Category Archives: Implications school evolution

Primary Schools Will Evolve Faster

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

A decade plus study of the digital evolution of the pathfinder affirms to the authors that in general terms primary – or what others know as elementary or preparatory – schools will evolve faster than their secondary/high school counterparts.

The current primary school mindset, culture and organisational mode makes digital evolution appreciably easier than in the secondary school where the strong subject and exam focus, silo like organisational configuration, semi – autonomous ‘power blocs’ and size makes ready transformation difficult.

Critically the pointers are indicating the difference will grow.

We are already seeing primary school graduates moving from a higher order digitally based mode of teaching, where the children naturally use their own digital kit, to a lower order mode of teaching in the high school where the use of the student’s technology is still banned.

Not surprisingly the students and their parents are frustrated and invariably they are looking for those high schools where the disconnection is least.

It is a development that has very real student enrolment implications for the high schools.

However on present indications it is a development that most high schools could struggle to redress in the near future.

While not for a moment seeking to defend those high schools wedded to the paper based world the strong suggestion is that

  • the different rate of evolution between the primary and secondary schools be better understood, by both primary and secondary educators, and the parents and students informed of some of the main impediments potentially impacting the high school
  • the evolution of the two sectors of schooling be viewed separately and while understanding that both will ultimately move along the same evolutionary path and move through the same evolutionary stages the high school evolution will in general terms be slower.

In making the latter observation it must be stressed that one is talking in general terms, knowing full well there are secondary schools years ahead in their evolution than some barely moving primary schools.

It should also be underscored that the primary – high school difference is also likely to be evidenced within K-12 schools, albeit possibly slightly later if the school has adopted a middle school model.

Related is the importance of high schools comparing their evolutionary journey with that of like high schools and most assuredly not the typical primary school. One needs compare oranges with oranges.

The now clear and challenging reality, as yet few are seeing, is that the primary schools in general will evolve at an ever greater rate, in so doing increasingly adopt a digitally based, ever higher mode of schooling apposite for a socially networked world, very often moving their graduates into a more dated educational experience.

In bears reflecting why this might so.

The traditional form, size, focus, culture, mindset, teaching of the primary school, coupled with the greater collaboration between the school and the home makes is that easier for astute primary school principals to orchestrate their school’s on-going evolution than their high school counterparts.

Size and the relative smallness of most primary schools, and in turn the significantly fewer staff makes it that much more manageable to shape the desired ever evolving, evermore integrated, complex and higher order school ecosystem.

Primary schools have for decades had as a focus the learner and the desired holistic learning of all children, and when coupled with their use of an organisational structure with set classes or class groupings that emphasis provides a ready platform upon which to enhance all the staff’s macro understanding of the school’s workings and to collaborate evermore closely with the children’s homes.

Rarely does the primary school have the largely autonomous, subject based faculties or ‘empires’ found in the high school where middle managers are often reluctant to cede their power or vary their micro focus.

Rather the focus of all staff, the principal, the executive, the teachers and the professional support is a quality holistic education for every child. That focus, that thinking is relatively easy to build upon as the school begins lowering its walls, seeks to take advantage of the educational opportunities of the networked world, begins collaborating with its homes and community, and marrying the in and out of school learning and teaching.

Where genuine collaboration between the school and the home in the secondary years has invariably been minimal there is scarcely a primary school where the early childhood teachers have not worked closely with the parents. Once again that is a base that can be readily built upon and extended across all the primary school. In contrast most high schools have rarely collaborated with their homes, they unilaterally controlling the in school teaching and learning and as such in moving to a digital operational base and recognising the very considerable value of collaboration are basically having to start from scratch.

Importantly, except in the likes of England, most primary schools across the developed world have not had to contend with the stultifying external paper based exams that markedly impact the workings and thinking of the upper secondary school.

In brief it has been, and continues to be that much easier for the primary schools to move to a digital operational base, to build upon the opportunities availed, to ready their total staff and the wider school community for the on-going evolutionary journey and to evolve at accelerating pace.

 

Silo Like to Integrated Schools

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

A significant part of your digital evolutionary journey will be the school’s historic movement from its inefficient silo like organisational structure of Industrial Age origins to an increasingly integrated, efficient and productive one befitting a digital and socially networked society.

You’ll shift from the traditional arrangement where the various cells within the school – the classroom teacher, the faculty, the ICT unit, the library, the front office – operate largely autonomously to a significantly more integrated structure where all operations are interconnected and focussed on realising the school’s shaping vision.

