Digital Leaders – Half a term in…

It has now been half a term since I began the Digital Leader project at my school (see post here). From the very beginning I had a group of eager members who wished to get involved. I allowed all members that completed my application form to join and then a couple of others who hadn’t but it was suggested it could be beneficial to them in some way e.g. self esteem or settling in to a new school. The ones who were asked to join without application have since dropped out which I believe is quite telling as to their motivations!

 

Since the beginning we have made some adjustments. We have weekly lunchtime meetings on a Thursday which is a chance for me to meet with them, discuss ideas, ask questions and them to share their ideas/suggestions. As well as this it is an opportunity for them to work on projects as a larger group if they wish. These lunchtime sessions are compulsory unless the children have a valid reason not to attend. We have had a few children drop out and I believe this is primarily because they did not want to give up the lunchtime each week. As well as this the children get taken out of class on a Tuesday afternoon by an LSA to work on their subject specialism. Initially each group were getting taken out for 30 mins throughout the afternoon but staff did not approve of the disruptions and by the time the children were released they get very little time to work on their projects. We decided as a group to rotate the afternoons on a 3 weekly basis giving them the full 2 hours to work on their projects each week – this is working better.

 

In the beginning the children split into groups to focus on their subject specialism; we picked their names out of a hat and they got to choose which they wanted as long as they weren’t full! I have the following specialism areas:

  1. Animation and Video
  2. Art and Image Editing
  3. Programming and Games Design
  4. Digital Publishing
  5. Presentations
  6. Research, Forms and Spreadsheets

 

We are hoping that as the children’s skills grow they will be able to use these to teach staff but to begin with it was about training them. So far the Animation and Video group have learnt about taking effective video and using Windows MovieMaker to edit video. The Art and Image Editing group have worked at taking photos and uploading them and using Picasa. The Programming and Games Design group have been using Probots and are now working on using Purple Mash’s 2DIY 3D to create simple maze games. The Digital Publishing groups have looked at Wordle and Taxedo as well as using Storybird. The Presentation group have learned to use Prezi and Popplet. Finally, the Research, Forms and Spreadsheets have tested some of the Google Search lesson plans and created Forms using Google Docs. We are now reaching the stage where the children have a good enough understanding of these softwares that they can start using them with staff. Our next steps are to reverse what the children do in sessions with me and with the LSA. The time with me can be spent learning to teach and the time with the LSA can be spent working on the projects that they want to pursue independently.

 

As we have now come a great distance on our journey together I asked the Digital Leaders what they have liked/not liked about Digital Leaders so far and if there is anything that they would like to do over the following half term/term. The children said that so far it had been what they expected and they had enjoyed it, they wanted something like badges or lanyard with cards on to mark themselves as Digital Leaders to the school. They asked if we could Skype other Digital Leaders and find out what they’re doing and perhaps a trip only for them. I said I was happy to take them on a trip as long as they could persuade Mrs Kennington (our HT) that we could go. They are currently arranging a Prezi explaining why they should be allowed to go on the trip to show her! They wanted a more active role in promoting esafety through our blog which is something we haven’t focused on as much as I would have liked this term.

 

Finally, I asked them if they thought we should allow other people the opportunity to join, as I have been asked by several people who didn’t apply the first time if they’ll be able to join at a later date…their responses surprised me. I gave them a chance to talk to each other and the general response was that they did not want to allow other members to join, even to fill the spaces of those who had dropped out. They liked the idea that it was an elite club that not just anyone could join and felt that if other were allowed in they should have allowed to be ‘senior’ members as they’d been there from the beginning. I found this interesting but do not think they’re wrong for wanting such things. I have left them to think more upon the subject with plans to return to the subject at a later date.

 

In my mind I would like to have a smaller number of new members join, only those who did not apply before and they would have to apply, but some fresh blood is always good for projects. If I do offer some places to new members I would get them to apply online and then ask the existing Digital Leaders to select (without names, obviously). The idea is then to use the new members as guinea pigs for the children to rehearse their teaching skills in their subject specialisms. I am hoping that by the end of this term or the beginning of next the children will host a staff training session doing 10min slots on how to use the software they have been working on. I will then produce a list of suggested uses for the software in a learning context.

 

Over the next half term we’re hoping to collaborate with lots of people at @NightZookeeper’s DL KidsMeet during a LiveWriting session. We’re also hoping to hear all about what the children and adults there get up to so that we can plan a similar event for ourselves. We’re going to explore our subject specialisms further and spend more time on esafety so that we can begin preparing for a Parent’s Coffee Morning in the Spring term. We would also like to invest in a Raspberry Pi and get involved with a group at the National Museum of Computing but this will be dependent on the amount of budget available.

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