Category Archives: ICT evolution in schools

Digital Evolution of Schools and School Libraries

Mal Lee

(The following article can be found in the May/June 2016 edition of ALIA’s magazine, Incite)

At a time when the Australian Government is espousing the importance of highly agile innovative organisations, the digital technology is transforming all manner of organisations and schools are moving at pace to a digital operational mode it is critical Australia’s school libraries and teacher librarians take advantage of the opportunities opened. They need move quickly and proactively to ensure their contribution is central to the workings of rapidly evolving, increasingly integrated schools.

There is now a clear understanding in all organisations, including schools, that organisations have to go digital to remain viable (Lee, 2015). The efficiencies, economies, benefits and enhanced capability of the digital organisation far surpasses that of the traditional paper based operation.

Moreover there is the growing recognition that all digitally based organisations, as complex adaptive systems will continually evolve (Pascale, et. al. 2000), and will do so more rapidly, taking advantage of the digital convergence to become evermore integrated. They will abandon their old ‘silo like’, ‘loosely coupled’ (Weick, 1976) structures and discrete operations, and adopt an increasingly integrated and networked form.

The word ‘critical’ was chosen carefully.

‘Silo like’ school libraries that sit alone, operate largely autonomously, that are perceived to be paper focussed and removed from the core workings of the school can be readily dispensed with in the creation of more tightly integrated and productive school ecosystems.

To thrive and to continue making a significant contribution in any rapidly evolving digital organisation – be it a company, university or school – the library and librarian need play an integral and lead role in the organisation’s workings and its on-going evolution.

Most schools have been slow to move to a digital operational mode but teacher librarians have only to talk with their colleagues within the pathfinder schools, business and the public sector to recognise the pattern of change.

School libraries and teacher librarians need to position themselves where their service is perceived by the principal and staff to be central to the school’s vision, operations and growth, and where the role played grows and evolves naturally – and largely unwittingly – as the school’s total ecosystem matures.

That is easy to say, but it is difficult to achieve, particularly when the principal lacks vision, digital acumen and the willingness to lead.

It is appreciated most teacher librarians now have as their focus the teaching, with little interest in the macro workings of the school.

However the stark reality in most schools and education authorities is that unless the teacher librarian looks after his/her own situation, has a sound appreciation of the macro workings of the school, its vision and its digital evolution and is proactive and positions the information services at the centre of all operations no one else will do so.

Accept the folly of trying to defend the bastions against digital evolution.

Recognise that by being proactive you can assist in shaping the desired future, and lessen the risk of becoming a digital casualty.

The experience of the pathfinder schools suggests the following could assist that quest.

  • It is not personal. It is natural to feel that. The Digital Revolution is simply impacting you.
  • Understand the macro workings of the school. In tightly integrated school ecosystems it is vital all staff, teaching and professional support – and not just those atop the apex – understand the macro workings of the school, able to contribute as professionals to its growth (www.digitalevolutionofschools.net).
  • Appreciate the evolution of complex adaptive systems. Those with a science background will already understand the importance, but all staff need to recognise the implications of working with seeming chaos and constant change, and the new order the disturbance creates.
  • Thrive on chaos. Embrace and promote a culture of change and support all one’s colleagues in their work, continued growth and evolution.
  • Adopt a digital and networked mindset. Grasp the marked contrast between analogue and digital thinkers provided by Bhaduri and Fischer (2015). Then you’ll appreciate why a pathfinder school in a networked society has chosen to ‘outsource’ its e-book services to the local library.
  • Integrate the school ‘library’ and ICT services. Move to the centre of school operations. Look to the kind of iCentre model advocated by Hay (2010, 2015) and have it play a lead role in the digital workings and evolution of the school.
  • Support the principal’s leadership. Provide the principal, the staff and the wider school community the on-going support and information services they will need – as well as supporting the students.
  • Make your services indispensable.