A major – and again largely unwitting – driver of the shift will be the school’s move to a digital operational base and the recognition of the many benefits that flow from convergence and organisational integration. Digital congruence is the key. The physical networking of the school and the ubiquitous use of all manner of digital technologies that can talk to each other make redundant many practises and quickly remove the strict divisions between the operational units.

The vast majority of the world’s schools, and in particular the secondary are still impacted by the factory model with its strong division of labour and the assumption that if each unit on the production line does its job the students would graduate with an appropriate holistic education.

Many over the last fifty years have questioned that assumption and some schools have made major strides in adopting organisational structures that open the way for a more holistic education.

Until relatively recently the major impediment to the running of a more integrated school has been its underlying paper base. Paper as a technology has major limitations, the most important of which is the requirement that the information thereon has to be physically transported to its recipient/s. The high level use of that technology necessitated close physical proximity. The delivery of a paper to another member of staff meant getting up and physically delivering the information.

While philosophically and organisationally the school might have wanted to integrate its efforts while ever it retained its paper operational base its efforts would be frustrated.

Networks and the digital technology change the game. Not only does the digital operational base negate the physical and logistical shortcomings, stimulate operational integration but it also allows full multimedia creation, 24/7/365 communication, interaction and storage – all at pace and with little cost. Few have yet to sit back and analyse the impact alone of the physical networking of schools in that 90’s and early 2000’s.

The experience of the pathfinder schools would suggest the shift from the loosely to more tightly coupled school will be gradual, incremental and will accelerate the more the school matures its ecosystem.

That acceleration will be assisted by the school’s:

  • tightening focus on its shaping educational vision
  • efforts to ensure all school operations are directed to realising that vision
  • rising digital expectations
  • recognition that digital congruence is the crux
  • trust and empowerment of its staff and community, and efforts to ensure all have a better macro understanding of the school’s workings
  • endeavours to shape an increasingly mature and powerful school ecosystem
  • daily efforts to create an evermore productive ecosystem, that marries the in and out of school learning and resourcing

Experience has demonstrated that the integration will in general terms occur much faster in the primary or elementary school than in the high schools. The structural hurdles and cultural mores of the high school are far harder to overcome than those in the primary school.

In the secondary school in addition to the challenge of changing the culture, and shifting the focus away from paper based external exams there is the invariable silo like organizational structure and the fiefdoms and their warlords keen to retain their power base.

In brief if you are leading a secondary school on its evolutionary journey be prepared for a long and at times painful graduated shift.

 

Winning over the clients

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The bottom line in a market driven economy is that every school – state and independent – has to attract and retain sufficient clients to remain viable.

The new and added challenge for schools – that business is already grappling with – is how to win the continued patronage of the client’s year after year, student cohort after cohort in a world of rapid change and evolution? As Nokia, Blackberry and Yahoo can attest client support in the digital world can be momentary. What are perceived as exemplar schools today within years could suffer the same fate as Nokia if they don’t continue to attract the clients.

Both are realities that many schools don’t appear to recognise or to factor into their planning. You should in readying your digital evolutionary journey.

Compounding the challenge many of the same principals and teachers appear loath to view the students and their parents as clients, seeing them simply as ‘conscripts’ obliged by law to attend the school, fortunate to have access to their professional expertise.

That belief is particularly apparent in schools at the lower school evolutionary stages (Lee and Broadie, 2016). At that stage the leadership and indeed most of the teachers are firmly of the belief that the educational experts should unilaterally control all aspects of the schooling. The students and parents should be acquiescent and accept the control given by government to the experts.

The expectation of those schools is that the students and the parents accept the established ways and will, without question attend the local school.

That might have been acceptable to students and parents in the past. It might even be acceptable in some situations today where there is no alternative to the traditional mode of schooling but it is increasingly less tenable where there are good digital schools ‘competing’ for the student custom.

The stark reality in a market driven democracy is that if parents want to get their children into the desired state school – and they are willing to play the political game – they will invariably succeed.

In 2016 the clients, the customers expect the market – and not the government – to govern their choice. Moreover they expect organisations will not only meet, but hopefully will exceed their needs and wants. As soon as another organisation is perceived to do that better they will likely take their custom to the superior provider.

The same is on trend to become increasingly a feature of schooling, with the marketplace determining the winners (Lee and Broadie, 2016…).

