The culture of tech use

Over the last year I have spent time working with colleagues on developing our school technology strategy.    I have always felt we had a reasonably clear strategy however it was largely unwritten;   I felt there was a need to get something written down to ensure transparency and consistency in terms of technology decisions.      In exploring and developing this written version of the strategy one of the things I gave consideration to was culture where culture is evidenced by “the way we do things around here”.    My thinking was very much based on peoples actions, the stories they told, the narratives, being evidence of the culture.    In other words the behaviours were the outcome of the culture, cause and effect.   On reflection this is a little too narrow and one way.    As with most things in life, things are seldom this simple.

In thinking about wellbeing and the mental and physical side of things, rather than technology, it is clear that taking physical care of yourself, such as going for a run, can impact on your mental wellbeing.   And your mental wellbeing can have an impact on how you feel physically.    I remember reading of a study which correlated smiling, even if brought about due to holding a pencil in your mouth, with improved emotional state again showing a link between physical and mental aspects of our being.    This got me thinking as to culture, that rather than being cause and effect, if it is more a case of interdependence.

So, what if our actions and behaviours are not only a marker of the culture, but also the things that shape and mould culture over time.    We now have a cyclical relationship.    Our behaviours, our stories, etc shape the culture which in turn shapes our behaviour and the stories we tell and on and on ad infinitum.   This seems to link nicely to the fact that culture isnt easy to change, and changes over a longer rather than shorter time period.   As such actions to change culture are often little more than dropped rocks in a river.    They have limited impact on the rivers flow but over time and as more rocks are dropped in they can cumulatively change the direction of the river.

In relation to technology strategy and the culture which surrounds technology use in school, in terms of students, staff and parents, changing it is not easy however strategic initiatives, a lot like strategically deployed rocks, can help to change and shape an organisations culture relating to technology.   So, the question therefore is to decide which initiatives are likely to be successful and have the impact you are looking for.   One of the challenges here though is the constantly changing technological world and the increasing focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and school achievement measures.   These often draw focus towards the short term, this academic year, this term, etc, and away from the longer term and the little things which will change how the school looks and operates in 3, 5 or 10 years time, the school culture.  They also highlight the need to carefully plan and avoid failure, where we actually might want to be more innovative and agile in our planning plus embrace failure as a learning experience.

Strategic rocks in the culture of tech use

So, what are my strategic rocks?    For me there are 5 areas in technological strategy in schools which jump to mind, which represent long term projects and introducing a cultural change.

  1. 1:1 and increased personalisation of learning through technology with this embedded in teaching and learning practices

This is about using the tool, which is the technology in a classroom, to allow students to stretch the curriculum, how they evidence learning and also how they can customise learning to support their individual needs.   We are already seeing lots of examples of this in how tools like Flipgrid, OneNote, Microsoft Lens and Minecraft, to name but a few tools, that are being used.  We now need to build on this, embedding a greater use of technology across all lessons, but only where appropriate.

  • Increasing use of video and virtual reality or augmented reality to support teaching and learning beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom and the school day.

The pandemic has shown us that learning can take place, through technology, even when students cannot come to school.   Flipped learning, not a new concept, has already shown us how learning can happen outside lessons, with the review and reinforcement then happening in lessons.   The challenge is now to take what we have learned and to maximise the impact we can achieve from it now we are largely back in school, and in preparation should another pandemic or other issue occur.

  • A shift to cloud-based services

This is quite simply an acceptance that largely, but not always, schools are better having their services in the cloud supported by the infrastructure and support teams which are provided, rather than trying to support solutions hosted on-site with their own limited resources.    As the cyber risks continue the need to move to the cloud only intensifies.

  • Development of a holistic digital citizenship programme for staff and for students including greater awareness of data protection and cyber resilience.

As our technological reliance in the greater world increases and as we make greater use of technology in schools we need to ensure that students understand the benefits and risk.   They need to be supported to grow as digital citizens, to understand that the convenience provided by online services, by search and recommendation algorithms, is not without risk.   The challenge of individual privacy versus public good is another area in need of exploration.  They also need to appreciate the ethical dilemmas that future technologies might present us with.    And all of this needs to be through a more holistic and integrated programme than that which schools generally offer at the moment.  