Conclusion

The Digital Revolution is daily occasioning immense on-going organisational transformation that could, unharnessed hurt many.

School libraries and teacher librarians are on trend to be hurt badly, unless each teacher librarian genuinely collaborates with his/her colleagues and the school leadership in positioning the school library’s programs and services at the centre of the school’s digital evolution.

Digital Evolution of Schools and School Libraries

Bibliography

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

Hay, L (2010) ‘Shift happens. It’s time to rethink, rebuild and rebrand’. Access, 24(4), pp. 5 http://www.asla.org.au/publications/access/access-commentaries/shift-happens.aspx

Hay, L (2015) ‘The evolution of the iCentre model: Leading inquiry, digital citizenship and innovation in schools.’ Teacher Librarian, 42 (4), 15-19.

Lee, M (2015) ‘Why Schools Have to Go Digital to Remain Viable’, Educational Technology Solutions August 2015

Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press

Weick, K (1976) ‘Educational organisations as loosely coupled systems’. Administrative Science Quarterly 21 1976

 

 

 

 

Release of 2016 Edition A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

Release of 2016 Edition A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

Roger Broadie and I have markedly updated our Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages

A copy is freely available on the Douglas and Browne website at – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/

As is Mal Lee’s and Martin Levin’s updated version of their work on BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling.

There is the choice of e-book or PDF

The updated Taxonomy explores in depth the attributes demonstrated in the pathfinder schools at the Digital Normalisation and 24/7/365 Schooling evolutionary stages and links the digital transformation evidenced to that found in other complex adaptive systems in business and the wider public sector.

Significantly the updated evolutionary continuum allows schools globally to get a quick indication of where they are at on their digital evolutionary journey.

Evolutionary Stages 2016 Final

Feel free to tell interested colleagues of the work

Mal and Roger

Where to Now, Education

Ricoh is running a series of blogs on its new educational services site.

I was given the challenge of identifying – in 1400 words – where to now.

The thoughts can be read at – http://comms.ricoh.com.au/educate-blogs-Where-to-Now-Education.html

Mal Lee

 

Schools as Complex Adaptive Systems

[ Another in the series of blogs intended to support those participating in our 10 week Leading Your School’s Digital Evolution program.

The next of the 10 week program begins on April 26, and is open to any who are interested.]

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

It is vital in addressing the digital evolution of your school you view the school as an ever evolving, complex adaptive system, exhibiting in its evolution the traits found in all other evolving organisations, it becoming an increasingly higher order, more sophisticated, integrated and productive ecosystem.

While you don’t as a school leader have to be expert in complexity science and the evolution of systems it is important to appreciate digital schools like all other digitally based organisations will continually evolve and transform their nature in a remarkably common manner. Moreover they will do so at an accelerating pace, often in a seemingly messy and chaotic fashion, and will in their evolution demonstrate the attributes found in other complex adaptive systems.

Ready yourself to lead a school where constant, often uncertain change will be the norm.

You need to cease, if you haven’t already done so, seeing your school as a distinct one-off entity, and believing schools are immutable, constant in form and will forever stay the same as we have known them for the past century plus.

While each school is unique each will in its evolution display the attributes of like complex adaptive systems.

The reality is that schools globally, like all other organisations, are evolving at pace – albeit at very different rates – displaying in their evolutionary journey a suit of remarkably common attributes, the major features of which have long been identified in the research.

In 2000, 16 years ago, Pascale and his colleagues astutely observed:

‘The science of complexity has yielded four bedrock principles relevant to the new strategic work:

  1. Complex adaptive systems are at risk when in equilibrium. Equilibrium is a precursor to death.4

  2. Complex adaptive systems exhibit the capacity of self-organization and emergent complexity.5 Self-organization arises from intelligence in the remote clusters (or “nodes”) within a network. Emergent complexity is generated by the propensity of simple structures to generate novel patterns, infinite variety, and often, a sum that is greater than the parts. (Again, the escalating complexity of life on earth is an example.)

