Question – “what has 32,000 big smiles and makes as much noise as an aeroplane taking off”
Answer – “primary school children at the book fair in Osasco, Sao Paulo, Brazil”
Thanks to my friends at Planeta Educacao, I was thrilled to be part of the launch of O Ensino à Velocidade do Pensamento – the Portuguese version of Schooling at the Speed of Thought – at the Osasco book fair recently. The day started with thousands of children descending on an open market for books. Each child was given a $BRL30 voucher (~$15USD) and, after being entertained by clowns, let loose to choose from thousands of books. The fair was organised just before the holidays, so every child in the school district had a book to read whilst on holidays.
The logistics were breath-taking – 4,000 children a day over 8 days. Coaches would pull up, then children would get into line, watch clowns perform, sing songs, then run off to see what they could find. This was followed-up with reading sessions. It was organised chaos, but wonderful evidence of the children’s strong desire to read and learn.
I stopped to find out what one boy had chosen – a book about dinosaurs. Jokingly, I offered him two copies of “O Ensino à Velocidade do Pensamento” for his dinosaur book – he politely declined my offer, and who can blame him.
The launch itself was great fun too. First a book signing session and impromptu talk with a group of teachers and the Secretary of Education for Osasco , Professora Marinalva de Oliveira
The main event included a demonstration of use of Kinect for learning at home by families…
… after that, came a short speech…
… and the event was completed with a panel discussion
I’d like to sincerely thank my friends and colleagues at Planeta Educacao for making this possible – Luis Namura; Roberta Bento; Aline Tosini; Renata Martins Dias; Manoela da Costa and Elisete Baruel; and to Carmen Nigro for excellent interpretation.
Thanks to all those who came to my workshop and keynote speech at the III Forum Microsoft Educacion, Madrid (#IIIForumEdu). This was a really well organised and well attended event – and thanks to my Microsoft colleagues, especially Juan Ramon Alegret Crespi; Maria Zamorano Alberruche; Irene Ocaña del Rey; Lola Chacon Gutierrez; and Fernando Bocigas Palma.
Here’s a link to the OneNote file complete with on-the-fly annotations:
On August 1st I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to deliver the Keynote at the CRADLE conference in Singapore.
The presentation contained a mix of material contained in “Schooling at the Speed of Thought” and some of the articles in this blog, especially the Transformation Phase article. Here’s the key points:
Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to have a national strategy to roll out ICT to all schools. Key challenges addressed in this initiative are to:
Prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century
Bring about improved learning and increased engagement through the use of ICT
Enable more self-directed learning
In summary, the challenge is to make schooling in Singapore even more effective through the use of ICT.
To address this, we need to ask three key questions:
1. How can software accelerate the learning process?
Computers in learning are increasingly being used as tools for creativity rather than as machines to deliver the curriculum. So, with a proliferation of new hardware and software developments, what new creative options are there for learning? How can software help to personalise the learning experience and open up completely new learning opportunities?
2. How can software be used to make better decisions?
How can schooling information and data be leveraged to get maximum impact from precious resources; what do we mean by “intelligent intervention” and why it is so important; how can we empower all stakeholders with information; and how do we drive alignment and performance towards strategic goals?
3. How can Cloud Computing be exploited to cheaply deliver massive-scale, high-quality learning solutions?
We don’t normally expect a school to generate its own electricity – but we have expected our education institutions to be experts at running their own “IT Power Stations”. How can Cloud Computing change this?
With the advent of Cloud Computing, also comes the realistic prospect of providing anytime anywhere learning for all. So how can massive, cheap, and highly available computing services be combined with a range of access technologies and high quality learning content to open up learning opportunities to all citizens of Singapore – and especially those who are in the greatest need of it?
With highly developed infrastructure, talent and innovation, Singapore is in a great position to exploit technology even further. The concluding part of this presentation asked what world-leading innovations and software solutions can be leveraged in Singapore and how we can architect “anytime anywhere learning for all?