  • Increasing use of data to inform teaching and learning and other areas of school operations.

And we need to look at the massive wealth of data which schools can and do gather and how we might maximise the impact this data may have.    Now I note that the job of cleaning it up so it can be used is a significant one, but if we can do so we would have data which could inform and help direct teaching and learning.   We would have a way to help teachers and students take control of learning but in a more informed, and data driven manner.

Conclusion

I think the 5 areas above outline a direction in terms of how I see things for the years ahead, at least the next 5 to 10 years.    The key therefore is about starting to drop the strategic rocks which bring about the cultural change by which the above 5 points become simply how we do things in school.   It isnt going to be a short process to make the above happen in any real embedded way, such that it becomes culture, but we need to start somewhere. And one of the positive notes I will end on, is that at least we are already making some progress towards some of the above; The process has already begun.

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Wellbeing thoughts

The other week I have a discussion on wellbeing in schools with Mark Anderson as part of a recording for Tip Top Tips Edu; you can watch the recording here.  The particular focus was on support staff such as Directors of IT, Network Managers and other IT support based roles.   I therefore thought it would be useful to share some further thoughts from my discussion with Mark and also some thoughts that arose post discussion.

Wellbeing:  What does your school do?

I think one of the first things to note is that wellbeing isn’t about events, such as an end of term staff event or offering yoga classes.   These can help improve peoples wellbeing but wellbeing is more complex than a catalogue of events on offer.  

Stress and Challenge

When we talk about stress we often jump to a negative conclusion, that stress isnt good.   The reality is that stress, at least in my interpretation, can be a good thing as well as a bad thing.     If it relates to an activity which is worthwhile, has some level of difficulty and includes some autonomy of decision making then this will likely cause stress, however it will be positive stress;  it will represent a challenge.    If, however it is not viewed as worthwhile, is busy work, includes monotony rather than autonomy and is too difficult to be achievable given available resources, then this will likely result in negative stress.

So, the question for leaders here is, do we ensure that there is meaning in what we ask our teams to do, do we provide the relevant autonomy, but also support and are we realistic and clear in our expectations of others?

Looking after yourself / Personal wellbeing

We also need to acknowledge that wellbeing for each of us is also a personal responsibility.   Yes, our school has to provide an environment that supports and encourages our wellbeing, however equally we as individuals need to also support our own wellbeing.    For each of us the methods of doing this is likely to be different.   For me it is about reading, particularly reading non-fiction, and about physical exercise in the form of jogging (or maybe lumbering would be more appropriate in my case) and also about contributing back to the Edu world through blogs, etc.  Some people may like gardening or cooking, two things I am pretty hopeless at.   For others it might be long family walks.   We each need to seek to find what works for us as individuals, as families, as friends, etc.

Balance

I often find myself coming back to the importance of balance.   Too much of anything is bad for you and equally too little is often just as bad.   Whether it is exercise, comfort foods, relaxation time, challenge and positive stress, family time, personal reflection time, or a multitude of other things, too little can have a negative impact as can too much.  Its about finding the balance that works for you.

We also need to wrestle with the challenges of time;   Often have I heard and even said that “I don’t have enough time.”   Sadly this is a pointless cry as we will never have any more time than that which we have now (unless we master time travel of course 😉 ).    There are 24hrs in the day and 7 days in the week.   This isnt going to change.   As such we need to accept that more time for a given task comes at the expense of less time for something else.   And with this in mind we need to remain balanced;   we cant simply keep providing more time to our work tasks as this will mean less time for our own personal growth and reflection, for family time, etc.   And it is worth noting that in work, we often, as we seek to improve and develop, tend towards adding things, adding tasks, adding processes, adding checks and balances, and adding complexity, all which therefore require more time.   Seldom do we seek to take things away;    Adding, having more, doing more seems logically positive however in reality this can only be guaranteed where resources are limitless.   In the real world where time is limited, everything we add which takes additional time and effort, takes away time and effort from something else.

