Collaboration in Learning: Teaching in a Networked Age

Mal Lee and Lorrae Ward

The shift to BYOT is one of the seemingly natural consequences flowing flowing from the whole school normalised use of the digital in its teaching.

Another is the shift to a more collaborative mode of teaching, that has as it focus the learner, and the desire to involve all the teachers of the young from birth onwards in the teaching of the young.

It is our contention that where the current insular model of teaching where a solitary teacher works with a group of students within the school walls, often behind a closed classroom door is representative of paper-based schooling so collaborative teaching will be the teaching mode of the networked world.

Mal and Lorrae are finalising a new publication on that development, that draws on the experiences of schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia making that move.

In the meantime, in the Articles section you’ll find two articles that begin to explore the move. There is one by Mal and Lorrae on ‘Collaboration in Teaching’ and another by Lorrae on ‘Creating a richer educational environment: Digital bridges and virtual islands’.

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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’.

partner with whom it suits


  • 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 –
  • 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



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Sustained Evolution or Increasing Stagnation?

Mal Lee

In reflecting on the work done in writing three recent books for ACER Press, that on Leading a Networked School Community, Collaborative Teaching and BYOT and working with the pathfinding schools and education authorities in the UK, US, NZ and Australia I’ve reached the point in studying the evolution of schooling where I’m willing to posit that:

  • schools that continue to operate in the traditional insular paper-based paradigm with its constancy and continuity will never fundamentally change, will increasingly be unable to meet ever-rising societal expectations and will increasingly stagnate


  • only schools that normalise the use of the digital in their everyday teaching and that shift to a digital and networked operational paradigm with its natural on-going evolution and growth will be able to meet society’s ever growing and more sophisticated expectations

All the schools my colleagues and I have researched (Lee and Finger, 2012), (Lee and Ward, 2012, (Lee and Levins, 2012) highlight this stark reality.

The Paper Base

Traditional paper-based schools will continue their stand alone form, operating behind their brick and digital walls with an insular mindset believing only the educational professionals can provide an apposite education, largely oblivious to the immensity of the opportunities made possible when schools normalise the use of the digital while ever they stay with a paper based mode of teaching.

The medium of paper largely dictates the form of the school, the nature of the teaching, the shape of the organisation, and its on-going constancy and continuity.  Paper – and the supporting pens and teaching boards – as passive instructional technologies provide no leeway or incentive to change.

Fifty plus years of concerted costly school change programs by many of the world’s foremost educators have not been able to make a permanent dent let alone a fundamental change to the nature of the traditional school.  Granted many schools have made significant fundamental changes within their walls but the divide from the teaching and learning developments occurring in the real world remains pronounced in those schools making limited or no use of the digital in their teaching.

The Digital Base

In contrast virtually overnight schools where all the teachers in a school have normalised the use of the digital in their everyday teaching recognise the value of collaborating with all the teachers of the young – and in particular the parents – and of pooling the expertise and digital resources of the school and the homes in that teaching. In normalising the use of the digital schools – like all other organisations that go digital – move rapidly from a position of constancy and continuity to one of natural and constant evolution and change – invariably rapid change – in keeping with wider societal developments.

Significantly the basic form and resourcing of those schools is fundamentally evolving as they begin removing their school walls and shifting from the notion that only the professional educator can teach the young.

As the pathfinder schools attest once schools go digital and networked they as organisations strongly impacted by the technology naturally continue to evolve and change as the technology evolves.

They are evolving at a pace at least commensurate with society’s expectations. Students, parents and the wider society expect the digital to be used naturally in all other facets of the school’s operations, as naturally as they do in all facets of their life and work. Most already expect the students to use their own mobile technology in class (Project Tomorrow, 2011), they assume all the teachers will be naturally using the digital in their teaching and administration, and that the school will in its administration and communication use the digital facilities of the day.

Natural Evolution

What particularly hit home in the research was the extent of the natural evolution in the pathfinding schools and astute leaders recognition that in this new environment they needed to let developments grow and evolve, to run their course and to resist over planning.

The three major natural developments that we identified in our research that have flowed naturally from the normalisation of the digital and the collaboration with the homes were the:

  1. adoption of a more collaborative mode of teaching that involved all the teachers of the young from birth onwards working together
  2. shift to the students using their own suite of digital technologies they already use 24/7/365 in the classroom (BYOT)
  3. move from a one size fits all model of school technology support where the ‘ICT experts’ controlled every operation to a model where the individual owners selected, acquired and maintained their own personal technology and the school technology team facilitated its use.

Significantly all three developments work to position the learner – and not the teacher – to the fore.

It is of note that the developments were apparent in all four nations at all levels of schooling, with all types of school, rural and urban, in all types of school building and from the high to low SES.

None of the developments were planned but that said astute leaders had read the trend lines well and had prepared the way for the developments to flourish.

Forsyth County in Georgia USA did not for example plan its move to BYOT, even though today it probably leads the way globally.  It recognised the natural development, provided its schools significant support but then left it to each school to adopt the form of BYOT appropriate.

As one would expect all three developments are naturally evolving near simultaneously, each impacting upon the other.

The likely reality is that there will be other natural developments occurring that have not as yet been researched and identified.

Networked mindset

Evident in each of the case study schools and the Forsyth County central office was the mindset change, with all recognising the limitations schools impose upon themselves by operating in an artificial world behind the school walls and all increasingly appreciating the immense opportunities opened when they collaborate with all the teachers of the young in the teaching and learning.

All had moved from the traditional insular to an ever more networked mindset.

In normalising the use of the digital the schools have adopted a more open thinking where the teachers are willing to genuinely collaborate with their student’s homes, to respect the contribution the homes make to the teaching of the young from birth onwards and to recognise the opportunities opened when the schools and the homes pool their expertise and resources in the teaching of the young.

Home-school collaboration

Historically this willingness to collaborate with the homes is a dramatic change, for despite the rhetoric there has in reality been only tokenistic home-school collaboration by most schools in the Western world (Mackenzie, 2010). The occasional parent teacher night, a few parents on a school council, parents acting as taxi drivers for the school and the school telling the parents what they have to do to with the homework are not examples of genuine collaboration.

Why the normalisation brings the change, and if the normalisation of the digital the only way to achieve genuine collaboration are two questions the research has yet to address.

What is however is clear achieve normalised use, add to the mix a principal willing to lead and you’ll soon have all parties willing to collaborate in the enhancement of the children’s education.

The missing element has always been the teachers and the school leadership.  The parents and students have always been willing to collaborate. It has been the professional educators willing to cede some of their educational power and to recognise the value of all parties working together that has been absent.

Until one secures the genuine willingness of all parties to collaborate schools can’t hope to employ a mode of schooling that makes astute 24/7/365 use of the school and home technology in the provision of a holistic education for the C21.

Achieve that and the plethora of educational, social, organisational, technological, economic and political opportunities identified in the three aforementioned books are all readily achievable.

What is apparent even at this very early stage are the very considerable, and often unintended dividends flowing from the greater home-school collaboration, the potential for many more and the difficulty of ascertaining whether many of the developments are the result of the technology, the change of mindset, the collaboration or the interplay of each with wider societal developments.

Suffice it say the experience of the case study situations is that home-school collaboration is shaping as one of the key developmental variables in a networked world.  Without it one cannot hope to maximise the potential of collaborative teaching (Lee and Ward, in press), BYOT (Lee and Levins, in press) or the 24/7/365 educational use of the digital technology (Lee and Finger, in press).

Attempts by schools and education authorities to coerce a digitally aware and empowered student and parent population will generally fail. Some elite schools might get away with it for a time, but most parents, like you or I when told what they have to do with their own technology will object.  Cooperation is the way forward.

In studying the BYOT initiatives Martin Levins, Chris Hubbard, Terry Freedman and I noted numerous schools and education authorities approaching its introduction from the traditional insular educators ‘we know best’ mindset, believing they can impose its successful use.

It is already clear from the case study experience if the teachers aren’t using the digital astutely in their everyday teaching the kids won’t bother bringing their gear to that class.

Normalisation of the digital

To achieve 100% normalised student of BYOT one must have 100% normalised teacher use.

For the school and the home to collaborate 24/7/365 in the teaching of the young the parents, the children and the teachers have all to be naturally using the digital.

Its use has to be as all pervasive and in time as invisible as have been the pen and paper.

In a start up situation when schools have a critical mass of the teachers – 80%upwards – using the digital everyday in their teaching they are well on the way becoming a digital organisation able to evolve at pace, ready to work more collaboratively with your homes and well placed to make the astute 24/7/365 use of both the school and home technology.

School leadership.

The achievement of a critical mass will allow the school to work more collaboratively with its homes provided – and this is a major proviso – they have a principal willing and able to lead in a school in a networked mode.  Sadly as the case studies revealed there are school principals unwilling to leave the traditional form who will stymy, at least for a time the natural evolution of the school.

