Psychological safety at work – a driver of innovation

Joy

By Brett Roberts, Associate Director, Digital, Customers & Collaboration

How’s the culture in your company? Does it enable you to thrive? Or are you simply surviving? Worse yet, is it toxic?

While the world of work is changing rapidly, people still sit at the very heart of it. How do we get the best out of these people? And how do we ensure they get the best out of their roles?

A critical factor in this discussion is the concept of psychological safety in the workplace. If you as a leader can create an environment in which even the newest hire feels safe to voice their thoughts and opinions, then you are far more likely to get the best ideas out of your staff. This is incredibly important given that one of the underpinning requirements of an innovation culture is ideas and creativity.

Linda Hill, a Professor at Harvard Business School, is an expert on managing for collective creativity, and firmly believes that getting the best out of people requires a safe environment. She also comments that innovation is not about solo genius, rather it’s about collective genius and it’s collaborative and messy. Pixar took a very collaborative approach to the development of their first full length CG (computer graphics) movie, Ratatouille. It took nearly 20 years from inception to release, but CG films have really taken off since then!

Innovation requires imagination, but imagination can be stifled in a negative workplace. People can’t innovate in an environment where they feel fear (of embarrassment, of ridicule, of not being heard), so it’s crucial that business leaders foster an environment where people feel entirely safe to speak up. New junior staff members are sitting at the bottom of the pile, but giving them a platform to speak their mind in safety will help grow them – and quickly.

Professor Hill’s research concluded that leaders needed to stop giving answers, or providing solutions. They needed to look to people at the bottom of the pyramid, the young sparks, those that were closest to the customers as an often untapped source of innovation. Organisations need to invert the pyramid, transfer growth to lower levels, and unleash the power of many by loosening the stranglehold of the few.

For the full Linda Hill TED Talk, see here 

Workplaces need to create an environment where there is a marketplace of brainstormed and debated ideas, and where it’s ok to have strong – yet constructive – views. Asking good questions, actively listening and advocating for their point of view are also critical skills for leaders and others to foster.

Psychological safety and teams

Google’s Project Aristotle showed that psychological safety is the number one determinant of highly effective teams. A culture of psychological safety enables everyone in the group to contribute regardless of hierarchy, role, or expectations. In this instance, we can draw upon the total collective intelligence of the group.

Author Dr Amy Silver commented that “If we don’t have psychological safety, we use fear to mediate our contributions to a team. We are not able to contribute whatever’s in our heads as we limit ourselves through the fear of judgment, the fear of being ridiculed, the fear of being discounted, or the fear of going against expectations. Without psychological safety, we don’t have collective intelligence. We have fear-based intelligence.”

Creating psychological safety through hackathons

Datacom has been using hackathons for the last seven years as a way to create environments where people from different backgrounds and experiences feel safe to ideate, experiment and create.

There are many ways in which we create a sense of safety during a hackathon, such as rituals around welcoming which leads to greater levels of understanding amongst team members, many of whom may never have met before. There is a strong need to take the time to meet, greet and understand each other as this fosters a sense of safety and empathy which ultimately leads to better outcomes. Having seen it many times, we also understand the need to support those people who feel strongly about a topic or issue. Having support around them is what makes their dream reality.

We’re seeing real examples of how psychological safety impacts on how people participate in hackathons. Just this year we had a number of tertiary students join our main internal hackathon. They felt so safe that two of them got up and pitched an idea to an audience of hundreds only a short time after arriving. In a regional hackathon we were involved in earlier in the year, one of the businesses brought along several of their own staff but instructed them to go into separate teams.

Datacom might not be experts in the science of psychological safety – we’ll leave that to Professor Hill and Doctor Silver – but we are huge believers in its importance and ability to fundamentally influence organisational culture and innovation not to mention improving employee engagement and retention.

Today, every company is thinking about and investing in workplace safety measures. The benefits are obvious and the downsides of not doing so are clear. We believe the same applies to the concept of psychological safety and would encourage your organisation to do the same if you’re not doing so already. The benefits are too clear to ignore.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Skills Revolution: Investing To Grow Tomorrow’s Prosperous, Future-fit & Capable Kiwis

2018Auction_084

By Kerry Topp, Associate Director, Transformation and Innovation

We can’t slow down the rate of technological change, change is rapid and all around us. The skills cycle, the rate at which skills are needed, is rapidly increasing both globally and in New Zealand. 

 We are at the crucible moment where leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand need to be proactive and responsible in the “right-skilling” or retraining of their workforce. For right-skilling, organisations need to have a strategic plan for talent to make the shift. Any good talent strategy should focus on retaining and training existing talent, as well as acquiring new workers.