Thanks to my colleages in Singapore – Horng Shya Chua; Jason Trump; Gerald Tan; Puay San Ng; Eugenia Lim, Lee Boon Keng and the staff and students at Crescent Girls’ School. Thanks also to all those who attended the CRADLE event.
This is the fourth and final article on the phases of transformation that schooling systems go through. The first was “Taking the First Steps”, and this phase is characterized by access. The second, Taking the Next Steps – The ‘Enhanced’ Phase, is where technology is used to enhance existing processes. The third -“The Strategic Phase” – is characterized by using technology to meet strategic goals and help determine what those goals should be.
Feedback that readers have kindly sent me had prompted me to adjust the overall maturity framework so each of the main characteristics of each phase now look like this:
Whilst the three preceding phases were about applying technology to schools as they currently are, the Transformed Phase is about fundamentally changing the nature of schooling itself.
Using ICT to transform schooling allows us to ask questions such as “where is school”, “how do we deliver personalised and engaging learning experiences”, and “how can we develop highly effective and efficient schooling systems”?
Whilst transformation will mean many different things to many different people, there are three main ingredients to a transformed schooling system.
The first is providing anytime, anywhere learning for all citizens. The second is providing highly personalised experiences to all learners. The third is about building a culture of high performance throughout the entire schooling system.
Anytime Anywhere Learning For All
The first principle in transforming schooling is to redefine its “customer” base. At present, schooling reaches learners between the ages of 5 to 18, within narrowly defined geographic boundaries, and for around 18% of the year only. Now, there is a significant opportunity to deliver learning services to entire populations at relatively low costs. This is because the cost of digital content and software only marginally increases with the number of users, and because the cost of delivering e-learning services at massive scale through Cloud computing is increasingly cheap and getting cheaper.
To date we have thought about learning in the physical sense of going to a place called a school. Going forward, schools will facilitate learning less as a physical experience and more as one that can take place across different locations. Increasingly, we can expect the process of schooling to become less dependent on learners regularly attending a single campus over a long period of time.
Schooling will spread out of the physical confines of the school campus, and into ‘found space’ such as offices; high street locations; apartments; and even the homes of children.
The youngest learners need somewhere near their own home where they can physically go to access learning facilities; to learn with other groups of learners and access richer materials than those which they have in their own home. Older learners need learning spaces to interact with their tutors, counsellors and learning managers, but also need to learn in environments that are appropriate to their learning tasks. For example, a specialist science learning module – say optics, for example – may well be based in a traditional (campus) school laboratory, but equally there could be a company in the local community specialising in optics that would be willing for students to learn at their facilities.
In this model, there is still room for the traditional “Campus School”, but as a social, intellectual and resource hub – a place for those specialist learning facilities which might not be available in the local community such as laboratories, workshops, libraries, art studios and gymnasia. The Campus School is also a place from which to organise and manage learning and produce learning content.
The Campus School of the future will be a community resource; it will be open for 52 weeks a year, 7 days a week from 7.30 am (with breakfast clubs, computer clubs, gym facilities etc.), and will stay open until 10.00 pm (with after school clubs, homework clubs, sports facilities, cyber cafes etc). Its pupils will be aged 1 to 100. The four walls of a classroom/school will be replaced with online classrooms/schools/homes, ensuring access to technology and information for all.
Many university towns reflect this approach, where university learning facilities are embedded in the local community. Schooling is catching up. In “First Steps” we’ve already seen the ‘Kiosk’ model in India, where learning is simply put out onto the street to be consumed by self-organising groups of children. On the other side of the world, in New Zealand, Discovery Learning has schooling facilities deeply embedded in the community with locations in shopping malls and central business districts. Here, “school” isn’t a building and children are given “trust licences” to learn where they need to in the local community.
In this model, there is a vast spectrum of types of learning spaces, from traditional classrooms to cyber cafes, each type able to facilitate different levels of collaboration and self-directed learning.
New types of learning spaces will facilitate a much wider spectrum of learning methods too:
Where Is School?
