The transition of schooling from its traditional, insular paper based mode to one that is increasingly networked has been in the main a natural evolutionary development.
It is moreover an inexorable evolution, that is on trend to become faster, more sophisticated, wide reaching, transformative and to be part of schooling forever.
Critically the transition parallels the transformation occurring within most other organisations, private and public sector, as they make greater use of the digital and networking, and the digital convergence, AI and greater efficiencies promote more tightly integrated, synergistic, and interconnected digital ecosystems.
No world body, with visionary educators planned or shaped the transformation.
No government/s funded the phenomenon.
Rather it evolved naturally out of the confluence of a suite of global developments, linked in the main to the exponential growth in the power of the digital and the networking of the world.
The challenge for schools, likely including yours, is that most education decision makers, and likely most educational researchers believe, often fervently, that every facet of school growth must planned. Nothing can be left to chance. All growth must be approached in a highly rationale, largely linear manner, the progress measured, and the lessons learned factored into the next plan.
Educational bureaucracies worldwide insist schools have detailed planning documents, that identify to the nth degree the learning outcomes that will be the focus of the school’s work and reporting. In some of the more highly controlled education authorities priority is given those few outcomes to the near exclusion of all else.
There is little or no place for unplanned or unintended developments, or for the optimisation of the unintended developments no matter beneficial they might be.
With many schools there is little chance of moving away from ‘the plan’.
Implicit is the belief that humans can control every variable at play within in a school, within a tightly interconnected, rapidly evolving world, and plan accordingly.
It is a mindset that likely contributed to the failure by most not to see the transition by the world’s schools to the more networked mode. While focussing on the forest floor they didn’t see that the forest had changed.
You’ll struggle to find any that acknowledge the students and teachers in their personal lives have been, and are naturally growing their digital mindset, the digital competencies they want and are continually adapting their ways to the global change.
Similarly, it will likely be difficult to find any harnessing that natural growth in their staff development.
Significantly few schools appear to have factored into their planning the realities of natural, chaotic evolution (Pascale et.al, 2000), digital disruption, the inefficiency of the evolutionary growth or the importance of shaping the natural evolution to advantage.
What moves has your school made in this area in its planning?
Have you, has the school, paused, and wondered how it is that the digitally connected young of the world, all using their own digital devices in a strongly individualised, laissez faire, largely unfettered manner, use and learn with them in a remarkably similar way?
It is a fascinating expression of natural evolution. As far back at the late 90s Tapscott (1998) identified the universal mores and attributes that the Net generation had grown in but a few years in their use of the internet.
The same similarity of thinking and use is to be found today, as we discuss in a future post.
Over 50% of the world’s 8 billion plus population are digitally connected (ITU, 2020), as are 70% plus of the world’s young (UNICEF, 2017), with the trend very much to near universal connectivity.
All have naturally grown their digital mindset, competencies and being digital in their 24/7/365 use and learning with the digital – not in a classroom.
Neither schools nor government have played any major part in funding the personal connectivity of the world’s 4 billion plus people, in providing the devices or in supporting their learning. The devices and connectivity have been bought by the families of the world.
Perelman astutely observed in 1992 that near all the users of personal computers had taught themselves and would continue to do so into the future.
That is the reality.
It is moreover a reality, and a capability that schools and governments were able to instantly capitalise upon when schools shut their doors in early 2020. Few have fleshed out why governments globally were immediately able to ask the teachers to teach from their homes, and the students, K-12, to partake immediately in a fully networked teaching. Neither government nor the schools have played any major part in growing that capability.
Indeed, a growing commentary suggests that most schools and education authorities even in 2021 still don’t fund or actively support their staff teaching from home.
Does your school or government for example contribute to the cost of setting up your home office or connectivity?
In the early 1980’s Naisbitt (Naisbitt, 1984) alerted the world, but particularly the business world, to the megatrends shaping the world, and the facility at best to shape those forces to advantage.
40 years later, and 50 plus years since Gordon Moore enunciated his hypothesis the ability to shape the megatrends is that much more challenging.
Even more so is deliberately going against the megatrends. Societal expectations, particularly with businesses, but also with schools would soon render unviable any that chose not to adapt.
The critical leadership skill today for both heads and increasingly teachers is to better understand the evolutionary megatrends impacting schooling and to shape those forces to continually provide the desired schooling.
School planning, like that in every organisation is vital but it should be of a type apt for the day and situation, that accommodates both the planned and unplanned growth, and which has the capacity to readily adjusted to often rapidly changing circumstances.
The lesson the COVID experience has taught everyone, and every organisation is imperative of being flexible and agile, able to change plans literally within hours.
It is ever more important schools do what businesses have done since at least the 1990s (Thorpe, 1998) and be open to swiftly identifying the potential unintended benefits and disbenefits. The transition to a more networked mode will have its up and downsides. Schools should be ready to identify, adjudge and optimise the unintended benefits and quickly quash the inevitable disbenefits.
Contrary to the belief held by likely most educational decision makers one can argue that all the major worldwide educational changes that have occurred in the last twenty plus years have been unplanned. The emergence of digitally connected families, their lead role in growing their children’s digital mindset, and use of and learning with the digital, the growth of the young being digital, social networking, the shift from a predominantly text based mode of learning and communication to one that is increasingly multi-media and visual and the facility for the nation’s young to take charge of their learning anywhere, anytime 24/7/365 were all unplanned.
One will struggle to identify a planned global educational development that matches the aforementioned.
That reality should be factored into the school’s planning and workings.
Amplifying that need is the imperative of every school factoring into its planning and operations the accommodation of what society regards as the ‘new normals’.
- ITU (2020) Measuring digital development. Facts and Figures 2020. Geneva International Telecommunications Union – https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/facts/default.aspx
- Naisbitt, J (1984) Megatrends London Futura
- Pascale, R.T, Millemann, M, Gioja, L (2000) Surfing at the Edge of Chaos NY Three Rivers Press
- Perelman, L (1992) School’s Out NY Avon Books
- Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York
- Thorpe, J (1998) The Information Paradox Toronto McGraw-Hil
- UNICEF (2017) Children in a Digital World. The State of the World’s Children 2017. UNICEF December 2017 – https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2017_ENG_WEB.pdf