“It’s becoming more important to prepare than adapt. By the time you realize the need to adapt, it may already be too late.”Greg Satell | Author | Speaker | Innovation Adviser

In this context, what can we do as leaders to ensure our organisations, society and above all, our people, are future-fit and ready, now? In this post we will look at why we believe it is crucial for corporate leaders to increase their investment in employees’ skills today so New Zealand Aotearoa is able to increase the prosperity, wellbeing and capability of our people, organisations and country, tomorrow.

The Skills Revolution Is Here!

Recently Manpower, a global leader in contingent and permanent recruitment workforce solutions, asked 18,000 employers in 43 countries across six industry sectors how they expect technology will impact their business in the next two years, and how they are ensuring their workforce has the right skills and is ready to adapt – specifically, they looked at:

  • The likely impact of automation on headcount in the next two years,
  • Which functions will be most affected,
  • The strategies they are adopting to ensure they have the skills they need for technological advances.

“We are seeing the emergence of a Skills Revolution — where helping people upskill and adapt to a fast-changing world of work will be the defining challenge of our time.“ – Jonas Prising | Chairman & CEO | ManpowerGroup

What Manpower found was that more than 90 percent of employers expect their organization to be impacted by digitisation in the next two years. In addition, on average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skillsets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.

The World Economic Forum identified that skills cycles are shorter than ever before and some 65 percent of the jobs Gen Z will perform do not even exist yet. They also found that up to 45 percent of the tasks people are paid to do each day could be automated with current technology. We have of course adapted to the evolution of the labour market before — from tellers to customer service representatives, typists to word processors and personal assistants — disrupting, destroying, redistributing and recreating work is nothing new. The difference now is the life cycle of skills is shorter than ever and change is happening at an unprecedented scale.

“On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.” – World Economic Forum

The Conclusion Is Widespread

It is not just Manpower or The World Economic Forum that are drawing similar conclusions. The evidence of a skills revolution is also coming through loudly from the likes of the Big Four and research organisations, like McKinsey & Co, Gartner, PWC as well:

  • 51 percent of all activities can soon be done without humans, impacting and changing 60 percent of current jobs [McKinsey, Future of Work 2017].
  • The future of the workforce will be dominated by those born between 1980-mid 90s. And what they want from work is different. A strong sense of alignment on values and purpose, over profit, is the main goal. According to PWC’s Managing tomorrow’s people: The future of work to 2020 report, 88 percent are looking for alignment on corporate social responsibility, with their personal values.
  • According to PWCs Workforce of the Future study, 74 percent of global employees are now actively up-skilling themselves to take advantage of the new economy.
  • A study by Mavenlink found that given the opportunity, 65% of workers would pursue contract work. Whilst it’s not a new addition to hiring trends, it’s still worth calling out that flexibility is key, with the option to work remotely influencing the likelihood of accepting a position for 68% of new workforce entrants. There are many more ways to ‘work’ emerging and becoming main-stream. Which opens up new and creative ways for organisations to run their HR budgets, and individuals to design a career with more flexibility.

Those With The Right Skills Will Thrive

Based on this research, it is clear, those with the right skills will increasingly be in the driving seat, create new opportunities and have the choice and flexibility to work where, how, and when they like. Those lacking the right skills will increasingly be left behind and the outlook for the future for them is not rosy. There is a continued polarisation of the population that is playing out right in front of all our eyes and it will, if not rapidly addressed, be costly for society and business.

How Do We Ensure NZInc Has The Right Skills To Thrive?

At Datacom, we believe that now is the time for company leaders to be responsive and responsible! We cannot slow the rate of technological advance or globalisation, but we can invest in employees’ skills to increase the resilience of our people, organisations but also society. I contend that we are seeing the emergence of what World Economic Forum calls, the Skills Revolution.

Yes, individuals absolutely need to nurture their ‘learnability’: their desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable; but leaders in New Zealand need to take immediate action to fast track the upskilling and reskilling of existing employees to ensure New Zealand Aotearoa has access to a workforce with the skills required for the future.

So, let’s have a look at what we are doing to support the resilience of our people.

In a recent McKinsey survey, 75 percent of executives said they believed reskilling would fill at least half of their future talent needs, given the war for talent and hiring difficulties. The survey highlighted that people working in IT and customer-facing roles are likely to see the greatest increases in demand, but they also anticipated rapid growth in demand across almost all industries and geographies for data analysts required to make sense of big data, and for specialised sales, product and commercial managers to commercialise new digitised offerings.