“Anytime Anywhere Learning for All” means exactly that. Every citizen, anywhere, able to access organised learning. Not everyone will need to, or be able to, attend school in order to receive schooling services, which poses the question “where is school?” In the transformed schooling model, schooling is embedded deeply into the local community in the following way.
1. Community Learning Spaces
Community Learning Spaces are places in which formal, organised schooling takes place for school age learners, that are not within the walls of the traditional Campus School. These spaces are, in effect, “franchises” of the Campus School, and firmly embedded into the Campus School’s systems. Learners in Community Learning Spaces have managed internet access, and plug their personal learning devices straight into e-Learning Service. Even the youngest children can learn with ICT – e.g. games based learning, immersive environments, interactive whiteboards and programmable toys. Learning to write with a Tablet PC helps young children to acquire basic skills long before they can type or use a mouse.
Learners are registered as members of the Connected Learning Community and the process of data collection begins. Managed learning pathways and dynamic timetables ensure that students work on the tasks that are most appropriate for their stage of learning. A spectrum of creativity, productivity and learning tools ensure that the optimal blend of computer and teacher mediated learning takes place. The ICT infrastructure comprises wireless network, workstations, display, scanners. Infrastructure and Core Sofware Services mean that computers joining the wireless network are managed via a Virtual Private Network. Users and devices are authenticated, and policies – especially security and filtering policies – are imposed.
Teachers, assistants and other responsible adults – connected to peers and experts through the technology – directly support the learning process. Learners progress through the curriculum as quickly as their learning performance permits, and move to different learning spaces when appropriate. Staff and learners alike access the Connected Learning Community portal to get information, content and tools. Learners can see their assignments, feedback, learning materials and web links from a single site, and populate an e-portfolio with their work. Community Learning Spaces are extensions of
the Campus School, and both staff and learners will spend some time at there.
2. Campus School
The Campus School acts as a central point for organising, managing and creating Anytime Anywhere Learning in the community. The Campus School in effect “franchises” learning operations in Community Learning Spaces, so ICT is used to drive alignment; manage performance; and ensure high quality, paperless administrative processes. Live communications ensure that expertise within and beyond the Campus School can be “piped” into the Community Learning Spaces (CLS) on demand.
The IT Infrastructure of the CLSs are supplied as a service from the Campus School.
Learners – of all ages – visit the Campus School to use specialist facilities and IT equipment that are unavailable in the Community Learning Spaces. Whilst learners bring their personal learning devices into the campus, the site has a proliferation of multi-touch interactive displays and these enable learners to access a vast array of information and content from anywhere on the site.
In the Schooling Enterprise Architecture model, Campus Schools are branch sites from the Local Education Authority hubs and as such receive the full range of Schooling Enterprise Services for Student Relationship Management, intelligent intervention, performance management, planning, operations and administration.
A master database of resources – people, spaces, equipment and content – enables the Campus School to dynamically timetable learners so their precise learning needs can be met immediately. Predictive analysis of learning pathways enables the system to book or purchase resources well in advance.
Underpinning the IT infrastructure at the school and its “franchises” is a set of Core Software Services including Security, Identity, Comms & Collab, System Management and Directory services. Services are either delivered through on-premises servers or relayed from data centres, private and public clouds “upstream” at LEA and/or MoE levels.
3. Local Education Authority
As a Hub in the Schooling Enterprise Architecture, the Local Education Authority’s main role is to deliver Schooling Enterprise Services to Campus Schools. Their managerial functions, facilitated by ICT, are to drive accountability, alignment and performance.
Another key role is to run large scale access programmes. Using aggregated buying power and regional connections the LEA is in an ideal position to acquire devices, infrastructure components and support for the best price-to-quality ratio. As a Hub for the MoE, LEAs should be able to ‘enforce’ MoE mandates on standards, quality and Service Level Agreements.
The LEA can also be an aggregation point for data held on children by different authorities – health, social care, the police and education – to be aggregated to give a secure ‘big picture’ on children,
particularly those who may be at risk.
