A Cyberpunk Future for Schools?

Digital Education Landscapes

Published: 4 September 2012

Accelerating technological change over shorter periods of time has placed increasing pressure on educational establishments to manage their ICT resources and networked services. In a world that is consumed by accelerating change what are the implications for education systems? Will the speed of technological change outstrip current developments in schools, colleges and universities?
In this new digital landscape the successful schools will be the ones who are increasingly organised around self-sustaining networks. These networks will be composed of supernodes or digitally rich secondary schools at their centres with satellite nodes or primary schools taking advantage of networked and other educational services from the main supernode. A single education provider may manage all of the schools within a single network or many schools across multiple networks. The educational success of the supernode will ensure healthy pupil numbers across all of its primary nodes and a financially viable intake of new entrants to the supernode itself.

There is the potential for major structural changes to occur across the education sector. We are currently witnessing rapid social and economic changes that are transforming economies from post-industrial societies to information societies. There is a real danger that accelerated technological, social, cultural and economic changes may leave vulnerable schools feeling even more disconnected than they already are; thereby widening the digital divide between themselves and their digitally advantaged counterparts. I am not describing or postulating a cyberpunk scenario for disconnected schools but there is a real possibility that a large and significant percentage of schools will be left marginalised within this new digital and networked education landscape.

The concentration of education ICT capital will be the consequence of these new digitally connected schools. The schools that belong to these participative networks will actively encourage and invest in their education ICT capital. I define education ICT capital as technologies and progressive pedagogies, rituals, habits and norms that all come about because of the application of education technologies in schools. Education ICT capital fosters, encourages and enriches creativity, collaboration and learning. In nearly all cases a school’s education ICT capital is enriched when they work in participative network. Digital transformation will enable new types of innovation and creativity in these digitally connected schools, rather than simply enhancing and supporting the traditional pedagogy and practices of the legacy internet school. [1]

Will the speed of technological change outstrip current developments in schools, colleges and universities? The education sector will adjust to major and rapid technological advances but only after a period of cultural lag. [2] The period of cultural lag could be short or prolonged. The lag is determined on the whole by the predilections and instincts of teachers, education leaders and the educational establishments within which they work. Traditional educational structures will be replaced by more progressive and adaptable models as detailed earlier in this article. The desire to manifest a new educational eco-system that is networked and participative is compelling especially if it enriches the lives of learners.
We must remember that whilst technological change is simple; social, cultural and organisational change across the education sector is slow. Nevertheless, this should not be used as an excuse to remain still.


  1. Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices By Colin Lankshear, Michele Knobel (2008)
  2. William Ogburn, Social change with respect to culture and original nature (1922)