Connecting Classrooms for 21st Century Learning: A Study of Alignment, Innovation and Change in a BC School District

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
Aligning information technology (IT) with an organization’s strategy has presented an enduring problem for organizations wishing to exploit the strategic potential of technology. For some time the concept of IT alignment has been closely associated with increases in organizational performance, agility and the capacity of organizations to transform and change themselves. This has motivated researchers and practitioners alike to search for increasingly effective means through which they can understand, shape and integrate information technologies to support strategic goals.The idea of alignment has been especially problematic in educational organizations and school districts that have long been struggling to effectively integrate technology into classrooms. In education, information and communication technologies have an historical legacy of being viewed as not much more than a way to reduce labour costs. This is beginning to change as administrators increasingly reflect on the failures of the past and the demands they must meet in the future.This dissertation develops an analysis of IT alignment in an educational organization by presenting an examination of the design, development and deployment of a social computing innovation called a Collaborative Learning Platform (CLP) in a greater Vancouver school district.The dissertation aims to make several contributions to theoretical and empirical work on the subject of alignment, and attempts to challenge existing conceptions and approaches to the problem. It suggests that in spite of the volumes of research on IT alignment, much of this work has failed to pay attention to the complexity of the phenomenon and has instead continued to provide prescriptive advice of limited utility. Much of this research has also lacked theoretical substance, which has made it difficult to discern any cohesive explanation about what alignment actually means or how it works.The dissertation addresses these problems in the context of an educational reform initiative in British Columbia. By using ideas from actor-network theory, structuration theory and critical sociology, this research provides a theoretically informed and empirically grounded description of IT alignment that reveals a complex and contingent process. The contributions developed in this work suggest that IT alignment is not a state, but an ongoing and iterative process involving the strategic design and deployment of what actor-network theory calls technological mediators. An mediator is a information technology that simply transports meaning between actors and coordinates their interactions. mediators have communicative significance because they work to represent and translate organizational strategies through contexts of everyday practice. In so doing, these mediators enact and simultaneously structure the activities involved in alignment. The process of alignment is essentially recursive and historical, involving the ability of actors to pragmatically incorporate these mediators into their practices.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Feenberg, Andrew
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