Learning from the Pathfinder Schools

[This is the third of the short blogs designed to supplement the readings for the Leading Your School’s Digital Evolution program].

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Any school contemplating digital evolution should at the outset seek to learn from the experiences of the pathfinder schools, those very early adopters, which have normalised the whole school use of the digital.

These pathfinders, like the pathfinder planes in the Second World War, have in many respects lit the path for others to follow.

They are to be found globally, in increasing numbers.

Most are schools, led by visionary principals that embarked on their digital evolutionary journey in the 1990’s and which after concerted intent and effort have moved to a digital operational mode and positioned the school to continue evolving at pace.

While every school, with its own mix of staff and particular context is unique all, as we discuss in later posts, have evolved in a remarkably similar way, providing later adopter schools a vital insight into the likely road ahead and the variables needing to be addressed (Lee and Broadie, 2016).

Build on their common experiences and the lessons learned.

Recognise there are schools that are developmentally years ahead of where you are at today.

Business since the mid 80’s and the pioneering work of Peters and Waterman (1982) has had a long and highly productive tradition of building on the analyses of the pathfinder organisations.

Schooling has been reluctant to follow suit, imagining all schools are basically the same, largely constant in form, with a focus on refining the traditional ways. Little is the wonder that most schools organisationally in 2016 lag digitally so far behind most other organisations and indeed societal expectations.

The notable exceptions are those schools that have identified the likely impact of the digital revolution, who have learnt from the digital transformation of business and society, and who have striven to take on board those lessons in their own evolution.

It is appreciated one has always to be cautious in drawing upon the work of early adopters but more than a decade on since the initial schools globally moved to a digital operational mode, and after years of noting the strong parallels between the digital masters in industry and schooling the authors would strongly urge your school look hard at the digital evolution of the pathfinder schools as you plan your journey.

Seek if you can to visit such schools, to saviour their culture and appreciate the plethora of interconnected human and technological variables all have successfully addressed in their journey.

Peters. T.J and Waterman, R.H. (1982) In Search of Excellence. NY HarperCollins