Anytime anywhere learning for all means delivering learning experiences to all, including those in work. Online vocational courses are available through the Connected Learning Community portal. Workplaces offer valuable learning opportunities to learners of all ages, especially where specialised equipment is beyond the financial reach of the Campus School. The workplace can also be used to house Community Learning Spaces. Being part of the Connected Learning Community Portal; local businesses can have direct dialogue with – and receive relevant learning services from – their local Campus School, FE College and University to better meet the learning needs of their organisations.
Universities offer a rich extension to the Campus School learning community by offering online access to lectures, experts and learning resources. Within the Anytime anywhere learning model, Higher Education is made available to students who are ready to take learning modules offered by the University – virtually or otherwise.
6. Off-Site Learning Environments
With community-wide Wi-Fi coverage, homes, cyber cafés, hospitals, and recreation areas can all be turned into learning environments.
Transformed schooling organises the learning around the individual, not the other way around.
Learning, by definition, is personal—no one else can learn for you. People learn different things at different speeds and in different ways. When students walk into a learning space, they bring very different sets of attributes, abilities, knowledge, skills, understandings and attitudes with them.
Over recent years, the concept of personalising learning has gained considerable ground.
From a technical perspective, personalising learning is about:
Delivering an extended range of opportunities to learn – individually and collaboratively
Delivering content that addresses precise learning needs
Managing learning pathways
Extending Opportunities to Learn
The wider and deeper the choice of content, the more personalised the learning experience can be. When providing learning to an entire community, the type of learning experience consumed will range from informal learning to structured and accredited courses.
With a wide and deep supply of learning content, learners can have a wide choice of learning experiences, modalities, pathways and assessments. For example, being able to pick from a menu of languages to learn is a more personalised experience than just having one to choose from. To be able to choose what level to study a language at – from beginner to advanced – again adds to the degree of personalisation.
Personalised learning is not about learning in isolation, however. It is quite the opposite in, fact. Learning is a social activity and personalising the learning experience is to do with providing opportunities to collaborate as well as to learn independently. A learning task that has been personalised for somebody could involve them working in a team, and part of the assessment could be how well they have managed to collaborate with other people. Therefore, another technical requirement here is to provide Communication and Collaboration tools – the more sophisticated these tools, the
greater the possible degree of personalisation.
Addressing Precise Learning Needs
Learners learn in completely different ways, and at different rates depending on prior knowledge and their learning styles. Therefore personalised learning systems need to deliver content so that different learning styles are addressed and different learning speeds are catered for. For example, in learning about the skeleton of dinosaurs, one learner might learn best by listening to a recording, another through looking at pictures, another by using a Tablet PC to kinaesthetically piece together the bones with a stylus.
From a technical point this means that content needs to be packaged so that learners can access it through multiple learning modes. Increasingly there will be automated agents that scour the internet and deliver content that precisely matches learning needs.
The relative length of time that it takes a learner to acquire the expected learning in each module shouldn’t matter as the e-learning services will adjust the personal learning pathway that the learner takes accordingly.
Managing Personal Learning Pathways
The extent to which a learning task has been personalised is a function of the extent to which that individual’s prior knowledge, skills, preferred learning styles, and attitudes have been taken into account when assigning the task.
In this model, learners are constantly assessed as they move through the learning programme, and the pathways that they take continuously evolve as they work their way through. This relies on feedback loops and systems which can dynamically adapt to the twists and turns of the learning process, and set challenging learning goals and tasks. This is essentially about using “business logic” which in turn uses data to decide what students need to learn next and manage the learning process.
Setting the learning task automatically is something that intelligent tutoring systems and learning management systems such as “Success Maker” have been doing for many years. However, if completing the learning task needs more than just a computer, managing the process dynamically becomes complicated.
This is where dynamic timetabling comes in. Dynamic timetabling starts with the premise that learning should be organised on a ‘performance’ as opposed to a ‘time’ basis (see Schooling at the Speed of Thought for more details). The core idea is that dynamic timetabling matches the optimal learning experience for a learner to the resources needed to deliver it. For example, if the learner has mastered the concept of soil erosion in Geography, the next task may be to apply that learning in a practical experiment. This involves working with others who are at the same learning stage, using equipment, a physical space and teacher/assistant supervision. Ideally, the dynamic timetabling system will have predicted when these resources will be needed, organised them ahead of schedule and matched the learner to what they need to complete the next task.
