Meet Mary-Lou O’Brien, CDO of Melbourne Girls Grammar School.

August 28, 2017, Via

Understanding the needs and goals of K-12 schools is incredibly important to us here at Digistorm, so we caught up with Mary-Louise O’Brien, Chief Digital Officer at Melbourne Girls Grammar School to discuss all things digital. 

Choosing a software partner is a significant decision for schools to make, particularly for a school as digitally innovative as MGGS. What do you look for in software and technology partners for your school?

First and foremost I am looking for partners who are agile and responsive. When investigating a new product (software or hardware) a sales rep is normally the first port of call, however, if they don’t respond to an enquiry, or are complacent throughout the trial period, I quickly lose faith in how they will manage and support us in the future. When it comes to larger projects a lack of an SLA (service level agreement) is always a warning sign as I have to know we have an exit strategy in place should we need it. My approach is definitely a ‘fail fast’ model of execution and I’m just lucky that I work in an environment where we are all encouraged to take risks, learn from our mistakes and move on, and this allows for greater innovation and at a much faster rate too.

In my role as CDO, I am charged with ensuring we have a  fully integrated digital ecosystem, unified data organisation and integrations that allow our business systems to operate to their optimum. The option of a Schoolbox app through Digistorm was a ‘no brainer’ for us, as they already had a good working relationship with Schoolbox, the integration was already in place and the sales and support teams were a pleasure to work with.

Digistorm was lucky enough to be selected as one of your software partners. Why did you choose Digistorm and how do we fit into the bigger picture for the school?

Digistorm were recommended to me by Schoolbox, our LMS provider. I’d met with many app developers over the years, but most were coming into the education sector thinking naively that they could charge Native app prices for what was a simple Web app. Having been a Small Business Management Lecturer in the past I’ve always been a big believer in small businesses focussing on what they do best, and to be wary of diversifying away from their core offering. To me, it makes far more sense to partner and integrates with specialists, rather than trying to mimic and reinvent the wheel, and this approach often leads to a far better outcome for all concerned. I think this has definitely been the case with Schoolbox and Digistorm.

“Technology simply needs to be embedded in everything we do, every process and in every classroom.”

In terms of technology, what are your growth and development goals for MGGS in the next 2-5 years?

In my 2012 strategic plan, I forecast that we needed to build capacity for up to five devices per person on our network as we moved towards personalisation of learning using our LMS to deliver a blended model for our Senior Years program. We’re currently sitting at three devices per person and whilst this is sufficient currently, that forward planning is absolutely crucial.  

Cybersecurity and Data Analytics are both high on the agenda currently and we continue to make significant investments in infrastructure to ensure our girls have technology-rich experiences with a mind toward differentiation and enhanced learning.

Here’s one that’ll help us to get to know you a little better: what do you think is technology’s place within education?

Technology simply needs to be embedded in everything we do, every process and in every classroom. At Melbourne Girls Grammar our technology agenda underpins a paradigm shift in education, where the focus is on personalised learning, flexibility, choice, ongoing assessment, collaboration, student wellbeing and the global readiness of every student to succeed in work and life.

A transformative IT leader in Education needs to continually be driving business success and leveraging technology to support new learning pedagogies, implementing the science of learning and ensuring innovation across the environment. They should also provide thought leadership and advice to the Executive by understanding external developments, innovations and new trends ensuring the organisation are aware and responsive to new developments. 

The last one’s a bit more fun – it’s something that we ask our own team to get to know them: you’re stuck in an airport for 6 hours and you can’t leave. What do you do to keep busy? 

I could easily kill an hour shopping, and you’d probably find me in that one store that sells tech gadgets and after that, the designer fashion stores.  

I love that in the US airports you can pay for a day pass to most airport lounges, so that’s where I’d end up once I’d checked out all the shops. Over the years in the Admirals Club Lounge at LAX, I’ve caught a lift with Kylie Minogue and sat at the bar with Jack Black so you’d find me propped up at the bar where I’d be either streaming a movie, listening to an audiobook, reading my Kindle or catching up on emails and hoping that some famous Australian, think: Hugh Jackman, Tim Minchin, Cate Blanchett, Martin Grant, Claudia Karvan, Paul Kelly or Baz Lurhmann are also delayed and planning to do the same!

Chris Lang, Digistorm August 28, 2017

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