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White Paper: Models for successful schools in a digital age - a research study and literature review

Research funded by HP Inc.


Education is a tension between passing down fixed stores of knowledge and drawing out possibilities in the learner” - Peadar Kirby

As we move towards the second half of the 21st Century our education systems need to support independent learners and problem solvers with high levels of digital literacy. A clear understanding of how technology is influencing and will increasingly continue to influence their lives is imperative for our students to become active citizens in the modern globalised world. It is also clear from the research and case studies, that well-applied technology significantly enhances the learning and teaching experience once the right conditions, leadership and support are in place

This white paper was commissioned by HP in a quest to uncover and understand the factors that make some schools more successful than others in improving learning outcomes when digital technology is widely implemented across the K-12 sector. The intention is to identify the interdependencies and find the key proof points that can make a significant difference to technology enhanced teaching and learning environments in three market segments: (1) Western Europe and the Nordics (2) Balkan States, Hungary and Poland and (3) Middle East and Turkey.

The aim of this white paper is to better understand the economic, social and educational drivers and the factors that contribute to success and common causes of failure, to help leaders and policy-makers plan for successful technology-enhanced learning implementations through research analysis and case studies shown in the figure below.

Figure: Drivers, success factors and common causes of failure

Case Studies

Dependencies for Learner Outcomes

Schools do not work in a vacuum. They are subject to many external factors which can support or limit their educational outcomes. What happens in schools is of course crucial to learning, but how students perform will also depend on many other factors such as the political, economic and social landscape and on parental/guardian attitude and support. The contribution of digital technologies into this landscape will only have an impact if the access to devices and other tools is backed up by a suitable infrastructure and a methodology that adds value rather than replicates what already exists, albeit through an alternative medium.

Figure: Dependencies for learner outcomes

Digital technology for the future

It is clear from the evidence that today’s digital technology solutions can have a real impact on teaching and learning as well as on the management and administration of the schools. However, for the technology investment to make a significant impact and to realise the full potential, these solutions must be accompanied by a thorough reconsideration of the nature and purpose of schooling and the need to reimagine and reengineer the K-12 system for the rapidly changing workplace and societal environment of the second half of the 21st century. Significant research has demonstrated how inadequately prepared our workforces are today and the profound changes that will continue throughout the 21st century.

Figure: The velocity of change drives an inflexion point in our need for processing knowledge from stores of fixed knowledge to streaming knowledge to support agility and creativity and thrive in a world of change. McGowan and Araya