Forrester’s in its research on digital transformation of organisations concluded:

  • The customer experience is at the heart of digital transformation. With customers in the driver’s seat of their interactions with brands, businesses must create positive and relevant customer experiences across channels and touch points. As a result, digital development and customer experience improvement are two key priorities for businesses (Forrester, 2015, p1)

The same holds true for schools.

We would urge all embarking on the digital evolutionary journey to treat your current and prospective students and parents very much as your clients. View them as clients who could take their custom elsewhere if they perceive their needs are not being meet. Follow the lead of the digital schools and indeed the digital masters in business and the public sector and focus first and foremost on the clients and recognise the increasingly tenuous hold you have on their patronage.

Putting their needs to the fore, listening to them, communicating with them through multiple channels, striving to continually improve the schooling, positioning the learner at the centre of the teaching and doing the utmost to ensure each child continually receives the appropriate schooling 24/7/365 in a rapidly world will go a long way to towards changing the focus and nature of the schooling and ensuring the school’s continued viability.

While many have advocated since the 80’s that schools should better meet their client’s needs most have not done so until they moved to a digital operational base, began lowering the school walls and recognised the considerable value of genuine collaboration with their current and prospective clients.

The challenge of identifying your client’s needs in the midst of the Digital Revolution is considerable. But the case study digital school experience strongly suggests that if the school trusts, respects and empowers its clients and works collaboratively them in their identification they will be satisfied and will work with the school in helping identify and meet the rising expectations.

That said as an educational leader within a rapidly evolving world you, like the leaders in industry will be expected to identify the client’s needs well before the clients recognise that need. The genius of a Steve Jobs was his ability to read as yet unarticulated customer needs. That will increasingly be desired of school leaders as they seek to identify the kind of attributes desired of the young twenty, thirty years hence.

That critical task is made that much easier if the school is focussed its clients and winning them for the long haul.

Forrester (2015). Digital Transformation in the Age of the Customer. Forrester for Accenture. October 2015 – https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Digital_1/Accenture-Digital-Transformation-B2B-spotlight.pdf

 

 

 

The Educational Power of Digital Ecosystems

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

What we are about to suggest will for many be contentious.

It is a suggestion that Mal has elaborated upon at http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2014/07/15/digital-technology-and-student-learning-the-impact-of-the-ecology.

It is to our minds a logical extension of all the previous writings on the growing power and impact of increasingly focussed, more tightly integrated digitally based school ecosystems and a rejection of the current naïve assertion that the digital instructional technology will somehow of its own volition enhance student learning in particular subjects. The technology alone never has and never will (Higgins, et.al, 2012). It is the way that digital tools and the connected word make much better practice possible that has the impact on learning

That said ask any parent or indeed anyone in the street and they will tell you the normalised use of the digital has markedly impacted the lives of all but in particular the world’s young. Globally they have embraced it outside the classroom from a very early age, have become very confident and proficient in its use and daily use it in a remarkably universal manner, consciously and unwittingly to enhance their learning.

Our belief is that is that the power of the digital is far more deep-seated than currently envisaged by most. The power is not to be found in simple linear, A then B relationships, but rather in the interplay of the myriad of variables within highly complex adaptive ecosystems. Led astutely, these act to increase engagement with learning and time on task, levels of concentration and the help in learning students get from their peers as well as their teachers

The signs are increasingly suggesting that the greatest impact the digital technology will have upon student learning in the school will come from

  • the technology’s underpinning all-pervasive role within an ever evolving digitally based school ecosystem enabling all to work and interact much more efficiently and effectively
  • highly capable leaders and teachers able to make the best educational use of that digital ecosystem and to operate at a significantly higher professional level.

It is the educational power of tightly integrated, focussed digitally based, socially networked school ecosystems which allow teachers of all types to simultaneously address 24/7/365 all the variables – in and outside the school walls – that enhance student learning. This far exceeds what is possible within a loosely coupled, largely insular paper based school where the teaching occupies less than 20% of the child’s learning time each year.

Critically while the power of the underpinning digital technology will grow at pace and the digital ecosystem will evolve, mature and move to an ever higher order, the capability of the paper based school has long been maximised and as such will basically stay as now.

No one in 2016 would suggest that a carmaker would enhance its productivity by simply installing a robot or that Apple’s success is solely dependent on a single piece of technology like an iPad. The enhanced productivity of the digital masters in the corporate world (Westerman, et al, 2014) comes from skilfully shaped, expertly led and staffed, highly focussed, tightly integrated, ever evolving digitally based ecosystems.

