Category Archives: ICT evolution in schools

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

 

 

Technology Agnostic

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Recognise that in the school’s evolutionary journey and the quest to normalise the use of the digital you’ll be working towards a situation where the school is technology agnostic: where it doesn’t matter what personal technologies or operating systems those within the school community choose to use.

So long as the chosen technologies can readily access the Net as far as the school is concerned it doesn’t matter which folk choose.  While it is likely wise for schools to provide continually updated advice, part of the trusting and empowering of the school community is letting each member make the choice of the desired personal technologies.

Let the user, the learner, the client decide.

We appreciate for many raised and trained during the Microsoft hegemony, who experienced the Apple – Windows ‘conflict’ and who believed that all in the school had not only to use the one operating system but also the same model of computer this will call might sound sacrilegious.

The technical imperative for the school to use the one operating system disappeared at least 5-6 years ago with the emergence of digital ecosystems able to readily accommodate the many different mobile operating systems.  One has only to note the ease of providing all manner of smartphones, phablets and tablets instant access to the Net to appreciate why all schools to be technology agnostic as soon as feasible.

The assumption that all students and teachers must use the same hardware and software in the teaching and learning more to do with the

  • desire by the school – and its ‘ICT experts’ – to retain unilateral control of all aspects of the teaching, learning and technology resourcing
  • focus on the technology and its maintenance rather than on the desired learning
  • belief the young learn best how to use the technology when taught in a highly linear lock step manner, with the teacher in control, with all using the same technology, often with the school being able to monitor every key stroke
  • school’s distrust of and lack of respect for its students, parents and indeed most of its teachers
  • school’s insular mindset that focuses on that happening within the school walls, to the virtual exclusion of any student usage of the digital in the real world.

As schools mature digitally, genuinely collaborate with their homes, socially network, come increasingly to respect, trust and empower all within the school’s community and create a culture and adopt a mindset where the use of the digital is normalised the control over thinking disappears.

All come to appreciate that what matters is the facility of the technology – or more likely the student’s suite of digital technologies – to perform the desired functions.  In authoring an e-book it matters not whether the student uses an Apple, Android, Windows, Tizen or Firefox based system, or a mix thereof to create the final product.  While the ‘ICT experts’ will have their preference so too will each client.

That said, one can mount a case for a graduated shift and schools with limited technology staff opting to stay for a time with a common operating system.  However even those that have started this way soon open the doors for the students to use the kit they desire.

In embarking on your digital journey your school evolve at pace but so too will the technology and the practises one employs to derive the most from the current technology.

Work as fast as is feasible to shift from the traditional prescribed personal technology model to one that is technology agnostic.

Collaboration in Learning. Transcending the School Walls

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Mal Lee and Lorrae Ward published their research on the growing school – home nexus in 2013 in their ACER Press publication Collaboration in Learning: Transcending the School Walls. That work not only examined the nature of the collaboration in case study schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia and its many benefits, but also the importance of developing a mode of schooling and teaching apposite for an ever evolving digital and increasingly socially networked world.

Lee elaborated upon that work in ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’ (2014) and fleshed out how schools in their genuine collaboration with their homes could markedly improve the student learning. By

  • improving the home – school collaboration
  • empowering the parents and students and furthering their understanding of what is being learnt outside the classroom
  • making learning more relevant and attractive
  • lifting time in learning
  • adopting more individualised teaching
  • making greater use of peer supported learning
  • teaching more in context and
  • making apt use of increasingly sophisticated technology

the belief was schools should be able to markedly improve each child’s education.

The intention here is not to elaborate upon that work nor is it to repeat the points made in ‘Home – School – Community Collaboration’ (Lee and Broadie, 2016), but rather to comment on the developments that have occurred since writing the earlier works, and to place the developments in context.

What is increasingly apparent is that genuine home – school collaboration and teaching and learning that transcends the classroom walls is primarily a feature of a higher order mode of schooling. It is likely to be found only in those schools that have a digital operational base, recognise the learning happening outside the school walls and which are of a mind and have a culture accepting of genuine collaboration. While as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2016) educational leaders and governments have for decades extolled the benefits of home – school collaboration and spent vast monies and efforts in the quest, genuine collaboration – except in some niche school settings – doesn’t take hold until schools have gone digital, begun to socially network and are of a mind to nurture the desired collaboration.

What is also clearer is that genuine collaboration between the school, its homes and community is critical to the on-going digital evolution of schools, the shaping of school ecosystems that merge the expertise and resources of all the teacher’s of the young and in time the development of a curriculum for the 24/7/365 mode of schooling. Until schools are ready to collaborate, to listen to their homes and the young, to value the contribution all parties can make to the 24/7/365 teaching of the young and have in place a culture and digital infrastructure that will facilitate the collaboration they have little chance of creating and resourcing the desired ever evolving school ecosystem or of providing an instructional program for a socially networked community, that successfully involves all the teachers of the young. Rather the schools will continue as insular, site fixated teacher controlled organisations, increasingly divorced from the real world.