Today, this can be at least partially accomplished through resource scheduling within CRM.
Once the learning task is completed, a record of achievement builds in the learner’s e-portfolio.
Culture of Performance
In the Transformed Phase the entire schooling system is working at optimum efficiency and effectiveness – what Joey Fitts and Bruno Aziza (Driving Business Performance, 2008) call a “Culture of Performance”. To get to this stage schooling systems will have gone through the following stages:
First Steps: Increasing visibility
Enhanced: Moving beyond gut feel, and planning for success
Strategic: Executing on strategy
A culture of performance is goal orientated; results are measured and members of the Connected Learning Community are competitive in a constructive way. A culture of performance is
about transparency, predictability, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. With capabilities to monitor, analyse, and plan, performance orientated organisations can create a culture where information is a prized asset, aligned execution is the norm, and accountability is embedded.
From a learner’s perspective, this is about friction-free administration regarding courses, options and assessments. It’s about micro payments, and cashless vending, and not having to repeatedly enter the same basic data for silo’d administrative processes. It’s also about the seamless escalations of issues – such as requests for special support.
From a teacher’s perspective this is about doing the lowest possible levels of administrative tasks, confident in the knowledge that the system is dealing with the administrative mechanics of running the schooling operations. For those administrative tasks that teacher have to do, reporting, administration, productivity and communication & collaboration tools ensure that the tasks are efficiently executed and add real value to the organisation.
Administrators and managers get the benefit of using processes that have been integrated. For example, when new staff join the organisation, background checks, basic data collection, terms and conditions, salary and on-boarding systems all work together as a single function, crossing organisational boundaries automatically. When strategy is set at the highest organisational level, this cascades down automatically into the objective setting process, ensuring organisational alignment. Performance management tools linked to in-depth data about learner performance ensure that teaching staff are rewarded fairly. Business intelligence is available to provide deep insights into operations to ensure that resources are being used to maximum effect.
Bringing it All Together
The key difference between a transformed schooling system and any of the other phases is the degree to which the entire system is architected around the student.
The Transformed schooling system will integrate a spectrum of services and processes, many which would have been in silos before the transformation process, around the student. The result of this is that the student experiences a range of highly individualised services, delivered by a high performance, highly connected, lean, efficient and cost effective schooling system.
Getting to Transformed schooling is a long journey. In most countries there will be significant inertia from legacy systems. Paradoxically, one of the drivers for transformation is diminishing budgets. In the United States, for example, there is a strong surge towards anytime anywhere, personalised learning for all – delivered from outside the formal schooling system, driven by collapsing schooling budgets and widespread dissatisfaction with the current system.
Ultimately, the point of investing in transforming a schooling system is to get an order-of-magnitude improvement in return on education budget investment, and this cannot be done in isolation. The whole enterprise of transforming schooling needs to be organised within the framework of a Schooling Enterprise Architecture, as described in detail in Schooling at the Speed of Thought.
Focusing on the “IT Platform Architecture”, the Transformed phase has 5 interconnected layers:
And finally, across each layer are the following key technology levers:
This is the last in this series of articles on the phases through which schooling systems evolve, but watch this space for related articles. All comments, feedback, questions and suggestions for articles will be very welcomed.
Thanks to Matthew Woodruff and Chris Poole from lookred for contributions to this article.
There are four distinct phases through which technology in schooling evolves. The first phase is characterized by access. In the next phase, technology is used to enhance existing processes. The third phase is characterized by using technology strategically. No longer is technology considered a “bolt-on”, or “veneer” on top of existing processes – it now helps drive schooling towards strategic goals such as significantly improved learning and better return on investments. In the final phase, leading edge schools use ICT to transform their operations, using it to personalize learning, integrate deeply with the wider community, run extremely efficient administration systems and develop a culture of performance.
