The Shaping Educational Vision

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

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

Very early in your digital evolutionary journey it is imperative the school identifies its shaping educational vision, making it clear to all within the school’s community the kind of schooling it wants to provide.

The research (Lee and Broadie, 2016) reveals that in undertaking the digital evolutionary journey the shaping vision will move through a series of iterations and refinements, at each point becoming increasingly important and focussed.

In time it will and should shape every facet of the school’s operations and ecosystem.

Lipnack and Stamps (1994) in commenting on the emergence of networked organisations presciently observed the organisation’s shaping vision would become the glue that bonds the organisation together as lesser importance was attached to the physical place of operation and increasing use was made of the networked world.

That is what has happened in the pathfinder schools globally. As they make increasing use of the online, and the teaching and learning occurring outside the school walls so the physical place called school became less important and the shaping educational vision paramount.

All within the school’s current and prospective school community need to readily understand that shaping vision and its aptness for a rapidly evolving digital and networked world.

That awareness, particularly by the staff will only be achieved by active and concerted discussion, arguing the semantics, allowing all the teachers and professional support team to clarify the meaning of the chosen wording.

It is likely to entail regular revisiting the wording as the school ‘road tests’ its effectiveness, ensuring all continually understand the school’s underlying purpose and direction.

A critical facet of empowering all within the school’s community – the staff, students, parents and community – and actively involving them in the school’s teaching and growth is that all understand the desired big picture and what the school is seeking to achieve.

Within the traditional school while virtually all will have some kind of motto or mission statement the real ‘shaping vision’ was the external exams, and success therein.

That is still so today.

In tracking the digital evolution of the pathfinder schools (Lee and Broadie, 2016) of note is that at each key evolutionary stage the importance of a clear shaping educational vision grows and by the Networked stage the realisation of that vision informs every decision, educational, administrative and technological made by the school.

While exam performance continues to be important it is the chosen educational vision that shapes the school’s growth.

What is the situation with your school?

Is yours a ‘motherhood’ statement, or as one principal observed more apt for a retirement home than a school or does it clearly enunciate what the school believes to be an appropriate education for a digital and networked society?

  • Lee, M and Broadie, R (2016), A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages. Broulee Australia –
  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.



Take Charge of Your School’s Growth

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Schools, more than ever have to take charge of their own growth and evolution (Lee 2015) – Taking Charge of Your School’s Evolution –


Only those within each unique school setting can hope to understand the intimate workings of that school and the myriad variables – human and technological – to be addressed in growing the school.

That said the research on the digital evolution of schooling, and on the digital transformation of organisations reveals the very considerable common traits of evolving digitally based operations, and that schools globally will move through the same evolutionary stages and display at each stage a suite of common attributes.

The imperative is that each school takes operational responsibility for its growth and evolution, learns from the digital transformation research and the pathfinder school and adopts a development strategy appropriate and suit of performance indicators for it’s unique setting, mix of staff, community, shaping vision and state of digital evolution.

It is folly in 2016 for schools to wait for the educational bureaucracy to grow the school.

Sadly too many schools are still doing just that, following the management dictates of their education authority, seemingly unwilling to vary the status quo, placing the continued relevance and viability of the school at risk

Bureaucracies as an organisational form are designed to manage operations (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994). They are incapable of handling the speed and uncertainty of organisational change occasioned by the digital revolution or understanding the myriad of interconnected variables needing to be addressed as each school shapes its increasingly mature and powerful ecosystem (Helbing, 2014).

For schools to thrive and grow in a digital and networked world they have to be highly agile, responsive largely self governing organisations with a culture that embraces on-going, often uncertain change and evolution.

Governments globally have recognised that need and given most schools and principals the degree of autonomy needed to take charge of the school’s future. Yes sometimes the rhetoric is not always matched by the reality but notwithstanding it is critical each school principal works to create a culture where the school and its community – and most assuredly not the central office – shapes the way forward.

The onus is on the principal. He/she must lead.

The question you need ask has your school taken charge of its growth and is shaping its desired future? If not why not?

  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.



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 –

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


Digital Darwinism and Schooling

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

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Brian Solis, one of the leading analysts of the digital transformation of organisations, uses the succinct but very powerful term ‘Digital Darwinism’ to describe the situation where ‘….when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt. (Solis, 2014)’.

While directed at business the concept is equally applicable to schooling.

We are all aware of the impact of the digital technology, and indeed the increasingly sophisticated digital technology on the evolution and sometimes the demise on industry, on the likes of

  • banking
  • newspapers
  • advertising
  • book sellers
  • retailing
  • the local video store

Consumers globally are daily demonstrating their desire to use to use the emerging digital technology, swiftly abandoning the ‘dated’ technology and the associated businesses and embracing those organisations that meet their rising digital expectations.

While society has long normalised the everyday use of all manner of digital technology and demonstrated its ability to readily and continually adapt that usage the vast majority of the world’s schools have not done so.

In 2016 only a handful of schools globally have normalised the whole school use of the digital, trusted all its members to use their own digital technology and structured the organisation to accommodate rapid, uncertain and continual digital evolution and transformation and continually meet society’s expectations.

Digital Darwinism is not only strongly evident in the vast majority of schools but most school leaders don’t appear to be aware of that situation.

Most are still ensconced within the traditional paper based operational paradigm, working within an agrarian school calendar, ill equipped structurally and culturally to accommodate any major change, let alone that occasioned by the digital revolution.

Moreover the majority of the leaders appear not to appreciate the magnitude of the task of shifting a paper based organisation to a digital operational mode and the literal years required to do so.

Digital Darwinism, as the term connotes can lead to the demise of the school.

Schools, like any other organism can’t survive in a state of equilibrium. They have to evolve or die.