Genuine collaboration is thus one of the critical steps in the school’s digital evolution.

With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to examine the operations of schools that have moved beyond the Digital Normalisation stage it is also clearer that in genuinely collaborating with the student’s homes and the community in improving the education provided the schools will – without any significant extra effort or expense – also simultaneously enhance the school’s

  • social networking
  • ecosystem
  • resourcing
  • administration and communication
  • marketing and promotion, and
  • growth and viability.

Genuine collaboration with the school’s clients in the school’s prime business – the holistic education of its young – will in a digitally based, socially networked school largely naturally fuel the growth of the total school ecosystem.

While the silo like nature of traditional schooling inclines one to consider the teaching and learning – the educational element – in isolation, the situation within increasingly integrated evolving complex adaptive systems obliges all associated with the school, but in particular its leaders to always look at the integrated totality, and how the enhancement of a critical facet of the ecosystem will likely impact all the other parts.

Within an integrated school ecosystem the old division of operational responsibilities largely disappears. The focus is on the desired learning, with the school looking to use whatever it deems appropriate to enhance that learning. It matters not if it makes use of a community organisation, a communications tool, a student team, an online resource or a combination of ‘resources’. What matters, is the desired learning.

Achieve genuine collaboration in the learning and the school will be well positioned to continually grow its total ecosystem and productivity.

  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M (2014) ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’, Educational Technology Solutions – July 15 2014

 

Cutting Through the Technology Hype

Minimising the waste and maximising the effectiveness

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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A growing and perpetual challenge schools will face in their digital evolution is that of successfully cutting through the immense and often very sophisticated hype associated with all emerging digital technologies, to acquire the technology needed and to avoid wasting scarce monies, social capital and teacher’s time with the unnecessary and the ineffectual.

This is where the principal’s digital acumen is tested.

While the technology companies have over the last century plus displayed considerable marketing expertise in winning over the school market globally (Lee and Winzenried. 2009) their efforts in recent years have become that much more sophisticated – and in some instances one might say insidious. Most of the companies are simply doing their utmost to sell their product, but recent studies on a development known as ‘edubusiness’ indicate a few could be using their involvement in educational testing to ‘validate’ the selling of their instructional technology.

The studies by the likes of Hogan (http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/11666, http://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?tag=anna-hogan) and Lingard (http://www.educationincrisis.net/blog/item/1243-complementarities-and-contradiction-in-the-pearson-agenda) provide an insight into the techniques some of the multinationals employ to secure and hold the school’s custom.

Those studies underscore why the head, as the school’s chief architect and final decision maker, has to be able to cut through the technology hype (Lee and Finger, 2017), and why it is vital the school has a ‘chief digital officer’ (Lee, 2016, 1) who can provide the principal the requisite expert advice.

While those of us studying the evolution of the digital technology in schooling have observed the finite hype cycles of all the major instructional technologies over the last fifty plus years, and the often still very considerable gap between the technology rhetoric and the reality, daily we continue to watch schools and governments spend vast monies on dated and dubious technological ‘solutions’.

Schools, education authorities and indeed governments globally have over the last forty plus years wasted millions of scarce dollars acquiring inappropriate and unnecessary digital technologies. They continue doing so today. Election after election globally one sees the ‘in technology’ offered up to the voters. The poor decision- making is not only costly but also wastes the teachers’ time and impairs the productive use of the apt technology.

Disturbingly this has been so with all manner of instructional technologies since the magic lantern (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) and is likely to continue until schools – and principals in particular – exercise the requisite acumen and leadership in shaping the desired totality.

How great that waste of money and time has been no one knows. Suffice it to say any who have been associated with digital technology in schools for any time will be aware of the monies that have been, and are currently being wasted, the staff’s frustration of being lumbered with inappropriate technology and the damage caused the digital evolutionary quest when ill conceived decisions are inflected on the school. For example in the recent elections in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) the subsequently successful Labour Party pledged to provide every student an iPad. This ‘one size fits all approach’, that would be controlled by the Government’s ICT experts, without regard to each school’s situation was offered to some of the most affluent electorates, in one of the world’s most affluent nations. No thought was seemingly given to the reality that virtually every child in that wealthy city state already had a suite of personally selected digital technologies, that the children from a very early age had already normalised the use of the digital 24/7/365 and that the government was both duplicating the home buys and imposing a ‘solution’ that would stymy the digital evolution of its schools.

Sadly the ACT scenario is being replicated worldwide, probably daily by other governments, education authorities and schools. All are still focussing on the parts, and not the creation of the desired tightly integrated digitally based ecosystem (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 17).

It takes astute decision makers, supported by apt processes to acquire and secure access to the digital technologies required, to see through the hype and spin, to reject the unwarranted, and to minimise the waste and maximise the effectiveness of the technology.