At Datacom we firmly believe that from learning comes creativity and from creativity comes innovation. One of the activations we have in this space is Datacomp, our annual innovation hackathon, which has been running since 2012 and is designed to keep our people sharp and give them an opportunity to trial and test new skills and experiences in a safe environment.

Watch Datacomp 2018 video

One of the benefits of Datacomp is that every year each person in our business gets the chance to take part in a significant learning and development opportunity. Our goal in providing the program – called Datacomp StayingSharp – is simple, to add to our peoples’ C.V.s! Not because we want them to go, but rather, because we want them to stay.

Over the last seven years that Datacomp has been running we have seen over 1,000 people trained in lean canvasing, design thinking, presenting and pitching, plus get ongoing exposure to the latest technology and insights.

Having The Opportunity And Feeling Safe Are Important

Our view is that giving our people the opportunity to keep up-to-date with the latest trends, ways of working and tech is positive and inspiring for all – most importantly, our people and customers. We aim to give our people a safe environment to experiment and try new things, things that they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do in their day job.

Datacomp 2018 winners

Winning team from Datacomp 2018

We don’t do this lightly. We are actively and deliberately seeking to lead our own people and also other organisations to keep up with the ever-demanding skills cycle.

“Remember, you’re not in charge. You are responsible for those in your charge.” – Simon Sinek | Founder | Visionary | Author | Speaker

As Simon Sinek, internationally acclaimed speaker and author, said leaders are not responsible for the job. Leaders are responsible for the people, who are responsible for the job.

Watch Simon Sinek speak.

If we accept that the pace of technological change has accelerated us to a crucible moment where leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand need to invest in employees’ skills today to increase the prosperity, wellbeing & capability of our people, organisation & country, tomorrow, then as a leader, I encourage you to ask yourself: what are you doing to deliver a brighter future for your people?

Further references

 

Six steps for better ICT integration in schools

group elementary school students in computer class

By Daniel Groenewald

Every school has strengths and weaknesses but there are some common themes when technology isn’t working well. As part of a technology company working in education across Australia, in all kinds of schools, I get to see many different approaches to technology integration. If your school is struggling, it may pay to step back and consider this simple six-step checklist.

  1. Have a clear vision and rationale for learning with ICT.

This vision should outline how ICT will enhance learning. For example, your school might wish to ensure that all teachers and students use ICTs to create and share resources. The rationale for this? That all students have multiple opportunities to learn and staff have access to quality resources and time saving strategies. Where does the IT come in? It facilitates the sharing and storage of resources. The school’s ICT vision must be developed with staff and must address the ICT capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Once this vision for learning with ICT is established, it will frame decisions about devices, applications, systems, resourcing and professional development.

  1. Plan your approach to ICT.

Trial technology innovations with small, well-supported classes. If they don’t yield the results you are looking for, don’t be afraid to dismiss the technology. If you see progress, trial the technology with new year groups to assess its best fit. Plan and rehearse in small steps. Don’t be too ambitious too early.

  1. Engage your parent community.

Parents can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy – ignore them at your peril. Involved parents who understand a school’s reasons for implementing an ICT program are much more likely to be supportive than parents ignored in the process. Don’t hide costs from parents. If a device costs more if it is bought through the school because it includes professional learning and support for teachers in classrooms, tell them. Explain how this is enhancing their child’s learning experience. Engage parents early as critical thinkers and key stakeholders. Run programmes that upskill parents in ICT skills and trends.

  1. Develop your staff to be effective integrators of ICT.

Schools sometimes focus their staff’s professional development on learning apps or operating systems. This kind of training may improve teachers’ basic confidence but it has little impact on student learning. If you want to have more impact on student learning with ICT, focus your professional development on curriculum design, lesson planning and peer coaching.

  1. Get the ICT infrastructure and support right.

A technology programme is dependent on a host of resources outside of a teacher’s control, and teacher professionalism is dependent on what the school provides. You can’t expect teachers to persist with unreliable systems. So get the wireless right and don’t buy a stack of computers with screens so small teachers can’t read them. If you want a successful tech program, everything must work, and when it fails, support must be a click away. Support staff must be customer facing and customer focussed, ready to solve problems efficiently with a smile.

  1. Things go awry pretty quickly when you try to do too much under stress. Do less.

Simplicity reduces anxiety and complexity and is likely to result in more success and build staff confidence. Don’t try to do everything at once. Each staff department should choose one ICT capability to master each semester. Make time for professional learning, for staff to share what they have learned with each other, to ask and answer questions, to brainstorm, suggest solutions and build on shared knowledge.

