Every parent knows this: An attempt to start a conversation with a 16 years old boy/girl often results in them staring at the screen and continuing to type away on WhatsApp. When it happens at home- So be it. But what should a teacher at school do? How can the education system deal with the issues that the smartphone brings to the classroom?
In the Israeli education system, they decided to act differently. Instead of publishing a new protocol, the head of the religious school system’s administration, Doctor Abraham Lipschitz, and the national instructor in the administration Eithan Hacohen, decided to think together, with thousands of teachers and administrators.
This is not the first time the Education Ministry chose to take advice from the ground. It was preceded by strategic programs intended to set result indexes for schools in Israel (“The Educational Picture”), in order to build a new model for evaluating teachers and to find authorities to delegate to principals. But this is, without a doubt, one of the more interesting of these programs.
The results of this process proved that in order to shape decisions on the use of smartphones in schools, a committee or a think tank were not enough, and there needed to be information from the field. Hacohen, who led this move, talks about the three main added values he received from this shared planning process:
Innovation. “Clear and simple, we learnt things we did not know before. For example, we learned that the right thing to do was to examine this on all levels, from the student, teacher and principal, all the way to the supervisor and headquarters. We need to ask how we conduct ourselves with smartphones at board meetings, and not only what students will do with them in the classroom. This is a whole new perspective we did not have before”.
A Connection to the Values of the Administration. “Technology allows us to truly listen to everyone and to make decisions together. This reflects the basic value of humility and the understanding that we do not hold all the wisdom.”
Harnessing Change. “The process created echoes in the system, showing that this subject is important to us and creating the knowledge on the ground that this is something we, as an organization, would like to address”.
The value of this process was far beyond sharing itself: The planning process allowed for new insights they didn’t have beforehand. Now, in the religious school administration, they are preparing the new protocol, which will reflect the direction of change that was decided upon through this process.
The religious school administration in the Education Ministry created and managed this process all on its own, without consultants, without a bid, and with no bureaucracy. It opened an Insights webpage of its own, defined a question and uploaded an email list of thousands of participants from the states religious education system, teachers and administrators. This is how it worked:
What do you ask: The administration knew what were the insights it was looking for. The question it defined was based on the knowledge and on the educational experience of the participants, and so they asked: What actions should the religious school system’s staff take regarding smartphone use by students?
Who do you ask: In order to make decisions, the administration consulted with thousands of teachers and administrators. 240 of them not only joined the process but also added their own replies. The others – watched and stayed updated.
How do you ask: The administration held an email list of all the teachers and administrators. Therefore, they easily uploaded the list to the website and sent a personal invitation to the process to each participant.
This was a short and quick process of only two weeks, during which participants were asked to do analytical assignments which allowed the Insights system to create a “bottom line”. These summarizing insights were presented to Doctor Lipschitz, the head of the administration, who made the final decision. Similarly to 80 % of the decisions made after using this system, here too – Insights had a real effect.
Anyone Could Do It This is the third process launched by the religious school system by itself, with no consultants, using Insights technology. Eithan Hacohen tells us that at the beginning the administration didn’t believe it was possible to replace round-table discussions with a digital website and to create a process that was quick and simple. In his words, the administration managed to “Get in an hour and a half what could have taken a committee three meetings and several weeks to prepare”.
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