It requires of them very good crap detectors.

Fortuitously it would appear the first of the schools have attained a digital maturity and an understanding of the desired totality where they can markedly minimise the risk of acquiring the unnecessary technologies, while simultaneously ensuring their staff, students and parents have the digital tools and resources required.

That said we’d suggest it is impossible for schools not to make mistakes. Digital evolution and transformation is by its very nature risky, the way forward uncertain and while the digital technology has improved markedly there is still often a large gap between the promised and actual performance. Mistakes, some substantial were made by all the schools studied. All one can ever do is to minimise the risk.

That risk can be markedly reduced by:

  1. Giving schools the power and responsibility for ‘acquiring’ the digital instructional technologies they require, getting the central office ‘ICT experts’ out of the play with the personal technologies (Lee and Levins, 2016) and having the latter focus on providing the bandwidth and where apt the network infrastructure. Be willing to say no to undesired technological solutions offered by the ‘ICT experts’, be they in or out of house.
  2. Ensuring the Principal and ‘CDO’ oversee all key digital technology decisions. All buys should enhance the desired school digital ecosystem and as such one needs both a whole of school digital technology budget, and most assuredly not the traditional discrete faculty/unit budgets, and simple checklists and processes that lessen the chance of the school purchasing inappropriate technology solutions.
  1. Moving the school to an increasingly mature digital operational base, distributing the control, empowering the school’s community and having all better understand the role the balanced use of the digital and socially networking can play in creating the desired culture and digital ecosystem. Having all, rather than a few ‘experts’ understand the desired role of the technology is vital.
  1. Pooling the digital technologies of the student’s homes, the school and its community and distributing the risk, particularly with short life cycle technologies. Schools don’t have to own the desired personal technologies to ‘acquire’ them. Indeed it is far wiser not to buy them, except in special circumstances.
  1. Adopting a BYOT policy, and in turn normalising the whole of school use of the student’s own suit of evolving digital technologies. BYOT – and having each student select, acquire, support and upgrade each of his/her chosen suite of hardware and software places control in the hands of each user and largely removes all the risk for the school and government associated with most of the short life personal technologies. With BYOT the school basically removes from its remit the near impossible task of continually funding and selecting the desired personal technologies for each child, while at the same time empowering its clients. By all means offer advice but the school and vitally government has no longer to worry about all the hype and risk surrounding the plethora of short-term personal technologies.
  1. Appreciating that the richness of the educational resources on the Net and the multi-media digital creation facilities and apps in the student’s hands significantly reduces digitally based schools having to buy packaged teaching resources – digital or print.
  1. Networking or working collaboratively with other ‘educational’ services, distributing or totally removing the risk to the school.
  1. Renting apt Cloud or app services. Many schools have over time built very extensive and expensive hosting facilities, the services on which have to be continually updated with the associated risk and costs. The rental of continually upgraded apps and Cloud based services removes much of that hosting cost and the many associated risks.

It also helps if the leadership:

  1. Understands the Gartner Hype Cycle (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle,) and those technologies whose life cycle is shortening. Appreciate – as Lee and Winzenried identified in their 2009 study and description of the life cycle of instructional technologies – many of those technologies will never move beyond the ‘hype’ phase, dying before they are viable. This harsh reality tends to be overlooked in the more recent Gartner studies. Think of the literally thousands of education apps and software solutions – many created and promoted by governments – that never really moved beyond the hype phase and ‘sit’ unused. The other point to appreciate is that in general terms the life cycles of even the economically successful instructional technologies are getting shorter.
  2. Avoids the acquisition or leasing of short life cycle digital technologies. The prevailing perception of likely most schools and the auditors is that the technology will remain current for years. The fact that it won’t and will be soon superseded needs to be understood.
  3. Recognises the total cost of ownership of the technology, and the importance financially, operationally and user wise of very high reliability, low maintenance and the ease of being integrated in the school’s digital ecosystem.
  4. Is aware of the moves by the major technology companies globally to ‘own’ the school and its data, their desire to ‘hook’ schools financially into long term financial commitments and is very wary about entering into any long term financial agreements with those technology companies.
  5. Is continually alert to the likely unintended impact and benefits that will flow from the 24/7/365 use of the digital and the importance of optimising the desired (Lee and Broadie, 2016, 21).

Conclusion

The ability of the head – with the help of the ‘CDO’ – to cut through the digital technology hype, to ask the telling questions and identify if the technology can assist the school realise its shaping vision is a critical leadership skill increasingly required in all digital schools. The failure to do so can at the extreme, as too many schools and education authorities have found, bankrupt the organisation or at the very least deprive the school and authority for years of scarce resources.

That is an unwarranted risk that can be easily avoided if the school’s leadership continually asks if the suggested new technology is needed and ensures the due diligence is undertaken.