Daniel Groenewald is a Professional Learning Consultant at Datacom.

Gamifying the curriculum

By Daniel Groenewald

Gamification – the process of transforming school curricula into an exciting game format – is education’s next big thing. According to the go-to research paper on technology trends, the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report K-12 (2014), Gamification will start hitting classrooms over the next two to three years.

There are two aspects to gamification. The first is the redesign of the curriculum based on gaming structures and features such as levels, rewards, badges, repetition, competition challenges and collaboration. The second is the remaking of traditional bodies of knowledge into actual computer games. A notable example is Filament Games’ “Reach for the Sun” which sets students the challenge to grow a virtual plant. The game contains beautiful graphics, collaborative challenges and the sophisticated language of academic biology. Students cannot achieve the game’s objectives without a thorough working knowledge of photosynthesis.

Closer to home, some innovative teachers are redesigning their curricula with gaming elements in mind. In April 2014, inspired by local Formula One ace Daniel Ricciardo’s use of a car simulator as training, St Stephen’s School Design and Technology teacher Rohan Hotchkin decided to have a crack at making his own car simulator. The objective was to provide students with a safe, practical and engaging way to improve their understanding of car mechanics and handling – key theoretical components of their Automotive Vocational Preparation class. So, with the help of his students, Hotchkin grabbed a projector from the library, welded up a frame, and got hold of Sony PlayStation with Gran Turismo 6, a Reccaro seat from the verge, a Butt Kicker, some old MDF, and a Logitech steering wheel, gearshift and pedal set. In the blink of an eye, the car simulator was born. And trust me, the game feels like you are actually car racing thanks in part to a vibrating seat that kicks in every time you crash and a slick sports steering wheel.

Relevant student engagement and practical expression of theoretical concepts addressed in the course were a key focus for Hotchkin. He wanted students occupied with thinking about the performance and handling of cars in a safe way while he dealt with other issues in the workshop. On the simulator, students clock up laps to improve their knowledge of how cars work and they put the theoretical lessons covered in the course into practice. Students can modify a vehicle’s performance in handling, power and braking. They get instant feedback from the game and they analyse issues and make necessary adjustments.

The simulator is used as a rotational activity. There are log books for students to track their learning and Hotchkin has seen improvements in students’ understanding of performance, handling and driver skill. Instead of talking about their weekends when waiting for others to finish a task, students are now talking about different cars, potential modifications and different tracks. For Hotchkin, “Trying to motivate kids to learn so that they look forward to coming to class makes your job a lot easier and allows you to focus on other aspects of teaching and learning.”

Hotchkin wonders if the future of education will include more virtual elements. “With technology the way it is going, augmented reality, virtual reality… education is going to be very different … You could go virtually to pit lane or even look over a mechanic’s shoulder.”

The use of the popular Go Pro camera in extreme sports, like surfing for example, is allowing the less skilled layperson to experience what a deep barrel looks like and sounds like.

If you want to get into gamification, Hotchkin has some tips. “Be open to changing your mindset”, and debrief on a regular basis. There’s a big shift that has to occur in a teacher’s mind to accept that playing games, or designing the curriculum like a game, might actually be the best key to learning.

Daniel Groenewald is a Professional Learning Consultant at Datacom. This article was originally published in Technology in Education magazine.

Kids and code – encouraging young people to tinker

CodeCombat

CodeCombat helps people learn Javascript by playing a web-based game.

It’s not news that there’s a global IT skills shortage. Kids are growing up with computers, but they’re not being taught in schools how to tinker with them, how to code for them, or how to fix them. Often, kids don’t begin to learn these skills until they’re in university, if at all.

Thanks to the internet and some passionate IT professionals around the world, children with an interest in computers now have other options.

Last year, Code.org launched the ‘Hour of Code’, an initiative designed to show people of all age groups, genders and countries that they can learn how to create a program.

The programme was a huge success – seven days after its launch, 15 million people from 170 countries completed an hour of code, and one in five US students took part.

Then there are educational games that can teach kids these skills and help them have fun, too – not just solitary video games, but board games that can be played with parents and friends. Technology innovation website VentureBeat has a great list of them, along with commentary from IT and education experts.

Closer to home, Victoria University in Wellington sees the benefits of beginning to teach students IT skills before they get into tertiary education. The university is piloting an after-school programme for high school students – years 10 to 13 – to teach them about various technologies, with the intent of helping to produce more digitally literate adults.

Of course, providing avenues for kids to learn only tackles one of the two major problems with getting students into IT. There is still a lingering perception that only geeks work in IT – a topic for a future blog.

