• Navigating the path to digital change

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    Embracing digital transformation is no longer an option; it is a necessity. Mark Hodges, Education Sector Lead at Cantium, shares some advice schools can take with them along their digital transformation journey to help them revolutionise the learning experience…

    A digital transformation journey requires a careful and strategic approach. It is an ongoing process that requires adaptability, openness to change, and a commitment to enhancing the educational experience for all involved.

    Your journey, and yours alone

    When embarking on a digital transformation strategy, you’ve probably already been told that the first crucial step is defining a clear vision and objectives.

    While I agree, it is important for schools to ask themselves: what are we aiming to achieve? Improved learning outcomes, administrative efficiency, or both? I believe schools should be laser focused on their individual needs and desired outcomes. Establishing your vision comes with understanding that your schools’ journey is yours alone, and every primary, secondary or MAT (Multi Academy Trust), is travelling along a different path.

    I’ve worked with schools at both ends of the scale, and everything in between; from a school with just a few hundred students, right up to large Multi-Academy Trusts. I’ve seen a range of complexities and simplicities in both types of institution. A small school could have just one designated IT lead, whereas a MAT could have a team of network managers. One may need technical and user support for classroom devices, curriculum servers, software, hardware and user errors, and another may just need administration guidance. The two cannot, and should not be viewed the same, nor are their outcomes going to be identical, so it’s crucial to remember that your needs must align to your goals, and your goals only.

    What about when your end goal isn’t clear? Often schools don’t know what they need but know they should be digitising in some way. They don’t know what the result looks like. This is why it’s crucial to stay aligned to your overall vision and to those markers you set initially when compiling your strategy. It’s the reason why it’s important to establish KPIs and metrics to continually assess the impact of the digital transformation on all your relevant goals.

    An external provider can also play a part in providing the right level of support for your size and your strategic vision; so, you can determine just what that ideal ‘finish line’ needs to look like.

    Be open to change

    Along with an awareness of your individual journey, it’s important to understand the technology that is and isn’t right for you.

    We all know that schools don’t have the time to find out about every digital tool that’s out there, nor should they be expected to. It’s up to your provider to share this insight, and to guide you along the right path. This might mean that the technology you thought you were going to need when you were initially mapping out your strategy, will no longer be fit for purpose a few months down the line. It’s something I’ve seen a lot, and most of the schools I’ve worked with are open to changing their digital transformation plans, providing the project stays on track and within budget. It’s important to remain flexible, agile, and open to change along your journey; refining is inevitable as you find the right systems and processes that work best for you.

    When any changes are made, clear communication and subsequent training for staff will be crucial. Involve teachers, students, parents, administrators, and other relevant stakeholders in the planning and implementation process, gathering input on their needs, concerns, and expectations along the way.

    Think simply

    As technology evolves, we see different trends presenting in schools. I’ve recently seen automation tools becoming more and more popular in both the large and small schools we work with. No touch deployment is making it easy to streamline repetitive tasks, saving time and reducing errors.

    I recently visited a school where a lesson had been missed. This was because the cover request was written on paper and placed on the Deputy Head’s desk, who happened to be off sick that day. The request wasn’t communicated further, resulting in a delayed lesson. If we were using digital tools here, that would not have happened. If the person who wrote the note on paper could’ve completed a form online, it would’ve been seen by more than one approver. The person making the request would’ve received a confirmation saying the request had been picked up, and the issue would’ve been dealt with.

    I’m finding that a lot of schools already have these tools to hand, they’re just not aware of them. They are scratching the surface in terms of how they can be more effective and efficient. Remember, technology is always evolving, but it’s to be used as an enabler, a support tool. It should make life easier for you and your school.

    Particularly in the initial stages, but also at regular intervals, schools should evaluate their existing technological infrastructure; including hardware, software, and network capabilities, to identify and keep track of any gaps or areas that need improvement. Technology partners should offer expertise and technical support, ongoing maintenance, security and compliance, flexibility, and scalability. While you focus on delivering a high-quality learning experience, your tech provider can design and implement school-specific IT solutions that help secure and better analyse data to the benefit of your pupils’ education experience.

    Foster a culture of innovation

    We all know the importance of providing ongoing training and support for teachers and staff to ensure they are comfortable using digital tools and technologies effectively in the classroom.

    Encouraging teachers and students to experiment with new tools and technologies also fosters a culture of innovation and adaptability. By supporting someone who is passionate, forward thinking and is willing to learn new skills to demonstrate the positive impact of digital technology, you’ll create your very own digital champion.

    Having a digital champion is a valuable asset for any educational institution looking to leverage technology for improved outcomes and experiences. Their influence and expertise can significantly impact the success of digital transformation efforts.

    Wrap security around digital transformation

    As more schools go down the path to digital, they are becoming increasingly aware of cyber security. We know that the cloud is potentially safer than on-site servers, but it remains of vital importance that schools have a cyber security strategy in place. This wraps around the digital transformation strategy, where staff should be kept up to date on best practice and have access to training.

    The Department for Education’s newly updated Keeping Children Safe in Education document now specifically highlights filtering and monitoring. It’s something your school will need to understand, and the sector is working to educate people in their understanding of this. The more we can do to help schools and teachers understand technology and its capabilities, the better.

    A successful digital transformation in schools is about leveraging technology as a tool to enhance and enrich the educational experience. Digital transformation is an ongoing process. It requires commitment, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt to the evolving needs of the educational landscape.

    Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash


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