 

  • Gartner (2016) ‘Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies’ Garner Newsroom, August 2016 – http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3412017
  • Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2009) The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016, 21) ‘Optimising the Intended and Unintended Benefits’, Digital Evolution of Schooling June 2016 – http://schoolevolutionarystages.net/?m=201606

 

 

The Digital Infrastructure and Ecosystem

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Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The successful digital evolution of the school necessitates it having an apt, continually evolving and largely invisible underpinning digital ecosystem.

It necessitates embarking on the digital evolutionary journey with the desire to create that digital ecosystem as soon as is feasible and to continually enhance its ability to assist deliver the desired education of each child.

Indeed one of the important lessons to be learned from the pathfinder experience is to openly share with one’s colleagues and school community the quest to create an increasingly powerful and productive digital ecosystem.

Without that infrastructure and an astutely shaped highly effective digital ecosystem all the school can do is dream.

Campus wide access to the Net within the school should be super simple. One click and all systems go.

Everything we have written thus far in this series of blogs is prefaced on the assumption that the school has

  • the apt underpinning electrical and digital base
  • created a mature highly effective and reliable digital ecosystem that continually supports the school’s efforts to realise its shaping educational vision.
  • provided its total teaching and learning community ready 24/7/365 use of that digital ecosystem.

To evolve digitally every school needs have

  • a highly reliable supply of electricity
  • apt total school campus wide Wi-Fi access
  • ample, but ever greater bandwidth
  • limited and reasoned Web filtering – with the school observing the laws of the land
  • current digital presentation technology in every teaching room
  • all having in their hands and using their chosen suit of personal technologies
  • personal technologies it can provide children in need
  • all staff – teaching and professional support – with the digital tools needed for their work
  • in its website the digital interface between the school’s digital ecosystem and the socially networked world
  • digitised all school administration and communication – gradually shedding all paper based processes
  • integrated all its digital operations, in and outside the school walls in its shaping of a highly productive ecosystem

The last point is critical.

One should be seeking to create from the outset an increasingly higher order and more efficient and productive ecosystem where all the digital technologies are geared to supporting the realisation of the school’s shaping vision, in manner consistent with the school’s culture.

The shaping and the daily governance of that apt tightly integrated digital ecosystem should, as indicated be the operational responsibility of the school’s ‘CDO’ or his/her equivalent.

It does, within a rapidly evolving environment where empowered members are actively encouraged and supported to take risks, require a ‘CDO’ with high-level people skills who can balance the quest to allow teachers to fly with the need to maintain efficiency. It most assuredly can’t be done by a part time ICT committee or by a network manager lacking the prerequisite high-level educational prowess and people skills.

Three of the early tasks before embarking on the digital evolutionary journey is to;

  • do a brutally honest appraisal of the school’s digital infrastructure and its capacity to readily allow everyone to access the Net at speed any time, anywhere they wish.
  • explain the imperative of creating the desired, ever evolving digital ecosystem.
  • select a ‘CDO’ and his/her team. As indicated the finding of the ‘CDO’ can be hard, but from the outset you’ll need someone responsible for overseeing the shaping and daily workings of the digital ecosystem.

It is highly likely that many of the digital operations to be overseen by the ‘CDO’ will currently be undertaken within separate silos, with those in charge of each often reluctant to relinquish their power.

It is thus important from the outset to emphasise the quest to create the tightly integrated digital ecosystem and to underscore the importance of its daily governance.

In 2016 many if indeed not most schools don’t have the requisite total digital infrastructure and most assuredly have yet to appreciate the imperative of integrating all the parts to form an increasingly powerful and productive digital ecosystem.

It is appreciated the school’s location and its resources can frustrate that quest but all too often the major impediment is the school’s leadership, and its unwillingness to prioritise the creation of a powerful digital ecosystem.

In the mid 2000s Mal observed that all schools in the developed world could if the head considered it a priority find the funds to place IWBs in every teaching room and network the school.

A decade on with the drop in technology and network pricing, markedly enhanced equipment reliability, virtually all children having their suit of personal technologies and growing societal digital expectations there is no reason other than leadership why any school in the developed world should not have an adequate whole school digital ecosystem. While concerns are expressed about lower SES schools the reality is that globally, developed societies fund schools on a needs basis allowing all such schools to acquire the technology if the principal desires.

If your school wants to evolve digitally prioritise the resourcing and formation of the underpinning digital ecosystem.

Remember getting the technology in place is the easy step.

Getting the school’s community to use the ecosystem to best advantage is the challenging stage.

 

Politicking School Evolution

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

On first glance this might appear to be an unusual topic to include in the digital evolution of schooling. You’ll not see mention of it in any school planning document.

But the reality is that every school, small and large and indeed every organisation seeking to evolve digitally needs leaders skilled in the politicking of change, ready to apply those skills whenever the opportunity arises. The organisational change literature (Kanter, et.al, 1992) suggests up to 20% of a leader’s time can be spent directly or indirectly in politicking the desired change. It could be much more.