Interestingly in talking with the leadership of the case study schools and very much that at Forsyth County all commented on the immense difficulty they have explaining their developments to colleagues operating in the traditional paper based operation.

They have few problems discussing the developments with the kids or most of the parents but major difficulties with other teachers and educational leaders.

The problem – the gap between the mindset of the pathfinders and the paper- based schools – is growing larger daily.  The paper based school and it’s thinking is ever more out of touch with the rest of society.

When one has schools and teachers still using blackboards and chalk, as I do nearby, one not only has little chance of a meaningful dialogue, those schools have no chance of keeping pace with society’s rising expectations.

Sadly those schools – despite all the now very considerable monies being provided and the immense efforts made to lift their test results – unless they make the shift are going to become ever more dated, stagnant and places the young and parents will not patronise.

Organisational change

In this brief reflective the focus has been on very recent developments.

Suffice it to say that in all the case study situations the many other well- documented elements of successful organisational change have been to the fore, be it the nurturing of a culture of change, the setting of high – expectations, attention to detail, enhancing efficiency and productivity, the importance of astute leaders, the empowering of all the staff or the tight integration of developments in and outside the school walls. All are as vital as ever.


The simple desire with this article has been to lay on the table for all to see and consider the proposition that only those schools that successfully normalise the whole school use of the digital will be able to continue to evolve, and to evolve at a rate that meet society’s ever-greater expectations.

Schools where the principal opts  – consciously or unwittingly – to continue to run a traditional paper based organisation, where a sizeable proportion of the teachers use the pen, paper and the board in their everyday teaching will not only be unable to naturally evolve but will become increasingly stagnant.

Their option is to normalise the use of the digital or ultimately to close.

As a group our reading of the research might prove in time to be too pessimistic but if I was leading a school today that had not gone digital I’d be concerned about the ever-increasing problems that come with stagnation.


Lee, M and Finger, G (Eds) (2010) Developing a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Finger, G (Eds) (in press) Leading a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Levins, M (In press) BYOT Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Ward, L (in press) Collaborative Teaching Melbourne ACER Press

Mackenzie, J (2010) Family Learning: Engagements with Parents Edinburgh Dunedin

Project Tomorrow (2011) The New Three E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered Speak Up 2010 National Findings Project Tomorrow 2011




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Whole School Normalised Use of the Digital


Mal Lee


If your school is to provide an appropriate quality education for the Twenty First Century and take advantage of the immense teaching and learning opportunities opened daily in the digital and networked world it only stands to reason all your teachers have to have normalised the use of the digital.

You need all, including all the part-time and casual teachers using the digital in their everyday teaching as naturally as they would paper and a pen.

The bottom line is that if the teachers don’t use the digital in their classrooms nor will the students.

Until you have at least a critical mass of your teachers having normalised the use of the digital your school will remain in an ever more dated insular, paper based operational paradigm unable to benefit from the opportunities opened by the digital and networked world being enjoyed by the pathfinding schools.

Somehow this very basic and obvious fact fact seems to have escaped the attention of most goverments and educational administrators and in 2012 still not received the attention due.

Whole school teacher usage of the digital is the key to the way forward for every school.

If there are teachers on your staff who have not normalised the use of the digital – even if only a few – not only ask why not but move expeditiously to redress that anomaly.

Today the use of the digital is normalised with every child, by the parents, every work place and by virtually every teacher outside his/her classroom.

The one place it is not is the supposed place of learning – the classroom.

Until that occurs – as indicated in my below article on ‘Normalised Use of the Digital’ – your school is prevented from providing an education apposite for a digital and networked world, from enjoying the benefits of evolving naturally as an digital organisation, of viewing future schooling from a networked mindset, successfully shifting to a model of collaborative teaching and BYOT and providing an education consanant with that expreienced outside the school walls.

To get your school into the play with all staff members able to contribute you’ll need simultaneously address the following nine key human and technological variables.

  • Teacher Acceptance
  • Working with the Givens
  • Teacher Training and Teacher Developmental Support
  • Nature and Availability of the Technology
  • Appropriate Content/Software
  • Infrastructure
  • Finance
  • School and Education Authority Leadership
  • Implementation

I first identified these variables with Dr. Arthur Winzenried in 2006 and then elaborated upon them with him in The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools in 2009.

In revisting them today, with the benefit of having been able to draw upon another four years of research associated with the evolution of schooling and having watched many dramatic game changing developments in the technology since 2008 all still hold true.

What however I’d now add is that total teacher normalisation of the digital is that much more central to school development and enhancement.

Schools not at that stage are not only denying their students the requisite education they don’t even appreciate they are failing them.

Forget the various simplistic whole of teacher usage solutions that have been offered up by so many schools, education authorities and governments and recognise you’ll need to simultaneously address a suite of closely interrelated variables if you are to achieve total teacher usage.

History reveals time over you’ll not achieve 100% usage by simply handing the teachers the latest ‘you beaut’ gear be it a PC, laptop, IWB or Pad.

Similarly you won’t achieve it simply with professional development (PD) and in particular externally provided PD.

You most assuredly will not achieve normalisation by giving the students the technology and assuming the student use will embarras the staff to change.  There is no research to support the approach, rather there is evidence suggesting the strategy will strengthen the teacher’s intransigence.

What is that much clearer now than four years ago is that it is appreciably more important to get all teachers actually using a digital technology in their teaching than it is that a portion of the staff become expert in the use of a particularly technology.  In brief it is significantly more important school development wise that every one on staff uses an IWB, or netbooks or iPads competently in their everyday teaching than it is that a few teachers are taught to use Photoshop expertly, while the rest of the teachers continue using chalkboards.

It is appreciated that view is contrary to that of most ‘ICT experts’.

The research has affirmed (Lee and Finger, 2010, in press) (Lee and Ward, in press) (Lee and Levins, in press) that far greater school development will flow from moving all staff from a paper to a digital base, and having all the teachers approach their teaching from networked mindset than will ever be achieved when only a portion of the staff are highly skilled.

The key is to get all teachers working with the digital and understanding how it can be used to enhance teaching and learning.  With that breakthrough one can then work with the teachers on enhancing their wider digital competencies.

As you yourself will have seen over the last four years as we left behind the PC world and the ‘one size fits all approach’ – and where Microsoft expertise was deemed as synonymous with ICT expertise – and moved at pace to a position where teachers are able to choose from a plethora of ever-evolving digital technologies and applications the key today is understanding the options available and how one might best use that functionality in one’s teaching, rather than becoming expert in a particular technical skill set.

The Nine Variables.

  • Teacher Acceptance. 

Larry Cuban very aptly indicated in 1986 that teachers were the gatekeepers to what happens in their classrooms in relation to the technology.

You have to convince each of the worth of their normalising the use of the digital.

Historically the securing of that teacher acceptance has largely been forgotten (Cuban, 1986) (Lee and Winzenried, 2009).

All too often mandates from high, from government or the education authority that paid little regard to the needs of each teacher have been thought sufficient to get teachers to change their ways. It didn’t work and it never will.

The research (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) points very strongly to each teacher needing to believe his/her use of the technology in class will enhance the teaching and the student learning, and in the process if that use improves efficiency and reduces lesson preparation time so much the better.

While the leadership ought strongly communicate the school’s desire that the digital ought be used in every area of teaching and learning, K-12 it needs to personalise its efforts and work with each of the teachers not yet using the digital to bring them into the play.

Allied – as indicated below – is the importance of each teacher being able to begin with instructional technology they are comfortable using, and which they are able to use naturally in their teaching room.   That is what paper, the pen and the teaching board provided.

Peter Lambert in designing the original software for Promethean’s interactive whiteboards (IWBs) very consciously aimed to build on teachers universal use of and comfort with teaching boards – be they black, green or white (Lee and Winzenried, 2009).

It should not be a surprise that it was when IWBs reached a level of maturity and a price point where they could be instaled in every teaching room did we see – from around 2002-2003 – the first total teaching staffs normalising the use of the digital.

The IWB was and indeed remains today the breakthrough technology that assisted move the vast majority of teachers from their paper to digital teaching mode (Lee, 2010).

The challenge is to get each teacher believing he/she should use the digital in his/her teaching.

In the last couple of years the wider societal and in particular student normalisation of the digital has undoubtedly brought home to ever more teachers the educational value of they using the digital in their classrooms.

Interestingly in examining an array of case study schools that had normalised the whole staff use of the digital mention was regularly made of the

–       principal making it clear what was expected of all teachers in relation to the use of the digital in the teaching

–       school leadership requiring the digital be used in all teaching administration, be it to mark the roles, communicate or enter student assessment data. In brief the schools had employed both the carrot and the stick.

