It comes as nothing new to educators when I say that students have amazing potential. Tapping it and providing opportunities for them to show it is the challenge we face, maybe more so with the exam structure that pervades the world we work in. I feel passionately that the technology we now have free access to can help unleash this potential.
When I embarked on the challenge of integrating technology into the learning in our school, using Google Apps for Education as the vehicle I knew there was going to be a large amount of change to manage. I would struggle to do this by myself. A strong leadership culture that supports the change is the key, however the students in the school are the end users and the key learners we want to support so I wanted to get them involved in the change and decided upon the title “digital leaders” as it was the most common term used for students supporting technology for learning in schools.
Creating our Digital Leader Team
A colleague had already started a Glyn Leaders program initial aimed at our year 11 (15 and 16 year olds) students so I piggy-backed this as gained about 15 digital leaders from October 2013. Only a month later I was astonished by the potential in these students I had uncovered. I have spoken about it at Teachmeet Epsom and expanded the talk for my slot on the Google stand at BETT2014 in London. I will be expanding it further when I speak at the Google Apps Summit in Frankfurt, Germany in May 2014.
Roles and Responsibilities
I created a badge for them which they wear with pride and so far the year 11 digital leaders have covered the following roles:
Presenting to teachers at Faculty meetings
Interaction between myself and the digital leaders takes place via Google+ which is one for them and teachers but not the rest of the students. Obviously Google+ is restricted to over 12 so am have an issue with any new recruits.
There are a number of younger students around the school who get very excited about using technology for their learning so it became apparent that using them in the digital leader team was essential. Time has been a challenge for me on 38 hours of teaching per fortnight and while I have the digital leaders they still require support and guidance. The current crop are very enthusiastic but not naturally completer-finishers so this is an area for development as we invite students to apply for a digital leader role.
The application process involved me touring assemblies with a presentation. I could not make it to one of the assemblies so I made a video which is below.
Below are some of the responses from the students who applied:
“There had been times when we didn’t have Google Drive and we had to complete group work for homework which was difficult as we had separate documents and could not see what each other had done.”
“I think that history, art and the sciences could all benefit from a technological overhaul. History is made so much more relevant and engaging by using interactive resources like the iPad app which allows one to take a 3D tour through the coliseum. Art similarly has some great online resources like those from Tate.com where art is critiqued and analysed. Science has many exciting opportunities which would allow student to be more engaged and involved with online experiments and lessons online.”
“In Tech I think we could use google drive to share our project with our teacher rather than making a massive powerpoint and then e-mail it.”
“the skills I would bring is to keep on telling the teacher to use Google drive and I would also show them how to use it.”
“In some lessons technology could still be used more. For example in science we could use sights [sites] like google drive or padlet so we ca[n] learn from each other.”
These are my unpolished diamonds who express a desire for change. My aim is to help them lead that change, developing their personal and leadership skills. They will need to learn how they can express these sentiments to teachers and other adults, offering their support to train teachers in the tools they see as part of a rich learning experience.
Interviews will be carried out by my current digital leaders, who created the list of questions. I am very excited about working with the new group of digital leaders and will share any successes or challenges as soon as I can.
National Digital Leader Community
As part of my work in the Google Educator Group for the UK, which any educator can get involved with via Google+ (we hope to put on events soon), I have created a community for digital leaders to discuss ideas across the UK. If you have digital leaders it would be great for the ones over 12 to be given access to Google+ to join the discussions. We ask that the adult responsible for the digital leaders requests to join the community to be approved then they can accept their students.