What type of school are you? Alpha, Aspirational or Type-3?
Circumstances don’t make a person. They merely reveal them. This age-old adage has proved its relevance in these extremely trying times. Its applicability spans a wide variety of communities. Working closely with schools, we have seen this play out perfectly in helping us understand the leadership who run them. We have realised that as far as adoption of technology in education is concerned, there are 3 types of schools out there. We will go into what these types are how as a school you may be able to elevate yourself through the ranks and stay on top.
Meet the first type who we address as the Alpha schools.
The Alpha School
The Alpha school has always kept pace with the changing times and have stayed empathetic to the evolving societal and environmental ecosystems. They do not see pedagogy as a static set of diktats to be thrust upon their learners, but as a living and breathing set of guidelines that helps their students keep pace with the ever-evolving world around them. In term of technology adoption in education, the Alpha school is at the forefront. Surprisingly enough, this is irrespective of the financial resources it has. While majority of schools in this category are the well-funded and premium category schools, this category is certainly not reserved for them. We have encountered a number of schools that despite being low on resources have figured out a way to adopt technology in myriad of ways possible and are continuing to do so every day. The Alpha schools have always believed that technology plays and will continue play an even larger role in the way education is disseminated, consumed and reinforced. The Alpha schools are the ones everyone look up to for guidance and advice. They set the standards that other schools want to live up to. They are the benchmark in the industry. If you relate yourself as an Alpha school, we are delighted to have you on this article. You are a school that we do not want to sell to but want to collaborate with for real world advice and seek guidance from to make our solutions and products better.
We call the next category of schools as the Aspirational schools.
The Aspirational School
The Aspirational school have dabbled a bit with technology in their pedagogy. There probably is a computer lab in the school. The school timetable has one or two periods of Computer Science a week. But most importantly the school management (or at least a part of it) wants to look at technology adoption more holistically and make it an integral part of the school’s ethos. However, they do not have or are not very sure of the support they need from the stakeholders to make the changes at the scale they want. These stakeholders could be one or more amongst the school management committee, administrative staff, teaching staff, parents, board and the government. If you categorise yourself as an Aspirational school, then this article is just for you. The limitations imposed upon you due to the COVID19 pandemic has also brought to you a once in a lifetime golden opportunity to help you get on par with the Alpha schools. This is the essence of this article and we will do a deep dive into in just a bit.
The final category of schools is who we address as the Type-3.
The Type-3 School
The Type-3 are not a big promoter of technology in education. Much like the Aspirational schools, they usually have a computer lab, possibly a period of computer science in the weekly timetable as well but, the school management does not truly really believe that technology has a big role to play in shaping the future of their learners. If you are a Type-3 school then the advice in this article may not strike any particular chord with you, however it might be worth your while to go over the rest of this write-up. With a daily evolving shape of the world some of the advices might in fact help you tread a path you have hitherto avoided! Parents today are an extremely evolved lot and are looking for educational institutions that can help their children gain holistic growth within however limited resources they can afford. Technology and Computer Science is no longer a subject period that comes once a week in the timetable. Much like English Language it is a life-skill that we must be teaching our school going students. This is the year when you could make it happen for their children studying in your school.
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel
COVID19 is a crisis we can ill afford to waste!
The COVID19 pandemic has brought along with it an opportunity of a lifetime for schools that want to take their leadership to a whole new level. Never before have we seen a time wherein every single stakeholder in the ecosystem is open and eager for technology adoption. All the objections have been discarded in favour of getting the school ready for the new normal that we are preparing for in the upcoming months. Whether it is the school management committees, the school chairperson, principal, the staff, the parents, the children, the education board or even the governments. Everyone is looking for ways to ensure learning continues uninterrupted. You will face minimal resistance from the stakeholders. But here is the best part. Today every single EdTech vendor is offering access to their solution and free consulting advice (we certainly are!) for at least a month if not even longer.
The best outcome that we are seeing is the fact that schools and the EdTech solution providers are for the first time ever connecting to each other remotely. Selling to schools has always needed a lot of grind from the sales teams on the road and in-person meetings. This has been a norm for decades. All of that changed in a fell swoop! Schools are evaluating solutions remotely. The EdTech providers are demonstrating, deploying and training schools on their solution from a distance. This is a life changing event in the lives of both the EdTech solution providers as well as the schools. The EdTech solution provider can now reach out to schools all over the country (in case of a country specific solution) or the globe (in case of a country agnostic solution offering). Until three months ago, this was just not possible unless you made huge investments in terms of setting up sales presence across the geographies you wanted to stake a claim on.
However, the gains are not for the EdTech solution providers alone. The schools are an even bigger beneficiary. There are myriad of extremely innovative EdTech solutions and start-ups all over the globe. If you have a pointed problem statement for your school (Online classes, virtual classroom with video conferencing, conducting unbiased assessments, bite sized learning videos etc.) there is more than a solution already out there. Until about three months ago, the presence of a solution someplace on the globe made no difference if they did not come to your doorstep. Today, however, that is no longer the case. You can reach out to ANY solution provider that can help solve your problem and improve the learning experiences for your learners and you will get access to them. Many of you have already been engaging with EdTech solution providers remotely and I can guarantee you that you are on the way to becoming the new-age Alpha School! By the time other schools realise that it is something they can consider too, you will already have your solutions ready and rolled out to your students. Your academic calendar will be in motion and being executed and your students will be making daily progress and your staff already becoming comfortable with the various technology-based tools at their disposal. If this is your school, then we salute you. The academic year 2020-21 will be a defining year in the lives and leaderships of the K-12 fraternity. My peers and I would be thrilled to connect and learn from you as we continue to evolve our solution that are relevant for the learners of today and the new future.
We recently hosted a free webinar to help schools look at various options they have for conducting online classes as well as remote assessments instead of the traditional paper-based worksheets. It was attended by over 120 K-12 leaders across South India. An engaging Q&A session ensued towards the end. One question stood out for me. One of the school principals who attended the session asked if all these online and virtual classes and programs be relevant after the Corona scare is behind us. Will we not go back to the normal way of functioning as we always have and just look at all these solutions like a temporary fad? I don’t know what you, the reader, think of this question but I for one will be very sad if that or any other school was to plan their move with a mindset like that. This is on two counts. First as a country we see enough and more disruptions every year that result in losing out on a number of productive days a year. Corona or no Corona. Schools are forced to declare holidays for bandhs, mid-term elections, severe heat wave, severe cold wave, rainy day (my favourite since my childhood!), spike in pollution levels, untimely demise of dignitaries and what not. The solutions you adopt & adapt today will continue to help you in eliminating all such block-out dates. Secondly, once you have experienced the benefits of EdTech solutions in eliminating the inefficiencies in the system, be it online assessments, providing remedial actions via video tutorials or personalised feedback for students, there will be no reason to go back to the earlier normal. The approach of the past is shortly to be looked upon as an archaic methodology.
In conclusion, if you have been wanting to introduce a new technology product or service in your educational institute, there can NEVER be a better time than this. Whether or not K-12 leadership is an ambition of yours, your learners and their parents deserve the best the world has to offer. They are all looking up to you to take the lead and show them the path to the future. Go ahead, be an Alpha!