There’s a huge movement towards ‘digitalisation’ here in Germany. It seems that almost everyone is beginning a ‘digital transformation’.
However, the majority of people have no idea what digitalisation or digital transformation actually means.
In my local area, schools recently celebrated achieving a ‘digital transformation’, simply by upgrading the computers used by students and improving their internet connection.
For a school to truly achieve a digital transformation, they would need to: integrate technology, change the curriculum and mode of teaching, in addition to updating the supporting processes throughout their organization.
This is rather more than installing a high-speed internet connection, introducing tablets and using modern computers.
An even more depressing example: Telekom has an advertisement on YouTube, ostensibly for digitalisation – They installed lights on a tall building so that companies, schools and individuals could compete in a high striker competition on the other side of the city. Since when is an illuminated strong-man game a digital transformation?
Digital transformation is not (simply):
- A faster internet connection.
- Better computers.
- New or updated software.
- New technology or machines.
- Funky light displays connected to some kind of (non-sensical) input.
Real digital transformation in schools
You can’t transform any company or school overnight – a successful digital transformation may take years, perhaps even decades. To achieve a digital transformation in schools, you will need to:
- Provide training and resources: Give teachers the resources, courses and time to train so that they become comfortable with the new technology and the new way of teaching and assessing.
- Create a personalized learning environment: Use software like Blackboard and allow students to work at their own pace collaboratively with their peers and students from other locations, for most, if not all classes: Put the students at the core, with less of a focus on a strict curriculum path and exam preparation.
- Turn classes into communication and collaboration forums: Do away with the rigid exam-focused curriculum and assessment tasks. Project-based collaborative tasks reflect most workplaces and research environments today.
- Collaborate: Work with schools, teachers and students around the country and overseas. You should also look at collaborating with universities, employers, recruiters, and organizationss to provide a more appropriate curriculum and more support for the children’s futures.
- Engage the kids where they are: Avoid simple, chalky blackboards because most children have already learned how to use a tablet or smartphone before they hit primary school!
- Use digital whiteboards: Hook these whiteboards into the learning system to automatically record what was actually written on the board. Bonus points for allowing students to annotate or edit what was on the board from their tablets – you’ll get more engaged students and better learning outcomes.
- Use one central digital location: Collect all curriculum, assessment and communication channels – make it easy for teachers, students and parents to find what they are looking for and get in contact with each other. You will also better support the children who prefer independent and unstructured learning over single-path lessons.
Digital transformation in companies
Of course, the steps above are not just for schools.
Companies are one step ahead with central wikis or intranet knowledge base software becoming ubiquitous. But usually, the software is a mere knowledge repository – it doesn’t support real-time collaboration and it is not personalized. Plus processes like training, professional assessments, or applying for holiday leave are rarely built in. Customers, suppliers and other people the company works with are locked outside this system.
To transform (including digitally), companies need to integrate their systems and processes, collaborate with their customers, integrate their processes with their supply chain’s processes, and collaborate with their partners.
Because a faster internet connection or a hardware/software upgrade alone won’t achieve this.
Digital transformation is necessary for Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is about connecting these systems, enabling everyone along the chain to participate and collaborate, and through this making the entire process more efficient.
It’s neither about the technology, nor about automation.
Digital transformation can only happen when the way we work together transforms. People, collaboration, communication are the driving forces behind digital transformation. Technology is only a tool.
To step into Industry 4.0, you must focus on the people and the processes, first and foremost.
About the author
Kymberly Fergusson is a technical writer, translator and language coach with a background in teaching and computer science. She currently helps companies and schools improve their collaboration capabilities and knowledge management processes. She also has a keen interest in corporate digital privacy and data security.