Conclusion

On reflection, and a key thought, is that wellbeing isnt a thing or an endpoint.   Wellbeing is a road or a process.    It is ongoing and at times things your wellbeing will be challenged when all isnt going well and at other times your wellbeing will be good and all will be progressing as it should.    The key is to find what works for you, to be concious of your wellbeing and to be concious of your actions and plans in relation to wellbeing.   

So for a leader its about yourself as an individual but also about your team as a group;   How can you support wellbeing for yourself but also for those you lead.    As a team member its about yourself as an individual and also about your colleagues and how you can support one another.    Overlayed on this, for those with families, there is the wellbeing of you spouse, your kids and your other family members.  

Wellbeing isnt simple and I don’t think anyone has the answer.    For me it links to organisational culture and climate, which are equally complex and slow to change. If anything, what matters most is that we are at least speaking about and it considering it more than we did in the past, and that’s a good start.

Confidence

When looking at teachers using Technology in lessons, one of the key indicators in relation to their successful use of technology is confidence.    Those who, in my experience, have had the most success have been confident about how they plan to use technology and the impact it will have.  That is not to say that it always goes well or as they would have expected, but they are confident in outlook, and when things don’t go as intended, they confidently deal with this as a road bump rather than an obstacle, before moving on.

The challenge therefore is how do we build this confidence, with “training” being key.    Training in relation to the technology itself and how it works, and training in relation to how to use it for the purposes of teaching and learning.   

One of the limitations though in relation to training, to sharing and building confidence, is time.   Time to train has historically been limited to specific inset days where the schedule is often prescriptive.   To counter this limitation, we have increasingly been referring to continual professional development (CPD) or continual professional learning (CPL); I prefer the later as the former suggests something is lacking and in need of development.   The emphasis here, in both versions, being on the “continual” nature of the learning and sharing.   It isnt a once a year or once a term, but something ongoing, continual and day to day.  It should be part of the culture of our schools.

The challenge with CPL (or is CPLS better, where the S refers to sharing?  Education has more acronyms than a series of Line of Duty!)  is supporting it to occur and I think the last year of lockdown has given us a bit of a window into what we need to be doing.

The last year has seen massive amounts of fast paced change as teachers across the world have had to shift from face to face classroom learning, the type that every teacher would have been used to post their training, to online teaching and learning.    What I have seen as a result of this forced change is a need to find support and help.   This need has been met through online platforms, EdTech tools and social media, including solutions such as Microsoft’s Educator Centre, through groups of proficient users such as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts, Google Certified Educators and Apple Innovative Teachers, and also through more local groups including groups of schools which have come together to support each other.    I have also seen support groups form in individual schools using platforms such as Microsoft Teams to allow staff within school to share their successes and issues, and for other staff to learn from and support each other as and when required.   This is something I feel has worked well in my own school.

The last year has seen various support groups pop up plus I suspect will have seen greater engagement in such groups as teachers everywhere sought to adapt to the forced change brought about by the pandemic.    Teachers have been sharing their issues, sharing their techniques, sharing what worked and what didn’t, supporting each other to get through the challenges the pandemic has brought.   For me the key going forward is for these groups to continue to support teachers, providing a place to share techniques, ideas and thoughts, and for teachers continue to engage.   These groups also need to exist at different levels from the large corporate sponsored groups offered by Microsoft and Google, through to the support groups operating inside our schools, made up of our colleagues helping one another.

One of my favourite phrases continues to be “the smartest person in the room, is the room”.    I think this is key to “training” or CPL.   The days of the expert trainer and one-off training session are gone and especially in relation to EdTech where technologies change, disappear or are introduced on a daily basis.   As such it is critical we embrace a more open, just in time model, sharing not just what works but openly discussing what hasn’t worked, so that we can all benefit.  This needs to be available throughout the year for teachers to engage as and when it is appropriate for them, to dip in and out as needed.