‘Strategic’ Phase Vision
In the Strategic phase, technology becomes a key asset in achieving the strategic goals of an organisation. It’s about restructuring work and processes and doing things differently.
Typically in this phase, the strategic goals of an organisation would include raising standards and improving performance, and technology is a strategic tool for achieving these strategic goals by enabling:
Intelligent intervention – data driven support for learners
Connected Learning Communities – fully exploiting all available resources, and integration with the local community
Monitoring, analysis and planning – data driven decision making
This is essentially about using data to make well informed decisions about what students need to learn or do next. To fully personalise the learning experience students should be constantly assessed as they move through their schooling, and their learning pathways should continuously evolve. This relies on highly effective feedback loops and systems which dynamically adapts to the twists and turns of the learning process, and sets challenging learning goals and tasks. This is extremely difficult to do within a paper-based setup, but can be made a lot easier through using IT systems that provide analytic and workflow capabilities. Intelligent tutoring systems, and managed learning environments, are becoming more commonplace and increasingly sophisticated.
Monitoring, Analysis and Planning
To manage an organisation strategically, as opposed to fighting fires, the ability to monitor performance, analyse results and plan for improvements is fundamental. Organisations wanting to manage strategically must have three key capabilities:
This capability provides managers with the ability to know “what is happening” and “what has happened.” Organisations implement dashboards, scorecards, or reports to monitor their performance. These visual applications allow managers to keep an eye on important indicators of their organisation’s health.
This capability provides managers with the ability to know what is happening and why. To analyse performance, organisations implement solutions that are often very interactive in nature and allow managers to investigate the root cause of issues they see in their dashboards, scorecards, or reports.
This capability provides the organisation with the ability to model what should happen. Organisations develop processes and tools to conduct the essential planning, budgeting, and forecasting exercises. These processes allow managers to align groups and individuals around the metrics that drive the organisation—for instance: “what are our examination result targets?” or “what is our spending versus our revenue?”
Connected Learning Communities
Whilst there may be elements of learning that require independent work, learning only really acquires meaning in a social context, and the most immediate and direct social context for schooling is the local community.
ICT can be used to connect together all those who can make a contribution to students’ learning – e.g. local business, community resources (e.g. museums/libraries), parents and 3rd party learning services. It can connect students to inspiring individuals and inspirational speakers; promote debate and engagement between collaborators in face-to-face or virtual groupings; and provide mentoring opportunities. Connecting stakeholders together in a Connected Learning Community has enormous benefits such as engaging parents more deeply in the learning process, speeding-up processes and improving students’ connections with the outside world. The core of a connected learning community is a portal that can be accessed from anywhere.
In the Strategic phase, students have continual access to their own learning devices. These devices need to enable a range of learning scenarios (not just content consumption), be rugged, easy to repair and support, manageable on a network.
Devices should be available to students so they can learn anytime anywhere, access content, learning management and communication and collaboration tools via the Connected Learning Community Portal.
Having access to their own devices enables students to experience a wide range of learning scenarios:
Classrooms need to accommodate an increasingly wide range of learning styles, and equipment needs to be laid out in quite different ways according to the demands of each different learning task, for example:
BECTA provided the following guidance to UK schools on different classroom layout options:
Pods – separate circular / hexagonal / octagonal benches with workstations
No corners with 2 computers, so no dead spots that cannot be used
No extra space required for 2 pupils to share a computer
Can support collaborative work as users working around ‘one pod’
Pods – squares with computers on two sides only
No corners with 2 computers, so no ‘dead spots’ that cannot be used
No extra space required for 2 pupils to share a computer
Can support collaborative work as users working around ‘one pod’
Bays built along walls
Teacher can more or less see all computer screens from the centre of the room
Provides opportunity to use the centre of the room for tables enabling work away from the computer, and to gather groups for discussion
Cabling and electrical work is cheaper and easier than ‘pod’ designs as along the room edge.
In the Strategic phase, IT has become a strategic asset to schools. With the infrastructure optimised in the Enhanced phase, we now turn our focus on workloads delivered by servers.
