You Need Digital Leaders In Your School. This Guide Might Help.

You Need Digital Leaders In Your School. This Guide Might Help.

One of the most transformative components of a successful 1-to-1 programme is free, available in every classroom and keen to learn. That component is the student body, or more importantly, those willing to act as Digital Leaders. Such is the success of  Digital Leader programmes throughout the UK that there is a nationwide framework of Digital Leaders sharing tips and resources. Contact can be made through the Digital Leader network that can be found at www.digitalleadernetwork.co.uk Highly recommended as a starting point for research and collaboration.

Whilst the concept of handing over responsibility might be difficult for some staff, it is crucial that they embrace the help students can offer when using technology in the classroom. Indeed, many staff will be fearful of technology full-stop, so having a trained, trusted and knowledgeable set of helpers in the classroom can relieve teachers of this psychological load. They don’t need to understand how it all works, they just need to understand why it is useful for learning.

A teacher should be supporting the learning process and not have to deal with any user issues with technology. Chromebooks and iPads are very robust as tools for learning. However, the same cannot always be said of the user. Failure to update apps or remember simple workflows are a headache for any 1-to-1 programme coordinator. The onus should not be on the teacher in the classroom to troubleshoot these issues. Likewise the IT team don’t need to babysit the students as they use the device. Step forward Digital Leaders and the wealth of knowledge and support they can bring to a 1-to-1 programme.

The aim is to provide a teacher with the ability to say to a student ‘if you’re having an issue with that application, speak to our wonderful Digital Leaders when I’ve finished explaining what we’re going to do’. Whilst this may sound idealistic, programmes like this have been used for decades in schools. Whether it is representatives for school council, milk monitors or library duty, students are very good at taking on roles of responsibility. The key is to manage the start-up and training process in such a way that the Digital Leaders are almost self sufficient with a little support from staff.

Thankfully students are curious. Without this curiosity, a Digital Leader programme wouldn’t be so successful. Show them something they are interested in and they want to know more. If they come up against a barrier, they want to overcome it. If they can find out something no-one else knows, they want to share it. Successful Digital Leaders are the epitome of the curious student with more to offer schools than perhaps any other student body at this time. The classroom environment is changing and students and teachers need their help.

Aspects to consider are:

Digital Leader Responsibilities:

  • A guide when using technology to support learning;
  • Exponent of new and existing applications;
  • Trainer and supporter of school members including parental, teacher and student bodies.

The example below is taken from a 1-to-1 iPad initiative which serves to illustrate how crucial Digital Leaders are to the success of any roll-out. It must be emphasised that the roles and responsibilities are transferable to any technology in schools.

Digital Leader Model:

  • An iGenius in each class (responsible for communication with students and teachers alike);
  • Four further Digital Leaders in each class;
  • Genius Bar run every lunchtime (in a very public space);
  • Training given once a week to Digital Leaders to support their development;
  • Edmodo group for communication, sharing good practice and new ideas.

Selection:

  • Students submit a 30 second presentation to a panel of interviewers. The presentation can involve any application although the most common is an iMovie with different apps used to create the content;
  • The panel then ask questions centred around communication and commitment. An ability to understand that skill levels are varied is key to the selection process, alongside communication skills;
  • Digital Leaders chosen to meet the model requirements (with respect given to outstanding candidates above and beyond the four Digital Leaders per class).

Training:

  • First to receive information about new apps/ ideas;
  • Lunchtime training for selected Digital Leaders based on focus for the week ahead. This allows for weekend interaction and feedback amongst the group. Training includes appropriate digital communication and presentation suggestions;
  • Access to key information from the teaching body and IT support;
  • Consistent rewards for attendance and application – in line with school achievement policy

Practicalities:

  • The primary aim of the Digital Leader programme is to support learning in the classroom;
  • The presence of four ‘experts’ in the classroom means a teacher should never have to deal with technological issues – Wifi, App use, Workflow etc. The reality is that the Digital Leaders provide a safety net without having to call a member of the IT support team. Consequently, teachers are more likely to try new applications knowing the Digital Leaders are trained to support them
  • A teacher needs to manage when the Digital Leaders can offer support and ensure it doesn’t hinder their own learning
  • Feedback and praise works very well in the iPad environment as it can be shared instantly. For example, the Edmodo group serves as an excellent way of highlighting contributions
  • The Genius Bar, run by an iGenius and four Digital Leaders, must serve to solve issues for any school member. It helps to have a focus that the Digital Leaders can demonstrate to encourage interaction. Set up is easy as everything is wireless!
  • The presence of four or five Digital Leaders in each class means that absence or forgetfulness is barely noticed. If in doubt, more is definitely more

Examples of Success:

  • GAFE sign up for new students was as simple as asking the Digital Leaders to ensure all members of their class had an account;
  • A question from a teacher posted on the Edmodo ‘wall’ led to fifteen responses with answers to the query. As a result an app was ‘gifted’ to all students that hadn’t been previously used;
  • A Digital Leader came up with a method of downloading any file from the Internet into the Goodreader app that meant it was a one step process to transfer files (including from existing VLE);
  • If the Digital Leaders have an issue they communicate with each other, via Edmodo, discover the answer and thank anyone that helped for their time. As a consequence their ‘chatroom’ will be used a as a model of good practice

The reality is, it is difficult to see how a 1-to-1 programme could be properly supported without Digital Leaders in the classroom. There isn’t the funding or manpower to support all teachers and students and fellow students are better equipped in many situations. There is a time commitment to the process and the initial setup is crucial to success. However, it is worth it and the payback for all the questions that don’t have to be answered cannot be underestimated!

One last tip – train Digital Leaders to be masters of workflow. Fellow teachers will be grateful.

Engaging so many of the student body in the Digital Leader programme will help to engage sceptical students with technology use. The device should only be used to enhance learning and as such requires that students don’t feel uncomfortable using it. With four or five leaders in each classroom, it quickly becomes the norm to help fellow students with any issues and this speeds up device adoption. Fortunately, the hardware is now much more intuitive to use so problems are often simple to solve. This also means that when a student asks for IT support it is more likely to be a technical issue rather than a user issue. This allows the IT team to concentrate on the infrastructure rather than troubleshooting.

Digital Leaders are a fantastic resource throughout a 1-to-1 device rollout and beyond. Engage and train those chosen and the fruits of your early labour will be clear to all.

 

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