And yet in 2016 teachers, principals, governments, some technology companies and journals globally perpetuate the myth that one has simply to acquire the latest digital kit and as if by osmosis school learning will be enhanced. Decades of research (Higgins et al, 2012) affirm there is no significant linear connection between the use of digital technologies and enhanced student attainment. The randomised controlled trials on which this research is based cannot adjudge the individual attitude changes that occur in pupils’ and teachers’ brains, which foster the willingness to commit greater time and concentration, and that enable the higher order interactions and better learning

However until schools develop an apposite digital school ecosystem, adopt a culture therein that empowers the teachers, students and parents, and actively support all to take a lead role in the astute use of the digital in the 24/7/365 teaching of the young and which positions the school to grow schools won’t be able to take advantage of those opportunities and continually enhance their productivity.

It is time to appreciate the traditional, simplistic way of looking at the impact of digital technology on student learning has to fundamentally change.

Bibliography

Higgins, S., Xiao, Z., & Katsipataki, M. (2012). The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation London: EEF. Available at: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/uploads/pdf/The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_FULL_REPORT_(2012).pdf

Lee, M (2014) ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’, Educational Technology Solutions – July 15, 2014 – http://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2014/07/15/digital-technology-and-student-learning-the-impact-of-the-ecology/

Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

Distributed Control of the Teaching and Learning

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

If schools are to normalise the whole of school community use of the digital and to create a 24/7/365 mode of schooling they’ll need to trust and respect the contribution all within its community and distribute the control of the teaching and learning.

The total school community, all the professional staff – the executive, the classroom teachers and professional support staff, the students, the families and the wider school community need to be empowered, to understand the school’s shaping mission, to appreciate its macro workings and to play a significant part in the teachings, operations and growth of the school.

They need to ‘own’ their school.

In a socially networked society where learning and teaching can, and does take place anywhere, anytime it makes sense to actively involve – in an appropriate way – all the teachers of the young, and not as now focus simply on what the professionals are doing within the school walls.

Within that socially networked school community the principal and the teachers will need to continue to play the lead role – they having both the expertise and the time to so – but that role should also entail empowering the other ‘teachers’, giving them the desired direction and support.

Probably more than ever the principal must continue to play the lead role but not in an autocratic sense but rather as the school’s chief conductor, orchestrating the school’s daily operations and deriving the utmost from all the players in the workings, continued growth and evolution of the school.

In playing this role the principal, like all good conductors and CEOs, has to be the final arbiter. He/she listens, collaborates, delegates and takes on board the decisions made by others but in the end the principal has to make the final decision, even if the decision is simply to endorse work done or not to do anything.

More than ever the shaping of an increasingly complex, more tightly integrated school ecosystems requires principals and professional teachers who can provide the desired instructional leadership while also having a strong working knowledge of all the other major variables, human, educational, political, financial and technological that will grow the school’s ecosystem.

It requires astute, sensitive principals happy to empower others but knowing when and where to intervene to ensure an operation assists realise the school’s shaping vision. It moreover necessitates having an empowered, highly professional staff – teaching and support – with the macro educational understanding, confidence and the people skills to genuinely collaborate with and enhance the ‘teaching’ contribution of the non-professional teachers.

Traditionally within the strongly hierarchically school the principal and the others atop the apex unilaterally controlled the total operations of the school, often running the school in a highly autocratic manner. In so doing they disempowered most of the teachers, ensured the support staff played a subservient role and the students, their families and the local community had no real say.

When schools move to a digital operational base, begin socially networking in a significant way and recognising the value of genuinely collaborating with all involved in the teaching of the young, in and outside the school walls one sees notes in the pathfinder schools a significant letting go of the control from up high and concerted efforts to empower all within the school’s community.

The growing collaboration with the student’s homes and the school’s community has been discussed.

There has been in the pathfinder schools, particularly when they move to the Early Networked evolutionary stage a recognition of the importance of getting the most from the professional staff and listening much better to the students.

At the Digital evolutionary stage, while the teachers are using the digital technology most remain relatively disempowered and underused as professionals. The strongly hierarchical organisation model promotes in most staff a micro focus, a focus on playing just their part in the production line. Most have a limited understanding of the macro workings of the school, so essential in growing an integrated school ecosystem.

One needs to markedly enhance that macro capability of staff as soon as is feasible, but it will take time and needs to be done on the fly.   What hit home in the pathfinder schools was how accepting were the staff of the empowerment, the efforts made by most to lift their professionalism, their relatively rapid embrace of change and willingness to take professional risk and their preparedness to genuinely collaborate with their students, the parents and the school’s wider community.