I do wonder that maybe one of the challenges we currently have is that the sharing of ideas, resources, etc is spread across different platforms.   I have seen resources on specific websites belonging to companies or groups, on social media using twitter, on YouTube, on MS Teams, etc.    As such it can be difficult or time consuming to find things, plus it means that on each particular platform you are only able to access a subset of the teaching expertise available rather than all of it.    I suspect this fractured nature of sharing and the associated resources is unlikely to change as people tend to their preferred platform or the platform used within their school, however I suspect as we move forward there will be a greater curation of the available resources.

Building confidence is key to the successful use of EdTech in schools.    We therefore need to consider how we support and enable confident to be built.   Also worth noting, the above refers to confidence of staff however it is equally important that we build confidence in our students, however I will leave that for another post.

Changing the narrative, one thank you at a time.

text-2111328_640 (1)Recently saw the below tweet from Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli) on twitter which I thought was a great idea.   As such I went and added it to my email footer in the hope of encouraging others to pay it forward.

“If your weeks been incredibly busy then it’s more than likely to have been super busy for a colleague or two of yours. End the week by sending them an email to say thank you. You don’t need to be their line manager. Just a friendly face. It’ll make a difference.“

This however got me thinking about the prevailing narrative around education and why it might often be seen as negative.

Lets first consider education theories and practices.  It takes a lot of effort to come up with an educational theory or practice.   This might be through action research efforts or through conventional research.   A teacher might first think up a new idea then might develop resources and content.  They then have to try out their practice with students.   This however isn’t enough as they either need to repeat this with the same students or ideally with different groups of students to check that their initial findings and beliefs hold true.   The issue is that it takes significantly less effort to prove a theory to be flawed.   This is the same for a lot of things.    Creating takes time and effort, however criticizing and identifying error and fault takes less.

The next issue we have is that when we remember things we tend to overweight the negatives.   This is likely a result of human survival instincts.    For our ancestors, the fact a particular fruit tasted very nice was less important to remember than the negative fact that the lions on the horizon consider us to be a key item on the lunch menu.     The result from this is that when we read reports online or watch reports on TV we will tend to remember the negative reports more than the positive reports.   This in turn builds up a negative picture in our minds even where we are exposed to equal number of positive and negative stories.

The above are just two reasons I believe that the narrative around schools and education is becoming negative.    The focus is on declining results, struggles recruiting teachers, lack of basic Maths and English skills along with other negative stories.   These stories all came readily to my mind.   I am sure I have seen lots of positive stories too however these don’t occur to me quite so easily.

This is why I really liked the tweet from Amjad.   It is time we started to change the narrative starting in our schools and among our hardworking educators.    If we each made an effort to thank someone in our school for their efforts, someone not necessarily within our line management, we might be able to start building more positivity.   We might start remembering all the excellent work done on a day to day basis.  The small achievements with individual students.    The moment of inspiration or the moment of intense engagement by a student which are often forgotten in the hard work of a term or an academic year.  We will need to work hard at this.   As I have suggested the negative memories and stories are stronger than the positive ones so we will need to share more positives than negatives even to achieve a balance.   But if we all commit to little things, often, like thanking our colleagues and also our students we might bring about a significant change.

The sooner we start the better………

And on that note, thank you for reading this and also thank you for the work you do in which ever school or educational capacity you work in.

 

The culture of education

It is possible to examine and make judgments on the culture and climate of an organisation.   We can look at a macro view, looking at all companies within a particular employment sector or looking at similar organisations across a specified geographical area.   Equally we can take a micro view observing the specific culture and climate within departments or other sub-divisions within a particular organisation.

I have found myself repeatedly mentioning the importance of schools in general having an open culture and a positive climate.   My intention with such comments was specifically to address culture and climate at the organisational level, looking at each individual school as the whole unit however I have had cause to reflect on this and consider a more macro viewpoint.

What would the culture and climate of “schools” in general be?

What I mean by this, is that if we were to consider all the schools and all educational staff, including leaders, teachers and support staff, as the scope of analysis and as a single unit of study what would the culture and climate be.

