What is a digital leader?
This term encompasses the growing number of students engaged in promoting digital technologies in schools. Fundamentally digital leaders can offer training for teachers in using new technologies and promote the use of digital devices and software across the school. Digital leaders run events like drop in clinics and clubs for other students as well as members of the community. (Such as supporting events like ‘Silver Surfers’) Digital leaders in some schools also run blogs, create apps and run ‘unconference’ events for large numbers of teachers.
Why establish a digital leader team?
Digital leaders are the ambassadors for using technology in schools and can support teachers through sharing their enthusiasm and expertise. Established DL teams go further to support peers in their lessons and in mentoring younger students in order to spread the interest in and knowledge of using digital technologies for learning. Students can also provide training which is often more accessible due to the flexible structure of their time and in providing quick, effective CPD for IT.
First steps in setting up a DL team
Begin by identifying the attributes/skills your digital leaders will need. Suggested attributes and qualities to consider are:
● Communication skills especially in giving clear instructions and being able to talk in small group situations
● Collaboration skills and being able to work with other students outside of their year group as well as staff
● Enthusiasm and interest in new technologies
● Problem solving and enquiry skills
● Specific digital skills such as in movie editing or use of software
Have a launch event. This could be through an assembly, holding a new technologies fair, or running a challenge such as QR code hunt to both promote the group as well as sharing what the role will involve.
Consider asking students to apply for the role of a digital leader. Often there will be lots of interested students in joining the group who will have many of the qualities needed to be a digital leader and knowing their motivation and areas of expertise will help establish a great team.
The application could involve writing in 100 words or less why they should be a digital leader. Other examples include completing a brief one-page application form where students can rank the DL attributes or even setting a challenge such as making a ‘digital’ resource on a generic topic (maybe PSHE related or Citizenship).
3. Roles & size of team
Digital leaders will have specific skills and interests as IT is a huge world. Make sure the team has identified and mapped skills. For example who will be the movie editing expert? Who is the guru in identifying new apps to support learning in the classroom? Your digital leaders will not have all the skills and knowledge needed but in mapping their expertise and strengths the team will identify where they can start to work. There is no optimum size of team but it does help having around 12 students as they do get booked up quickly once this is advertised to staff.
4. Training Event
Take a day or 2 half days to ensure students have been trained in how the group will run. Consider inviting one of your schools IT technical team along with any members of your wider school community who have knowledge or expertise in IT. The purpose of this event is to get students to plan out what the offering will be and structure how the team will run.
5. Running the team
Ideally a member of staff is needed to help oversee and steer the team initially. Often the most successful teams are run by no IT teachers in order to help promote the cross curricular nature of all things new techs. Weekly meetings are useful to keep track of what the team have been doing and what staff/students they have helped. Setting up a blog or shared document such as through Google Drive enables the team to keep track of bookings by staff and plan their support.
6. Maintaining the team
Holding weekly or fortnightly meetings is a suitable strategy to get all the leaders together in order to share what departments they have been helping and maintain the momentum of the group. It is useful if the member of staff overseeing the team also keeps track of the team blog to help make sure all curriculum areas get access to the expertise. This teacher essentially oversees the work of the team although as digital leaders become embedded in school often a student becomes chair and manager of the team
What can the digital leaders do?
Much will depend on the skills of your team and the needs of your school but here are a few suggestions:
● Weekly drop-in – These could be held at lunch or after school and are a general purpose clinic to help ‘teach the teachers’
● Running a blog updated weekly with their favourite tech/app of the week
● Bespoke events – tailored to whole school or department priorities. Consider engaging with curriculum leaders to identify what IT skills teachers in their teams want to develop. Students could run a workshop to suit these specific needs such as use of visualisers or film editing
● Big events – at Wildern School the team of digital leaders runs training events in using iPads in the classroom every term. As a Regional Training Centre (RTC) for Apple invites for their course go to local primary and secondary schools. The students spend time before the event identifying the ‘best’ apps to support learning and trialling them in lessons.
● Running a digital club – from robotics to gaming and movie editing digital leaders could run clubs at lunch/after school for younger students
● Student to student support – helping peers in the classroom
● Student mentoring – Year 9 & 10 students helping to train and mentor pupils from years 7&8 in becoming digital leaders
● Creating online tutorials – consider the use of film such as screen recording or filming parts of their training and work with teachers to create a bank of online ‘how to’ resources
● Create the school app – this could be a general information app that could be promoted at open evening through to set department app
Case Study: Digital Leaders @ Wildern School
The very first DL team was established in Sept 2008 with a brief not only to offer support to teachers in new technologies but to conduct research into the use of handheld devices in lessons. The team broke into 2 core areas: the ‘Wildern Producers’ and ‘New Techs’. The Wildern Producers were students who had a real passion for sharing their expertise in using digital resources. Teachers could book their time to help in editing movies, creating resources such as leaflets up to flash animations. The New Techs team were responsible for researching into mobiles/mp3 in class. Having devised a questionnaire students spent a whole term gathering responses and identifying attitudes towards mobile devices for learning.
In 2009 the ‘New Tech’s student team presented their finding to the Headteacher and started the first action research project into mobile devices. Students were challenged to try to use an iPod Touch at home as well as class to support their learning. Due to their positive findings the school adopted a BYOD approach in 2010.
Since then all digital leaders at Wildern continue to support teachers as well as keep up with the latest uses of technology. Now called ‘iStudents’ the team is responsible for running workshops for teachers in local schools and organising the termly ‘teacher app championships’. These events enable students to share some of their favourite and the most effective apps for learning right now, as well as setting challenges for the attendees to create resources using these apps during the session.
This amazing network is home to a blog where digital leaders can share and showcase their work in schools.
Using Mozilla’s open badges DigitalMe is working in schools to recognise the digital talents and skills in our young people though the currency of digital badges.