Significantly when schools achieve a critical mass of teachers – 65% – 75% – using the digital everyday the leadership is usually able to use that group and the momentum they are generating to win over the late adopters, and new appointments.

  • Working with the Givens.

It is very easy to forget in seeking to get all teachers using the digital and selecting the apposite instructional technology that teachers have to work within a set of invariably unstated givens, such as class groups, well-managed classes, the limited space of the classroom, a set and crowded curriculum and most importantly limited teaching time.

Teachers moreover want the facility to create their own lessons, and instructional technology that allows them to do so.

Historically those operational constraints have been largely forgotten.  Technology after technology in the twentieth century teachers were obliged to leave their own teaching room to make use of it, and were then obliged to use pre-packaged content they couldn’t customise.

Fortunately recent technological developments have negated the later concerns but still too many schools have not addressed the need to have the requisite suite of technology in each teaching room.

You’ll never achieve total teacher normalisation while ever the digital technology is primarily contained within labs.

Have specialist labs supplementing the in-class technology but rely on labs and you’ll stay in the paper based world.

Appropriate digital instructional technology has to be every teaching room.

If it is not there naturally the teachers will continuing use that there – the paper, pen and teaching board.

  • Teacher Training and Teacher Developmental Support.

No one should be surprised with this vital variable, but time and time again governments, education authorities and schools have not given due regard to this vital factor.  One requires far more than the one or two day PD per year. Rather schools require an appropriately resourced and focussed, on-going training and support model that becomes a normal part of the school’s everyday operations, able to accommodate an ever evolving technology.

It is interesting to note the number of schools across the developed world, primary and secondary that make asute use of what is variously described as an IT coach, instructional technology specialist, digital support staff – teachers atop the technology with the time to support the other teachers.

  • Nature and Availability of the Technology

Every teacher personally and in the classroom needs a suite of digital technology that best supports his/her teaching.

For far too long it was assumed the one magic piece of technology, the one tool, would be appropriate for all teachers, for all teaching situations from Kindergarten to Year 12.

Coincidentally that thinking coincided with Microsoft’s hegemony and a period when the ‘ICT experts’ put to the fore their technical needs rather than the educational agenda.

In the post PC era since 2010 the digital instructional technology options for teachers have grown ever wider but unfortunately the power of the ‘ICT expert’ and the ‘one size fits all model’ still lingers in many situations, making it very difficult for the later adopting teachers teachers to opt for the techhnology they would prefer.

The principal should determine which suite of digital tools each teacher requires, not the ICT staff.

The principal should also ensure every teacher – or at least near full time teacher – is provided the requisite personal mobile technology or an allowance to acquire that technology.

Sadly as amplified in the article below on ‘Technology in Australia’s Schools: The Scene in 2012’ far too many education employers are still not providing the requisite tools.

While many teachers have opted to buy their own mobile technology late adopting teachers could rightly claim if the employer is not prepared to support the digital usage aspirations with the provision of the requisite technology they too won’t go out of their way to make the change.

  • Appropriate Content/Software

Obviously without the appropriate quality content or software, be it films, videos, interactive multimedia applications or the latest apps, the use of any technology will be limited.

In 2012 with the plethora of free or inexpensive applications this is not the issue it was even four years ago.

Nonetheless with the shift to greater use of cloud based technology it is important the unnecessary ‘Net blockages are removed.

  • Infrastructure

Every teaching room must have Internet access – preferably very high speed – available 100% of the teaching year – and not 96%.

To that end all schools also require the requisite ICT support, information services and information management, ample digital storage, back up, disaster proofing and on-going network refreshment.

One cannot hope to have the sustained total teacher use of the ICT without quality infrastructure and support.

  • Finance

Schools also need the funds to achieve and sustain not only the total teacher use of digital technology, but also the monies to support the impact of the teachers’ ever-rising expectations upon the whole school.

The success of the low socio economic pathfinding schools in achieving total teacher acceptance of the digital technology would suggest that provided the school principal so decides virtually all schools in the developed world can finance the total school use of that technology.

Historically schools and education authorities have only ever allocated a few percent of their total recurrent budget on instructional technology, and in comparison to the other information rich industries schools are still the poor cousins.

That said the shift to a model of BYOT that is a natural flow on from achieving full teacher normalisation of the digital should make it that much easier financially to ensure the school can support the whole staff use of the digital.

  • School and Education Authority Leadership

An astute school principal who is prepared to lead, to strongly articulate the imperative of all teachers using the digital, to tailor the school’s efforts to each teacher’s needs and constantly ensure all the variables are addressed is fundamental to achieving and sustaining total teacher usage.

In many respects the main reason why so many schools have in 2012 have not normalised the use of the digital can be attributed to the lack of leadership from the school principal, and to a lesser extent the education authority leadership.

A lesser extent because bodies external to the school can only do so much.

It is the principal who controls the operations of the school and sets it priorities.

While it is appreciated globally there is a lack of post graduate training for the potential leaders of digital schools there are at the moment too many school principals who lack the understanding and competence to operate as the chief architect of a digital school.

Without the leadership schools have little or no hope of achieving total usage, as there is in the typically hierarchically structured school simply too many variables over which the principal has ultimate control.

While schools can achieve total usage without the support of the local education authority that authority can, often unwittingly, stymie or indeed reverse the take up.

  • Implementation

The history of the introduction of instructional technology reveals a long-term failure to adopt appropriate whole school implementation strategies.  The focus has been on rolling out the technology and not addressing the many human variables central to any successful use of the technology.

Sadly the same still holds true today.

Far too often one views instructional technology plans that don’t mention the human element.

A smart whole school implementation strategy that puts the teachers to the fore, appropriate for the particular school, coordinated by an astute coordinator is essential for not only addressing all the aforementioned variables, but for achieving whole school teacher normalisation.


When one analyses the long term ‘use’ of the various instructional technologies it is only recently apparent that it was not until the confluence of a set of technological developments in the opening years of the C21 that it became possible to achieve the long desired total teacher use of the digital.

Until then the conditions conducive to normalisation had not existed.

We are thus talking a relatively recent phenomenon but that said when one looks back at how quickly the pathfinders moved from their paper to digital base and how readily so many other schools globally have followed their path one can safely say in 2012 that provided the school leadership accords it the desired attention any school can move relatively swiftly to achieve total teacher normalisation of the digital and position the school to thrive as a networked school community.


Cuban, Larry (1986) Teachers and Machines, Teachers College Press, Columbia University, USA.

Cuban, Larry (2001) Oversold and Underused, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. USA.

ISTE (2007) Maximizing the Impact. The pivotal role of technology in 21st century education systems.  ISTE, Partnership for 21st Century Skills and SETDA –

Friedman, T (2006 2nd Edition), The World is Flat, NY Farrar, Straus Giroux

Lee, Mal and Winzenried, Arthur (2005) , ‘Interactive whiteboards: Achieving total teacher ICT usage’, The Australian Educational Leader,  Vol. 28 No. 3, 2006, pp. 22-25.

Lee, M and Winzenried, A (2008)  A History of the Use of Instructional Technology in Schools  Melbourne  ACER Press

Lee, M and Finger, G eds (2010) Developing a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M (2010) ‘The Interactive Whiteboards and Schooling: The Context’ Education, Technology and Pedagogy Routledge Vol.19, No.2 July 2010

Lee, M and Finger, G eds (in press) Leading a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Levins, M (in press) BYOT Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Ward, L (in press) Collaborative Teaching: the beginning of the journey Melbourne ACER Press

Meredyth, D et al (1999) Real Time – Computers, Change and Schooling, Canberra  Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs


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Normalised Use of the Digital

Normalised Use of the Digital

Mal Lee

March 2012

The research is affirming that fundamental to schools being in the position to shape their desired educational future is the normalised use of the digital by all within the school’s community, its teachers, professional support, students and the parents.

When all are working naturally from a digital base the school will rapidly achieve ‘digital take off’ (Lee and Gaffney, 2008), will move to a digital and turn networked operational paradigm (Lee and Finger, 2010), will shift from a position of constancy and continuity to one of on-going change and evolution, the staff will adopt a more networked mindset, the traditional school walls will begin to be dismantled, the school will naturally shift to a more collaborative mode of teaching (Lee and Ward, 2012) and adopt a BYOT (Lee and Levins, 2012) model of school and position itself to provide the best possible education for the networked world.

The key is the normalisation by all of the digital.

Until schools begin operating on a digital and networked base the nature of schooling and teaching, despite the best efforts of great users of the digital will remain locked in a traditional paper based organisational mode and mindset.

The schooling and teaching will remain largely insular, with the teaching occurring behind the school walls, handled by sole teachers teaching mass groupings often behind closed classroom doors with little or no collaboration with the student’s homes, making little or no use of the immense untapped resources in the student’s hands, in their homes or in the wider networked world.