Teacher 3.0 – pedagogue of the 21st century

Digital tablet and apple

By Daniel Groenewald

Having your finger just close to the education pulse is like standing next to a waterfall. It’s frightful and sublime.  No doubt we are living through some Cambrian-esque explosion in learning where data, connectivity, creativity and invention are metamorphosing before our eyes. Who knows what will follow but that fantasised future we read about is already part of the present. Reality, for most of us, is augmented. Artificial intelligence is in our pockets. And just think, with the right intent, what can’t you learn?

Why not take a free course online in abstract algebra or computer science from Harvard, or brush up on your stats with Salman at the Khan Academy? Enhance your problem solving by completing online activities that diagnose and target your neurological strengths and weaknesses. Forgotten how to tie that dependable Windsor knot? You know what to do.

The way we learn has fundamentally changed and the rate at which we are expected to learn is speeding up.

There has never been a better and more equitable time to learn in human history. Expertise and engaging content are just a fingertip away. Schools, then, must be a hotbed of excitement as old textbooks make way for digital resources and curricula is shared among peers and schools, freeing up teachers to focus on their craft. But realistically, the portrait of learning across the nation is much more complex and challenging and roadblocks do take their toll.

Schools have always prepared students for the economies of the future – that’s why compliance and social hierarchies were such important features of 19th and early 20th century education. They taught students the right skills to succeed the world of factories and organisations. But the present, and even more so, the future, requires much more than compliance and linear thinking. Most futurists and economists agree that creativity and innovation, critical thinking problem solving, and information and media technology skills, are key 21st century skills.

What they need to be complimented by, however, are 21st century teachers. It’s a mobius strip – you can’t have one without the other. However, shifting schools from the 20th to the 21st century requires serious investment in infrastructure and an even greater investment in teacher training. Recall too that the rapidly aging teacher workforce, by and large, were not trained for the digital age. It’s only relatively new graduates that have been reeducated for this brave new world and they make up a small minority of a profession dominated by baby boomers.  

The complexity does not end there either. At the very same time it’s becoming increasingly urgent to invest in teachers 21st century capabilities; schools, and therefore teachers, are being measured by the results of older forms of numeracy and literacy – high-stakes tests such as NAPLAN, and pen and paper written senior exams for university entrance. This dancing bear called schooling is being pulled simultaneously in different directions. You can feel the stress and confusion in its bones.

We need a clearer direction for education that prepares them for the 21st century. We want our kids to create and communicate with the tools of their culture, tools that may solve the problems we’ve left behind. We want our kids to participate thoughtfully and ethically in the digital space, to have positive avatars, to distinguish valid from invalid content and engage in meaningful and creative work. And how do we do that? We don’t just buy some kit and expect magic to happen. It won’t. We invest in the people using the kit and support them to become the teachers our kids need.

In short, we need to commit to developing a new kind of teacher – a teacher that is comfortable using digital tools to construct a learning space that engages digital natives in solving challenging problems across multiple disciplines. We need a teacher who encourages creativity and collaboration, connections between subjects and communication in digital forms. Of course this teacher still loves their subject, knows and cares about their students, asks brilliant questions, laughs out loud and engages in rich curricula – the old and new. They’ve kept all the skills of version one and two but they’ve become something else, something better: teacher 3.0.

Most schools are not well-resourced for digital best practice so it makes sense to engage with a company that understands 21st century education – both its technical and pedagogical requirements. Datacom Education partners with educational institutions across Australia, New Zealand and Asia to provide industry standard technical expertise blended with unique leadership and classroom support to maximise the quality of student-teacher time and enable “anytime, anywhere” learning.

At Datacom we provide technical and pedagogical services from Professional Learning, Strategic Reviews to bespoke applications that will help you become a school where the learning never stops. Get in touch with us today to see how we can transform learning together.

Daniel Groenewald is a Professional Learning Consultant at Datacom.

 

Tackling Cyber Safety in Your School 1:1 Program

Cyber security is a crucial component of a school 1:1 or technology program. Yet, many schools aren’t equipped to tackle this area in a way that incorporates the needs and concerns of parents, teachers, kids and other stakeholders. We spoke with Peter Geale, CMO ofNetbox Blue, a provider of advanced security protection for schools’ networks and data, on new cyber security threats, cyber bullying and how to continually educate all of your school’s populations on appropriate online use.

Q: Beyond the typical online threats and cyber safety issues affecting schools, such as bullying and inappropriate images and web sites, is there anything new or unique you are seeing?