How long it will take in your situation we don’t know. There are so many variables at play.

What we do know is that until the control of the teaching and learning is genuinely distributed digital evolution will be stalled, the successful whole school uptake of BYOT impossible and digital normalisation but a dream.

 

 

Home – School – Community Collaboration

Collaborative Teaching 2Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In moving to a digital operational base the school begins collaborating evermore closely and genuinely with its homes and community, in time marrying the in school teaching, learning and resourcing with the out of school.

It is a marked contrast to most traditional schools where most of the collaboration with the homes is tokenistic (Lee and Ward, 2013) and often one way, with the school informing the parents what they need to do for the school (Grant, 2012). While the literature, government policies and the research (Hattie, 2009) have long advocated genuine home-school collaboration it has rarely been achieved in a significant way until recently (McKenzie, 2010) with most parents reluctant to enter the school gates.

All that invariably begins to change, and to change rapidly and markedly when the school goes digital, and the principal and the teachers begin using the technology to reach out beyond the school walls and ‘socially network’ – using the latter term in its wider sense of ‘a network of social interactions and personal relationships’ (OED).

What one sees is a natural, largely unprompted change with the school becoming increasingly aware of the nature of the teaching, learning and digital resourcing outside the school walls, and the educational – and indeed social, economic, administrative and promotional – benefit of the school and its homes collaborating more closely in the holistic teaching of the young (Project Tomorrow, 2011).

Invariably the initial moves will be diffident, by the homes, community and the school, with it often being two steps forward and one back but in time with the school showing by deed its genuine desire to collaborate and the wider school community recognising the old barriers have been removed and the school gate opened the collaboration becomes normal and begins providing all manner of benefits.

With the collaboration comes:

  • a greater respect for the part the families play in the teaching of their children from birth onwards
  • a recognition of the extent and value of the student learning occurring outside the school walls, unharnessed by the school
  • a greater appreciation of the children’s 24/7/365 use of and proficiency with their personal digital technologies (Project Tomorrow, 2014)
  • an insight into how a collaborative, digitally based 24/7/365 mode of schooling where the young can be taught in context anywhere anytime can markedly improve each child’s learning
  • an awareness of why the school should empower its homes and the local community and enhance their ‘teaching’ contribution
  • the realisation the school should in a socially networked society distribute the control of the teaching and learning and over time to marry the in and out of school teaching
  • an appreciation of the wisdom in a socially networked school community of pooling the expertise and resources of the home, the community and the school in the 24/7/365 schooling of the young
  • a plethora of both intended and unintended benefits – with the latter likely growing as the level of collaboration and social networking grows
  • the recognition that schooling in the networked world should transcend the physical walls of the classroom.

The collaboration will, from the experiences of the pathfinder schools place an extra load on the school and the principal in particular. However over time the astute all- pervasive use of the digital technology will help lessen that load.

Almost inevitably there will be teething problems, dealings with over enthusiastic parents that will likely incline the principal at times to say ‘forget it’, but that downside is more than offset by the immense contribution the homes and the local community will bring to the school’s teaching, operations, its resourcing and its continued growth, and the continued evolution of an increasingly powerful and productive school ecosystem.

When schools open their doors, involve the parents in the school and genuinely collaborate with them in the 24/7/365 teaching of their children the nature of the schooling will be irrevocably transformed, with the parents forever onwards expecting to be involved in all the school’s work – and not shut out and disempowered as in the past.

  • Grant, L (2010) Developing the home-school relationship using digital technologies A Futurelab Handbook February 2010
  • Hattie, J (2009), Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, Routledge, Abingdon
  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Mackenzie, J (2010) Family Learning: Engagements with Parents Edinburgh Dunedin Press
  • 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
  • Project Tomorrow (2014) The New digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations Project Tomorrow 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014 at – http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/SU13DigitalLearningPlaybook_StudentReport.html

 

 

 

Optimising the Intended and Unintended Benefits

This is an extension of the earlier observation about linear and non-linear growth, and how schools should ready themselves.

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In going digital and creating an increasingly mature digitally based school ecosystem factor into your school’s growth and enhancement the very real likelihood of reaping an increasing number of unplanned, unintended benefits.

Be on the lookout for their emergence and be prepared to optimise those that will advance the school.

Watch also for potential disbenefits, the unintended undesirable developments.

