Digital Transformation: Initiate, Act, Sustain
Digital transformation is all the rage nowadays with training and education going digital, no matter if it is in the K-12 or higher education context. Traditional lectures and physical materials are replaced by interactive activities with synchronous and asynchronous lessons in various LMSs, not to mention the multimodal representation of knowledge and skills. Teacher training is no longer confined to workshops where specialists sit together enjoying a cup of tea. Instead, they exchange professional ideas in cyberspace with cyber coffee as well.
In fact, digital transformation is taking place substantially in different educational contexts more rapidly than in the past. To achieve success, we have to build a collaborative and forward-thinking teaching team in the planning, implementation, and evaluation stages. Rather than a one-off transformation, the role of digital leaders is changing the culture and future of the organization.
In the planning stage, analytics are usually used to analyze learners’ needs. However, not everyone may acknowledge the needs despite hard evidence, probably because some SMEs or less ambitious educators could not echo the concern. As digital transformation leaders, we should always stand firm in the belief that digital transformation, if carried out appropriately, is an inevitable part of meeting the needs of 21st-century learners. To bring the team on board, they could be shown both stories of successful transformations and how it takes place in the team lead’s own classroom with evidence. The successful transformations at local and international levels, coupled with official guidelines, would help teachers acknowledge the vision and needs of a digital transformation. Once the sharing culture is built and examples are shared, they would be more able to visualize the transformation and align themselves with visions one would like to achieve.
After the vision is agreed upon, we go from why to who, what, when, and how. Concrete planning including deliverables of digital transformation and timeline could be pinned down. Some optional deliverables could be included for those capable or ambitious educators, while pre-requisites have to be set so that the whole team would know what the basics are and what to do if they would like to stretch themselves. Resources needed, both physical and human, might be specified to alleviate the worries of those who take longer to adapt to the transformation.
One noteworthy point is that experience sharing could be a success or a failure. During innovation, there are successes and frustrations. Sharing openly could let the team know during the ongoing renewal that frustrations are inevitable but it will bear fruits in the end. It is this open-mindedness that enables the team to share the passion for digital transformation and recognize the lead’s legitimacy in leading the change.
Ongoing support plays an important role in building a collaborative and enthusiastic team. In addition to workshops, extra individual or cluster mentoring for both enhanced and remedial support could be given. There could even be regular peer facilitation sessions for the exchange of ideas, and the sessions could grant the team ownership of transformation. In this case, the responsibility of digital transformation leadership is gradually released from the team lead to the whole team, truly sowing the seeds. Digital transformation is not a one-off, especially given the new normality in the post-COVID world, instilling the team with this mentality would be beneficial in the long run.
Once teachers are open to idea sharing in the community of practice, the dynamic of the organization would become more vibrant. As digital transformation is deemed as an unprecedented bold move, there are too many variables, like teachers’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles, and learning modes are varied in synchronous and asynchronous environments. The Instructional Design in higher education and K-12 are also entirely different. Regular check-ins throughout implementation allow educators to see a wider picture and possibilities, preparing them for the next wave of innovation in another context.
Dream big but start small, using a convention educators are familiar with is suggested. For instance, authoring tools, like Nearpod, are easier to start with as they could incorporate existing PowerPoint materials used by the educators. Likewise, Padlet could replace the students’ writing on the blackboard. Throughout the transformation, don’t forget to express appreciation, and like learners, a bite-sized transformation could help them gain a sense of accomplishment, so start easy and small and make sure the chunks are manageable.
In addition to internal sharing and showcasing, celebrating success nationally and internationally via webinars and virtual professional sharing communities is far more common now. Digital transformation is simply walking an unknown path. It is not uncommon to see learners who are more creative than we thought, and some transformations might result in surprising results which were unknown to us in the planning stage, leading us to the next innovation. The chemistry in the exchange opens doors to plenty of development opportunities ahead, as cross-institution projects could mean possibly more human and financial resources in the next transformation.
The next mini-innovations could also be led by aspiring EdTech leaders. The role of digital transformation leaders, instead of leading a one-off successful innovation, is building a ladder for the EdTech future leaders and a culture of digital transformation within the organization.
With the suggestions above in the planning, implementation, and evaluation stages, I am sure the dynamics of the team and eventually the organization could be changed to create a cyberspace genuinely meeting the needs of 21st-century learners.