The following services are core in the Strategic phase:
Optimised Infrastructure – including File and Print, Database Services, Directory Services, Security, Device Management, and Data Protection and Recovery
MIS – Management Information Systems
Virtualisation – centralizing computing tasks to improve scalability and system performance
These, typically, will be delivered through three layers:
On-Premises – the school hosts key functions on their own servers
Data Centre/Private Cloud – the Local Education Authority (LEA) delivers services to schools from their servers
Public Cloud – the school receives services from the LEA, Ministry of Education and private suppliers from Public Cloud Services
The Strategic phase is characterised by the Connected Learning Community, the core of which is a portal that can be accessed from anywhere. For it to be effective it needs to be “role based” i.e. present users with information and tools relevant to their role and to them as individuals. In other words a teacher in the community sees the information relevant to all teachers, their fellow subject specialists, and also information specific to their particular group of students, their particular HR information, and their particular teaching content, tasks, calendar, e-mail etc.
A portal should give students, parents, managers, teachers, their own “spaces” and deliver to them the resources that are important individually to them through a single web page. It aggregates information from diverse systems into one interface with a single sign-on ID – and organisation-wide search capabilities so that users can access relevant information quickly. Teaching and administration staff can use the portal to distribute information to students based on their enrolment, classes, security group or other membership criteria, while enabling them to personalise the portal content and customise the layout to suit their needs.
A great Portal reference architecture is Twynham School. Twynham is a 1600+ Secondary school in Christchurch UK, built a powerful collaboration platform – “Learning Gateway” – which allows students, staff and parents to work efficiently; develop independent and inter-dependence in their learning strategies; and support children in achieving their full potential. Twynham School won the BECTA ICT Excellence Award in 2008 for learning Beyond the Classroom and the schools works with over 400 schools internationally to support the development of their Learning Platforms.
Mike Herrity at Twynham has published a detailed e-book explaining how the Learning Gateway is used: http://bit.ly/qJohiL
Microsoft have also published a full architectural guide explaining how Twynham built their Learning Gateway – http://bit.ly/qORAW5
Enabling many of the functions in the portal are 2 sub-systems – Content Management and Unified Communications & Collaboration.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
When ICT is fully implemented, vast amounts of content gets created. In order to get maximum efficiencies from ICT, this content needs to be organised and managed in a way that means that people don’t replicate one another’s work.
A content management system in a connected learning community helps education institutions organise and facilitate the collaborative creation of documents and other content. They enable the full life cycle of content – from initial creation to delivery to end users. CMS comprise document and records management, web content management, forms, search, library systems, curriculum frameworks, curriculum systems, curriculum exemplars and resource assemblers.
Unified Communications (UC) & Collaboration
Today it is typical that people will have multiple contact addresses – direct line phone number; mobile phone number; e-mail; Instant Messenger; home number; personal mobile number; home e-mail, etc. Unified Communications (UC) takes identity and presence and then has all of these other ways of interacting simply connect up to that.
A single integrated identity can simplify how you find and communicate with others. One integrated desktop application can provide easy access to all the ways users are likely to want to communicate. Another key advantage to UC is that in using Voice over IP (VOIP) for telephone calls, it has the potential to significantly reduce communication costs.
UC enables students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders to confer and consult in the way that suits their work style by switching seamlessly between videoconferencing, telephone, email and instant messaging.
Also within UC are task and calendaring functions.
Data Driven Decision Making
In a schooling system, data driven decision making is supported by a huge number of information systems. Any process that involves the creation and transmission of information can be considered an information system – even informal discussions.
The collective term for the information systems in schooling is Management Information Systems (MIS).
Functions Supported by an MIS
The functions that a Management Information System need to support are:
Improving Student Performance
Parents Engagement In Learning
Better Teaching Decisions
Make Better Management Decisions
Monitor, Analyse and Plan
Tactical Decision Making
Manage Resources More Effectively
Planning and budgeting
Accountability and Alignment
Performance and Assessment Data
KPIs, Scorecards, Dashboards and Reports
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Drive Administrative Efficiencies
Management Information Systems – Functional Architecture
In this context, an information system really means an organised hierarchy of information sub-systems. Management Information System (MIS) is a term used as a container for all of the electronic information systems within a schooling system. These systems vary in size, scope and capability, from packages that are implemented in relatively small organisations to cover student records alone, to enterprise-wide solutions that aim to cover most aspects of running large multi-site organisations.