The first issue I have with the above is the question is the evidence which is used in such a judgement.   Thinking about education and schools in general and the things which come to mind as possible evidence the various comments on social media including twitter, facebook and LinkedIn are first to stir in my conscious thoughts.    The television and printed news would also serve as evidence which is quick to present itself.     The issue I instantly have with this is that these are things which come easily to mind as they are most easily accessible in my memory, not that they are most representative of the truth, however my perception as directed by my memories is my truth.

As such my truth with regards how I perceive the culture and climate of schools in general could be shaped by the below:

Having read the above, how do you yourself feel about schools?

I don’t feel quite as negative as I possibly should based on the examples above and the many similar posts, articles and stories however this is due to being conscious of the fact that these items only way readily on my mind not due to be fact but due to just being readily available.    That they are readily available is partly related to the media and the need for a good story along with the tendency to report the extremes as opposed to the everyday, the more mundane and also the more representative.   This in turn leads to retweets and responses to articles which emphasise these reported extremes, in turn reinforcing stories like those mentioned above.

Could it be that we are in a cycle of negativity?

I hasten to add that I am not suggesting with the above question that all is perfect in the world of education and that we should stop moaning and get on with it, far from this.    Education the world over has many issues, with each individual country and education system with its own demons to wrestle.   Some countries are making better progress than others, and some other countries are suffering a quicker or lesser decline than their neighbours.   We need to address the issues in hand and this requires making them known and discussing them in a hope to find solutions.

But wouldn’t it be nice if in all of this teachers had at least a few thoughts which came easily to mind which were positive about the work we do.     Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a positive cycle of news relating to successes, ideas, etc.

As the 2015/16 year draws to a close wouldn’t it be nice to show the world that there is a culture of working to make things better, of positivity, of sharing, of openness………..hold on, would it be nice to show the world the face we show our students every day we are with them!

P.s. Following writing this I observed #teacher5aday and calls for tweachers to tweet thanks to other educators who have inspired them.

This and the resulting stream of thank you tweets flying around twitter is exactly the positivity that I was referring to above, and the kind of example which I would like to see come easily to mind among teachers and also the general public.   This is the culture and climate we want to seek to encourage.

 

 

Pass or Fail….But be resilient.

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The educational world is full of contradictions.   A perfect example is the recent discussions on the importance of developing resilience in students and even digital resilience as discussed at a recent conference in Australia.    I strongly agree with the need to develop resilience in students as throughout their life students are likely to encounter difficulties and even failure.   Teachers need to support and develop students such that they are able to get past such difficulties and learn from then, picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and marching onward.

The issue is that all of this is against a background of student examinations and standardised testing where students are either considered as pass or fail or in the case of standardised testing, above or below average.    I would question how possible it is for a teacher to develop resilience in a student who often hears and sees reference to how they are below average.   I would equally wonder how possible it is for the above average student.    Students invariably look at scores and grades and no matter how much we try to avoid categorising ability based on such quantifiable measure they will focus on these and make comparisons between themselves and their peers.    Students after all are often told by their parents about the importance of qualifications and of grades, and they see the focus put on these measures by their older family members including brothers and sisters.   Failure to meet expectations therefore has a significant impact and even more so where a student perceives it to happen regularly or even often.  No number of positive comments and reinforcement from teachers is likely to address this.

If resilience is as important as is claimed, and I believe, then we need to re-evaluate what we currently do particularly with regards constant testing, grading and examinations.   If resilience is just another fad then we need to drop it now and concentrate on what really matters, whatever that is.

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Obstacles and Learned Behaviour

