[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

CASTLE has been doing a great deal of technology leadership training for the School Administrators of Iowa, some of the Iowa Area Education Agencies, some of the Minnesota Service Cooperatives, and other school organizations across the country. One of the discussion activities that we’ve been doing lately asks session participants to think in groups about the impacts that the Internet and other digital technologies have had on various sectors of our society:

  • newspapers, magazines, and the news industry
  • banking, money management, and personal finance
  • television, movies, and video
  • maps, travel agencies, and the travel industry
  • radio, CDs, and the music industry
  • medicine and personal health
  • reading and books
  • how we communicate, connect, and share with each other; and
  • universities

[Download these slides: ppt pptx]

This is not an exclusive list – for example, it doesn’t include the postal service or politics / political campaigning [or real estate agents] – but it does include many of the major sectors in our society that are information-oriented. In other words, they’re societal sectors and activities that, at their heart, are all about information and knowledge in one form or another.

In groups, participants can quite easily identify that ALL of these societal sectors are undergoing major, radical transformations because of digital technologies. Information-oriented societal activities are being reshaped in significant ways, and it’s just getting started as digital tools and environments continue to advance at a rapid pace.

Characteristics of our new digital information landscape

If asked to describe the ideas or themes that cut across all of these societal changes, participants can identify the general characteristics of our new digital information landscape. It is

  • open
  • more accessible
  • more convenient
  • more immediate / real-time
  • networked
  • connected
  • shared
  • collaborative
  • interactive
  • individualized
  • empowering
  • flexible
  • adaptive
  • less dependent on “experts”
  • rapidly-changing
  • more comprehensive
  • searchable
  • often crowdsourced
  • creative
  • multimodal / multimedia
  • more efficient
  • often less expensive
  • global
  • less dependent on geography
  • technology-suffused
  • less dependent on physical media
  • and so on…

These apply to us too!

The challenge for us as leaders, of course, is that P-12 schools also are information-oriented institutions. At our hearts, we too are all about information:

  • information mastery
  • knowledge transmission and transference
  • organizing and accessing information
  • making meaning
  • etc.

Because of this, schools shouldn’t expect that they somehow will be immune from the same changes that are radically altering other information-oriented societal sectors. We can’t continue to pretend that these revolutions aren’t going to affect us too, in significant and as-yet-unknown ways.

How many of the big ideas / cross-cutting themes above describe your school? Does the daily work of your school organization reflect our new digital information landscape?