A Digital Leader program is more than using technology to assist learning. It is about building self-worth and confidence. It is about building human capital. The success of our program is the human story.
One story stands out for sure.
Joe (not his real name) began at our school in Year 4. At his previous school, he had been the target of playground bullying. He arrived to our school timid and unsure of himself. Due to a talent for working with technology, Joel was selected as a Digital Leader. The Digital Leader program provided Joe access to like-minded people. through a role that was authentic and respected. He learnt to harness his talent for using technology and use it in a way that made people feel at ease. He learnt to speak to large groups and to allow the ideas of others to flourish. Joe was learning when to double down on his strengths and when to ease off the peddle. The Digital Leader program provided him with a safe haven to be himself and to see the worth in who he was.
The best part of all this was that Joe was happy. He wanted to come to school. He started to feel welcomed and valued and his parents were over the moon. The Digital Leader program provided Joe an environment to share his value and thrive. Seeing him now in Year 7, I see a confident, happy young man who can hold rich conversations with anyone. He is a talented user of technology but even better than that, he sees the value in his own talent.
Every learner has strengths and every learner wants to feel success. It is only natural to want to play to these strengths. The challenge for schools then is to find ways to notice these and harness them. To find ways to help students feel success. Learning isn’t easy. It is messy, frustrating and different for everyone. School needs to be a place where we allow all learners to feel that their strengths are being amplified. That the environment of school can be fertile for them. A little confidence goes a long way…
How do you empower student voice in your classroom or school? Once again, I’m going to adjust the question this week for #youredustory. How do I empower students in my classroom or school? Student voice is one key element of empowering students. However, voice without action, talk without walk doesn’t empower students to engage and be change agents. The key to this is in mind is relationships. In my classroom, it starts with listening. Active listening is the yang to the yin of student voice. Active listening is not listening with one ear while focusing on doing something else, it is not listening till you hear the thought/answer/contribution you were fishing for but it is the listening where the contribution shared is acted upon. Do you challenge the contribution, do you rebut or do you encourage further contributions and promote collaboration, student voice needs active participation to grow. Student voice must lead to student action as Nick Jackson states here and the level of student action within your classroom or school is your measure of how empowered your students are at your school. It still perplexes me when students ask “are you sure I am allowed to do that” before engaging with a project. In my classroom this statement doesn’t hang around for long, it soon becomes “this is what I plan to do and achieve and I’ll share my findings once I’m done” or “what do you think of what I have done”. Either way, the student has taken action and not on my command or direction but with their own and (sometimes) with my consultation.
At my school, we have Digital Leaders in our Primary Years and Student Techs in our Senior Years. You can read about our Digital Leader program here and here. Our Student Techs work on our Helpdesk as a direct response to a student survey that I had completed that analysed the relationship between students and the IT department. These students had absolutely ripped through our previous team and so I asked them to help us to help them. As a result, they now assist students with their technical issues, image new computers, talk to staff about computer difficulties and work on some passion projects. A really interesting element to this whole process has been that fellow students walk past them when they are trying to assist and seek out the adult. To rectify this, I have told the guys to design some tee-shirts. Below is one of the designs and the correspondence between us…it truly is theirs.
To end this post, I am not going to share a story about my classroom but about the empowerment that I believe is needed to shift education to meet the needs of today’s youth. It is once again from the Oz Digital Leader movement and it is a blog post outlining student observations and opinions following their participation at a teacher conference. Click on the image to visit the blog.
Well much has happened since my last post. I have met with the Digital Leaders at each campus for our first brainstorm session. The focus of the first session was to develop a common set of expectations for each other and to generate a list of ideas for projects and initiatives. The question that I posed to the students to assist with setting the expectations was “What do you expect of your fellow digital leaders?
“What do we expect from each other?”
The below list is a collation of the expectations from both groups. This is the glue decided upon by the group to unite the Digital Leaders.
