Much has been written about educational transformation, and similarly, much has been written about strategy planning and organizational change management (OCM). This paper combines the two, providing a guide to help schools take a practical and effective approach to digital transformation.

Some schools use traditional consulting firms to assist with transformational efforts. Others use education consultants. The challenge is that there are few consultants, or consulting firms, who understand both technology and change management practice. Many large consulting firms take a business approach, using business process design to facilitate the implementation of technology and change within schools. Smaller education consultants miss the importance of OCM and business process design as they focus on changing pedagogical instruction.

Most school leaders already know that we’re in the midst of a digital transformation of a size and scope that is larger and more significant than anything we’ve seen in the past. In fact, some say that we’re going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is a convergence of technologies connecting the physical, digital, and biological worlds (weforum.org).

Educators know that they have to change, but they’re often challenged by the merging of technology and pedagogy. How should we begin? What technologies can affect learning and our campus experience? How can we get all educators on board? What do we do about all the technology we’ve already bought? How can we build a business case to support our goals and objectives? Where do we begin in creating a vision for the future?

This paper is for you. The K-12 Executive Council brings our experience from education, technology, and consulting, as well as the work we’ve done with hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities across the globe, and offers information and insights to help you begin the process.

We will focus on what the next-generation learning environment should include and how to apply principles of OCM to realize these environments. No change initiative is possible without a clear definition of intended outcomes. Equally important, no change initiative can be complete unless the roles that people, process, data, and things play are considered.

What are you trying to achieve in your school or district? Do you want better student engagement? Do you want to create world-class learning environments, the opportunity for students to take dual-enrollment courses while staying on their K-12 campus, or to ensure end-to-end safety and security for all educators, staff, and students? Your goal might be one of these, all of these, or something completely different. The most important factor is that your intended outcomes—whatever they are—must be thoroughly defined at the start of your initiative.

At the same time, it is important to outline a strategy to measure results. In this paper, we will discuss the concept of evidence-based decision making. How do we find evidence to measure the impact of our efforts on the things we’re trying to change or validation that a change is actually taking effect? Many change initiatives fail because these metrics, and the evidence to support them, have not been clearly identified or tracked.

We will further delve into culture and the importance of stakeholder buy-in to help move your change forward in a successful way. This begins with setting the right vision for the future, and then ensuring your leadership is in agreement with your vision.

Finally, we’ll discuss the shifts necessary to move from past practice to future practice and the importance of technology platforms in planning and executing change, not only for today, but also for the future.

The next-generation learning environment and the need for change

We’re seeing an explosion of connections, with an expectation that 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet by the year 2020 (Cisco Internet of Things) and the Internet of Things (IoT) accounting for nearly half of these connections (Cisco Visual Networking Index 2017). Sensors will be everywhere, in everything from agricultural production systems to your refrigerator, from the contact lenses in your eyes to parking garages, and from fitness devices and wearables to other monitoring devices. Ray Kurzweil, famous inventor and founder of Singularity University, predicts that 2026 will be the year when humans and machines converge (Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence).

All of these trends point to one very scary effect. With the massive explosion of sensors and devices and connections to the Internet comes an increase in major cyber risks facing schools. Ransomware, identity theft, phishing, and malware all have the potential to bring school districts to their knees; threaten student, educator, and district data; and completely stop learning in its tracks.

Download the full white paper to learn recommended response measures to these threats, and to view our full take on driving digital transformation in education.