In most instances one is looking at small ‘p’ internal politicking but there could well be times – quite pronounced in some settings – where the school leadership needs to astutely engage in large ‘P’ politicking and to work with the professional politicians in advancing the school’s evolution.

It is appreciated state school leaders across the Western world as public servants are invariably prohibited from the latter type of ‘collaboration’ but as any who have worked in school administration for some time appreciate there are ways of safely activating supportive politicians as sponsors of a change.

If one is to successfully lead the digital evolution of a school, either as principal or as a member of the leadership team one needs to be skilled in the art of politicking the desired change and the protection of one’s back. The latter is important.

It is critical the leader secures the requisite support and endorsement at each key stage of the evolutionary journey and nips in the bud any moves that could distract the school from realising its shaping vision.

That entails very good people skills, astute social networking, the securing of sponsors and promoters of the change, the generation of a strong reserve of social capital, respect, the close daily monitoring of the school’s total operations and an appreciation of when it is necessary to secure the endorsement of various parts of the school’s community before making the next step. That endorsement doesn’t always have to be formally minuted but it is always helpful to have at least an email record of any agreements for possible future reference.

It also entails – when the circumstances dictate – the principal being willing to make unilateral decisions. Hansen in his excellent study on Collaboration (2009) talks of ‘disciplined collaboration’ and the necessity of leaders ‘assessing when to collaborate (and when not to)…stressing the ‘goal of collaboration is not collaboration, but better results (Hansen, p15, 2009).’

The latter is often forgotten.

It becomes particularly pertinent as the pace of the digital evolution accelerates, natural nonlinear growth impacts and the school realises ever more unintended benefits.   There is scant time or indeed interest in scrutinising every step and a willingness to let those at responsible make the decisions provided they are consonant with the school’s shaping vision.

The pathfinder school experience strongly suggests, particularly in the early stages, the evolution can be two steps forward and one step back. One is most assuredly not looking at a clear linear, A to B to C evolutionary path even with the best of planning and politicking.

It is easy to forget that in going digital schooling is embarking on one of its most momentous historical changes, and is doing so in a historically remarkably short period. It is very likely that none of the school staff or parents has ever had a digital schooling, and as such has a clear understanding of what is entailed.

It is an immense change to politick, to manage and have accepted as the new norm.

It is thus imperative that one sell the school’s evolution not only with the staff and the educational decision makers but also with the school’s student, parent and wider school community – with one’s clients –and ensure as best one can the clients are supportive of the school’s evolution and growth.

Virtually all the parents have only known the traditional paper based mode of schooling and while generally supportive of the digital they will retain a degree of ‘digital paranoia’, will at times default to the traditional ways and interestingly will likely expect the school to ‘fix the problem’ even when the responsibility has supposedly been shifted to the parents. In brief even when giving an endorsement, such as supporting BYOT many parents will not grasp the full implications of that approval.

The challenge is amplified when each year the school takes on a new student parent cohort.

You’ll soon find the students, even the very young will be your greatest political allies, particularly when you empower and collaborate with them, and ensure they are taught how the 24/7/365 use of their digital technologies can enhance their holistic education. There are few things more powerful politically than having a total student group able to articulate to parents and visitors how the digital is improving their learning.

Experience suggests it will take time for the digital transformation of schooling to be fully accepted, but that acceptance can likely be accelerated by genuinely collaborating with all the ‘teachers’ of the young – the staff, the students, their families and the wider school community – respecting and recognising their contribution, empowering them and having all appreciate the macro workings and aspirations of the school such that all can assist with politicking the evolution.

  • Hansen M.T (2009) Collaboration: How to Avoid the Traps, Create Unity and Reap Big Results, Boston, Harvard Business School Publishing
  • Kanter, R.M., Stein, B.A. and Jick, T.D (1992) The Challenge of Organisational Change NY Free Press

 

The School ‘Chief Digital Officer’

Back view image of young businessman standing against business sketch

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Every digital school needs a senior staff member responsible for daily providing the school community the digital ecosystem that will enable it to realise its shaping educational and digital vision.

It is not a job for a committee.

It is a task for a high level professional educator.

It doesn’t matter what title the position carries – be it deputy head, e-learning coordinator, director of information services, digital technology or CDO – what is important is to have a person with operational responsibility for all facets of the school’s digital operations.

What is critical is that the school has an astute, visionary senior educator with good people skills and a high degree of digital expertise responsible for shaping, operating and growing the school’s digital ecosystem.

Business and many large public sector organisations are appointing high-level, very well paid chief digital officers (CDOs) to shape and coordinate all the digital operations of the organisation and to ensure all are directed to assisting realise the desired vision (Lee, 2016).

Tellingly all the successful pathfinder schools unwittingly have had such a person, albeit under different titles, with all having long abandoned the reliance on the part time ICT committee.