  3. Complex adaptive systems tend to move toward the edge of chaos when provoked by a complex task.6 Bounded instability is more conducive to evolution than either stable equilibrium or explosive instability. (For example, fire has been found to be a critical factor in regenerating healthy forests and prairies.) One important corollary to this principle is that a complex adaptive system, once having reached a temporary “peak” in its fitness landscape (e.g., a company during a golden era), must then “go down to go up” (i.e., moving from one peak to a still higher peak requires it to traverse the valleys of the fitness landscape). In cybernetic terms, the organism must be pulled by competitive pressures far enough out of its usual arrangements before it can create substantially different forms and arrive at a more evolved basin of attraction.

  4. One cannot direct a living system, only disturb it.7 Complex adaptive systems are characterized by weak cause-and-effect linkages. Phase transitions occur in the realm where one relatively small and isolated variation can produce huge effects. Alternatively, large changes may have little effect. (This phenomenon is common in the information industry. Massive efforts to promote a superior operating system may come to naught, whereas a series of serendipitous events may establish an inferior operating system —such as MS-DOS — as the industry standard.) (Pascale, Millemann and Gioja, 2000, p6).’

All four of these principles have been evidenced in all the authors’ research on the digital evolution of schooling over the last decade, but it is a message that doesn’t appear to have been grasped by most governments, educational bureaucrats or indeed school leaders.

In looking to lead the digital evolution of your school do draw upon to the lessons of complex adaptive systems and appreciate the guidance they can provide your journey.

  • Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press

 

BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling

Martin Levins and I have just released our 2016 edition of BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling.

It is now available free as an e-book.

While building on our earlier 2012 publication for ACER Press on Bring Your Own Technology the new work addresses the rapid developments in the last four years and positions the move to BYOT within the wider digital evolution and transformation of schooling.

The authors’ have decided to make the work freely available to all interested globally wanting advice and direction on the key development.

It can be downloaded from the Professor Peter Twining’s EdFutures site in the UK at –  http://edfutures.net/Lee_and_Levins_2016.

The Educational Importance of BYOT

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is critical in the digital evolution of schools, when normalising whole school use of the digital, and when shaping digitally-based school ecosystems.

Ideally, young people should be trusted in the classroom to use the digital technologies they are already using in the ‘real world’ to enhance their learning.

While the young, parents and, invariably teachers have normalised the use of the digital outside the school walls and have expectations of the digital, few schools globally have normalised its use and are yet to reap the myriad opportunities and benefits.

The reason is simple: it is very hard to do so. It requires each school to move from its traditional paper based operational mode, culture and mindset to a mode that is digitally based, where the mindset is digital and the school culture actively supports change, risk taking and on-going organisational evolution and transformation.

The move to BYOT is fundamental to creating the ecosystem that enables that to happen.

It is reality few as yet appreciate.

To read the full article go to – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/the-importance-of-byot

ACER Teacher Digital Evolution Series

Mal Lee has written for ACER’s online Teacher magazine in a series of brief research papers on the digital evolution of schooling. They include:

The Changing Role and Purpose of the School Website

Mal Lee

The role, purpose and importance of the school website is changing at pace in those schools globally that have moved to a digital operational base, are on track to normalise the use of the digital throughout and which are rapidly creating their own, unique, tightly integrated digital ecosystem.

The digital evolution that is transforming every facet of these schools is profoundly impacting those school’s websites, moving the website from its traditional peripheral position to being core and critical to the school’s everyday operations, its teaching, growth, evolution and enhanced performance and productivity.

The time has come when all schools and education authorities need to recognise that change, and the profound implications that flow at both the school and education authority level.

Moreover they would be as well to grasp the critical reality that with society normalising the everyday use of the digital, digital transformation and the movement of the digital schools away from the loosely coupled, segmented, almost silo like, organisation to a form that is evermore tightly integrated the part played by the school website fundamentally changes, both in nature and standing.