A: There are, and often they revolve around specific web sites. For instance, there’s Ask.fm, which by its nature is rather insidious in that it encourages anonymous questions. People can post hurtful things: ‘Why are you so ugly?’ ‘Why would anyone ever be your friend?’ In the past, kids would create a fake account and harass people that way. Thankfully, Facebook’s number of phantom Facebook profiles has dropped dramatically over the last few years.

Security experts will tell you that the biggest risks come from people from within — in other words, people you know. Kids won’t often pick on people they don’t know.

Q: In your opinion, do schools perceive that they have a duty of care to protect students from cyber bullying just as they do for in-person bullying?

A: There’s no question, they certainly do perceive that they have a duty of care. What happens on Facebook on the weekend comes to school on Monday. Teachers know they are dealing with issues. Teachers recognise the impact this is having on educational outcomes. That’s why they are getting involved, not because they want to spy on or control kids’ lives but because it’s affecting day-to-day life. School laptop or 1:1 programs legally require the school to consider online activity that impacts learning as part of their duty of care.

Q: How do you recommend schools come up with a security strategy around 1:1 device use and behaviour online both inside and outside of school?

A: It’s actually not that difficult. The key thing is they don’t try to do it by themselves. Learn from other schools. Most schools are part of a wider group, such as an independent schools association. Even if they are not, most schools post policies on the Internet that you can refer to. Look around and see what’s available publicly.

Early on, absolutely engage all the stakeholders. Not just the school employees, but parents, kids and the organisation the school belongs to. What’s happened in the past is that the IT manager has put together policies and they are not necessarily the right person as they might look at issues from a purely technical perspective and not the holistic approach necessary for a comprehensive use policy. Once the policy is out there, make sure it’s well-taught and make sure it’s monitored.

Q: How do we make sure children have a broad range of ongoing support, education and encouragement in order to make sound decisions online?

A: Broadly, one of the things schools try to do is create a community full stop. The good news is that some types of activities they are doing include engaging with parents — providing info to parents. These are the trends we see happening. For instance, the school shares a message saying, ‘A recent publication in education shows 75 per cent of all issues in respect to social media are on Facebook. Here are some of the areas we think might cause issues down the track.’ Then schools pass this on to parents. This happens a lot in primary school. It happens less in high schools. It needs to happen more in the high school because kids are getting more access to technology.

Q: Some peers and even adults might not be setting a great example for kids in terms of acceptable online use. How do you talk to kids and parents about this, about where kids can find a role model?

A: Earlier in 2013, Professor Donna Cross from Edith Cowan University came out with a statement that said today schools need to be involved and actually using and modelling good Facebook behaviour — if we’re not doing it, it’s like teaching kids how to swim in the classroom versus in a swimming pool. They are only going to get ordinary learning, they are not going to know how to swim. Parents also need to demonstrate positive use of the technology.

Q: What is your advice for engaging parents on issues of cyber safety?

A: There are lots of good opinions on this. For instance, making sure computers are used in public places, no computers in the bedroom and, if they are, only for a limited period of time. It should be viewed in a similar way that parents set boundaries — the same boundaries that exist offline. Kids are going to places online that parents don’t know about, to online playgrounds you don’t know, and they are going to do this in their room or on their mobile phone. Just as these boundaries exist in the physical world, they should be in the online world.

Schools can make sure parents are reminded about technology on an ongoing basis in a newsletter and online forums. Give the parents more understanding and, if they do know nothing, teach them. Make sure the parents are at least informed and know what the boundaries are and support their boundaries at home.

Additional resources to use include:

The Easy Guide to Socialising Online

Who’s chatting to your kids? 

ThinkUKnow Australia

Cyber Bullying in Australian Schools: The Question of Negligence and Liability

The Importance of Social Media Monitoring in Your School after a 1:1 Program Rollout

Implemented successfully and with a clear strategic vision, 1:1 programs can foster connectedness, continuous communication and authentic experiences that escalate learning. But there are many components that go into getting a 1:1 program right. In addition to surveying all affected school populations to assess their learning and technology needs and concerns, your school must figure out hardware, software, IT support, data storage and other key elements. Another crucial factor not to overlook in the rush to put technology into the hands of students and teachers is a carefully detailed user policy and a means to ensure it is followed.

Such a policy should guide how staff and students can use devices like laptops and iPads both inside and outside of school. Monitoring discussions of your school online is one way to ensure that students and staff are acting in accordance with your policy. A social media monitoring service can help you address sensitive issues around social media use, cyber bullying and inappropriate web content before they’ve escalated.

