Digital Normalisation


Mal Lee

Digital normalisation is a term I coined to refer to the everyday, natural use of the digital technology all us make of it, in all facets of our lives.

While the young have long normalised its use in recent years their parents have – usually unwittingly – done the same with the digital now a natural part, largely invisible part of all homes.

As you full well know that is not so in the vast majority of schools globally with only a few pathfinders actively encouraging the students to use the technology they use 24/7/365 naturally in class.

In coining the term I drew from the writings of Clay Shirky and in particular his 2008 observation

It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming.

Shirky (2008, p. 105)

In researching the impact of the digital technology upon the transformation of the pathfinder schools I asked all interviewed their views on the term, and their thoughts on the traditional terms like ‘embedded’ or ‘internalised’.

Universally the preference was to use the term ‘digital normalisation’ as the one all associated with schooling, and in particular the children, parents and teachers could soon grasp, in preference to the older more jargon like expressions.

Interestingly one of deputy principal interviewed observed that it was when he encountered the term ‘normalisation’ in one of my earlier books that he realised the school’s current approach to the use of technology was unnatural and forced, and that the school needed to switch to a BYOT mode that was natural and hassle free.

The more one uses the term the more you’ll likely to appreciate the importance of the word ‘normal’.  Thus far so much use of technology in schools has been controlled and corralled.  What is desired is that the children use the technology normally, naturally and when apt often in creative ways the teachers hadn’t considered.  It takes time for teachers to shed the belief that they must always be in control.

Digital Normalisation Stage

In using ‘digital normalisation’ within the descriptor of the stage of schooling I’ve given it a more specific meaning that includes the core features of that stage of schooling.

It is thus important to differentiate between ‘digital normalisation’ and the expression ‘digital normalisation stage’.

The latter is defined as

The digital normalisation stage is reached when schools that have adopted a distributed mode of control of the teaching process and which are collaborating with their homes in the provision of a holistic, networked education for the 21st century normalise the use of the digital technology in all facets of the school’s operations, educational and administrative, in and outside the school.

It entails all the key players within the school’s community – the students, parents, teachers and support staff – using their choice of personal digital technology naturally in all the school’s operations to the extent they rarely give thought to the actual kit they are using.

While digital normalisation is a key facet of the evolutionary stage it is also vital one recognises the centrality of the

  • distributed mode of control of the teaching and learning process
  • authentic collaboration with the student’s homes
  • provision of an increasingly collaborative networked 24/7/365 schooling.