Digital transformation in schools: why it can’t wait any longer
By Sam Sapuppo
Director - Business Development
Sam is a committed educationalist who believes in the transformative power
of community, which he has seen evidenced through his 30-year involvement in the leadership team of a prominent educational institution in Melbourne. In his role as a director of EdSmart and as a consultant, Sam now uses this extensive knowledge to help school workflows and processes run smarter.
The term ‘digital transformation’ is one used more and more to describe the changes technology is having on our everyday lives. Referred to as part of the overarching concept, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digital transformation is not merely the impact smartphones or the Internet are having on our lives; it’s about the application of technology to help with the things we’ve always done but in a much more efficient and innovative way.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is reshaping the world, as we know it. The education sector, therefore, needs to prepare and fundamentally transform itself to help equip students, teachers and their communities with the kind of skills necessary to take advantages of the opportunities this new era offers. But, it would seem, few schools are aware of, or prepared for, making this important leap, despite the fact that it’s happening right now.
The case for digital transformation
Digital transformation in schools cannot wait any longer. In the fields of medicine, finance, engineering, transport and media – to name only a few – the effects of digital transformation have almost completely redefined the skillsets graduates and school-leavers need to succeed in the professional world. And, no matter whether you’re a teacher, student or parent, the education sector is no different.
Education is becoming less – not more – standardised. These fundamental changes to schooling, the way schools are organised and the way curricula are delivered are causing a dramatic rethink of the traditional education model, forcing schools to reassess how they interact with the communities they serve.
In the world in which a school’s parents, teachers and stakeholders inhabit, people shop, bank, manage their superannuation, arrange car servicing, organise that evening’s dinner, communicate with friends and family from all corners of the globe, and collaborate professionally in a range of ways that utilises the latest in online and digital technology.
In the 21st century we expect the world to move with us and on our terms. People view their time as precious and, if something is made more difficult than it needs to be, they are likely to lose confidence in both the process and the organisation that remain cumbersome.
Despite this need to adapt to a changing world, and endow students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need in this world, schools often put digital transformation into the ‘too hard’ basket or the ‘do it later’ pile. As a result, they risk falling further and further behind their peers while, at the same time, positioning their schools for even costlier overhauls in the future. Digital transformation is not an area where you want to play catch-up.
Schools talk about how innovation and sustainability are at the core of their ethos, yet the experience delivered to their community is an overload of repetitive, sometimes confusing and often time-consuming documentation. It’s not commensurate with the real world in which the parent – and teacher – community lives. In these kinds of situations, it’s easy to establish a credibility gap that’s awfully hard to overcome. Innovation needs to be seen.
Embracing technology to do the work for you can change perceptions in an instant. For instance, shifting to an online platform for workflows and communication makes the community’s engagement experience so much easier. It provides tangible evidence that not only is your school committed to being innovative but you also understand the modern world in which you live and your students will be entering. Without it you risk the very real chance of becoming irrelevant and outmoded.
Digital transformation and staff satisfaction
By embracing digital transformation, schools can proactively tackle teacher and staff engagement for the better.
Research carried out by the OECD suggests, while the actual amount of time teachers spend on non-teaching an administrative issues varies, schools can benefit from developing ways to use teachers’ time more efficiently. With digital technology making it possible to automate tasks like enrolment, assessment, and reporting and parent/teacher communication, it becomes easier for teachers to increase the qualitative time they dedicate to their teaching.
Digital transformation also has a positive impact in reducing staff turnover by enhancing the quality of professional development opportunities schools make available to staff through a new model of continuous development. The information that digital technology, and the data it collects, provides schools can play an important role in creating the type of compelling professional development and learning opportunities that staff genuinely want.
Not only does this better engage teachers by maximising their potential but it also plays an important role in establishing a reputation within teaching circles as an employer of choice. This status, in turn, flows into the classroom, as students are educated using best-practice methods designed to enable them to fulfil their potential, which results in truly satisfied parents and carers, and a school community invested in the success of the school.
Schools are in a bind. Resources are limited, costs are rising and the expectations of those in your school community are increasing. The ground is shifting and it will continue to shift for some time. This can be intimidating but, on the flipside, it represents an opportunity to rethink how things can be done and make constructive changes to help your school evolve and your school community feel happier and more engaged along the journey.
Simply put, Band-Aid strategies aren’t good enough; digital transformation in schools cannot wait any longer.