How digitally mature is your school?

How digitally mature is your school?


How digitally mature is your school?

Whether you’re looking after the ICT needs of an individual school or shouldering the requirements of an entire school jurisdiction or region, the digital transformation of schools — the convergence of administration, data security, curriculum, finance and compliance software requirements into a single solution — is among the most pressing issues for the K-12 ICT sector.

Take as evidence, a 2023 global survey of K-12 digital transformation carried out by HolonIQ that found over 66% of schools considered “the integration of digital as critical to the future of K-12 education”.

Yet, as much as digital transformation is a major consideration, many schools are lagging behind or have even postponed the commencement of their digital transformation journey. The same Holon IQ survey revealed only 33% of schools self-assessed as having high levels of digital maturity.

Likewise, a March 2022 research report conducted by CooperGibson for the Department for Education in Britain, Education technology: exploring digital maturity in schools, found “just 9% of schools were classified as being digitally mature according to the metric and tiers developed for this exploratory research. Nearly one-third (31%) of schools have put a few fundamentals in place necessary to embed digital technology within their school (low digital maturity). The majority (60%) were somewhere in the middle in terms of their digital maturity journey.

The reason for this? The digital challenge can be a daunting task and, in many instances, ICT departments find themselves fighting uphill battles to get everyone on board with the urgency to embark on a digital transformation journey.

Although every school is different, cost is also often a valid objection when an institution’s financial resources are under stress. Sometimes, key decision-makers in a school’s community, as well as staff, can be unwilling to take those next critical steps towards digital maturity due to pressures on their time and resources.

In a 2020 research paper, Cisco Meraki report on trends in digital transformation in schools, the authors discovered that primary school teachers in Australia and New Zealand spend an average of 1,000 hours annually teaching in the classroom, well above the OECD average of 799 hours. It goes without saying that such pressure on school staff results in fatigue and burnout, leading to a reluctance – almost an inability – to embrace change with any level of fervour.

The irony here is that increased digital maturity helps ease the squeeze on staff time.

“When acclimating to new technology, culture, or attitude, many in the education industry are afraid to fail,” say the authors of the Cisco Meraki report. “They seem unenthusiastic to the prospect of gaining new skill sets, or methods.”

So, how digitally mature are you?

Part of reaching a level of digital maturity in schools is having an understanding of your current state of play.

Consider how your school, or network of schools, is using digital technology, and where you might be sitting in the following three-stage model of digital transformation. From here, you can take the next steps to develop your digital maturity across all areas of your school’s ICT.

Digital 'Base Camp' Schools ⛺

To reach the summit of Mount Everest, you have to start somewhere. And, for every climber intent on conquering the mountain, the challenge begins at base camp – the starting point of the adventure.

Similarly, a school sitting at the base camp stage of digital maturity has a technology and ICT infrastructure that meets the most immediate learning, teaching and admin needs of the school and its community. They may see digital and IT progress as a positive to be fostered, and they do have a number of digital systems in action, but they’ve still got a way to go.

Other characteristics of a digital base camp school often include:

  • Digital technology used to support and monitor the individual learning of students;
  • Digital technology used within the school to support administration and business processes;
  • Students and staff are comfortable using digital-based learning and teaching resources across a range of subjects.
  • Basic electronic student records for monitoring student progress;
  • A familiarity of staff in using ICT to formulate lesson plans and to share their knowledge across the school to help other users get the most out of the technology;
  • The ongoing use and maintenance of IT relying heavily on the leadership of senior staff within the school, and people with a special interest in ICT, to implement it within the school.

Next steps: Begin a discussion with school leaders about how digital technology can improve class preparation and learning outcomes by reducing the non-teaching tasks that take up so much time for teachers. In other words, how can tech be used to streamline the day-to-day running of the school to make it more efficient?

Explore the possibility of introducing agnostic third-party digital providers and their platforms into your school technology stack.

Digitally Intermediate Schools ✅

The next stage of digital maturity is the intermediate level. Typically, schools at this level are using an IT platform (or a mix of software products) for managing their learning, teaching and administration systems across the school’s network.

Data or other kinds of metrics obtained from their ICT systems play a central role in the school’s forward planning and, if they don’t have a dedicated IT department overseeing the operation of these systems, they have strong partnerships with third-party ICT suppliers (external SaaS providers, for example).

Other characteristics of digitally intermediate schools often include:

  • Digital learning used for assessment and progress-monitoring resources that prioritise individual student needs right across the curriculum to foster better student engagement and drive better learning outcomes;
  • Comprehensive electronic student records and use of data from these records to inform whole school planning;
  • ICT business systems integrated across the school wherever possible and new areas being automated to improve business efficiency;
  • School infrastructure, resource and maintenance planning accounting for current—and future—digital needs.

Next steps: Perform a thorough review of your digital technology and whether it’s fit for purpose across the entire school.

How does your school compare to others for student performance? Are you reducing teacher workloads and allowing them to focus more on planning immersive, engaging classroom experiences? Does technology inform the school’s planning needs for the future? Are students leaving the school gates equipped with the skills to embrace the demands of an evolving workplace?

Digitally Advanced Schools ⭐

This stage is the gold standard for digital literacy and maturity in a school, as well as its wider community.

At this level ICT and digital technology is central to the school’s daily operations – from preparing and delivering lessons, to student participation in classes (and assessing their performance), to collaborative learning, and then right across all the administrative functions of the school.

Other characteristics of a digitally advanced school often include:

  • An IT department with leadership that’s proactive, outward-focused and embracing continuous improvement and new ways to innovate;
  • Embedded digital teaching and learning systems for staff and students to access, use, re-purpose and critically review. This enables lesson content to encourage learning at a deeper level and cater for individual learning styles. It’s also linked to an integrated electronic system for recording student achievement;
  • Students who are confident and engaged ICT users that make intuitive connections between technology and their learning, thanks to a culture that embraces the benefits of digital technology;
  • Active fostering of a culture of informed, responsible inquiry and communication with ICT.
  • Data, analytics and other digital insights for future planning ingrained across the school.

Next steps: Remain conscious of your school’s digital maturity – never rest on your laurels. A digitally advanced school will be fully cognisant of the rapid evolution of technologies, particularly in the AI space, which means analysing how such changes can impact your school’s digital landscape both operationally and ethically.

Proceed with an open mind, but also with the view of capitalising on your legacy systems so you get optimal value from your digital investment.

In Conclusion...

Schools need to embrace ways that spark their digital transformation, and improve their digital maturity; to enable teachers to inspire their students, to allow school leaders and managers to streamline and integrate administrative, financial and compliance obligations; to reduce the time pressures placed on all their staff; and to reach new levels of efficiency.

Furthermore, a digitally mature school provides a practical example for students, reflecting the challenges that lie beyond the school gates, giving them the skills and know-how they’ll need to establish meaningful and satisfying careers.

Are you ready to take the next step in your digital maturity?

EdSmart is a Gold Sponsor of AISNSW 2023

Come speak to our team at stand G8 about how EdSmart can support your school’s digital transformation strategy and take the next step in your digital maturity!

If you’d like to pre-book some time with us, click the button below.

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