Gaining visibility over social media

Even if your school doesn’t have a Facebook page, your students and staff likely do. And, more importantly, anyone can create a page that is associated with your school. Unless it’s extremely obscene, chances are slim that Facebook will shut it down for you.

Knowing what’s being communicated on pages created by students can help you identify who exactly might be breaching your user policy and allow you to take appropriate action. As Australian schools have a duty of care to protect students from bullying both in person and online, it’s crucial your school oversees all the places in which students are interacting to prevent potential issues. Not only can this ensure the safety of your students, it can also protect your brand. One bullying case in Australia led to a $1.5 million lawsuit that was paid to the affected student after his school was found in neglect of its duty of care. Cases like this can lead to immeasurable brand damage for a school.

Datacom worked with one secondary school where students created an unofficial page that included unsavoury comments about students and staff. Facebook stated that the page wasn’t inappropriate enough to take down. The school decided to use our social media monitoring service to track posts and comments on the page and address any that were particularly harmful. The school was able to gain visibility over discussions to make sure none intensified, informing their actions offline to address and educate their students and communicate with the wider school community, including ex-students.

Discovering discussions outside of mainstream social media forums

There are a plethora of social media channels, and even more forums and micro-blogging sites. On any of these sites, students and staff could potentially be talking openly about your school. While this doesn’t necessarily mean all discussions are negative, it pays to monitor conversations to ensure nothing demeaning or endangering to the welfare of students is present.

The good news is you can monitor these conversations even if your school is not actively engaging online. By simply listening online, your school can get a real-time snapshot of the types of discussions occurring and where they are happening. Using reporting tools, a social media monitoring service allows your school to search keywords connected to issues such as cyber bullying and potential school violence, regardless of the sites on which these discussions are taking place. Having this type of regular insight allows you to react immediately to a potentially serious comment or post on one of these sites.

You can handle overall technology planning, 1:1 program rollout and social media monitoring with one provider through Datacom. Our education team is led by experienced educators and IT experts schooled in how to implement successful technology programs that drive educational outcomes. Our social media team has worked with a number of schools to track their and other schools’ presence online. To learn if your organisation could benefit from our social media or education services, take our online assessments:

Social media survey

Education assessment

The 4 Hallmarks of Successful Professional Learning for Teachers

By Anita L’Enfant

Australian principals, pay attention: More than half of teachers wanted more professional development than they’d received in the last 18 months, according to Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS.Whilst this is no surprise, it is interesting to note teachers in Australia especially suffered, falling below the global average for professional development days each year —the majority took fewer than six.

It is well-known that having enough of and the right type of professional learning is crucial to ensure educators are equipped with the right knowledge and tools to drive effective educational outcomes. When it comes to new technology programs such as 1:1 rollouts, it’s especially vital that teachers feel ready to use these new tools and devices to foster individual learning for students. Here are some of the hallmarks of effective professional learning that can help set up your technology program for success.

Tip 1: Ensure professional learning opportunities meet the needs and goals of the teacher

Differentiation is not just for students. Tailoring professional learning to individual teachers leverages their own learning and instruction style to impart techniques they can apply in the classroom. When it comes to technology, your teaching staff will have different skill levels. Being able to identify strengths and weaknesses in technology gives each teacher their own individual path to growth. Elements such as small group professional learning, teacher mentoring, lesson modelling and online progress tracking help ensure the individual teacher doesn’t get lost in a world of new technology — or in a sea of other educators.

Tip: 2 Keep professional learning a continual process that occurs informally as well as formally

Whilst having dedicated, formal professional learning sessions is customary, working out a way to extend these teachings into a continual process of optimisation is where teachers — and your entire school — will see real benefits. An article in Australia’s Capital Magazine pointed out that about 70 per cent of all learning activity happens informally.Having regular discussions about development and offering access to online learning materials are ways to foster this ongoing process. These tools also help teachers address their own unexpected learning needs, which are bound to come up when it comes to navigating new technology programs and devices. The goal of professional learning should not just be to inspire but also to implement change. Teachers should have the opportunity to learn with and from each other as well as their students, particularly in the realm of technology.

Tip 3: Build in accountability to every professional learning opportunity

To demonstrate success, you must track progress. Using a performance management system to give reviews on a term, semester or annual basis is one formal way to hold teachers accountable for transforming their professional learning takeaways into actions that use technology to positively affect student learning. Informal discussions can also help by allowing you to check in with teachers on a more regular basis to see if they have questions, concerns or challenges related to their professional learning action items. Consider utilising an external professional learning facilitator to plan a term-, semester- or year-long professional learning technology strategy for your school that includes built-in progress tracking.