The provision of an apposite, ever evolving, increasingly powerful and productive school digital ecosystem that meets the particular needs of the school is a highly challenging task. It requires a leader and a team willing to actively support the distributed control of teaching, learning and resourcing that can provide the desired digital expertise, direction setting, infrastructure, services and support.

What is critical is having an educator who shares the principal’s digital vision and macro understanding of the workings of the school, with a strong awareness of the digital, able to work collaboratively with an empowered staff in providing the apposite tightly integrated digital platform.

The position requires an appreciation of the school’s shaping educational vision, the kind of digitally based ecosystem and school culture that will best realise that vision and the facility to provide the total digitally empowered school community the apposite, ever evolving, seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem.

It most assuredly does not require an ‘ICT expert’ who unilaterally decides what technology all in the school will use.

Critically it needs a visionary educator able to collaborate with a digitally empowered staff, students and parents, ensuring all are provided with the opportunity to fly with the digital, who can simultaneously govern the school’s use of the digital and ensure multiple systems and offerings are appropriately integrated and refreshed.

It should go without saying schools won’t evolve digitally and be able to govern the astute whole of school community use of the digital with a part time, invariably ‘bolt-on’ ICT committee. It is a job for the professionals with the time needed to fulfil this critical role.

If you still have an ICT committee get rid of it ‘tomorrow’, appoint the requisite professionals and integrate all matters digital into the everyday workings and growth of the school.

The role of ‘CDO’ is – as elaborated upon in The Chief Digital Officer and the Governance of the School Digital Ecosystem (Lee, 2016) – and the now many business management publications – is a demanding job, requiring a special talent and a skill set rarely if ever taught at the postgraduate level in education faculties.

Most in the role have like the digital leaders learnt on the job, invariably supported by astute heads.

It is highly likely at this point in time that you too will need to grow such a person. Look to mentors who can assist that growth.

We’ve gone out on a limb and stressed the school CDO needs first and foremost to be an educator, with a strong understanding of the total workings of the school, very good people skills and a high level understanding of the digital. One can readily grow the digital understanding but not the high level educational.

Our message for all school leaders embarking on the digital evolutionary journey is to find very early in the piece a ‘chief digital officer’ who can translate the vision into reality.

Bibliography

 

Pathfinder Schools Enter the New Frontier

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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The first of the pathfinder schools are entering a new historic frontier, taking schooling into the world of the unknown.

Importantly they are very well prepared to make that move and thrive with the on-going uncertainty, evolution and organisational transformation.

It is a development that governments and education’s decision makers would do well to recognise and to build upon.

One is talking about those as yet rare schools that have moved beyond the Digital Normalisation stage where they normalised the whole of school community use of the digital and which are building upon that digital platform to provide an as yet embryonic 24/7/365 mode of schooling (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

In so doing they are entering a world where no schools have entered and which from hereon the early adopter schools, as self regulating units, will be obliged to continually shape their desired future.

It is a new reality that the digital masters in business have learned to thrive within but it is something very new – and possibly very scary – for traditionally risk adverse education policy makers. Digitally evolved organisations exchange the certainty of hierarchical control for trusting relationships where improvement is devolved by empowering staff, with apparently more scope for failure but in reality far more success, from the breadth and depth of innovation well outweighing the risks

What lies ahead for those schools, what form the schools, as ever evolving complex adaptive systems, that are interfacing with all manner of other digital ecosystems within an increasingly socially networked world will take no one knows. The futurists can make their guesses but that is all they can do. Yes the schools will be able to benefit from some research on specific teaching initiatives but always the research’s relevance will need to be adjudged in context.

Significantly the pathfinder schools in their shaping of their digitally based socially networked ecosystems have unwittingly readied themselves to thrive in the unknown.

The pathfinder schools have positioned themselves to continually thrive and take advantage of the virtually endless educational options opened by the Digital Revolution by;

  • taking control of their own growth,
  • embracing a culture of change,
  • empowering their communities,
  • identifying and focussing on the desired shaping educational vision,
  • collaborating closely with and listening to their clients,
  • distributing the control of the teaching,
  • learning and resourcing,
  • building a strong underpinning digital base
  • and normalising the whole of school community use of the digital.

The schools are by virtue of their digital normalisation free of most of the constructs of the paper based world and its strong ‘site’ based thinking (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994) and are of a mind to continually attune their operations to the changing environment.

They are finally in the position, as largely autonomous self regulating units, to exercise considerable control in shaping the mode of schooling – the school ecosystem – that they believe will best meet the needs of their students in an increasingly sophisticated digital and socially networked society.

We say ‘considerable control’ advisedly because although the pathfinders are developmentally years ahead of the government decision makers and have in many areas become the de facto policy makers they, like all other schools are obliged to work with a suit of givens. All for example will be constrained by the resourcing, staffing agreements, physical plant, the obligation to care for the students within a specified time and the laws of the land, to name but a few of those givens.