In the traditional highly segmented, insular paper based school the website has been viewed as but one of the many largely discrete parts of the school, largely peripheral to the everyday teaching. In many instances it has been window dressing, sometimes very high quality window dressing but in the main it has done little to enhance the pedagogy or student learning.

Crucially the online experience has been viewed as separate from and lesser than the physical.

In marked contrast within digitally based schools an apposite, dynamic, ever evolving, working website is central to virtually every operation, including the school’s 24/7/365 teaching.

Indeed without that website schools cannot create their desired digital ecosystem and successfully realise their shaping educational and digital vision.

Try and imagine how organisations like Apple, Amazon, News Ltd or the Tax Office could operate without their websites and you’ll begin to appreciate how critical they are to the workings and growth of digitally based schools.

That fundamental difference needs to be understood and the discussions begun at the school and system level on what is required to move forward.

As Westerman and his colleagues observe (Westerman et al, 2014) societies that have normalised the use of the digital no longer differentiate between the online and physical experience.

If, as some appear to be doing, the school wants to remain as a traditional paper based, silo like organisation focussed on readying its students for paper based external examinations those discussions on the website are not needed.

If however your school’s desire is normalise the use of the digital and create an ever evolving digital school ecosystem that will educate each child for today you do need to have the conversation and decide what is to be done.

Interestingly ask any school leader or educational administrator why an apposite website is critical to the successful whole school embrace of BYOT or the evolution of the school’s ecosystem and it is likely only a handful could tell you why.

Moreover ask a software house to create a website for a digital school and it is likely even the best and more prescient will still prepare a polished offering for the traditional mode of schooling.

The desire with this article is begin remedying those shortcomings and to highlight the core, multifaceted role of the school website – and its associated digital communications suite – in the digital transformation and evolution of schooling.

The Traditional Website

For the last 15-20 years the school website has been largely peripheral to the school’s everyday workings and in particular its teaching. It has been primarily a static source of information, a marketing tool and possibly a gateway to the inner, seemingly secret teaching of the school that necessitated password entry. The closed classroom door was retained when the school went online. In many education authorities globally the websites have been ‘cookie’ cut’ with their operations tightly controlled by the central office bureaucrats and the external ICT experts. The schools were invariably given little say in their form even at a time when schools were being given greater decision making and obliged to shape their own growth. Even today at least one Australian education authority still prohibits schools having their own website, while other authorities and their ICT controllers continue to micro manage the nature and workings of the ‘school’s’ site.

Invariably within the school an individual has had responsibility for maintaining the school site, ensuring it was not ‘spoilt’ by other staff, although that said one will find schools where the different operational units, like the library or student support services, also operate their own website, separate to that of the school.

In many schools, particularly the independent the site is maintained by the school’s public relations/marketing unit, ensuring the desired image, with the apposite Pepsodent smiles is always to the fore.

Do a quick scan of a cross section of school websites, primary and secondary, state and independent – including the award winners – and you’ll likely find most are still primarily sources of information, some very polished, some very dated. Undertake a Google search of the ‘purpose’ or ‘importance’ of school websites and you’ll find even the more reasoned such that by University of Florida – http://fcit.usf.edu/websites/chap1/chap1.htm– still underscore the largely peripheral, information providing role.

The choice of the award winning sites appears to have far more to do with looks, design finesse and interactivity than functionality and how the facility contributes to the realisation of the school’s shaping educational and digital vision.

Significantly most will also be closely ‘guarded’ sites with community access to any teaching materials invariably restricted by password.

Emergence of the ‘working’ website

From the mid 2000’s as the first of the schools globally moved to a digital operational base and began their digital evolution one has seen in all those schools the on-going transformation and evolution of the school’s website, that as indicated by Lee (2013) mirrored the school’s evolutionary path, and which saw its shift from a peripheral to a core role.

