Digital Technologies & Community Relationships

I want to raise some of the hardest issues that schools face regarding accountability and individual educators, managing their professional status.   Hence, I look at the curriculum leaders capacity to influence the building of a local school community culture. This is not only part of the epic narrative of educational discourse, but a wonderfully real way that digital technologies show that there has never been a better time to be a storyteller and writer. I exemplify my approach by showing how campaigns might be trialled around school enrolment strategies.

As a result, in order to be really influential, I believe that curriculum leaders will need at least a ‘Level 1’ understanding of digital content strategy, content marketing and principles of the ‘user experience’.  This is not for the purposes of changing schools into commercial organisations but for raising the school’s web presence through the curriculum leaders’ and writers’ shaping of human-computer (and device) interactions. 

It begins in deepening a curriculum leader’s awareness of the relationship between a school’s physical and web presence. It also involves setting boundaries on what they should NOT do, like take on ALL the specialised tasks that were once covered by a publishing industry plus the new fields into which the digital disruption of the industry has brought with them. Rather, the strategy is to develop a solid ‘Level 1’ understanding of key issues which contains access to a network of trusted specialists that can be called up when and where they are needed. 

Thus, the new fields of knowledge around content strategy, content marketing and user experience should also hold immediate benefits to curriculum leaders in navigating the commercial realities of digital marketing by tech giants Google, Amazon and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.  As part of the public discourse in education, these privately owned businesses hold tremendous influence and power.  

Richard Olsen writes in “Virtual Pedagogies for Contemporary Teaching” (2011) educators are faced with having to rethink the quality of what they produce online. 

Schools (and others) who try to compete with the Internet on creating quality content are destined to fail. If the Connecting Strategy relies on having instant access to high-quality online information, whose job is it to provide these and ensure we have quality resources? Schools and individual teachers who try to create their own tailored content for their students will find it impossible to compete with the Internet that provides access to an increasingly diverse range of high-quality learning content.

In principle, there is much truth in what Olsen proposes here, however, in the eight years since these statements were created, digital technologies have given all producers and writers the capacity to form a basic intervention of quality.  This can be seen in software such as Canva, Lucidpress, VellumCreate Space, Articulate 360, Adobe Captivate and other e-learning and book authoring tools. I am particularly interested in how these tools can bring life into valuable school programs and projects which have been created by the ‘local knowledge’ of curriculum leaders, teachers and students. More broadly, however, in the words of Muriel Wells and Damien Lyons (2017) 

Teachers, and the rest of society, are now positioned at a unique time in history; at a time when a range of opportunities for writers to publish has emerged. In particular, Web 2.0 and self-publishing have led to a myriad of opportunities to write and publish and to reach audiences previously unimagined. New and innovative text formats are now available, including online publishing with its associated multimedia and hypermodality. Lemke (2002) defined hypermodality as ‘the new interactions of word, image, and sound-based meanings’ (p. 300). Amber Johnson (2016) explains how in ‘the digital world, hypermodality suggests that there are very unique and complex ways in which links, texts, images, and sound talk interact, point, and overlap’ (p. 198). These new literary environments provide media rich spaces in which to read, write and communicate (Leu, O’Byrne, Zawilinski, McVerry, & Everett-Cacopardo, 2009).

I return ‘full circle’ to the issues around engaging with audiences. That all points to a need to be student-focused and engaged with parents and community, to be curious about how we can ‘make a difference’ locally and globally. Through the knowledge and power of planning, creating, facilitating and reflecting on curricula, curriculum leaders are changing the world.

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