Developing a whole school perspective

The preoccupation of education researchers with matters of learning and teaching is odd when considering what people actually do at/for school.

As soon as one starts observing what occurs in a school it becomes apparent that teachers only spend a fraction of their time actually teaching. Similarly, students spend little of their time actually studying, let alone learning.

Of course, the school day contains a lot of scheduled non-teaching time. People need to move around, rest, let off steam and generally go about their business.

Yet even lesson-times are full of procedural activities, busy work, interruptions, lulls, diversions off-topic and off-task.

Cotton and Wikelund (1990) estimated that half the time (or more) in any lesson does not involve teaching and learning. This is unlikely to have improved in the intervening 30 years.

Unfortunately, there have been few time and motion studies carried out in schools. Yet if one were to systematically monitor what goes on during the school day then it is fair to assume that learning and teaching would not be at the top of the list.

Any study of everyday digital schooling must reflect the broad nature of what ‘school’ involves. Schools are places where people labor, interact, form relationships, develop identities and generally live out their lives.

Digital technologies will be implicated in these processes. To think otherwise is to miss the essence of what ‘digital education’ is in practice. This is certainly not the aim of our project.



Cotton, K. & Wikelund, K. (1990). Educational time factors. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.