Sydney Hodder and Stoughton
  • Strom, P and Strom, R.D (2009) Adolescents in the Internet Age Charlotte, Information Age Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parent Responsibility for Learning with the Digital

 

Mal Lee

[ This is intended as a discussion starter for use with both the parents and the staff, addressing a core issue rarely discussed].

The moment you give your children the digital technology you are responsible for its use and your children’s learning with the digital.

Not the school, not government, nor the technology companies, the internet providers, siblings or grandparents, but you. All the others can, and should assist, but ultimately you are responsible – likely to an extent few have thought about.

Moreover, you’ll be responsible until adulthood.

Not only do the parents have the moral, legal and ultimately the educational responsibility, but twenty years of history and over a billion digitally connected young globally have demonstrated that the parents are far better placed than any other body to enhance their children’s learning with the digital.

It is time to recognise the responsibility shown by the parents of the digitally connected young, to laud their achievements and to acknowledge the educational leadership role they have played and must continue to play, from the beginning of their children’s lives.

But it is also time for society to build on their success and understand that it will be the young and their digitally connected families – and not the schools – that will increasingly lead the way in learning with the digital – regardless of what schools or governments desire.

Governments, and particularly the schools like to believe that they are charge, and that only they have the expertise to provide the desired digital education. Indeed, most governments would contend that in closely controlling the use of the digital in the schools they are complete control of the young’s digital education.

They are not. And have not been for twenty plus years (Lee and Broadie, in press).

They assume learning equates with schooling, and that learning with the digital only takes place in schools.  They don’t appear to understand that 80% plus of the young’s learning time annually is spent outside the school walls, that more than half the world’s young have successfully learned to use the current technologies outside the school walls or that increasingly pre-primary children will start school having already normalised the use of the digital – with no input from the schools or government.

Globally governments and most schools have long demonstrated little or no understanding of learning with the digital in a Digital Revolution that is daily transforming the ways of the world (Lee and Broadie, 2017) (Lee and Broadie, in press). They mostly opted to stay with the traditional ways, within insular hierarchically controlled Industrial Age organisations, where teachers teach and assess year in and year out much the same as when you were young. There has invariably been no place in those schools for the children’s digital technologies or that learned with the digital outside the school walls. Indeed, France in late 2017 decided to ban mobiles in all its schools.

Not surprisingly the schools were very early dealt out of the digital education play, likely to remain so.

The ability of schools, even the most visionary, to match the learning with the digital provided outside the school walls, is impossible. Schools as public institutions controlled by government, bureaucrats, resourcing, working conditions, legislation, law, accountability requirements, inflexible organizational structures and history can never respond to the accelerating digital evolution and transformation in the same way as the highly agile digitally connected families of the world. Even if governments wanted its schools to change, or indeed to collaborate with the families.

In a world where the young are digitally connected 24/7/365 and expect to use their personally configured mobile technologies to learn in context the moment desired, anywhere, anytime, at speed, and largely unfettered they are not going to find that opportunity in most schools. Rather they will find themselves distrusted and disempowered, with the limited learning time tightly controlled, their every use of the digital supervised, connectivity restricted, their use of their personal technologies likely banned and the facility to direct their own learning with the digital denied – all supposedly for their protection and well-being.

The history of learning with the digital over the last quarter of a century has seen the schools each year lag ever further behind the out of school use, struggling – or not even attempting – to handle the accelerating pace of digital evolution.

As the research (Friedman, 2016), (Deloitte, 2017), and common sense will attest only the young within highly agile and supportive digitally connected families can hope to accommodate the current exponential digital evolution. All organisations, even the digital masters are now struggling to keep pace with fifty plus years of exponential change.

Over the last twenty plus years the young of the world have been to the fore with virtually every technological development – and are on trend to continue to be so – in large because of the support of their parents and digitally connected families.

What parents need to do now is to appreciate the role they have played, consider how they can better play that role and why it must be the parents of the digitally connected young who take ultimate responsibility for their children’s learning with the digital.

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