We also say ‘considerable control’ because the schools are very much part of a wider continually evolving digital and socially networked society, impacted by all the forces at play in the society. They are also complex adaptive systems that will experience considerable and likely increasing natural growth and transformation – much of which will be common of schools at this evolutionary stage globally (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

That said the pathfinders have shown their ability to shed the ways of the traditional paper based school and to shape increasingly sophisticated digitally based school ecosystems with the agility to thrive in the seeming chaos of the frontier. They have become the type of self-regulating unit that Helbing (2014) has flagged as being essential to future organisational growth and evolution in the Digital Revolution, where the pace of change and degree of uncertainty renders the traditional centrally controlled bureaucracy archaic.

The key is for all to recognise that the pathfinder schools, like their counterparts in business will from hereon – largely regardless of the dictates of government – work in unchartered territory, taking charge of their own growth and evolution, heavily dependent on the professional staff collaborating closely with an empowered community in identifying the best way forward.

It also important that governments in particular appreciate that these schools are well prepared to continually thrive within the unchartered frontier and that government instead of relying on the traditional ‘expert’ committee that invariably identifies the way forward by looking through the rear vision mirror would do well to learn from and actively support the pathfinders.

What is clearly apparent is that the schools and their communities have through astute leadership been readied to enter the new frontier with their minds open, accepting of on –going change and evolution, with an organisational form and culture that allows them to readily adjust course when required.

They are not aberrant outliers but a vital insight into how all schools can be readied to continually thrive in a rapidly evolving digital and networked society, where no one can tell with certainty what lies ahead.

In many respects the pathfinders in schooling are no different to their counterparts in architecture or engineering in that they provide the later adopter organisations an important understanding of the evolutionary path ahead.

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages: Evolution within the Threads, Armidale, Australia, Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com
  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

 

 

Trust and School Evolution

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Trust is critical to the digital evolution of the school and achieving digital normalisation.

The principal needs to trust and empower all staff, the students, the parents and the supporting community. That trust will be repaid in numerous, very positive ways.

Trust fundamentally changes the nature of the schooling and opens the way for a more collaborative 24/7/365 mode of schooling and resourcing.

The traditional hierarchically structured school is based on distrust. It is deemed imperative that a small executive team exercises unilateral control over all school operations. Neither the classroom teachers, the support staff, the students, the parents or the community can be trusted, and their roles must be carefully managed from on high. The ethos is at root one of teachers and pupils doing what they are required to do on pain of sanctions, rather than an ethos of mutual expectation that what is required will be done because that is the job that the whole community is collaboratively engaged in.

The history of the use of instructional technology in schools (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) over the last century has been characterised by its distrust of teachers to use the technology wisely. That history sees teachers being obliged to secure licenses to use the gear, instructional technologies being ‘teacher proofed’ and ironically from around 1984 the ‘ICT experts’ controlling every facet of the digital technology. That distrust extends through to current times, as witnessed by the California iPad debacle.

That distrust might well be evident throughout your school operations today.

The distrust stymies the school’s facility to make best use of its greatest resource, its people – its salaried staff, students, families and community. All feel disempowered and unrecognised, most unwilling to put in the extra yards to assist the school’s growth.

The experience of the pathfinder schools, extensively documented in the authors’ Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages (2016) is that when schools move to a digital operational mode they begin to use the technology to reach out beyond the school walls, to genuinely collaborate with their parent community and to recognise and respect the contribution the teachers, support staff, students, families and wider community can make to the holistic teaching of each child. If this process is not led by the Principal it is very likely to start happening surreptitiously, particularly amongst the pupils but with aware teachers also starting to use online systems and social networks

These schools begin to appreciate the benefits of more fully trusting all, empowering them and distributing the control of the teaching and learning.

That said it invariably takes time – likely years – before the leadership, and indeed the teachers, are willing to cede some of their power and distribute the control of the teaching, learning and significantly the digital technology resourcing.

In many school settings, as the work by Lee and Levins (2016) will attest, some of the most reluctant to cede that control and trust others are the ‘ICT experts’. Yes – for many the ICT ‘empire’ has been their power base, but if schools are to normalise the whole of school community use of the digital the control has to be distributed and all within the school’s community trusted.

The principal’s willingness to trust will be crucially tested when faced with the decision of letting the children use in class the suit of digital technologies they already use 24/7/365. Is the head prepared to trust the children and parents and go with BYOT or declare his/her continued distrust by going the BYOD route where the school specifies the personal technology? Is the principal willing to trust the students and parents, accepting what to him/her might not appear be a perfect solution but which in time with genuine collaboration will not only work well but yield many other dividends?

It is a critical decision in the school’s digital evolution.

