15 SES 02, Partnerships involving schools
The paper will introduce the study “DigiSchoolNet – Digital School Development in Networks”, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany and carried out at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
Within a rapidly changing world, showing short cycles of innovation, schools are challenged to prepare their students for coping with or rather designing their future. In order to do so, schools do not need to start at square one. Muchmore, partnerships can be helpful to learn from each other. Having implemented a concept for a school networks, the current study aims at identifying measures and structures that contribute to the successful integration of digital technologies into schools.
The project analyzes the processes and developments that schools – within networks of schools – have undertaken in order to implement information and communication technologies and digital media into the everyday school life, while considering central dimensions of school development: strategy development, technology development, organizational development and development of teaching (Heinen & Kerres, 2015; Fullan, 2013). Thus, the organisational development at schools isaddressed, suggesting that digital school development can usefully be analysed as social innovation (Howaldt & Schwarz, 2010) in the educational sector.
The challenge of integrating digital technologies in school and to use them to support teaching and learning is considered a cross-sectional challenge which can only be effectively tackled when working collaboratively (Cress, Moskaliuk & Jeong, 2016). Literature shows that networking of schools can contribute to each dimension of school development. School networks evidently can promote teaching and learning processes and can have a positive influence on school life (Glesemann & Järvinen, 2015), foster innovation through learning of teachers (Berkemeyer et al., 2008) professional learning can be promoted (e.g. Hölterhof & Rehm, 2015), and school development can be strategically tackled by exchanging knowledge and experiences in the network (Bremm et al., 2017). New kinds of strategies or projects can be developed together in networks or good practice can be transferred between the cooperating schools.
The study addresses several overarching research questions:
- How do schools deal with the challenge of digitalization as a purpose of school development?
- Which challenges arise in the context of coping with digitalization for school development?
- Which aspects contribute to the "successful" introduction and sustainable integration of digital technologies in schools?
- In how far does the school network add value to the schools?
To provide answers to these questions change processes in ongoing projects of digital school development will be analysed, which are organized in regional school networks in Germany. Since 2010, the work of the school networks has been organized by the Learning Lab of the University of Duisburg-Essen on behalf of various school authorities who are responsible for the equipment of schools. Schools derive an educational concept for their work with digital media from their school profiles, formulate digital concepts and define measures for implementation. This process is based on a design-based research approach (Kerres, 2018).
Within the framework of these school networks, the study will a) reconstruct the process of digital school development with central stakeholders of a school in order to identify successful conditions and b) trace the communication processes over time based on an analysis of the social networks of the actors in schools in order to identify processes of dissemination at school level and to identify beneficial and obstructive constellations of actors. Also, c) the role and contribution of cooperation between schools in a school network will be investigated. Finally, d) the educational and digital concepts of the schools (as results of digital school development processes) will be analysed systematically, to derive practical knowledge for future school development processes.
The study is conducted in two subprojects utilizing different methodological approaches which will be introduced briefly. In the first subproject school documents such as media concepts and school programs are collected to undergo a qualitative summarizing content analysis (Mayring, 2015). The documents shall reveal both key persons responsible for school development processes in the context of digitization and enhancing as well as hindering factors to school development. Out of each school (N=20) five of the key persons will be interviewed (N=100) with the structure-laying-technique (Scheele & Groeben, 1984) in order to further elaborate on beneficial structures, processes, relations and strategies within the school. The question will be answered in how far the network structure of the school provides added value for the aforementioned school development processes. Overall, the first subproject allows for a retrospective analysis of school development processes in networked schools. The second subproject draws on a mixed-methods social network analysis (Hollstein, 2014) to reveal communication channels and transfer processes within school networks and into the participating schools. It accounts for the panel design of the study looking at changes in the personal networks of teachers and the school development processes in the context of digitization over a three-years period. Research questions here address actor constellations in transfer processes and ways of communication of digital innovations compared to non-digital innovations to be implemented in the schools. To do so, a qualitative and quantitative network analysis (Borgatti, Mehra, Brass & Labianca, 2009) will be conducted. Accompanied by interviews, a formal analysis of personal networks of teachers from four networks (N = 20), who take the role of “transfer agents“ (Stone, 2004) , will be conducted by means of network maps (Altissimo, 2016) through an online tool. Visual techniques like network maps are recognized to reduce the burden on participants and increase motivation, whereas online surveys also hold promise in egocentric network analyses (Perry et al., 2018). The network analyses will be conducted recurrently every three months (equaling ten measurement time points) in order to trace development processes through the teachers’ perspectives. In-depth interviews with teachers aim at additional information on the schools, the network relations and the persons involved in the school development process.
The study “DigiSchoolNet” is designed to provide a comprehensive perspective on ongoing as well as just recently started school development processes in the context of digitalization. As a global challenge digitalization is currently high up on the educational political agenda not only in Germany. The need to better understand supportive factors to integrate digital technologies in schools successfully and sustainably is the main driving force behind the study at hand. By use of qualitative research approaches (interviews, content analysis, document analysis) and egocentric social network analysis the study focuses on school actors (teachers, school management, administration, cooperation partners) as the key to initiate and maintain school development processes. Communication channels, positive actor constellations and possible blind spots can be identified by comparing the ego-networks between cases and over the time. Essentially, the study is arranged as a university-school-collaboration in such a way, that accompanying scientific research has been designed around the school networks. Results and interim findings will be discussed with the schools at several points throughout the duration of the study and can, thereby, support an evidence-based school and staff development.
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