Creating a Digital Transformation Strategy

Technology continues to shape the world around us. Changes in transportation, communication, gaming, and design are just a few of the areas impacted. As Uber and Lyft de-stabilize the taxi industry, one is left to wonder how driverless cars will ultimately impact how we live. Technology will create a number of new opportunities and potentially impact the way all of us think about the ownership of a vehicle and how we may utilize vehicles in a radically different way. We also continue to hear about the impact of artificial intelligence and the utilization of robots for tasks at one time completed by human beings. How can schools prepare students not only for the oncoming changes in society but also to be successful contributors to this new economy? What kind of education do we need in the age of smart machines?

School districts are increasingly under pressure to educate a generation of digital learners to purposely integrate technology into their daily lives. Yet, there is incredible complexity to forming an action plan to accomplish this task. One challenge is generating the financial resources to provide staff and students with access to technological devices. In a District with approximately 23,000 students and over 3,000 staff, the strain on financial resources is daunting – no matter what device the District chooses for students and staff to access, there will always be those that would prefer a different device than the one provided. Given the rapid changes in technology everything new seems to be outdated a year later. I can’t even imagine providing everyone with virtual reality goggles. How about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)? How will this tax the wi-fi in each school and who will be responsible if a device is damaged or stolen? Will this simply produce more inequities in some of our more economically challenged communities?

Digital citizenship remains an area of concern in the world of the fourth industrial revolution. I still cannot believe how much people post in terms of their private lives and how many individuals like to weigh in with ‘likes’ or vile comments. Adult modelling has not always been helpful here. While technology can serve as a great vehicle to spread a message or collaborate with others, there are still many mine fields with respect to interacting appropriately with each other. It is also left to education to teach appropriate digital citizenship skills.

Can technology make a difference to student learning? It can certainly enable access to a vast amount of information – though sources still need to be checked.  It does engage students in terms of learning material and can provide flexibility in relation to students accessing materials and demonstrating their understanding at different times and in a variety of forms. It enables students to capture their learning in portfolios to document their journey. It also allows access to programs that assist with the development of literacy and numeracy skills. The reality is, students need digital skills as they transition to the work force today or they will be at a significant disadvantage. They need to develop the ability to be creative and critical thinkers, effectively communicate and collaborate, along with being resilient entrepreneurs to transition confidently into the new economy upon graduation.

The layers to developing an effective digital transformation strategy are vast and yet must be addressed to give our kids the best chance to transition beyond high school to live productive lives along with cooperating with one another to ensure a sustainable planet. In addition, with the right skills children need not fear the technological revolution underway. Technology doesn’t need to be seen as a threat. As George Couros writes:

“Smartphones aren’t creative; the thinking behind creating a Smartphone is where innovation happens.”

Gord Stewart