The schooling will become ever more divorced from the real world.

Vitally teachers and school leaders will retain their insular mindset where they believe only they know what is best for the young and as such have to control the school’s and the nation’s education of the young, largely dismissing the teaching contribution the parents and the young themselves have made since birth.

Change the mindset and you’ll move forward at pace embracing the kind of developments I’ll explore in the coming columns.

The teachers

The major challenge is to get every teacher, including your casuals and new staff normalising the use of the digital.  Get them all using it and so too will all the students but until you secure that usage the school will stay locked in its old mode even if having ample digital technology.

Let’s be clear – the problem lies not with the teachers but with poor leadership at the school, education authority and national government level.

Recognise virtually every teacher, like the parents and the young have normalised the use of the digital in their everyday lives.

It is only in the classroom where far too many still have not normalised its use.

Lack of leadership

In researching the use of instructional technology over the last century the lack of astute leadership stood out (Lee and Winzenried, 2009).

The same holds today.

There are very good leaders of schools and education authorities who understand the imperative of achieving the normalised use of the digital, who have shown since the early 2000’s how relatively easy it is to achieve addressed astutely but far too many, including those in the bureaucracy and academia still don’t understand its imperative let alone what is entailed in making the change.

The key is to normalise the use of the digital in each classroom in each school in Australia.

That will however require the leadership to change its current largely ineffectual priorities.

Radical as it might seem it is far more important to get every teacher naturally using the digital in their everyday teaching and changing their mindset than it is to enhance the effectiveness of the teaching with the digital.

The focus in Australia from the 80’s – at the school, authority and national level – has been on improving the teaching of those using the digital. The thrust has not taken Australia’s schools into the digital mode nor will it ever (Lee and Finger, 2012) (Lee and Ward, 2012).

While it is important professional development is but one of a suite of human and technological variables requiring immediate attention if the nation is to have all its teachers normalise the use of the digital.

Ask yourself;

  • What percentage of the teachers in your school have normalised the use of the digital in their teaching?
  • What percentage of the teachers within your education authority have normalised its use?
  • Why so many schools have succeeded in securing 100% uptake when yours hasn’t?

Total staff normalisation.

The answer is now clear and it entails all schools, with hopefully the support of their education authority, addressing the nine variables identified by Lee and Winzenried in 2009.

Those nine closely interrelated variables are:

  • Teacher Acceptance
  • Working with the Givens
  • Teacher Training and Teacher Developmental Support
  • Nature and Availability of the Technology
  • Appropriate Content/Software
  • Infrastructure
  • Finance
  • School and Education Authority Leadership
  • Implementation (Lee and Winzenried, 2009, P225)


All need to be addressed simultaneously.

Each is analysed more fully in The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) and in a shorter article at –

Many today ought be self-explanatory.

However a number are worthy of particular comment three years on particularly in view of the continued failure by too many school leaders to vary their ways.

  • Teacher acceptance

Teachers are contrary to oft-used criticism not Luddites.

They are however a group that has been poorly led, supported and understood.

While seemingly obvious teachers have to believe their use of the digital will enhance their teaching and the education of their students.

If they believe that the vast majority will near break their back in their quest to do the right thing by their kids.

But if they don’t, as history reveals (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) no amount of threats, industry criticism or government mandates will change their ways.

As Larry Cuban (1986) astutely observed teachers are the gatekeepers to their own classroom. Each will decide on the nature of the teaching and teaching tools used in his/her room.

They have to be won over.

Win over a critical mass of the teaching staff and the late adopters will invariably follow suite.

In retrospect it ought come as no surprise to find that the vast majority of schools across the developed world moved to digital take off and the normalised use of the digital in the everyday teaching when the first piece of instructional technology designed for teachers (Lee and Winzenried, 2009), the interactive whiteboard (IWB) reached a price point around 2002 – 2003 when one could be placed in every classroom.

Teachers could immediately see the educational value of the technology.

In many respects it was, and continues to be the revolutionary technology that has moved most teachers globally to the normalised use of the digital in the classroom (Lee, 2010).

Interestingly the percentage of the nation’s classrooms with an IWBs is a rough guide to the level of teacher normalisation in the nation. The latest Futuresource (2011) figures for Australia for example showed 58% of rooms with IWBs.

  • Working with the Givens

The other often forgotten point is that teachers have to work within a set of unwritten givens and any digital technology they use has to fit within them.

All the teachers teach classes, within a finite sized teaching room and are obliged to teach a specified curriculum to that group, within a specified time slot while expertly managing the kids.

Teachers want the technology in their teaching room. History reveals the vast majority of teachers are not prepared to waste time moving their students to the technology and to put up with ‘riots’ while trying to get the technology to work.

It has to be in the room, instantly available for ready to use and manage as one could with the blackboard, a pen and paper.

Harsh though it might appear schools that rely on computer labs are destined never to normalise the use of the digital across the staff using that approach (Lee and Winzenried, 2009).

  • Nature and availability of the technology

Not only does the technology have to be in the classroom, but also every teacher and student has to have ready use of both personal and whole of group technology.

In Australia in early 2012 the current guesstimate, that is being clarified in time for use in a future column is that around one third of Australia’s teachers are still not provided a computer for personal use by their employer. That holds in the state, Catholic and independent school sectors.

There is little chance of whole school normalisation until every teacher is provided the requisite tools.

What is particularly worrying is that the advice given suggests that in the vast national DER roll out no federal or state coordinating group saw the wisdom in ascertaining how many teachers didn’t have the that tool, let alone remedying the situation.

  • School and authority leadership

In brief too many in leadership positions in Australia in 2012, be they in schools or the educational bureaucracy still have not recognised the fundamental importance of every teacher, in every one of the near on 10,000 schools in Australia normalising the everyday use of the digital in their teaching.


It is a very simple equation; have every staff member normalise the use of the digital in their work and the school will naturally over time go digital and networked, and realise the many dividends that will flow,


Cuban, L (1986) Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920, Teachers College Press, New York.

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 (2012) Leading a Networked School Community Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Levins, M (2012) BYOT Melbourne ACER Press

Lee, M and Ward, L (2012) Collaborative Teaching: the beginning of the journey Melbourne ACER Press




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Technology in Australia’s Schools: The Scene in 2012

The following article was prepared as the lead article for the new technology supplement within The Australian Teacher Magazine. In brief it was designed to set the scene, to provide an overview of the current situation, to highlight the continuing waste on technology spending across the nation and the dangers associated with using an ‘ICT expert’ model. But it also identified many of the very pleasing developments underway.

Waste, Technology, 24/7/365 Teaching and Collaborative Development

Mal Lee

Throughout the last century the technology has promised Australian schools so much and yielded so little.

Today it is marginally better.

While a sizeable number of pathfinding schools have since the turn of the century begun to make excellent use of the technology and are fast moving towards its near invisible, normalised use sadly most continue to make the same old mistakes, focus on the gear, not the teaching and waste both money and opportunities.

While common sense and the research make it patently clear that it is the expert use of the tool, and not the tool itself that makes the difference school after school, government after government, media report after media report continue the preoccupation with the technology and leave the human element, the teachers, their leaders, the students and parents out of the equation, somehow imagining the latest netbook, tablet or iPad will revolutionise the teaching. It didn’t happen with the magic lantern, the silent 16 mm projector or educational television and as the research Winzenried and I undertook on the use of technology in the last century it won’t with today’s technology.

It is the teachers, the school’s leader, the school collaborating with its community and the wise use of the market in the astute use of the technology that makes the difference.

When in the region of 40%-50% of Australia’s teachers are still not provided their own digital teaching tools and the governments working on the national roll out of a ‘Digital Educational Revolution didn’t even identify let alone redress the teachers’ equipment shortcomings the national leadership is symbolically communicating very strongly the teachers don’t matter.

When the teachers don’t use the digital nor will their students, even if issued with the gear.

When the person in the school ultimately responsible for normalising the astute everyday use of the digital, the principal, is appointed without ascertaining if he/she has the macro understanding needed to be the chief architect of a digital school nor is provided the post graduate level development to prepare them for that role one can understand why so many of Australia’s schools are daily grossly underusing the investment in the technology.

When the political focus from both major political parties continues to be the laptop and not its astute 24/7/365 educational use and the evolution of a more networked and collaborative mode of schooling the likelihood of perpetuating the waste is further amplified.

Fortunately there are a growing number of very astute schools and school leaders across Australia showing the way forward, full well recognising the imperative of placing the educational agenda to the fore, of seeking to provide an appropriate education for the C21 and a networked world, of ensuring every staff member is readied to play his/her role, of collaborating closely with the student’s homes and of making best holistic use of the suite of digital technologies on the market.

Your quest ought be to learn from them.