Until the principal is willing to trust and respect each student’s and parent’s choice of technologies, and to genuinely collaborate with them in the teaching, learning and technology resourcing the school’s digital evolution will be stalled and digital normalisation unachievable. While there are schools with ‘successful’ (though expensive) approaches that provide all pupils with the same device, at the root of this is the school wishing to dictate the use of certain software or device. This puts the focus on the technology rather than on the task to be achieved and denies innovation as the devices and software inevitably age. Far better to decide what human and interaction functionality is necessary for all pupils to use their devices.

Reflect for a moment on your children’s normalised out of school use of the digital and you’ll appreciate it is dependent on your trust in them to use and maintain the technology wisely. Your children will invariably respect and build upon that trust such that in a relatively short time their use of the technology becomes so normal as to be largely invisible.

That is what is wanted within the school walls, but it is only achievable when the school has created a whole of school culture – ecology – that trusts, respects and empowers the students and their parents, and values the contribution they can make to the workings, safety, resourcing and growth of the school.

  • Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2009) The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages. 2nd Edition Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

 

 

 

Operating Your School in the Digital Mode

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Schools need all, or near all, of their teachers using the digital technology in their everyday teaching before they can move to a digital operational mode and build the base that will enable the school to evolve digitally.

It is most assuredly not enough for all teachers to have the kit – they actually have to use the technology integrally in their teaching.

While that might seem blindingly obvious, the reality is that in 2016 many school leaders, educational administrators, governments and indeed media commentators don’t appear to have grasped that necessity.

As the logic and experience affirms until the school’s main operation, its teaching actually makes use of the digital the school will not move to a digital mode. It will remain operating in its traditional paper based base and mindset.

Commentators incorrectly assume that all teachers are using the latest technology, and using the technology astutely.

The rhetoric far exceeds the reality. A survey of 35 Australian state schools by Mal Lee in mid 2015 (unpublished) revealed on average that around 65 % of the teachers were using the digital technology naturally in their everyday teaching. Roger Broadie found that matched his UK experience. The actual figures could be lower or higher.

Before a school can make any significant progress in its digital evolution it has to have 95%-100% using the digital in class. Having 60% – 70% – 80% is not enough. We’re aware of schools still at the 30% level.

What is the figure in your school?

Recognise that while achieving that 95% -100% figures is critical, it is but a step in the evolutionary journey. It will literally take years and much astute and concerted effort to build upon that whole of teacher usage and create the school digital ecosystem and culture that will allow the total school community to normalise the use of the digital. It takes years of operating on the fly to grow the total staff, the student group and community and replace the paper based practises with the digital.

The digital base is essential. You’ll require an ever evolving, evermore sophisticated digital ecosystem that allows all within the school’s community to naturally use the growing power of the digital in every school operation – in its 24/7/365 teaching, assessment, administration, finances, communication, social networking, marketing, accountability and growth.

What you are looking at in the total teacher usage is a crucial step in getting the teachers, the school and its community to think digitally (Bhaduri and Fischer, 2015).

While only an early step, it is, as the number of schools globally that have yet to reach this point attest a difficult move to make.

Indeed it is important to openly acknowledge that difficulty and recognise the challenge of getting the school to the starting line.

The major challenge will be human but the school will require the finance, technology and network infrastructure to make the desired human change possible.

Critically all the teachers – virtually all of whom will have normalised the use of the digital outside the classroom – need perceive the importance of using the digital in their teaching and every other school operation, often in environments where paper based external exams are deemed life changing and the facility to write a three hour exam paper remains vital.

Teachers need appreciate that in time the digital has to underpin every school operation if the school is to shape an increasingly integrated, powerful and productive ecosystem. They need to see the big picture and not simply consider the digital in relation to in class performance. It is the totality that matters.

The expectations set– and given teeth – by the principal in relation to the use of the digital technology are vital to instilling the desired importance. The astute principals moved quickly to ensure the core administration – the marking of rolls, staff communiques, recording of student performance and the like – was all done digitally. When the staff selection criteria address digital teaching capability, the daily operations of the school oblige its use and the fulfilment of contract obligations specify the astute application of the digital the importance of the digital is readily understood. When the principal sets no such expectations the status quo will prevail.

The apt, highly reliable digital technology has to be available for all to use.

Every teacher, every member of the professional support team must have the apt suite of current digital technologies. The traditional approach has been for the employer to provide that technology but increasingly schools are recognising the value of financially supporting a BYOT approach.

The total school campus requires apt Wi Fi network coverage, and every teaching room an appropriate digital presentation facility and the digital tools for the students to use when opportune.

The movement of the school to that vital digital operational should be a priority – if your school has not already reached that position. Experience reveals it will take time, likely years, and that each school will likely need a strategy that fits its situation but regardless of how it is done you need make that crucial step.

  • Bhaduri, A and Fischer, B (2015) ‘Are You an Analogue or Digital Leader?’ Forbes 19/2/2015 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfischer/2015/03/19/are-you-an-analog-or-digital-leader/