Address the digital evolution of your school with what Bhaduri and Fischer (2015) refer to as a digital mindset – and which others refer to as a networked mindset – that recognises in the midst of Digital Revolution it is impossible to identify with 100% certainty all the benefits that will flow from the introduction of new approaches and programs.

It is appreciated that is contrary to the long held belief of the educational administrators that school leaders have some divine ability to identify every benefit and measure the realisation of each over X number of years.

The reality, stressed in the earlier writings on the evolution of complex adaptive systems and natural non-linear growth, is that in most areas of schooling it is only ever possible at the outset of an initiative to identify a portion of the program benefits.

The business management literature has long understood this reality and advocated organisations employ appropriate benefits realisation processes.

Thorp writing as far back as 1998 observed:

Benefits rarely happen according to plan. A forecast of benefits to support the business case for an investment is just an early estimate. It is unlikely to turn out as expected, much like corporate earnings are forecast (Thorp, 1998, p38).

That observation was made in the relative stability of the 90’s well before the Digital Revolution took hold, the social networking of society and the digital transformation of all organisations had begun to impact in a significant way. One is talking pre Google, pre Facebook, pre smartphones and pre iPads, long before society in general had normalised the use of the digital and social networking.

The message coming very strongly from the pathfinder to the later adopter schools is that:

  • seek as usual to identify the desired benefits of each initiative

 

  • monitor and measure the realisation of each of the benefits, but at the same time
  • observe the emergence of any unintended benefits – and indeed disbenefits

 

  • work to optimise the desired unintended benefits and remove the undesirable effects

 

  • don’t automatically regard an initiative as a failure – as is now often done by administrators – simply because it doesn’t yield all the projected benefits. Understand the initial aspirations are but educated guesstimates and that it is crucial to factor in to any judgement the unintended benefits

 

  • the number of unintended benefits is likely to grow as the school’s digitally based ecosystem matures, becomes more tightly integrated, sophisticated and complex and interfaces with other ecosystems.

Be conscious that many of the unintended benefits singly appear small but when combined with many other seemingly small changes can significantly vary the school’s practises and enhance the productivity. For example the adoption of a seemingly simple school app can significantly impact the school’s communication and its relationship with its community.

In brief – in marked contrast to now – identify and measure the total impact of the program, looking always at both the intended and unintended benefits.

  • Thorpe, J (1998) The Information Paradox Toronto McGraw-Hill

 

Accommodating Linear and Non Linear Growth

In posting this piece we appreciate we are – once again – addressing a development that has likely never been considered in school growth, but it is a reality found in the digital evolution of all organisations.

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The shaping of the desired school ecosystem entails, likely increasingly, the school leadership being able to simultaneously accommodate both planned linear and unintended non-linear growth.

School leaders globally have been schooled on the belief that schools will only grow, and grow in the desired fashion if the development is fully planned and its implementation carried out in an appropriately linear manner. The desired growth is achieved by doing A then B and finally C. So strong is that belief it is rarely questioned. It is taken as a given.

Globally governments and educational administrators reinforce that assumption by obliging schools to submit all manner of finely calibrated linear plans. In addition to the seemingly universal long-term school plans – that assume schools can divine the scene years ahead – there are also all manner of plans schools are obliged to submit to secure and retain grant monies.

The assumption is that only meticulous planning, that minimises risk can yield the desired school growth.

That thinking accords no recognition to the now substantial body of research on digital evolution and transformation (Pascale, et al, 2000) (Westerman et al, 2014) (Lee and Levins, 2016) that reveals when organisations move to a digital and networked operational base they will as complex adaptive systems experience considerable natural, seemingly chaotic non linear growth in addition to that planned.

As the power and sophistication of the organisation’s digital base grows, as that growth disturbs the existing practises, as the staff’s understanding of what can be done with the digital technology increases and the client’s expectations of the digital rise so all will work to further the growth of the organisation.

What is becoming apparent is that as the school’s ecosystem matures it will increasingly socially network and interface with all manner of other digital ecosystems and in so doing will not only realise the desired benefits but will increasingly provide the school and its community with many unintended – most assuredly unplanned – benefits.

In creating tightly integrated, closely interconnected, increasingly sophisticated ecosystems that simultaneously address all the variables that enhance student learning in and outside the school walls the schools are simultaneously creating a highly complex, ever evolving environment that will generate all manner of synergies and unintended benefits.

The ripples generated by that ecosystem will transcend the school walls and impact the school’s total socially networked community.