The very real challenge is to understand the tightly integrated operations of schools which are working within a networked operational paradigm, which have gone digital and have normalised the use of the digital in the everyday teaching of all staff, and which are now collaborating everyday with their homes and communities in the 24/7/365 teaching of their young.

These schools, primary and secondary, state and non-government, urban and regional have all recognised it is the classroom teacher – not the government, nor the system or the school principal – who decides what technology will be used or not used in the classroom. Teachers are the gatekeepers to the classroom. Unless teachers believe the particular technology will improve the student’s learning, is easy to use and maintain and is readily available in every teaching room the technology will not be used despite the best efforts of digitally astute school leaders.

It is why Australia’s failure to provide every teacher the desired digital work tools is so damaging. It not only communicates symbolically the teacher doesn’t matter but more importantly it retards the shift nationally to the normalised use of the digital and collaborative 24/7/365 teaching.

It is appreciated a significant – but as yet unquantified – proportion of teachers purchase their own technology, regardless of their employer’s tardiness but it is long past the time when every full time teacher in Australia should either be provided the requisite digital work tools or the funding to secure them.

While no state or national government in the 90’s would have contemplated even low level of clerks not having his/her own computer in 2012 most are seemingly unconcerned a third, maybe a half of its teachers still don’t have one.

The research I’m undertaking with Professor Glenn Finger and Dr. Lorrae Ward is increasingly affirming that it is only when all the teachers have normalised the use of the digital in their everyday teaching will they be ready attitudinally and competence wise to collaborate with their homes and vitally work with the parents and the young themselves in better using the digital and teaching capacity of their student’s homes.

Only then will they begin thinking in the networked mode in keeping with the mindset employed by the Net Generation parents and the students.

Until that occurs the school and leadership will tinker with the technology but continue working within the old insular paper based paradigm behind their school walls or office doors believing educationally only they know what is best for their clients.

What percentage of your teachers have normalised the everyday use of the digital in their classroom?

Why not?

Until you have 100% you’ll struggle to move forward.


Unless you have a school principal with the wherewithal to perform as the school’s chief digital education architect and the capability of leading an increasingly complex, tightly integrated organisation that collaborates authentically with its community you’ll also struggle.

The principal’s leadership will facilitate or block the evolution of the school regardless of the work done by all the other staff and community members.

Collaborative teaching

In the same way solo teaching characterised the paper based school so it appears a more collaborative model of teaching that entails the professional teachers collaboratively teaching the young in conjunction with the parents, and increasingly the grandparents and the young themselves, will be typical of the digital and networked school.

The young teach themselves with the aid of an ever-evolving suite of integrated technologies and invariably their peers, 24/7/365.

Today’s schooling contributes to that teaching less 20% of the young’s learning time each year.

The remaining 80% of the teaching and learning is handled by default by the naturally inquisitive young themselves, their parent/s and increasingly their grandparent/s.

Basic to that teaching and learning is the normalised, all pervasive use of the digital, around about a half of which is still banned from use in the school.

Across the developed world the digital capacity and teaching expertise of the student’s homes is burgeoning. Historically Australia has never had such well – educated parents and indeed grandparents, or a parent cohort so at ease with the digital.

As the 2011 Project Tomorrow research attests schools have both a digitally empowered student and parent clientele desirous of collaborating with the schoolteachers.

The astute pathfinding schools in Australia and indeed across the developed world – schools like Noadswood (UK), South Forsythe High (US), Apiti (NZ), Matapou (NZ), Kimi Ora Special School (NZ) and Broulee PS and The Friends School (Aus) – have recognised the importance of integrating their own digital and teaching capacity with that of the young’s homes and have embarked on the path of pooling the school and home resources, of teaching the young collaboratively with the homes 24/7/365, of adopting a far more personalised style of teaching and creating networked school communities.

However that is only happening in those schools where at least a critical mass of the staff is digitally ready to collaborate.

Historically, despite numerous efforts from on high, schools have not collaborated with their homes, basically restricting the parent and student involvement and keeping them at arm’s length.

That situation is changing overnight in the pathfinding networked school communities. It is as if there is a natural flow on effect when all in the school’s community, the teachers, the students and the parents normalise the use of the digital.

The walls and the old divides begin to disappear.

Underpinning all these developments is the open, near invisible, all pervasive, multi-faceted use of the digital.

Significantly these pathfinding schools are seeking to make best the use of not only the teaching elements of the digital but also the facilities that will streamline the communication, the collaboration, networking, administration and organisation of the school and its community.

All have recognised the imperative of having a quality, simple to use multi-faceted digital communication suite that includes an integrating website, the email to all the members, regular multimedia communiqués and apposite social networking and collaboration facilities.

Of note is the number that have opted for open class blogs and wikis as part of that digital communications suite doing away with password entry and dismantling much of the electronic wall typically surrounding schools.

The overarching desire is authentic and open collaboration.

  • Integration

Already apparent in these pathfinding schools is the ever-tighter integration of all the schools in and out of school operations, an effective shaping educational vision, a related C21 curriculum and pedagogy, normalised on-going teacher development, the astute use of digital convergence to allow the one operation to perform multiple purposes, increased efficiencies, the use of the digital to curtail workload creep and vitally an increased level of synergy and productivity.

Such integration is simply not possible in a paper-based school

  • Market driven technology choices

Also inherent in these pathfinding schools and their collaboration with their homes and young is the use made of the market, with each member of the networked school community choosing the appropriate technology available on the market at the time.

Probably unwittingly these schools are finding like the young and the parents the best way of deciding which of the myriad of the personal digital devices to acquire is to leave it to personal choice and the market.

Most in keeping with their close collaboration with their homes have already embarked on a BYOT (bring your own technology) – or what is also known as a BYO, BYOD, BTOC or personal digital devices – technology acquisition approach, with the school providing the infrastructure and the homes the preferred personal mobile technology.

So significant has been the BYOT development, and so great are its potential implications for society’s teaching of its young that Martin Levins and I have joined with writers in the UK and US to prepare for release by ACER Press in coming months a publication simply titled BYOT that provides a general rationale for and guide to its wise implementation.

The trend line is strongly suggesting that in time all schools – some admittedly far latter than others – will use some type of BYOT in its school technology funding. The megatrends at play and the plethora of educational, social, economic, organisational, technical and political reasons for its adoption are such as to see the small 1:1 computing wave being overtaken by the BYOT tsunami.

Personal readiness, preference and the market determine the choice and purchase of the home and student personal technology.

On reflection a significant proportion of the waste incurred with the digital technology over the last 25 years can be attributed to the use of an ‘ICT expert’ model rather than letting the market shape the choice.

The ‘ICT expert’ approach has been characterised by its disregard for the individual client’s needs, their readiness, each school’s unique context, the ever changing market or the finite common life cycle of all the instructional technology.  The ‘one size fits all’, top down approach that paid little or no regard to the needs of very different teaching areas coupled with the decision making being made by ‘expert’ technology committees and bureaucrats imagining they could anticipate the market combined to provide failure after failure.

Those failings and the waste continue today and are evidenced authority after authority, school after school in relation to the DER funding. You know your situation, the plusses but also the mistakes made. In 2012 with the notebook as a technology fast disappearing from the market education authorities are still insisting it is the solution.

It bears noting the students and the parents – reading the market – historically identified the educational importance of all the children having a computer well before the vast majority of educational authorities and governments and have a far stronger track record – far less wasteful performance – in selecting the most appropriate ‘state of the art’ personal digital technology than many of the school decision makers.

Market research done in the mid 90’s in Australia revealed most parents believed they should buy a home computer to improve their children’s educational attainment. Time and research has endorsed the astuteness of their actions. A small group of proactive schools and education authorities made the same call and have reaped the dividends every since.

The Federal government didn’t do anything in the Howard years and when the Rudd Labor made its move in 2007 it erroneously opted to perpetuate the reliance on the ‘ICT expert’ model.

It is interesting to note that while those ‘experts’ opted to spend the DER money on laptops the education market has seen the continuing the push by Australia’s schools from 2003 to purchase interactive whiteboards (IWBs) for all classes K-12. While none of the authority ‘experts’ advocated the school acquisition of IWBs, except for the occasional dabble, the 2011 industry figures reveal 58% of classrooms in Australia now have IWBs.

Astute education authority administrators ought by now appreciate the wisdom of devolving the personal technology choice making to the school, its community and the market, abandoning the reliance on the ‘ICT experts’ model and so removing from their operations the very considerable financial and political risk, and waste inherent in that model.  It simultaneously removes from their remit the highly volatile decision making associated with the choice of rapidly evolving personal digital technologies and allows a focus on the far more stable networked infrastructure and specialist technologies.


Today there are pathfinding schools globally that have finally begun to harness and normalise the everyday use of the digital in their operations that provide a vital insight into the desired nature of schooling in a networked world.

