Riding the Megatrends

Mal Lee

All school and educational technology leaders need to be evermore skilled in the art of reading and riding the megatrends.

Once schools, as mentioned in an earlier article, have normalised the use of the digital and are evolving naturally at pace the school and its leadership have to stay on top of the emerging trends, to be aware of their development, have the facility to accommodate on-going rapid and often uncertain change, to shape the evolving developments as desired and to be ready when apposite to phase out a solution in favour of a newer more appropriate one.

It obliges school leaders to be highly accomplished in identifying, shaping and vitally in some instances phasing out waning megatrends that are impacting on schools and the education of the young.

It requires the school’s technology leaders to be aware of the common, finite life cycle all instructional technology will move through (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) (Gartner, 2012) and that the life cycle for many educational technology solutions is getting shorter.

It is a skill rarely mentioned in the leadership literature or in current staff duty statements but it is one of the vital twenty-first educational leadership skills required if schools are to continue to provide a quality C21 education and meet society’s ever rising and changing expectations.

To use a surfing analogy one has to be skilled in reading the emerging waves, to know the technology to use, when to take off, how to ride the wave and when to get off and move to the next.

That capability needs to be tied to the structural facility for the school – and often the school as part of an education authority – to readily accommodate sustained evolution and change, and adopt solutions appropriate to its particular context.

  • The megatrends

One is talking about the facility to identify and accommodate the relevant societal and technological megatrends.

The task is made somewhat easier these days with publications like the annual Horizon’s (NMC 2011) reports – even though at times even they struggle to keep pace with technological change.

Theirs however is a technological focus and doesn’t pick up the wider societal or educational megatrends that also impact.

The challenge for each school’s leadership is to accommodate these developments in a manner befitting the school’s situation at the time.

In Bring Your Own Technology (Lee and Levins, 2012) Martin Levins and I comment on the impact the confluence of the following six key megatrends upon schools in the Western world.

  • Global shift to an ever more networked, collaborative, flatter and convergent world – as expressed in Friedman’s The World is Flat (2006) – that is impacting upon ever facet of life, industry and the service sector
  • Upsurge in the use of cloud based computing serving to dismantle the old divisions and flatten and integrate operations (NMC, 2011)
  • Movement of schooling globally from its traditional paper based teaching and operations to one that is digitally based and increasingly networked (Lee and Gaffney, 2008) (Lee and Finger, 2010) (Lee and Finger, in press). Schools, like all other organisations are finally going digital.
  • Burgeoning digital resources and educative capacity of the student’s homes and the young’s normalised 24/7/365 use of the digital to assist their own teaching and learning (Lee and Levins, 2010).
  • Growing digital empowerment of the young and more significantly their parents and the growing willingness and expectation of both to use that power (Project Tomorrow, 2010, 2011).
  • Governments of the world are struggling, financially, logistically and politically to adequately fund the ever-evolving personal technology in schools.  Where in the 1800s most homes lacked the personal teaching tools and governments had to provide those resources today the homes not only have the personal teaching tools while the governments are struggling to find them but the trend is escalating in favour of the home.

To those you will want to add other apposite megatrends – or what the Horizon’s reports term metatrends – and also the lower order trends evident within each of the megatrends.

For example a key facet of the shift of schooling from a paper-based to a digital and networked operational paradigm is the impact of normalising the use of the digital and the natural flow on for schools to:

–       have the students bring their own technology to class

–       adopt an ever more collaborative and networked mode of teaching

–       move away from the current ‘control over’ mode of school technology support to a model that facilitates the pooled use of the student’s and school’s technologies

Where in the traditional paper based school with its constancy the staff’s focus was on the now and it was surprised and often alarmed by the changes in the networked operational paradigm the focus has to be primarily on the ever-evolving scene and how well the current solutions fulfil their role for what might be only for a limited time.

Martin Levins tells the story of a staff member in a discussion of the school’s potential needs for 2020 making the observation that ‘does that mean I mightn’t be still using this laptop’?

  • Educating your colleagues

In the networked mode it is important to share astutely this knowledge with your colleagues and indeed the wider school community.

Astutely because you can scare some staff but the goal should be that the school is not surprised by any development and can proactively ready itself for the new scenario.

  • Positioning for sustained change

The structure and resourcing of the paper-based school was designed, largely unwittingly, for constancy and continuity.  Change was an anathema. The supporting bureaucracy served to reinforce the retention of the status quo (Lipnack and Stamps. 1994).

Many schools, in particular those working within systems have had limited capacity for change. They’ve had limited decision-making, little control over the allocation of their resources with the central office largely controlling their use of technology.

The scene has begun to change over the last decade, particularly with the greater devolution of decision making to the local school but it has a long way to go before the majority of Australia’s schools have the structural freedom required to accommodate constant and rapid change.

Interestingly the normalised use of the digital by the schools, the closer collaboration with the student’s homes and in particular the move to a model of BYOT is unwittingly providing the schools, even in the most centralised of education authorities, a markedly enhanced capacity to accommodate rapid and sustained change.

Quietly but very powerfully BYOT markedly empowers school communities and significantly improves their facility to accommodate rapid change.

BYOT is a highly disruptive – but at the same time socially and politically acceptable – development.

