CHANGE YOU MUST!
This is the message that the corona crisis has given to everyone on this planet... especially to schools. This "change" is better defined by the term "Digital Transformation".
It might be a new term for the education industry, but not for the corporate world. Many leading companies in the world had started their digital transformation journey few YEARS back. But the educational institutes were comfortably walking on the old paths, till the corona crisis came out from nowhere and pushed them off the track. The push has been really hard and now schools and colleges are forced to adopt a new way of life.
This article is about the Digital Transformation of schools. I shall write a separate blog post on DT for colleges.
Whats REALLY forcing you to change?
I am asking this question to the principals, the directors and the top management of the schools.
You will be tempted to respond "It's the corona crisis!". But that answer will get only 4 on 10. That's Because you are acknowledging the big tsunami of corona, but not the EVEN BIGGER ice-age being started by the new demands of the 21st century industry... a.k.a the 4th Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0! The tsunami of corona will end in a few quarters. But the ice-age has set in for the next few decades. 4th Industrial revolution has already begun.
Schools are very very fortunate that their ideal response to the immediate corona crisis is same as their ideal response to the new long-term demands of industry 4.0! Sectors like transport, tourism and hospitality are not that fortunate.
So what should be the ideal reponse or the ideal digital transformation journey of a school?
First of all, please understand... it is definitely not about running LIVE classes on Zoom. That's a knee-jerk reaction you have given in response to corona crisis. But it is not the right approach and it is bound to fail, leaving the teachers, students and parents disappointed very soon. LIVE online classes may work only with very mature, self-motivated and experienced students. Typically like the professionals in corporate world. Not even with the college students.
Then what is digital transformation of schools all about? It's all about achieving your transformation goals with the help of digital technologies. Which means...
- You first need to have full clarity about your transformation goals. What is it that you wish to see your school get TRANSFORMED into?
- Then you need clarity on the best digital technologies to make that happen.
We will discuss both in this article.
First & foremost, your transformation goals
You must have heard & talked a lot in recent years that schools must now start producing future-ready students who are self-learners, critical-thinkers, good-collaborators or team-players, problem-solvers and empathetic global citizens. This becomes your transformation goal or vision. Great! But vision statements are not action plans. Lets get more specific.
You must also have heard & talked many times in recent years that the most promising approach to achieve this goal is the pedagogy called Flipped Classroom. Haven't you? I won't go into the details of flipped classroom approach. But to quickly summarize, it is basically flipping or turning around the activities which happen in a classroom and at student's home. So in this new system, the students SELF-LEARN the lesson at home, from videos or online courses. And in the class, in presence of teacher they do the practice exercises of those lessons, solve doubts, do group discussions etc. I am sure you already know all of this.
So, your digital transformation goal should be this...
✔ "Proper implementation of the flipped classroom model of teaching-learning using suitable digital technologies."
This truly puts the horse before the cart. You want to know what's the wrong example of goal setting? Read this...
✘ "To adopt state-of-the-art education technology in school to provide a cutting edge learning environment to our students"
That puts the cart before the horse! Going digital should never be the main objective. It should only be a means to achieve some real objective.
Let's create an action plan!
Alright... We are now very close to creating an action plan for our goal. Here are 3 questions that we need to answer...
- What new teaching-learning processes need to be established in your school, in line with flipped classroom model?
- What digital technologies will be required to power the new way of teaching-learning?
- What new skills do students and teachers will require to make the best use of the new digital tools and processes?
Answering all three questions thoughtfully is extremely important for the success of your digital transformation plan. Let me kick start your thinking process using scenario based planning. Draw three columns on a paper - Processes | Digital Tools | Skills.
Now imagine the most common scenario in your school, i.e. a teacher conducting a class. But this is a flipped classroom, so the events go like this:
Event #1: The teacher gives learning task to students as homework by prescribing some learning content like videos, online courses, websites, PDFs, PPTs etc.
Event #2: Students watch/read the prescribed content at home.
Event #3: Students log their doubts on the school portal.
Event #4: Next day in the classroom teacher looks at the doubts list and solves them for all students. Other activities like Quiz etc happen in the class.
Event #5: The teacher may also ask students to submit some work online in the form of file uploads or publishing blog posts.
In special cases, especially in middle and higher grades, there could also be an Event #6... The teacher may ask the students to collaborate or discuss in groups on a topic on the forums (for projects etc).
That finishes the normal teaching-learning process of a topic in a flipped classroom. Now lets fill those 3 columns for each event:
||Teacher provides a weblink to the learning content (video, PPT or online course etc, which could be residing on your school portal or on the open Internet)
Online notice board (where teacher can write the task details for students)
Online content repository (where she can upload her PPTs or recorded videos)
|For Teacher: Content creation skills and skills for searching trustworthy knowledge online*.
||Students login into the school portal to access the class notice board. They download or open the learning content on their device.
||(same as above)
||For Students: Skills for SELF-LEARNING from an online course or video etc. Also, smart searching skills, especially for middle and higher grades students.
||The teacher creates a thread on the discussion forum (example "Doubts of Topic - Water-cycle"). Students reply to it with their doubts.
||Online discussion forum
||For Both: Forum discussion skills
||Teacher opens the forum thread to see the replies of students
||Access to school portal from within the classroom
||Teacher instructs students to create & upload digital content or blog post. She suggests titles & topics to students.
Content repository for students to uploads files.
Blog module where students can write articles.
|For Students: Create digital content such as documents, presentations, videos, graphics etc. Also, write blog articles properly.
||Online discussion forum
||For Both: Advanced level of skills of online forum discussions.
*Practically, most of the time teachers would be searching for good content online rather than creating something from scratch.
✔ All events described above along with the processes are collectively called the Flipped Classroom pedagogy.
✔ All the digital tools collectively form an Intra-School Portal, which runs on a CMS (Content Management System). There are some great CMSes available as free and open source.
✔ All the skills listed above, plus the online safety skills, are collectively called the 'Digital Citizenship & Internet Maturity' skills.
Hopefully, you now have a much clearer picture of your Digital Transformation plan.
Where are the cool buzzwords? AR, VR, AI?
Some of you might be wondering where are the hi-fi buzzwords in this plan? Augmented Reality based learning tools, Virtual Reality headsets, Artificial Intelligence based something?
Well... those are like exotic cherries on the cake. Think about them only when you have successfully baked the cake and everyone is happy eating it. Basically, avoid the buzzwords till you have successfully ran the school portal system for one full academic year.
Policies are important too!
Policies are also an important part of digital transformation but thats beyond the scope of this article. We have created a sample draft of an Acceptable Use & Behaviour Policy for schools. It will keep your school legally protected and will help you to enforce 'Digital Discipline' in your school (I know thats a pain point). You can freely download it from our website.
What role does iMature.in play in your Digital Transformation journey?
We take care of the 3rd column. i.e. the Internet Maturity skills of your students and teachers. These skills will be the foundation on which your digitally transformed school will stand. You are welcome to explore the details on imature.in/schools. You can also download our free curriculum framework for teaching DCIM skills to students. If your students and teachers have Digital Citizenship & Internet Maturity skills, they can adapt to all kinds of digital processes and technologies. But if they don't have DCIM skills, you are looking at a very expensive failure. Just like many corporates had faced, who spent on technology but not on skills.
I'd love to discuss with you your Digital transformation strategies for your school individually...
you are welcome to book a slot for free consultation with me where I'd try to answer your queries on Digital Transformation and brainstorm with you.
Let's get going... the future of India depends upon YOUR decision! And remember what Charles Darwin has told us :)