The digital masters have learned the art of accommodating planned and unintended growth (Thorpe, 1998). They understand that in the midst of a Digital Revolution even the most prescient and capable of planners can only ever ‘guesstimate’ the benefits of a new program and that the organisation needs processes to optimise the unintended benefits – and disbenefits – that will inevitably emerge.

That is what the authors saw transpired with the pathfinder schools when they moved to a digital operational base. Seemingly overnight the schools experienced considerable ‘natural’ growth. The astute principals soon appreciated the importance of giving the developments the space and time to grow (Lee and Levins, 2016).

The further schools moved along the digital evolutionary continuum, the more tightly they integrated the school’s ecosystem, the more they embraced a culture of change, trusted and empowered their staff and community, promoted risk taking and thrived in uncertainty, mess and seeming chaos the more became the natural non-linear growth and the greater the unintended benefits.

Unwittingly the leaders of those schools, like the CEOs of the digital masters in business, learned to accommodate both the planned and unintended.

The challenge for all embarking on the digital evolutionary journey is how best to do that.

It is highly likely the pragmatics of your situation will oblige you to simultaneously play the old and new planning games, and to do both well. There is the strong possibility you will be obliged to experience the pain and waste of time inflicted by bureaucrats set in their ways, desirous of maintaining their ‘control’, who don’t understand the digital evolutionary process. It is probable that like the pathfinder school heads you’ll need pay token attention to the ‘official plans’ while adopting a big picture development strategy able to accommodate both the linear and non-linear growth.

In saying that it must be stressed up front is that the successful schools, like their industry and public sector counterparts have to plan their desired journey and will in many areas need to employ apt linear plans – albeit being in the lookout for the unintended.

All this affirms the aforementioned mention of the shaping school vision and an organisational culture and agility to vary that planning when the need arises.

  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling, Armidale, Douglas and Brown – at  http://edfutures.net/Lee_and_Levins_2016
  • Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press
  • Thorpe, J (1998) The Information Paradox Toronto McGraw-Hill
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

Ecosystems within Ecosystems

Digital Schools Growing Their Community

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In contemplating the digital evolution of your school and the creation of the desired school ecosystem appreciate that as your school’s digital ecosystem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_ecosystem) grows so too will it increasingly interact with other ecosystems, local, regional and national unwittingly assisting those respective communities grow, while simultaneously furthering the school’s growth.

In making this observation the author is conscious it likely takes the reader into an as yet unexplored aspect of schooling.

The suggestion is you recognise:

  • the digital evolution of schools is occurring within an increasingly socially networked society
  • schools as social institutions are, and should be an integral part of that networked society, not as many would have us believe stand alone entities divorced from that world
  • social networking, while increasingly all pervasive and a potentially powerful educational facility is also an unbridled development, impacting – intentionally and unintentionally – all parts of the networked world, playing a significant part in the growth of all complex adaptive organisations
  • any consideration of the impact of the digital on schooling in a socially networked society needs to address the intended and the very considerable unintended impact, both within the school – as is normally done – but also upon the school’s community. With digital normalisation consideration should be given to the key ecosystems that interface with the schools, particularly the local and regional.

What is increasingly apparent is that as schools grow their digital ecosystem, the school’s growth will simultaneously and unwittingly grow the digital capability of the school and its community (Lee, 2015). In communicating the educational importance of the digital, in using it astutely and naturally in the everyday teaching and all the school’s operations, in assisting the children to use their own suit of digital technologies in and outside the school walls the pathfinder schools are also unintentionally saying to their communities, and in particular to the parents, carers, grandparents and each of those folk’s social networks the digital is important.

At the same time the school – particularly through the students – is assisting enhance the digital proficiency of all within its immediate community. The use of a school app for communication and interaction, the encouragement of the children to use of apt technologies and the children’s exploration of the emerging technologies all impact on the extended family’s 24/7/365 use of and thinking about the digital. The unwitting pressure for all in the extended family to use the current technology sees those loath to use the digital technology normalise its everyday usage.

Quite unintentionally – at least at this stage in history – the school is assisting grow the digital prowess of its community.

That is particularly apparent in those regional communities with pathfinder schools, where the digital prowess and application is appreciably greater than nearby towns where the school is not providing the digital enhancement.

Significantly as the school’s community enhances its digital proficiency so its expectations of and support for the digital in the school will rise.

The parents, the relatives of the children within that ‘digital community’ will invariably wear numerous hats, as town planners, business owners, software developers and work within other regional digital ecosystems. They will see the benefits for their children and the wider community in the various ecosystems interacting and collectively working to develop an environment that grows the total region.

