Davis, N. (2017). Chapter 2. The Arena framework and a story. In Author, Digital technologies and change in education: The Arena framework (pp 9-33). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
This book chapter introduces concepts of ecology, in particular, human ecology, as the Arena. The Arena is a theoretical framework to understand how and why educational systems, the people within in it and the technological tools they use, continue to change. Within this framework, academic courses do not exist as individual entities but rather as part of a larger layered global ecosystem that influences the adoption and rejection of digital tools that have become physical resources within that ecosystem. An effective teacher or school leader is conceptualized as a ‘Keystone species’ that brings balance in the flow of energy and matter into their classroom or school. Family, professional, resource, political and bureaucratic are identified as sectors of influence that bridge through the different layers of the ecosystem and the players within it. The chapter includes analyzing a change within a fictional university to demonstrate how the different components of the Arena influence actions within an academic course.
This a chapter in a recently published book and is based on extensive research into educational practices. In relation to the research of using Instagram in the classroom, this Framework helps me to understand the different influences that affect the adoption of a tool within a school a community. It also provides a more nuanced understanding of change than the linear pathway developed by Rodger’s Diffusion of Innovation model which mostly situates change in terms affordances of the innovation itself rather than placing it within a social context.
Frank, K. A., Zhao, Y., & Borman, K. (2004). Social capital and the diffusion of innovations within organizations: The case of computer technology in schools. Sociology of Education, 77(2), 148-171. 10.1177/003804070407700203
This study used longitudinal and network data to study the impact of social capital in the implementation of computer technology in six schools in the United States. The authors define social capital as the ‘potential to access resources through social relations’ within a social system with help, talk, and social pressure being ways members can generate and draw on social capital. The authors argue that Rodger’s theory of innovation following a relatively linear pathway in hierarchical manufacturing organizations is not appropriate to schools where there are more complex decision-making processes and the actors have more autonomy in their ability to make decisions. The results of the research indicated that perceived potential and adequacy of resources, measures of the traditional diffusion were comparable to social capital measures. However, the social capital measures explained slightly more variation in the use of computers than did measures of traditional constructs. The study brings up several important implications for change agents including giving time for interactions to occur, developing expertise with ambivalent members and giving opportunities to share their expertise, relocating those with expertise and encouraging interactions across departments.
This study appeared in a peer-reviewed journal in 2004. While the technology may have changed considerably during this time, the principles from this study are relevant to understanding change within an organization. The authors note that schools in the sample consisted mostly of elementary schools and therefore the authors were not able to explore how social capitals vary by levels of school nor estimate how the effects of social capital vary by average socioeconomic status and racial composition. Using social capital theory this study helps us to understand transitions between the organization as a whole and the actions of independent individuals within it to access expertise and influence each other’s implementation of an innovation. This is particularly useful in helping to develop the relationship between ‘early adopters’ in the diffusion theory and the concept of a keystone species within the Arena Framework.
Zhao, Y., & Frank, K. A. (2003). Factors affecting technology uses in schools: An ecological perspective. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 807-840. 10.3102/00028312040004807
This article proposes an ecological framework to study the uses in 19 schools across four school districts in the midwestern United States. In this, framework schools are viewed as multilayered ecosystems, computer uses are living species, teachers are members of a keystone species, and external educational innovations are invasions of exotic species that can be potentially complementary or competitive. As new uses of technology are introduced into the school ecosystem, the survival of the use of the technology is determined by two factors. Firstly, the nature of the uses and secondly, the result of the teacher’s analysis of the uses. The authors found that the most frequently used technologies were simpler technologies such requiring little adjustment by teachers to existing practices or where the benefits of technology use were easily observable (e.g the use of a word processor in English). However, when teachers were afforded opportunities to explore new technology on their own, a process of mutual adaptation occurred as teachers better understood the potential benefit in certain uses of technology. The authors also note that within species interactions in the form of immediate and contextualized help from colleagues can also influence the survival of use of technology.
This article appeared in a peer-reviewed journal in 2003. Although the sample size is small, the framework provides a useful metaphor for examining change and provides an ancestor to the Arena Framework. The authors caution the overuse of a biological metaphor to a human social system which suggests that a metaphor of human ecology may be more useful to examine change which could include the sectors of influence noted in the Arena Framework. The conceptualization of the use of technology as an ‘invading species’ suggests that technology may be damaging to the existing ecosystem rather than a neutral object that living things interact with. The authors also do not consider the school being part of a larger global ecosystem that influences the actions of different species. Nevertheless, the study provides change makers with key principles when introducing an innovation into a school. Firstly, the must allow opportunities for mutual adaptation through play and exploration. Secondly, they must allow for adaptation through the social processes of the system through ready access to contextualized assistance. Thirdly, they must not overburden the system with too many changes.
Jamaludin, A., & Hung, D. W. L. (2016). Digital learning trails: Scaling technology-facilitated curricular innovation in schools with a rhizomatic lens. Journal of Educational Change, 17(3), 355-377. 10.1007/s10833-016-9280-x
This case study examines the use of a toolkit developed in a secondary school in Singapore, in partnership with a software development company to use on field trips. Instead of traditional pencil and paper activities, the app facilitates content creation during a field trip. The case study examined the scaling up of this innovation to a further 11 schools through the use of a rhizomatic lens as a conceptual framework. The authors argue that instead of seeing innovation as a top-down approach, it should be characterized by multiple trajectories and offshoots just like the root system of a plant. The authors also apply the principle that if there is a break in the implementation of the innovation, there is a possibility of further growth from its nodes meaning a new technology can be recontextualized based on the needs of the local school. The use of a new technology is, therefore, an interplay between structural supports, teacher attitudes and the broader social system of the school and its teachers.
This case study appeared in a peer-reviewed journal and is based on innovation in Singapore. Although I initially found the model difficult to understand at first, there are parallels between the concept of change as rhizome, the Arena framework. Firstly, both models seek to use a metaphor from the biological world to explain how the introduction of an innovation changes the behaviour of those within a social system. Secondly, it sees change as not being a linear pathway through which a teaching community moves but more organic and dynamic. In developing ideas for the implementation of Instagram in the classroom the principle that the introduction of Instagram would be used in different ways by teachers as they recontextualize it to their teaching context. It also suggests that early adopters or lead practitioners have a role in promoting the sharing of a new technology across different silos of the school.