Mal Lee and Roger Broadie
In observing the workings of the pathfinder schools that have normalised the use of the digital one is struck by the palpable excitement, the professionalism of the staff, their quest for continued enhancement, the embrace of change, the mess and seeming chaos, the social networking, the belief that anything is possible, the risk taking and teachers singly and in ad hoc combinations ‘flying’, seeking to take advantage of the ever emerging opportunities.
In many respects the culture is akin to that of start up companies.
The contrast with the traditional school culture with its constancy, continuity, conformity, set procedures, micro management, adverseness to risk and change and its body of disempowered, seemingly tired staff going through the motions is pronounced.
It is however a culture that has taken years, an astute leadership and a supportive digital ecosystem to create.
But it is one that every school should aspire to work within.
Contrary to the myth that teachers will not accept change the reality is that the above mentioned cultural shift has occurred in normal, everyday schools with a typical mix of staff. Yes in time the more capable professionals seek out the pathfinders and add to their attraction but early on the pathfinders had the usual staff ‘challenges’.
For schools, like businesses to grow in a rapidly evolving, often uncertain digital and networked world they need a supportive organisational culture that thrives in seeming chaos and with constant evolution.
Peters (1987) in Thriving on Chaos, and Deal and Kennedy (1982) in their work on apt organisational cultures recognised that imperative thirty plus years ago.
It has taken some time but finally the pathfinder schools globally have demonstrated the critical importance of having a culture that fosters and supports their digital evolution.
The challenge is very much primarily human and not technological.
It calls for an astute principal willing and able to create and grow that culture over time, able to roll with the inevitable frustrations.
It necessitates the principal trusting and empowering a usually disempowered staff, student body and parent group, and being willing to distribute the control of the teaching and learning.
The genuine empowerment of the teachers and the professional support staff is particularly important, working to ensure all are treated as professionals – and not factory line workers – who are educated in the macro workings of the school as well as their speciality area/s.
It requires an apt, mature, appropriately governed professionally maintained digital ecosystem that supports and fosters the desired teaching and learning culture and which can accommodate staff wishing to fly while still maintaining a high level of efficiency and reliability.
It most assuredly requires each school to take charge of its own evolution and for the educational bureaucrats to support each school’s decision making and cease using the technology to micro manage the school’s operations and frustrate the growth of the desired culture.
The creation of the desired culture will take years and constant nurturing but the going becomes that much easier when the school moves to a digital operational base and begins shaping the desired school ecosystem.
- Deal, D.E, and Kennedy, T (1982), Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Harmondsworth, Penguin
- Peters, T (1987) Thriving on Chaos NY Alfred A. Knopf