They are most assuredly not wasting resources.

They also have as their overarching focus the 24/7/365 education of their young and a clear appreciation of the core role the digital must play.

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Mal Lee

The trend line is very much suggesting that in time every school in the developed world will use some form of ‘bring your own technology’ (BYOT) school resourcing.

It is not a question of if but when your school will make the move.

The BYOT ‘tsunami’ is rapidly coming over the horizon.

You can be proactive, note the trend and seek to shape the largely inevitable development to the best advantage or try to surpass the deeds of King Canute and prevent the wave from swamping your school.

Don’t make the mistake of viewing BYOT simply as a technical development for attention by your ICT staff.

Perhaps not surprisingly at this very early stage many of the early BYOT moves are making this making this mistake, are naïve, simplistic and preoccupied with the relatively mundane, showing little appreciation of what BYOT ought entail.

BYOT is shaping as a profound educational development with immense potential that will in time assist fundamentally change the nature of schooling, teaching, school resourcing and school’s educational relationship with their homes.

However to realise that potential the school leadership has to take charge, understand the possibilities and appreciate what is required for sustained success and development.

This brief article is intended as a ‘tsunami alert’, to open your eyes to the potential and the very real challenge of realising that potential.

To assist Martin Levins and I have joined with ACER Press in publishing in the coming months an in-depth BYOT rationale and a guide on how to approach this development and integrate it into your wider school development strategy.

By being proactive, understanding the forces impelling schools to some form of BYOT, of appreciating the myriad of potential educational, social, economic, technical, administrative and political opportunities opened by the development and recognising what the school ought do to ready itself for the move you can construct a BYOT implementation strategy apposite for your particular situation that has a chance of achieving in time normalised 100% student usage.

The naïve assumption is that every student will rush, with their parent’s blessing to use their own technology in class, even when offered no voice in its use and obliged to agree to a plethora of constraints imposed from on high.

The case studies already make it clear schools will have to move astutely over a concerted period to realise and sustain the 100% student usage, and that some schools might never achieve that outcome, even 20- 30 years on.

These are still very early days with BYOT.  The literature is mostly very light in the form of personal blogs or websites of the pathfinding schools and education authorities.  The focus of most is technical with little thought given the wider educational or financial implications.

Bernard Ryall, the CFO of the Parramatta CEO and I begun a discussion of those wider implications in Developing a Networked School Community (2010) but by building on a series of US, UK, NZ and Australian case studies Martin Levins and I have significantly expanded that thinking in the new work.

BYOT – A Definition

In BYOT (in press) we have suggested the following:

Bring your own technology (BYOT) is an educational development and a supplementary school technology resourcing model where the home and the school collaborate in arranging for the young’s 24/7/365 use their own digital technology/ies to be extended into the classroom to assist their teaching and learning and the organisation of their schooling and where relevant the complementary education outside the classroom.

Fundamental to BYOT is:

–       Personal choice of the technology by the student or family.  While schools might and probably should provide advice the final choice ought rest with the home.

–       The enhanced facility for the personalisation of teaching and learning in and outside the school walls.

–       The recognition that the in school use of the student’s digital technology is an extension, a flow on development from the young’s existing use of that technology to assist their self-teaching and learning

–       The home and students having their ownership of the technology and the information thereon respected.

The research is already strongly highlighting the importance of authentic home-school collaboration to the 100% uptake.

One can opt for a model of BYOT where there is minimal collaboration where the school or authority largely unilaterally informs the parents what they are obliged to do with their personal technology but the signs are the likelihood of that approach realising the 100% uptake and many of the desired outcomes are small.

There are a number of so called BYOT initiatives that pay scant or no regard to student personal choice, don’t recognise the young will want to work with the technology they are using everyday, don’t respect the parent’s or student’s ownership of the technology and which are not seeking to personalise the teaching and learning.

They are using, under the banner of BYOT, an imposed, compulsory buying scheme.

In doing your homework you’ll also see the terms BYO, BYOC, BYOD and personal digital devices used to refer to the same development. Fear not they are the same thing.


There are least six global megatrends coming together that will on present indications ultimately impel all schools to some form of BYOT, megatrends that relate to the normalised use of personal digital devices in every facet of life, the burgeoning digital and educative capacity of the student’s homes, cloud computing, parent digital empowerment, government’s increasing inability to fund state of the art personal technology for all students and the inexorable evolution of schooling from its insular paper-based mode to one that is more digital and networked.

Related is the emerging recognition that the market is a far better judge of the appropriate personal digital technology than any group of ‘ICT experts’ (Lee, 2012)

Atop these forces is a growing understanding, even at this early stage of the plethora of educational, social development, economic, technical, organisational and political opportunities opened with the school’s adoption and normalised whole school use of of BYOT.

In 2012 BYOT will, as the SMH noted, increasingly become one of the ‘bandwagons’ for both schools and business.  Already plans are underway for the mass media to feature the successes of the pathfinding schools and unwittingly pressure other schools to follow suite.

We’re not for a moment suggesting you ready yourself for the ‘bandwagon’ but rather be aware of the many benefits that can come from your astute shaping of the development.


Readying your school for BYOT will be crucial for your sustained success.

The current literature makes no mention of readiness or of developing an approach apposite for your context.

The assumption is that any school or education authority can whenever they decide, with no or minimal preparation, introduce a model of BYOT.

They can, but the likelihood of failure or very limited success is very considerable.

The plan ought be to ready your particular school’s base for a successful implementation and transitioning, a sustained development and a relatively speedy movement to a phase where the model is normalised and becomes near invisible.

While it is appreciated that one cannot always make the move in ideal conditions the analysis of the global case studies within BYOT (In press) points very strongly to a set of preconditions and implementation principles that ought be addressed in shaping your BYOT implementation strategy.

A key premise of BYOT ought be that every student in your school has at least home ‘Net access and in time every one their own digital mobile device.  While the market has lowered prices to the point where most schools can cover those without if your school is not in that position it ought hang fire until it can.

All of the case study schools that have effortlessly introduced BYOT into their everyday operations are those that have normalised the use of the digital in their everyday teaching and as such are ready attitudinally and competence wise to genuinely collaborate with their students and their homes.

Indeed BYOT is a natural flow on of that holistic normalisation of the digital.

They are ready to network and collaborate.

The research is evermore affirming (Lee and Ward, in press), that aside from a few special situations until schools reach that point their collaboration with the homes will be minimal, often tokenistic and invariably ‘one-way’ (Grant, 2010).

Authentic home-school collaboration where digitally empowered parents and students believe their voice will be heard and use of their technology in the school will be apposite is crucial to realising the full potential of BYOT.

While space limits the analysis in brief ideal readiness entails having a head ready to lead, a total teaching staff, and parent and student community ready to collaborate and the school having every teaching room and key areas of the campus with the infrastructure required to normalise the use of the student’s suite of digital technologies.


As indicated in real life one cannot always work with the ideal but in shaping the BYOT implementation strategy and plan for your school, the transition from the old to new and vitally the integration with the school’s total development strategy you ought factor in how you are going to address each of key readiness variables.

In shaping your own implementation strategy look to genuinely collaborating with the students and in turn the parents in identifying the BYOT operational arrangements.

Sadly a significant number of the ‘poorer’ prepared schools and education authorities have chosen to employ a ‘one-way mode of collaboration’ that mandates the condition under which BYOT will be allowed and what the parents and students must waiver.

In contrast the better prepared case study schools have adopted the KISS principle, collaborated with the students in identifying the operational arrangements and are well on track to eventually integrate BYOT’s into the school’s everyday operations.


The greatest challenge with BYOT will be human. The technical aspect is easy.

One is looking at least a year or two, even three even three in ideal circumstances to achieve 100% BYOT uptake.

The key is to understand up front the historic significance of this development and to recognise in all you do you are moving to a model of schooling, teaching and school resourcing where government – through the agency of it’s schools – more fully collaborates with the student’s homes in the 24/7/365 education of the young.




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Collaborative Teaching

Mal Lee and Lorrae Ward



Those of you whose schools have gone digital, who have normalised the everyday use of the digital in all your classrooms and who are seeking to take advantage of the opportunities opened within the networked mode will want a teaching approach apposite for a networked and ever more integrated and collaborative world.

The author’s suggest you give careful thought to adopting a collaborative mode of teaching where your teachers work with parents – and where appropriate grandparents or carers – the community and your students in the 24/7/365  teaching of the academic, cognitive, digital, social and emotional skills and attitudes vital to the students’ success at school, life and work in the C21.

At the moment circumstances have in some part dictated the teaching of that suite of attributes be sharply divided with the schools primarily handling the academic and the parents, grandparents and students being left by default to teach all the other vital attributes from birth onwards.