The home’s resourcing of the student’s personal technology not only provides the school a significant body of resources atop the existing annual resourcing but it also allows the school to:

  • address any equity concerns about technology and cater for the students in need
  • astutely complement the technology purchases of the home
  • focus its limited technology budget on the operation of the less changeable, less volatile digital infrastructure and accommodate the growth in bandwidth and network traffic
  • sustain the availability of current personal instructional technology in an era of ever-more rapid technological change. Through the parents acquisition and on-going upgrade of the student’s personal technology and their use of the market the school is largely removed from the need and hassle of constantly upgrading rapidly dating the student’s hardware and software
  • naturally move away from the current ‘ICT expert’, control over model of technology support – be it at the school and/or central office level – and to adopt a model that facilitates the students’ use of an ever-evolving suite of personal digital technology. In larger schools this move could also allow a reduction in the technology support staffing and a redeployment of those funds.
  • abandon the traditional ‘one size fits all’ technology model and adopt solutions that suit particular situations and the school’s agenda
  • have greater flexibility in its technology solutions, and the facility to readily change when desired
  • plan its technology solutions with far greater financial certainty, no longer dependent on the whims of politicians and central office ‘ICT experts’.

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  • adopt an almost wholly digital administration and communication’s model and thus accrue the associated savings and increase in efficiency and productivity.

In brief the home-school collaboration and BYOT are combining to bring about a fundamental structural change that will allow the schools to ride the megatrends.

  • Watching and waiting

With that wherewithal the school leadership, with the support of its information services and technology teams needs keep a watch on all the emerging megatrends, to regularly discuss them and to ready the school to move when required.

That need is even greater within the central offices.

The leadership of Forsyth County in Georgia USA, one of the global leaders in the shift to BYOT for example discerned the trend in 2006 and began readying the district for the ultimate move in 2010. The Parramatta CEO and the Tasmanian department are just two of the Australian authorities readying their schools for a similar move to BYOT.

  • Catching the wave

With that kind of proactive preparation the successful catching and riding of the megatrend is that much easier, but that said the speed of the ride even in the best prepared situations can be exhilarating and immense, and challenge the facility of the school to appropriately integrate the development into the everyday operations of the school.

The astute use of apps is an excellent example.

A year ago I wrote a piece for a school alerting them to the development, needing to explain what they were. Twelve months later their use in that primary school is now normalised, along with its use of the student’s own technology.

This as you’ll appreciate is not a one-off but rather an indication of the scene ahead.

As you’ll also understand the astute sustained use of those apps have considerable implications for many facets of the school’s operations – for all staff, teaching and professional support, the students and the children’s homes.

How long that particular technology will be part of the school’s teaching none of us would hazard to guess but eventually in time as we have seen with movies in the movement from film, to ¾ inch videotape, to VHS, to DVDs, momentarily to Blu-ray and today hard drives the change will occur.

  • Moving on to the next

The school has thus to be prepared to transition, when appropriate to the next wave, recognising in so doing it will phase out, and largely write off the investment in the earlier solution.

That is currently being evidenced today in school’s moves to a model of BYOT as they transition to the new model, tightly integrate the development into all their school operations and phase out, and write off the old.

As you reflect on the developments over the last twenty years and cast your eyes over those ‘treasures’ in the storeroom you don’t want to get rid off you’ll appreciate the number of the ‘waves’ you’ve already ridden and the size and speed of those yet to come.


One of the great differences between a digital school and that of old is the necessity of being on top of, indeed thriving with constant change.

That requires an astute riding of the megatrends.


  • Friedman, T 2006, The world is flat, 2nd edn, Farrar, Straus Giroux, New York.
  • Gartner (2012) Hype Cycle – http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/methodologies/hype-cycle.jsp
  • Lee, M and Gaffney, M (2008) Leading a Digital School Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2009) The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools: Lessons to be learned Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Finger, G eds. (2010) Developing a Networked School Community A guide to realising the vision Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee. M and Levins. M (2012) Bring Your Own Technology Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lipnack, J & Stamps, J 1994, The age of the network: Organizing principles for the 21st century, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
  • NMC (2011) Horizons Report 2011 K-12 Edition California New Media Consortium
  • Project Tomorrow (2011) The New Three E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered Speak Up 2010 National Findings Project Tomorrow 2011



About Mal Lee

Mal Lee is an educational consultant and author specializing in the evolution of teaching and schooling from the traditional paper based mode to one that is digital, and in turn networked, and the impact of the technology on that evolution. Mal’s is a macro focus examining all the elements associated with the development, leadership and operation of schools operating within a digital, and increasingly as networked school communities. Most importantly his is a positive approach that envisions how educators and school communities might best use the ever-evolving, ever more pervasive technology in the home, on the move and in the classroom to provide an ever better schooling for the full range of students. Mal is a former director of schools, secondary college principal, technology company director and a member of the Mayer Committee that identified the Key Competencies for Australia’s schools. A Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Administration (FACEA) Mal has been closely associated with the use of digital technology in schooling, particularly by the school leadership for the last two decades. A historian by training Mal has written extensively, particularly in the Practising Administrator, the Australian Educational Leaders and Access, Educational Technology Guide on the astute use of technology in the development of schoolings. Mal has released four publications with ACER Press. In 2008 Mal and Professor Michael Gaffney edited and had published Leading a Digital School. In 2009 he co-authored with Dr Arthur Winzenried The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools – Lessons to be Learned, and with Chris Betcher, The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution – Teaching with IWBs. In 2010 Mal joined with Associate Professor Glenn Finger (Griffith University) in the writing of his most significant work yet for ACER Press on Developing Networked School Communities: a guide to realizing the vision – on the next phase of schooling. Copies of the books can be obtained from the ACER Press website at - http://shop.acer.edu.au/acer-shop/product/A4032BK
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