In our digital culture, we are constantly introduced to new ICT initiatives, devices and Apps. Teachers already have enough on their To-Do list leaving little spare time trialling out new software or sharing best practice on a daily basis; this is where ‘Digital Leaders’ come in. Allocating the role of Digital Leader to pupils within your primary school offers the exciting opportunity for pupils to lead technology.
Just as with any subject in the curriculum, pupils approach computing with a range of skills and abilities. My experience in schools across London has shown me that pupils even as young as Key Stage 1 who have considerable strengths when using technology, especially with the growing trend in parents providing access to tables, smart phones and laptops at home. Digital Leaders are pupils who are enthusiastic about technology that can help support teachers, share best practice and model correct behaviour to their peers. By selecting these pupils as Digital Leaders, we can empower them and inspire others. They can be trained to conduct a wide variety of weekly jobs such as deleting photographs on the iPads’ camera roll, and can support other pupils and teachers when needed, perhaps when using a new App or website, or updating the class wiki page or intranet.
How you select or nominate your Digital Leaders depends very much on the age of your class, and whether you are rolling out this scheme as a whole school initiative or simply within your year group. With my Upper Key Stage 2 class, I set up an application, interview and selection process.
I created a short application form using ‘Pages’ and uploaded it onto Showbie, the free teacher to student sharing App. To apply for the post of DL, pupils needed to access the document, fill in their responses to questions such as ‘what is your favourite programme or App?’ and ‘why do you think learning computing in primary school is important?’ and submit it back to me via Showbie. The fact that pupils needed to be adept at using Showbie was, firstly, an important marker in finding pupils competent in an App I wanted to encourage other staff and pupils to use, too.
You might find a short paper questionnaire more easily managed; either way, this application process alone adds gravitas and importance to the role of DL and heightens the status of DLs at your institute. Another way of selecting your Digital Leaders could be by asking them to prepare a short presentation about why they should be elected. They could talk about their interest in ICT, and why not even ask them to prepare a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation too- this could also help you to assess their ICT capabilities.
With younger pupils, rather than expecting an application process, it might be better to observe the whole class use of computer or iPads, and after assessing their ICT speed, skills and knowledge, decided on perhaps six or eight class Digital Leaders.
As ICT Coordinator, I meet with the school DLs once a week for 20 minutes; this is called ‘Digital Leader Network’ and is essentially a chance for me to introduce Apps or websites that classes will be covering that term in order to allow cascade learning, to show DLs problems that peers may encounter when using computers or iPads and how to fix these, and to trial and review new programmes or Apps for future consideration.
You may want to consider if your DLs might also be given badges, sashes or coloured caps they could wear when performing certain ICT duties; this is really up to you and your school, but, as with the application process, these little touches can bring out pride in- and respect for- your Digital Leaders.
Having a Digital Leader Log Book where DLs can note down any issues or problems with computers or iPads, or recommendations for website and new Apps for the ICT Coordinator to consider, can also work well.
To conclude, Digital Leaders can offer support for both teachers and peers, whilst simultaneously showcasing and enhancing ICT, and ultimately increasing the potential of ICT across your school.
It is by empowering our students and instilling in them confidence and computer literacy that we will ride the highest waves in this fast-flowing digital age.
Poppy Gibson is working as a Year 5 teacher and Head of ICT and computing at a school in North London, and currently studying a research degree in technology in education. She is committed to exploring and implementing new and exciting technologies in the primary classroom to enhance teaching and encourage learning.