In the Strategic Phase, the goal of service provision at Local Education Authority level is to deliver those services which when aggregated improve in quality and price.
Local Education Authorities can use their scale to negotiate the best prices for content, communication, support services etc. Many of the services requiring the most maintenance and management – e.g. learning services, system management, business intelligence, and administrative tasks such as payroll and HR, are delivered more cost effectively from a centralised point. Other benefits include the use of greater amounts of data for decision making – an LEA with data from many schools can perceive more patterns than a single school with its limited pool of data.
Many LEA services are delivered through data centres built on top of optimised infrastructures. Increasingly data centres will become Private Clouds – essentially Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) within the data centre. The large scale and pay-as-you-go economics of Public Clouds aren’t available in typical Private Clouds. However, Private Clouds offer at least some of the scalability and elasticity benefits of Public Cloud but with additional control and customisation. Increasingly many of these services will be also be delivered from Public Clouds.
The services delivered by the LEA can be split into two main categories:
Schooling Enterprise Services
Monitoring, Analysis and Planning
Student Relationship Management
Ministry of Education
Some of the Schooling Enterprise Services delivered by LEAs to their schools and communities could be provided at National level from the Central Ministry of Education. Services such as strategy, policy, budgets, and curriculum are usually set and delegated at national level.
Computing functions at Ministry of Education level can be grouped into three main categories:
Internal departments – Curriculum, Policy, Research etc.
Regional Services – Resources and BI
National Services – Content (information services) and infrastructure – e.g. national level schooling enterprise internet backbone
One of the most important functions at Ministry level is to have a “clear line of sight” of the performance of the schooling system. This enables BI analysis and for resources to then be focussed on the areas where they will have most impact.
Fitts and Aziza (Joey Fitts and Bruno Aziza, 2008) talk of a “line of sight” from strategic to operational to tactical decisions as the discipline that drives aligned execution. “Line of sight” means clear visibility of goals, and progress towards them at executive (strategic), management (operational), employees (tactical) levels.
“Clear line of sight” is about performance metric alignment across organisational layers. This can be thought of as an organisation chart for performance metrics, indicating how the various levels of the organisation’s performance metrics relate to one another. At school level, classroom teacher’s metrics roll up to their Head of Department, which in turn roll up to Deputy Principals, which in turn roll up to the Principal. In turn, and depending on the mode of operations, performance metrics for Principals should roll up to those of Local Authority Directors, which in turn finally roll up to the Ministry of Education.
Technology Building Blocks
Finally, pulling these building blocks together we get the following high level architecture:
Moving from the Enhanced Phase to the Strategic Phase is as much about management as ICT. In this phase, the technology is used a tool for getting better allignement between strategy set at MoE level to exectution at school level. At all levels, there are strategic decisions that ICT can help monitor, analyse, plan and execute.
In the next article in this series, we will explore the final phase – Transformation.
My new book is published at last. Here’s the description…
“Globally $2.4trn is spent on education every year. Yet the effectiveness of schooling systems may be as low as 7% in some countries. Whilst the sheer scale of the money being wasted every day on out-dated schooling is hard to imagine, leave alone quantify accurately, the bottom-line is that schooling needs to change significantly. Taking a global perspective, Mike Lloyd shows how schooling systems can be brought forward, out of the industrial era. By unravelling the complexities of schooling systems and proposing practical steps, Schooling at the Speed of Thought explains how we can propagate and scale innovation for the benefit of all stakeholders. Designed to help schooling decision makers plan more effective, efficient and inspiring systems, the book includes first-hand accounts from leading edge practices. Based on approaches developed from direct involvement with Ministries of Education each chapter takes the reader through a practical journey to arrive at a realistic and achievable vision for modernised schooling.”