I was in the process of planning a training session within which I planned to use Stephen coveys circles of concern and influence.   I was considering Coveys comments regarding the fact that as we work more in our circle of influence we grow the circle.    This growth is the result of others seeing our ability to bring about change and to have an impact.   We also build up trust in ourselves that we can succeed and have an impact.   So the impact is two fold changing the perception of other towards us and also changing our own self perception. I found myself considering if this self fulfilling prophecy might be applicable beyond Coveys circles and into the domain of overcoming obstacles.    Where we freeze or shy away from obstacles we may be seen by others as ineffectual.    We ourselves will also start to believe that we are incapable of overcoming the prevalent obstacles in our lives.  It is a negative self fulfilling prophecy.   It may also be considered as learned behaviour as each experience of being unable to overcome an obstacle reinforces the belief that we can’t overcome obstacles. Looking at the other side of things, if we see an obstacle as an opportunity and proceed to overcome it then we show others that we can succeed.  We also build our self confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles.   When the next obstacle makes it appearance we will be more likely to challenge it and to view it as an opportunity.   Again we have a self fulfilling prophecy and learned behaviour however here we have significantly better chances of a positive outcome. Now both the positive and the negative examples above show evidence of learned behaviour.    Such behaviour is often enacted with little conscious thought.  The challenge therefore is for us as individuals to remain aware of what we are doing and why and to rethinking those situations where the behaviour is negative in nature and to encourage those behaviours which are positive. AlarmClock_small It’s now been a few days since I started seeing the obstacle of being tired and having to get out of bed as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.   Each day I get up and out of bed rather than hitting snooze, the easier it is to repeat the task the following day.  Yesterday the extra time and motivation I gained from succeeding in getting up despite being tired resulted in very significant improvements in productivity.   So next time you hit snooze and roll over in bed give some thoughts to this fact as I promise the impact on your day is bigger than just the loss of 10 or 15 minutes from the available time in the day. As Ryan Holiday puts it in the title to his book, “The Obstacle is the way”.

Education: Time to consider the customer?

I have recently been listening to Sir Richard Branson’ s audio book, The Virgin Way, and it has got me thinking about a number of things.   In one particular chapter of the book a number of companies were discussed, where each had been highly successful however then went through a period of significant loss.   Sir Richard suggested that these companies lost significant amounts of money due to a mistaken focus on “challenging” financial targets as the key indicator and focal point for performance discussions, at the expense of the overall good of the company and its organisational culture.    Having recently done a study on culture within international schools operating in the UAE, this made me consider possible parallels between the business world and the world of education.   Deal and Peterson (2009) in their book suggested that schools could learn from the business world in terms of developing culture.

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In Sir Bransons book the focus on financial targets is identified as an error contributing to losses in the financial results which are being examined.   He suggested that the finances are a bi-product of the business as opposed to its sole aim, indicating that within his organisations the aim is to deliver excellent customer service and to look after the customers first.   He goes on to explain that if he looks after his customers, they will look after him and that positive financial outcomes will be a bi-product of this.

Drawing comparisons between Sir Branson’s comments with regards business and education I would suggest that the financial results examined to assess the success of businesses may be similar in nature to the standardised test results being examined to assess the success of schools.    Within education in recent times there has been a significant amount said and a significant focus put on standardised test scores.  Based on PISA results for example, Finland has been proclaimed by some to be the best education system in the world.

The question is whether education, like the businesses which suffered significant losses, is too focused on these specific standardised measures of educational performance at the expense of the culture of schools or the good of education in general.     Has education lost its focus on why education, schools and teachers exists;  Our purpose?

Now I know the above is very much general in nature and therefore does not apply to all schools or education systems.   My point is that in general I believe we need to step back and relook at what is important and our overall reason for teaching.     We need to look at the cultures of schools rather than standardised test results.    Sir Richard repeatedly discusses the importance of a focus on customer service.    Should we do the same and re-evaluate what we see as most important, maybe showing a little less attention to the standardised test results and a little more to our customers; The students!

 

Image courtesy of cooldesign at freedigitalphotos.net

Educational Conferences – Another assortment of EdTech presentations.

Dubai has been host to another of the many worldwide education conferences in EdInvestMena which has been taking place during this week.   Like so many other conferences, if EdTech is not a central feature, it makes a prominent appearance throughout as it has done at EdInvestMena.  Now sadly although I presented a short piece at the conference on Monday with regards social media, I did not get the opportunity to see the main bulk of the event which occurred from Tuesday onwards.   As such my comments here are largely based on the programme for EdInvestMena and on my previous attendance at similar events in the UAE, Kuwait and UK.

