The Rise of the Networked School

The role of technology to support the new education networks

Published: 17 October 2012

The rise of the supernode or the digitally connected and networked school has been enabled by advances in information technology and by structural changes across the education sector. The rise of the networked school signals a move to more complex inter school relationships and affiliations.

The pervasiveness of new technology means that educational institutions are being shaped by the new technological medium. As schools begin to organise and make sense of recent technological developments they will be better placed to utilise these technological advances to take forward organisational change and to further improve the educational services that they offer to their communities. Indeed, the emergence of the networked school would not have have been possible without the availability of new technologies and ICT services. The complex nature of modern educational establishments and of those educational providers that manage multiple schools necessitates the need for networked services to be deployed. Without a modernĀ  ICT infrastructure and shared networked services the increasingly complex educational institution would be far too intricate to govern and manage.

The educational, intellectual, economic, cultural, social and administrative benefits to be derived from belonging to a larger network of schools are the main reasons why primary schools form a cohesive cluster around a larger secondary school or the supernode. These are also the reasons why education providers seek to manage numerous schools and the reasons why federated schools have grown in popularity in recent years.


The Rise of the Networked School

The larger networked school or the supernode leverages its position to enable other schools to benefit from improved connectivity, to have access to technologies and services that would previously have been beyond their reach, improved IT support and the financial benefits of belonging to a larger network of schools. The motives for being a part of a larger network of schools are many and mixed. First and foremost, the prime motivation for belonging to a network of schools is to gain digital advantage, to be in a position that enables schools to flourish and prosper; but the educational benefits of belonging to a participatory network soon override the narrow and selfish motives for all schools in the network.


The ability to establish education networks has been made easier by the growing convergence of technologies and services within the education sector. School information management systems, learning platforms and educational hardware and software all are co-dependent and inter-related. These systems and services are no longer managed in seperate silos and the clear distinction that existed in the past from one to another is increasingly becoming blurred. We have reached the point were one service or system cannot be imagined without the other. [1]

The video from Cisco expresses the challenges facing the education sector in an age of rapid technological change and it raises interesting questions regarding the nature of the educational institution of the future. [2]

There are concerns that many schools will not be in a position to form or to belong to a cohesive educational network. The result will be a concentration of education ICT capital in those schools who are part of succssful and vibrant education networks. The growing segmentation within the education sector will lead to rising inequalities between schools. Successfull networked schools will be characterised by their extensive and wide ranging connections with other schools, businesses, further and higher education establishments, education ICT partners and other non-profit organisations. Successful school networks are those that increase the ability of the main actors and organisations within the network to effectively deliver key education objectives of the network and the schools that make up that network. A successful education network generates new possibilities and opportunities for teachers, learners and the communities who make up those connected and networked schools. The convergence of organisational requirements and recent technological advances has enabled the modern form of the education network to be established. Evidence suggests that the growth in education networks will continue at a pace.



  1. Manuel Castells. The Rise of the Network Society. 2nd edition. Many of the themes and ideas that have been expressed in this article emerge from the work of Manuel Castells who has explored how technology has shaped the new networked society.
  2. Moving from Education Systems to The Learning Society (Introduction).