Tip 4: Use professional learning to create a school culture of learning and extend learning to everyone including parents and the wider community

Professional learning for teachers should not occur in a vacuum. Collaboration amongst all the school stakeholder populations will put everyone on the same page to achieve a common vision to which everyone is committed when it comes to your technology implementation. This type of collaboration includes sharing successes and mistakes about lessons, curriculum and procedures, an agreement on broad educational values and allowing teachers to act as independent leaders to choose and adapt specific pedagogical strategies that spur educational outcomes. Professional Learning at Datacom is built on these good learning principles.

Make sure to join our webinar on Nov. 27 from 4 to 5 EDST with Anita and two representatives from Mount Sinai College to learn how to use planned professional learning and ICT support for a successful 1:1 rollout. 

Establishing the national Professional Learning Services team at XciteLogic in 2009, Anita brings over 20 years teaching experience to Datacom’s Education services. She has taught most age groups — from kindergarten through to university lecturing — and has also assumed specialist teaching roles. Her previous teaching and consultancy roles, and current role with Datacom, has seen her work throughout Australia and internationally, teaching students, educating teachers and working at systems levels to help implement learning initiatives where teachers learn alongside their students in a technology-rich environment.

7 Questions to Ask When Planning a 1:1 Technology Rollout in Your School

By Anita L’Enfant

If you’re beginning a 1:1 student laptop program in the next school year, now is the time to start planning. You will already have a clear vision of the program — the next step is to look at the logistics and support needed to achieve your goals. There are questions you can ask internal stakeholders now to learn which technology-related needs and concerns your school has. Once you’ve surveyed your stakeholders, you can work with an education services provider to tailor a 1:1 technology strategy using a holistic approach to meet your goals.

1. Do you currently have full-time IT support staff in your school?

Even in the most successful 1:1 technology rollouts, there are bound to be questions on device use and how to connect to the network. If you don’t have any IT support, teachers might approach more tech-savvy colleagues to solve their technology problems, costing these teachers time and productivity.

2. Are there policies for handling IT-related issues?

If you do have IT staff support or plan to hire some either internally or through an outsourced relationship, they can’t devote all their time to supporting technology in the classroom. Map out how much time and cost should be allocated to this type of support and describe in detail how both students and teachers can address any 1:1 technology issues.

3. Are there policies for using the devices inside and outside of school?

If there are already policies in place for using the Internet, computers and social media in your school, you can build off them to craft guidelines for new 1:1 technology in the classroom. Components can include appropriate use of technology in the classroom and outside it, protecting against cyber security issues and what to do in cases of device downtime inside the classroom.

4. How do you plan to integrate 1:1 technology into your curriculum?

Issuing 1:1 devices to students and teachers without providing learning around how educators can use the technology in the classroom, is a recipe for disaster. Discuss the needs, concerns and ideas of your teaching staff and engage an outside education services consultant for assistance in fully integrating 1:1 technology in the classroom.

5. Will you have a document workflow strategy with security, privacy and archiving procedures?

You’re about to have a lot more data flowing through your school with a 1:1 program. This includes both data stored and shared between devices and data printed on school printers. Security parameters and privacy controls must be in place so data isn’t compromised or accessed by the wrong individuals. For instance, you might want to impose a rule that teachers and students can’t use personal email on their devices when using the technology in the classroom. Also consider how you will store data that must be retained for a number of years and the costs of potential solutions.

6. How will you track performance on your technology investment?

Having metrics and a reporting structure in place is crucial to demonstrating the ROI of your 1:1 technology program. But even more important is actually knowing what you want to track from the beginning of the program. Are you looking to increase overall education outcomes, reading ability or math scores by using technology in the classroom? You’ll be able to find these answers by surveying all your internal stakeholders, including administrators and teachers.

7. How will you identify areas for improvement around technology within your school?

Your new 1:1 rollout should never be a Band-Aid for your school. The program will continually need to be optimised to produce the most successful use of technology in the classroom possible. Come up with a schedule and process for how often you will assess how your different 1:1 program components are performing for your school.

Establishing the national Professional Learning Services team at XciteLogic in 2009, Anita brings over 20 years teaching experience to Datacom’s Education services. She has taught most age groups — from kindergarten through to university lecturing — and has also assumed specialist teaching roles. Her previous teaching and consultancy roles, and current role with Datacom, has seen her work throughout Australia and internationally, teaching students, educating teachers and working at systems levels to help implement learning initiatives where teachers learn alongside their students in a technology-rich environment.