The website, like those in all other digitally based organisations, plays a central, multi-faceted role, assisting enhance the school’s culture and ecosystem, furthering the school’s growth and evolution, enabling the school to interface with the networked world, being used integrally in every facet of the schools’ 24/7/365 teaching, the integration of all school operations, educational and administrative and the on-going enhancement of the school’s efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

The website increasingly became the interface for the school’s community and a medium that facilitated the integration of all the school’s operations in and outside the school walls.

In contrast to the largely constant peripheral offerings these are dynamic working sites that are being updated and added to virtually every minute of the day by all within the school’s community, be they the children, the teachers, the parents or community members.

The focus is very much on the work to be done, educational and administrative and using the site – and the associated digital services – to do that work as expeditiously, simply, effectively and productively as possible, and where apposite to have the technology simultaneously perform multiple roles and to automate the tasks at hand.

While rightly concerned to project a professional image these are 24/7 /365 worksites where sections might at any times appear as messy as the physical classroom. If that is so, so be it.

Look for example at the websites of The Gulf Harbour School (NZ) – http://www.gulfharbour.school.nz – or that of Broulee Public School at – http://www.brouleepublicschool.nsw.edu.au – and you’ll soon appreciate what is meant by ‘working’ websites. These sites, like those in the other schools that have normalised the use of the digital, employ a template service that makes it easy for all the teachers and students and indeed interested parents and community members to publish to the site. Long gone is the sole publisher controlling all uploads, but not a quality controller astutely ensuring unnecessary mess is removed.

They are moreover multi-purpose entities where the website provides seamless access to a plethora of online facilities and services, removing the divide between the school’s physical and online offerings. While reference has been made to the ‘website’ that is partly a misnomer because as apparent in both the above mentioned sites there are links to an ever evolving digital communications suite that includes such diverse services as an emailed school communiqué, an online survey facility, advice on new teaching programs or resources, the online advisement of student absence, Twitter, Facebook and the facility to instantly inform parents of a critical incident, like a death. Indeed as a colleague has suggested it might be opportune to find another term to describe the role played by the website in a digital school.

The sites are modular in nature with the schools using a mix of free and leased online services, able to quickly discard superseded ‘modules’ and replace them with a new more apposite ‘module’.

Critically both these sites are open for anyone to view. The parents, grandparents miles away, interested educators, education authorities or prospective parents all have open access to the day’s teaching, being able to readily view and if they wish comment upon the work. Yes the schools have had to do their homework and have permission to reveal the children and the work but that is just part of operating within a digital and networked world, collaborating with one’s community.

The closed doors are opened and the teachers and children can with pride reveal the work done.

Simultaneously, and without any extra effort by the teachers or students the school are using the website – through the medium of the likes of blogs and wikis – to enhance the teaching and learning, to daily enhance the school’s ecology, to collaborate with and inform the student’s homes, to account for the school’s work, to receive instant and continual feedback and vitally to automatically promote the school.

Of note is the number of parents globally who now make their choice of school after scrutinising the open working websites of the digital pathfinders; Net Generation parents who can explore the natural workings of the school without the PR spin and experience first hand the unique digital ecosystem the school has created. Going is the need for the specialist Web/PR unit.

They very much appreciate the school website provides an invaluable actual the insight into the school’s thinking, aspirations and daily workings that can not be replicated by even the best marketers.

The website affirms by virtue of its intimate ties with the school’s total operations, that the school and its teachers are working within a higher order tightly integrated digital ecology that is simultaneously addresses the many variables that enhance student learning.

Conclusion

This type of school ecology and culture, and the use of a website that will further its growth takes, as the many previous articles underscore, years of astute concerted effort to create.

That said if you want your school to create that unique, ever evolving, digitally based ever higher order ecosystem your school too will need to build into your planning from the outset the creation of the apposite website and complementary digital communications suite.