At the moment schools, the homes and the wider community work largely in isolation teaching different attributes with little communication or interaction in an educational sense. Schools generally handle the academics with some social, emotional and cognitive learning. Parents, grandparents and/or carers may be involved in homework and presumably the teaching of values and life skills. However, there is little interaction, if any between the two. Imagine the potential for learning if the messages were consistent, if schools and the home shared responsibility for the learning of their children and worked in educational partnerships.

Significantly that collaboration is happening increasingly in the pre-primary years as the families and teachers embrace a more integrated early childhood and care (ECEC) approach that recognises the key teaching role of the home.

However once the children enter formal schooling that home contribution is soon forgotten. Schools appear to give little value to the knowledge and experience these early educators have. Further, and perhaps more significantly they appear to give little cognisance to the knowledge parents and grandparents have of their children. This is despite an extensive literature confirming that when teachers know their students and teach in ways that values and acknowledges what students bring to the classroom and where they come from there is a marked improvement in academic outcomes.

Significantly, despite operating in an increasingly networked and interconnected world, that formal teaching is usually done in isolation, behind the walls of ‘stand alone’ schools, using a teaching approach that occupies the young less than 20% of their waking time each year.  It is a construct of an agrarian age.

The very considerable and vital teaching capacity of the homes and the community that shapes the learning of the young the other 80% of the time remains separate from the school, largely untapped and unshaped by the authorities, underused and not making the contribution to enhanced ‘national productivity’ it could.

In the networked world where the young have normalised the everyday use of the digital technology the learning the children do every minute they are awake has been heightened and their facility to learn independently increased.

It is time to adopt a mode of teaching from birth onwards where the school and its homes collaborate, using their particular strengths, particular teaching approach and the technology to provide the young the desired teaching and learning.

The model does presuppose the children, parents and teachers have normalised the use of the digital in their teaching.

In observing the pathfinding networked schools that teach collaboratively with their homes and community it seems so natural, such common sense and so in keeping with a vast body of research.

The surprise comes when you seek out the educational literature endorsing this kind of collaboration. There is much on collaboration between teachers, between teachers and students and between students; but little on authentic collaboration with the homes and the community. The value of home-school partnerships can be found in most policy discourse, it is less apparent in the research and even less so in the discourse of schools.

In the networked world teaching and learning ought no longer be restricted to a physical location, to one group of professionals or to one time. Nor should it occur in isolation across different locations.


The research and reasons underpinning the adoption of a collaborative model of teaching is vast, growing and strong. It is discussed in depth by the authors in a forthcoming publication by Lee and Finger on Leading a Networked School Community (in press) and by the authors in Collaborative teaching; the beginning of the journey (in press).

The research relates to the crucial teaching role that ought be played respectively by the parents, grandparents, children, community members and the teachers in the teaching of key attributes, the value of various parties working together in the teaching of key skills and attitudes and the very considerable impact on student attainment of school’s adopting a more open and collaborative style of teaching and forming a strong home-school bond.

The modes of teaching desired need not be markedly different to that employed by good parents, teachers and students today – except for the fact they will be more consciously collaborating, making significantly greater use of the human and technological capacity of the networked world and working upon the learning with greater awareness of what each other is doing. The combined collaborative effect is likely to be much greater than any achieved through separate activities.

The research affirms the imperative of parents being the child’s prime teacher from birth onwards. In the pre-primary years they have to play the lead teaching role in the development of all the attributes (Strom and Strom, 2010) mentioned above but when the children start school they can shed their prime responsibility for the academic and gradually devolve ever-greater responsibility for the development of the other attributes to their children. However, the research points to it being crucial they still play a lead teaching role in the on-going development of their children’s social and emotional skills and attitudes and a major role in nurturing the cognitive and digital skills well into the secondary schools years (Harvard Family Research Project, 2004). This poses an equity dilemma, as there are vast differences in the capacity of parents to support their child’s development. Schools have a role in supporting and guiding parents to be effective educators. The networked world provides endless opportunities for them to do so.

What many tend to forget is that today’s parents have become increasingly digitally empowered. They are increasingly ‘Net Generation parents, have largely normalised the everyday use of the digital and expect teachers to both use the digital in their everyday teaching from Kindergarten on and for teachers to collaborate with them in the use of that technology (Project Tomorrow, 2011).

The experience of the pathfinders and recent research attests to the ever greater role grandparents are playing and can play in the teaching of the young often well into the secondary years. Recent US Census data reveals that in 2006 12.8 % of children in the 5-14 year group were spending on average 14-16 hours a week with a grandparent (Sparks, 2011). With the ‘Baby Boomers’ moving increasingly into the grandparent ranks its capability will continue to grow.

So too will the facility of the elders within the school’s community to assist, many being highly qualified and with that rare commodity in education, time.

Any collaborative teaching model ought factor in what the research is underscoring (Project Tomorrow, 2010), the young themselves want to have a greater voice in their teaching within the school, have a major say in the teaching outside the classroom and will increasingly use the ever-more sophisticated technology – possibly with the support of peers – to teach themselves. Google is the preferred expert of choice for many.

The authors recognise – as the research attests – the professional teacher must continue to play a lead teaching role; by far the major role in the teaching of the academic skills. However, they could contribute significantly more to the development of other key educational building blocks if they worked in collaboration with the parents and children. Further, they must recognise the extent to which parents and their children exist in a networked world; where information is instantly available, where interaction is available at the push of a button.

It may be that one of earliest jobs of the professional teacher is to bring together the ‘language of learning’, to clarify in the minds of our youngest learners the language of the learning processes that they have already learnt at home and in playschool. Rather than seeing school as ‘different learning’ schools should see themselves as the next extension of the Piagetian model previously used by the families, playgroups and preschools.

Significantly, as the pathfinding schools have found, that collaboration need not be just in the face to face teaching but can take the form of providing advice and direction, teaching of the ‘teachers’ and working with the community members to develop teaching support materials.

The educational impact, particularly reflected in enhanced student attainment but also in the improved student attendance, involvement and behaviour, of schools adopting a more open and collaborative relationship with its homes is well documented but appears to be forgotten in many circles.

One could continue.

Suffice it to say that in recent years the level and sophistication of the collaborative technology in the home, in the hands of the young and within networked schools has reached the stage where it can be normalised in the collaborative teaching of not only the young but the wider community.

The Current Situation

You know the scene.

Suffice it to say aside from the schools operating within the networked mode authentic collaboration with the homes leaves much to be desired.

Years of efforts to foster home-school collaboration, even when it was mandated at in Scotland in 2006, and in England with its home-school agreements, have failed. Parents continue to be seen as fund-raisers, taxi drivers and teacher’s-aides. They are generally passive participants in parent-teacher meetings and recipients of school reports.  True educational partnerships are rare.

However, the signs are good with the schools that have moved to the networked phase and are ready attitudinally and ability wise to adopt an ever more collaborative form of teaching.

The Issues

Any shift, as dramatic as adopting a fundamentally different model of teaching and learning, will have to contend with a host of hurdles.  They are as the authors indicate in the aforementioned book many and varied.

The normalising of the approach will take time, some tense moments, astute leadership and the convincing of one’s community the school really does want to collaborate. For too long parents have been held at an arm’s length and teachers protected by authorities from parental “interference”. Changing this will require an attitudinal shift within schools and potentially families. Accepting dual responsibility for the learning of their children will require both parties to reflect on their roles in educating the young.

Tokenism, and ‘one-way’ collaboration where the school determines the nature of the arrangement will not work (Grant, 2009, 2010).

The lessons of the pathfinding schools indicate the school, its head and in particular its teachers – and sometimes the education authority and teacher unions – are likely to be the main stumbling block. However if the school is operating within the networked mode and the staff is ready the transformation can commence very quickly.

We do stress it has to be an individual school decision, and not a mandate from high.


Authentic collaboration is a difficult art but done well can markedly enhance the learning and lives of the children, their families, the school’s community and the teaching staff.


Grant, L (2009) Developing the home-school relationship using digital technologies Futurelab August 2010

Grant, L (2010) Connecting digital literacy between home and school. Futurelab December 2010

Harvard Family Research Project (2004) ‘Adolescence: Are Parents Relevant to Student’s High School Achievement and Post secondary Attainment?’

Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) (in press) Leading a Networked School Community

Project Tomorrow (2010), Unleashing the Future Educators. ‘Speak Up’ about the use of Emerging Technologies for Learning. May 2010 Project Tomorrow

Project Tomorrow (2011) The New Three E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered Speak Up 2010 National Findings Project Tomorrow 2011

Sparks, S.D (2011) ‘Statistics show more grandparents caring for grandchildren’ Education Week Aug 3 2011

Strom, R and Strom, P (2010) Parenting Young Children Exploring the Internet, Television, Play and Reading, IAP Charlotte




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Rethinking and Redefining ‘Schooling’ in a Networked World


Mal Lee


It is an opportune time, at what is in many respects a watershed period in the history of schooling to ask the most basic of questions, what defines a ‘school’ in a networked world?