That is what the author, along with Morris and Lowe found in the far south coast of Australia (Lee, Morris and Lowe, 2015).

The trend is very much suggesting, like it is with the digital masters in industry that the digital pathfinders in growing their school ecosystem will also grow their community, its life, culture, its digital proficiency and in time its industry.

If that is so it takes the role of schooling, and in particular digital schools into a new, different and very powerful position.

The author appreciates the above is cutting edge and needs far more research but as you address your school’s digital evolution it is suggested you look carefully at the interaction with other digital and networked ecosystems, the impact and the implications.

Bibliography

  • Lee, M (2015) ‘Digital Schools Grow Digital Communities’. Digital Evolution of Schooling. October 2015 – at www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net
  • Lee, M, Morris, P, and Lowe, S (2016) ‘Hub and Spoke Networking Model: On Reflection.’ Digital Evolution of Schooling February 2016 – at www.digitalevolutionofschooling.net

Pathfinder Schools as De Facto Policy Makers

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Unwittingly the pathfinder schools of the world, those that have normalised the use of the digital, have become in many areas of schooling the de facto policy makers and are on course to be increasingly more so.

Developmentally the pathfinder schools are invariably quite literally years ahead of the central office policy makers, obliged daily to decide on the appropriate practises, procedures and policies as they take their schools into unchartered territory.

The schools moving beyond the Digital Normalisation stage are entering into completely unexplored territory. How they evolve none of us know. Scour the literature and you’ll find no hint of what is likely to transpire.

The decisions those pathfinders make, how they deploy the emerging technology, the type of schooling they provide, the practises and policies they adopt will strongly impact the later adopter schools, far more in many areas of schooling than any central office bureaucrat, working party or academic.

It is a new reality that astute policy makers and academics should build upon, rather than as now being seemingly oblivious to the development.

Significantly in a globally networked world where schools as complex adaptive systems are evolving in a remarkably similar manner the pathfinders are unknowingly creating policy for the early and later adopter schools worldwide.

While the policy makers have only a local brief the pathfinders are unwittingly working on a global remit.

Analyse the attributes of the pathfinders (Lee and Broadie, 2016) and you’ll see they have shaped policies on the likes of home-school collaboration, staff empowerment, equity of student access to technology, pooled resourcing, recognition of out of school learning, BYOT and student responsibility for operating their chosen technologies years before the local education authority.

Moreover look at the trend line and you’ll appreciate that while the pace of digital evolution in the pathfinders is accelerating the operations of the local bureaucracy remain unchanged.

While structurally the pathfinders have the agility needed for rapid on-going transformation, organisationally bureaucracies are struggling in the cutting edge policy areas.

The pathfinders, like the digital masters in industry are using the vast body of data generated by their many digital systems to research the way forward on the fly, finding limited value in traditional, invariably dated rearward looking, external research by those who don’t know their situation.

Critically the pathfinders are operating within an ever evolving digital mindset, making decisions in a paradigm largely alien to most of the bureaucrats, committee members and academics who invariably will be working within a paper based paradigm, or as Bhaduri and Fischer (2015) describe, an analogue mindset.

So profound is the difference in mindset many pathfinders struggle to explain their work to colleagues and bureaucrats working in traditional settings.

The authors openly admit that while we have researched the pathfinder schools for over a decade we too struggle to keep up with the pace of digital evolution. All we can do is take snapshots of the schools at moments in time.

It is those in the early adopter schools who are calling the shots, unwittingly making many of the policy decisions and having them taken up globally before the local authority moves.

As Professor Glenn Finger observed in conversation in the traditional paper based schools where constancy and continuity were the norm school policy development invariably took the following form

Educational Research – Policy – Practice

 

Policy development, with its various white and green papers often took years.

Within the pathfinders that slow measured approach has been replaced by

Emerging Technology – Pathfinder Schools – Practice – Research – Policy

The pathfinder schools are in many areas of schooling the educational leaders, the de facto policy makers charting the ways for the later adopter schools, the policy makers and indeed government, rendering much of the traditional policy making and educational research irrelevant.

They are translating the emerging, increasingly sophisticated digital technological developments into classroom, school wide and potentially system wide practice at such a pace that most educational researchers and educational administrators struggle to comprehend the significance of the development let alone shape it.

It is a new reality all policy makers, those in the pathfinder schools, the education authorities and indeed educational researchers need not only to be aware of but which they should build upon .