The Changing Role and Purpose of the School Website

Bibliography

  • Lee, M (2013b) ‘School Websites as Indicators of School’s Evolutionary Position’. Educational Technology Solutions No. 55 2013
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

Schools as Ever Evolving Ecologies

 

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

We’ve found it helpful in considering the distinct nature of digital schools to view them as ever evolving, evermore tightly integrated ecologies where all the parts are increasingly linked.

They stand in marked contrast to the traditional paper based schools, and in particular the secondary schools that have long been viewed as largely constant, loosely coupled organisations where silo like units within the school operate largely independently. Indeed Karl Weick’s thinking on schools as loosely coupled organisations, that was penned in 1976 still holds true with most high schools today.

However view the attributes displayed by the pathfinder schools as they moved along the evolutionary continuum and you’ll see, as noted in the earlier posts the traditional loosely coupled school becoming evermore integrated and tightly coupled, with all the operations being increasingly linked to the realisation of the school’s shaping educational vision.

As the natural growth impacted, as the staff and client expectations rose, as new opportunities were identified so the schools evolved with all the parts becoming increasingly intertwined. The schools became increasingly distinct, ever-evolving ecologies addressing the particular needs of their situation by ensuring all facets of their operations, in and outside the school walls were linked and the silos were more closely integrated or dispensed with.

Moreover the digital convergence and the associated integration also saw the schools – often unwittingly – make ever-greater use of the facility the digital operational base provided to have the one facility serve multiple purposes with no extra effort by the staff.

Lee and Ward (2013) cite the example of school blogs where those blogs simultaneously and without any extra effort provided

  • an insight into the school’s daily activities to parents, grandparents, 
the local community and the students, and what they can do to 
complement that work
  • advice to parents on the school’s program, its calendar of events and 
the home study
  • a window into the workings of the school to all interested professionals, 
school or system executives or politicians
  • an important indicator as to where the school is at in its evolution
  • instant, ongoing accountability
  • the facility for instant teacher ‘evaluation’ and an insight into who is 
adding value
  • very powerful marketing of the school
  • an appreciation of how well the school operations are integrated (Lee and Ward, 2013, p89).

Factor in that all the schools were moreover increasingly marrying the teaching of the homes with that of the schools, and creating an increasingly integrated and tightly coupled 24/7/365 school ecology.

The challenge for the school leadership, and in particular the principal in the digital and networked school is to daily ensure not only are all the parts in the evolving ecology appropriately are apposite and can be integrated but that the total school ecology is shaped in a way that will best provide the desired educational benefits.

The challenge for researchers in or outside the school becomes ever greater. Thus far educational research has in the main been silo like looking primarily at linear connections within a part of the school’s operations. In integrated, ever-more complex, ever changing ecologies where the impact might come from synergies that are greater than the sum of the parts, and where much of the change is non-linear the difficulty of ascertaining what impacts student attainment will be challenging to say the least.

That said by recognizing that one is working with evolving, ever higher order ecologies – and not static loosely coupled entities – helps all associated with the school, be they the staff, the clients, community or the authorities, better understand the school’s nature and what is required for its on-going enhancement.

It is most assuredly not ‘one size fits all schools’ silver bullet solutions handed down from high.

The idea of a living, ever evolving complex ecology, which will forever experience significant natural growth and where all the parts will increasingly be intertwined, in and outside the school walls helps the school community, and in particular the school staff better understand their very different teaching and learning environment.

 

Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the school walls Melbourne ACER Press

Weick, K, (1976) “Educational Organizations as Loosely Coupled Systems” Administrative Science Quarterly 21 1976

 

Article in ACER’s Teacher on School Evolutionary Stages

Mal has an article in the inaugural edition of ACER’s new online magazine Teacher on the global school evolutionary stages.  Simply go to – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/school-evolution-a-common-global-phenomenon.