The brainstorming session for projects and initiatives was framed by the ideal “that there is nothing we can’t do or achieve, so list your idea no matter how big or small.” Each idea was put on to a post-it note (I know…very high tech) and placed on a board near a similar idea. Once again all of these ideas were collated. As with all groups, there was definitely the more vocal personalities and to ensure that all members felt like they had a voice, I have set up a Verso class where students can submit their ideas anonymously and comment on ideas that they feel are really worthwhile. As the teacher I can view who has submitted each idea and the pictures below are from the Student view.
To support the conversation and to promote cross campus collegiality, I have also set up a cross campus Edmodo group so that our conversation can continue past meeting times. I put our collated list of ideas from our meeting on there to help us plan out the rest of the year. Each student will vote on their favourites. I also challenged the students to develop a logo for the Digital Leaders. I posted all of these things during the holidays and have already had students submit multiple ideas and contributions. Good ole learning, not just a 8.30-3.30pm thing. We are also setting up our blog so look out for that soon.
To help kickstart the group, I have also give them holiday home learning. Learn how to use Hopscotch and then use this knowledge to run a lunchtime club on Hopscotch for students. My reasoning behind this was to shift the focus from technology to logistics. Learning and experimenting during three weeks break (yes very lucky they are) will allow them to upskill in programming and then we can spend our meetings time working on how to effectively organise a successful event. Each student was also presented with a Digital Leaders ID lanyard which they must wear when they are on duty. These were handed out at our assembly on the last day of term. Exciting times ahead!!
I have always been a big advocate for authentic student voice. Empowering students to take action on issues and ideals close to their heart is one of the reasons that I love what I do. It’s raw, real and pivotal to a rich learning experience. As part of our Primary ICT Professional Learning team, we had flagged the need for the development of such a role for our students. The role was initially to be a cyber safety focused role with our students to be Cyber Angels but robust discussion and research led us to the Digital Leaders Network. The network came across my Twitter feed one day and as I delved further, I knew it was the fit. Why? First of all, it was a network. Connecting like-minded learners is one of the reasons that Twitter, Google + and TeachMeets work so well and so connecting young leaders in an authentic role was a definite draw card. The network was originally established in the UK and I have to say that they global element of the network was definitely appealing. You can check out the great work that it is being done by Digital Leaders from around the world here. A chance encounter on Twitter, however brought the network closer to home. A post I had written and posted on Twitter brought about a chance encounter with Nick Jackson aka @largerama on Twitter. Nick was one of the original team behind the Digital Leaders Network in the UK and had recently set up the Digital Leaders Australia Network. This connection proved pivotal to the kick starting of Digital Leaders at my school. And so the journey began….
To introduce the idea to students, I spoke at assemblies at our two campuses and shared the following video. This was the first step of our interview process. I spoke to the students about being resourceful, being able to successfully collaborate, being creative and about being willing to speak and share with others.
Their first challenge was to find out my email address and express interest. Once they had done this, I replied with a QR code. Their challenge was to figure out what a QR code was and once they had figured out what it was, they then had to figure out how to read one. The information contained in the QR code challenged the students to create a presentation in any form that they wished to highlight why they would make a good digital leader. The final stage of our process was a two-minute interview based on their presentation. The presentations and interviews blew my mind. Initially I had imagined two leaders per year level but I threw that out the window after the first interview. Amazing ideas, poignant answers and reflections and a passion for digital learning that I had to harness. In the end we chose 13 leaders from Year 5 & 6 at each campus to be our first Digital Leaders. Looking forward, I am very excited about the projects and pathways that the students will develop and am wanting to roll the leadership position out in the Middle and Senior Years at my school. The students and I will set up a blog to document our journey but I will also be jotting down my thoughts in this blog as well. For those who are reading who have already begun the Digital Leaders journey, I would love to chat further to discuss ways that we could collaborate and learn from each other. For others, don’t forget to check out the Digital Leaders Australia Network at www.ozdls.com. Thanks for reading!