The EdTech presenters at these events often present some very good examples of approaches they are using within classrooms or schools.   The use of iPads has been a central theme across a number of presentations I have seen over the last year or so.   The discussion of EdTech as a disruptive force operating on education to bring about change has also been discussed on numerous occasions.     The issue is that these presentations although sometimes excellent are not mirrored in the average practice I see within schools even where schools have the equipment.    Added to this is the issue that not all schools have the equipment as evidenced by one attendee at a session I ran recently who pointed out all my web app ideas were great however wouldn’t work in his school as there was no Wifi capabilities in classrooms.     As such should we be spending so much time discussing EdTech and how it can improve learning?

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I suggest that the answer is that we shouldn’t be spending quite so much time on EdTech and that we should re-examine the balance of our educational discussing.    For me the answer might lie in those schools where EdTech is being used very successfully to encourage and support collaboration, communication, etc.   The successful use of EdTech did not come about because of the introduction of the Tech.  A school culture which encourages creativity, collaboration and the valuing of ideas within a supportive environment plays a large part in making successful use of EdTech.   Teachers need to feel they can try new things, even where they fail, that they can seek support from others and that they can share ideas.    This is all to do with an open or healthy school culture.   So a school effectively using EdTech is likely to have an open and healthy culture.

Considering a school with an open or healthy school culture but without the EdTech resources or with limited EdTech resources again we would expect sharing and collaboration.   Again this would be expected to lead to positive learning experiences for students as teachers discuss and share ideas to ensure students receive the best experience possible.   Where a limited amount of Tech was available it should also lead to the creative and effective use of this tech to leverage the maximum impact possible from it. So an effective school, whether not it is using EdTech effectively, is likely to have an open and healthy culture.

So if the culture of a school is so important to schools in general as well as to schools engaged in using EdTech why is so very much of the educational conference time spent on discussing EdTech?     Should we not be spending less time discussing EdTech and much more time on discussing creating open, positive and healthy school cultures?   Now it may be that culture, as a very intangible trait of schools, may be more difficult to discuss and therefore we are choosing the easy option in the tangible EdTech or it could be related to the many vendors trying to sell us the latest tech?    Either way I think we need to relook at the balance of our educational discussions.

 

Image courtesy of digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net

Culture

Am currently doing some research into organisational culture within schools and as such am reading around the subject.    Deal and Peterson (2009) cited a number of research studies of both businesses and also schools where evidence suggested that the culture of the organisation impacting on the outcomes of the organisation.    As such it hit me that culture is a critical part of a successful school

In an earlier post I mentioned about the importance of relationships; well these relationships and how people interact, share, discuss and even argue provides us some insight into the culture within a school.   If all interactions are open, positive and focussed on continual improvement and on learning, then the culture is likely to be of the positive open type.    If discussions and interactions are undermined with selfish motivations or if staff discussions are polarised by individual points of views then the likelihood is that the culture will be closed and negative, assuming such motivations and opinionated points of view permeate the whole organisation.

So the next time I am having a conversation I need to be wary of how my interaction paints the organisational culture to others who are watching.    Now this suggests the self fulfilling nature of organisational culture.    A closed negative culture will result in negative interactions between staff and even students.   These negative interactions will result in negativity growing within the school which will result in further negative interactions and so on and so forth.    If a positive open culture exists then the positive interactions between staff will create a positive open environment which will result in more positive interactions.    Now here I am looking very much at the overall school culture as it is possible that a school with an overall negative culture may have positive sub-cultures existing within it, and vice versa.

Culture therefore is a powerful feature of an organisation in its ability to encourage positivity which in turn will increase motivation and ultimately student outcomes.    The issue is that we very seldom look at the culture of a school instead choosing to look at the measurable aspects of school performance such as standardised test results.    Seldom do we stop and look at the traditions symbols, history, stories and routines which go to establishing, as well as providing us a window on, a schools culture.

Now the issue of stories strikes a cord with me after a recent training session.   At the end of the session the attendees stated that they had very much enjoyed the session, stating that they particularly enjoyed the stories and anecdotes I had used throughout the session.  So my question to school leaders at the moment would be:  What are the stories of your school and what do they tell people about the school and its culture?

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