It appears a human construct of the Industrial Age is markedly limiting schooling’s facility to better harness the technology in the desired education of the young.

A school is currently conceived of as a place, an institution the young physically attend to be taught and learn. In a digital and networked world, as the young who have long since normalized the use of the digital (Tapscott, 2009) (Lee and Finger, 2010) daily attest one doesn’t have to physically attend an institution to be taught and learn.

As evermore schools move at pace into the networked mode, make ever greater use of the technology, seek to provide a 24/7/365 education and adopt a fundamentally different operational form the stage has been reached where nations and their educational leaders ought get on high and rethink the purpose and form of schools.

While not for a moment suggesting that schools be disbanded it is important to take advantage of the rapidly changing scene and the growing necessity to shape the desired future to rethink the nature of the school in what is a fundamentally different environment to the one in which schools were shaped.

The current model of schooling was largely conceived in the Industrial Age and its form was strongly impacted by the teaching and learning facilities and technologies available at that time in both the home and the school.

As the place called school goes digital and experiences the same irrevocable transformation that all other organizations that have gone digital have undergone it is opportune for governments and school leaders to revisit and possibly redefine the concept of the school and in so doing to consider the appropriateness and effectiveness of the schooling provided by the nation to its 0 to 18 age group in an increasingly networked world.

The nature of schooling has remained basically unchanged for well over a century and the perception has naturally grown that its form is some how immutable.

It is most assuredly is not and in the last decade early adopter schools across the developed world and Australia have moved schooling from its the traditional paper based operational mode to one that is digital, and in some instances networked. (Lee and Gaffney, 2008) (Lee and Finger, 2010).

Schooling is evolving at pace, with virtually all schools in the developed world moving inexorably to the digital stage and as such from an era where constancy and continuity were the norm to a time of on-going, often rapid and uncertain change and evolution, where more than ever the desired future needs to be proactively shaped.

It is thus opportune to pause for a moment and to reflect on the current concept of schooling, its appropriateness for a networked society, to identify the current model’s shortcomings, to envision its desired form, to consider the implications of such a shift and to begin shaping the schooling appropriate for a networked world.

In examining the evolution of schooling over the past decade, and the profound impact the technology has had upon the learning of the young the author believes there are major shortcomings, and they have to do with the disinclination to revisit the reasons nations have schools, to ask what schooling should entail and to critique the established ways and as a consequence continue to perpetuate the lack of balance in the educative process, with the seeming inability or unwillingness of many vested interests to redress those imbalances and use very considerable untapped community resources.

While individual schools are moving at pace addressing these shortcomings there has not been from government a preparedness to take advantage of the shift to ask how best their nation should school its young in a world where learning occurs 24/7/365.

Why for example are the most important years in the education of a person, 0 to 5 not included in nation’s model of schooling? Why is ‘schooling’ provided during less than 20% of young people’s active time when we know they learn every moment they are awake? Why do so many authorities persist with a ‘one size fits all’ approach for all age levels in often vastly different communities? Why in a networked world is there such a wide and growing home-school ‘digital divide’ and so little use being made of the immense ‘teaching’ facilities of the student’s homes and the community?

One can continue.

It is appreciated a growing number of schools are addressing these issues but it might help if we ask what should constitute a school in a networked world?

What is a school?

John Goodlad in his 1986 seminal analysis of US schooling spoke of ‘a place called school’ (Goodlad, 1986).

A quarter of a century on society still defines school a place by its physical form. ‘An institution or building at which children and young people under 19 receive an education.’ (Collins, 2007). Wikipedia defines ‘a school as an institution designed for the teaching of students (or pupils) under the supervision of teachers’. (Wikipedia, 2011).

Interestingly the definitions focus is on the physical entity and not its form or indeed societal purpose, and while the Collin’s definition speaks of the under 19 we all know schooling begins at age 5 in most nations.

A Google search of ‘schools’ and ‘schooling’ will reveal little or no questioning of the concept, although clearly education authorities have been obliged to contend with and approve ‘virtual schools’ and ‘home schooling’, both of which stretch the traditional thinking. Moreover the form of the school in education authorities controlled by bureaucracies compared to that within the non-government sector where the school has that much more local autonomy is often pronounced.

Notwithstanding while the literature abounds with calls to change schools I’ve been unable to locate any that suggests varying the traditional concept.  It is appreciated it may well exist but at this point in the history of schooling it is not coming to the fore.

What might be a school in a networked world?

Lipnack and Stamps in their Age of the Network, while commenting on work places in general tellingly observed in 1994;

‘Work rolls continuously around the world, following the sun, yet it is instantly accessible all the time by everyone whenever they need it. Boundaries are conceptual, not physical, in the virtual workplaces and need to be completely reconceived so that ‘physical site’ thinking is no longer a limitation.’ (Lipnack and Stamps, 1994, p15)

The ‘physical site’ thinking is still limiting the view of many about the nature of schooling in a networked world, and ought, as it was with industry several decades ago ought be consigned to history.

There is much to be said for defining schooling in the networked world by its function and purpose, and as a concept that opens the way for schools to fulfill their national obligations while at the same time having the wherewithal to cater for their particular networked community and age/client group/s.

A definition like – a school is a legally recognized organization designed to provide the young in its community with an appropriate, quality balanced education for life and work – would provide that flexibility.

Most importantly it provides schools working within the networked mode the agility and flexibility to continue to respond rapidly and astutely to the ever-changing world.

It would for example enable a school not only to teach students but also to use its educational expertise to wider advantage such as preparing others like parents, grandparents, community elders, coaches and older students to assist in the holistic ‘teaching’ of the young from birth to graduation 24/7/365.

The old definition of school that was related to physical attendance at a place or institution worked well in an era of constancy and continuity but in a networked world of rapid and uncertain change and evolution it is an unnecessarily limiting construct.

The reality is that pathfinding schools across the developed world are already operating within the revised definition mentioned above.  All the Australian and international case studies analyzed in the writing of a new work on Leading a Networked School Community have long left behind the traditional concept and are seeking to provide an apposite 24/7/365 ‘schooling’ even to the extent of providing significant support for the parents ‘teaching’ the 0 to 5 age group.


As you look to shape your school for the desired future pause, reflect and ask if you are being unduly constrained by a model of schooling designed for an ancient past and do you need to shift to a concept more appropriate for a networked world.


Collins 2007 Australian Dictionary HarperCollins Glasgow

Lee, M & Gaffney, M (eds) 2008, Leading a digital school: Principles and practice, ACER Press, Melbourne.

Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) 2010 Developing a Networked School Community: Guide to realizing the vision ACER Press Melbourne

Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) In press Leading a Networked School Community

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

Tapscott, D 2009 Grown up digital. How the net generation is changing our world McGraw Hill, New York

Wikipedia (2011) ‘School’ Wikipedia  viewed 11 March 2011




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Successful Schooling Today

Mal Lee, Sue Lowe and Greg McKay

‘Successful Schooling Today’ is a series of some 70 plus short articles designed to provide parents, grandparents and carers advice on what they can do in collaboration with their school to improve their children’s success at school.

The articles will be published weekly throughout 2011 and 2012.

The series has been prepared in conjunction with Greg McKay a graphic artist, and Sue Lowe, the Principal of Broulee Public School and the teachers of the school.

The series is part of Broulee’s ‘Collaborative Schooling’ program that is seeking to involve its student’s homes more fully in the ‘teaching’ of the Broulee children, and to have them work collaboratively with the school’s teachers in improving the school’s learning outcomes and the children’s success at school.

The initiative recognizes the young learn 24/7/365, every moment they are awake.

It understands the home has a profound impact on the student’s educational attainments, but that attainment can be enhanced when the homes and the school’s work collaboratively.

It is also conscious the vast majority of the homes in the school’s community have very considerable and ever expanding digital technologies, ‘Net access and that in its parents, grandparents and community it has an immense and largely untapped ‘teaching’ resource.

This series is intended to assist the school’s community in making its contribution.

Mal has taken on, as a community service the converting the latest research into short 400 word articles hopefully all can understand.

Greg McKay a local graphic artist has, also as a community service provided the graphics.

Sue Lowe and the teachers of the school have taken Mal’s writing, assisted in ensuring it hits its target audience and provided the links to more detailed sources and to relevant work happening in the school.

The series focuses on the key educational building blocks that are under development from birth, those core processes skills and attitudes all children need to succeed at school and in life.

The topics can be viewed in full at and details of each of those published can be read at the same link.

The series doesn’t touch upon specific curriculum matter.

The articles are being published weekly in the school’s e-newsletter and its website such that the wider community can benefit.

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