Mal Lee and Roger Broadie
In moving to the digital operational base schools are – usually unwittingly – simultaneously moving themselves along the path to the ever-greater convergence of all the school operations, ever-tighter integration and associated ever-greater organizational complexity.
It is path all schools moving to a digital base will likely experience.
Inherent in the ubiquitous use of the digital technology in and outside the school walls is ever-greater digital convergence. Binary software allows the myriad of digital technologies being used within a school community to communicate and interact, in a way simply impossible with paper or analogue technology. That digital convergence not only markedly enhances the relatedness of operations, their synchronisation, efficiency, economies, communication, access to information, the automation of many mundane clerical tasks and the opportunity for synergies impossible with a paper base, but vitally also removes the walls around the myriad of silo like operations that have characterised so many schools and increasingly integrates the school’s operations.
Think back to the old analogue sound and TV systems, where largely separate units had to be patched together by a plethora of wires and compare it with the integrated sound and vision facility in your iPad where all works seamlessly – without a moment’s thought from you – and you’ll begin to appreciate the impact ever-greater, ever-more sophisticated digital convergence has had on the operations of schools that have normalised the use of the digital.
With digital normalisation comes ever more tightly integrated schooling, where all the school’s operations, educational and administrative are interrelated.
Bear in mind that the pathfinder schools are not only evolving at pace and daily seeking ever better educational opportunities, but are increasingly providing a 24/7/365 holistic education, collaborating ever more closely with all the teachers of the young and merging the in and out of school teaching.
All new programs and indeed the natural growth have to be thoughtfully factored into that ever more integrated ecology, the school always shaping the operations to the desired end.
In brief schools are moving away at pace – regardless of most government desires – from the traditional relatively simple, largely constant and continuous operation where separate cells or siloes administered their own patch to ever-evolving, ever-higher order, ever more tightly integrated, and complex organisations.
They are organisations that unwittingly demand of all the staff, teaching and professional support, but in particular the school leadership and the principal, the facility to thrive in ever higher order, often messy and seemingly paradoxical organizations, and to possess a macro understanding of the purpose of the school and how all facets of the school’s operations fit. While all staff will have their designated responsibility/ies they all need to understand the macro workings of the school if they are contribute collectively to its desired evolution.
Homer-Dixon (2000, p211) notes
Yaneer Bar-Yam, the American complexity theorist, …argues that the level of complexity of modern human society has recently overtaken the complexity of any one person belonging to it.. So as modern human society becomes more complex than we are individually, it begins to exceed out adaptive ability. In effect we are too short a repertoire of response to adjust effectively to our changing circumstances.
While the school principal, as the organisation’s CEO and ultimate decision maker must be across the total operations it is increasingly important to develop and invoke the collective capacity of the staff, and indeed increasingly the school’s wider community as the schools organisations shape their desired future.
Homer-Dixon, T (2000) The Ingenuity Gap Toronto Knopf