In preparation for the 1:1 digital rollout at St. Joseph’s RC High School, I embarked on a project to recruit and develop a team of Digital Leaders. Digital Leaders are defined by DigitalMe as “students with a passion to help their school shape vision and strategy around the use of technology” and that they “take on or develop leadership roles which provide advice and guidance as to the effectiveness of technology and they make sure that fellow students and their teachers have the skills to use those technologies effectively”. Our Digital Leaders scheme aims to harness the wealth of talent we already possess as a school and using that to our advantage.
This post will outline how this project has developed from the initial preparation to the interview process. Hopefully, it will also provide some ideas and inspiration for others who wish to develop Digital Leaders in their own schools.
To ensure that the launch of Digital Leaders @ SJHS was successful, preparation was key. The key priorities at this stage were:
– Setting up an online blog
– Creating a Digital Leader Twitter account
– Developing our Digital Leader brand
I believe that having an online presence is vital. Firstly, a blog is a useful tool as at acts as a place to store all the content produced by Digital Leaders in one place, making it easy for observers to keep a track of the journey. Secondly, this opens up a global audience for participants to share what they are doing. One of the cool features of WordPress is it tracks site views, but also the countries where viewers were from. Inside the first two months of our blog being posted online, it had received over 1 500 views from across the world including USA and Canada, as well as various countries around Europe and the Middle East.
The next step was to creating a Twitter account for Digital Leaders which serves three main purposes. It enables us to keep in contact with staff, students and parents to address any questions they have. This was especially important during the phased rollout of devices as there were many questions regarding the setup of the Mobile Device Management software being used. Using Twitter enabled us to answer these queries in real time, meaning learners were able to bring their devices in the following day in the knowledge that it would work. One of the most useful features of Twitter is it integrates with WordPress. As a result, new posts can be pushed out to Twitter automatically, increasing the potential number of viewers. In fact, the vast majority of our views to date have come from sharing posts on Twitter. My favourite thing about Twitter is it opens up an avenue to connect with amazing people that would otherwise be impossible. To date, we’ve been in contact with many EdTech professionals, Apple Distinguished Educators and app developers to get advice and guidance and also to stay up to date with new developments in the field. These people are very keen to share their best practice, making it a fantastic resource for all.
Finally, I wanted to develop our Digital Leaders in a similar way a brand. The main reason behind this is since this group would have such a vital part to play in the overall 1:1 journey of our school, I feel that it’s important to make both them and their work easily identifiable.
This Digital Leaders @ SJHS logo was designed using the Pixelmator app for Mac. It reflects exactly what our journey involves and is easily recognisable. There is also a square variation which is used where necessary and features on anything produced by the Digital Leaders.
Firstly, it was essential to get the message out to all pupils and promote the role of the Digital Leader. It was decided that this would take place during one the 20 minute afternoon form periods. The main rationale behind this was that it was co-ordinated in a way that everyone would get the message at the same time. To aid tutors, I designed the following promotional video using Videoscribe, which highlighted the responsibilities, expectations and potential opportunities for anybody who was selected to be a Digital Leader:
Whilst pupils were in their tutor groups watching the video, posters (see below) were placed around the school in key locations to promote the role further.
Since this group aims to enhance the use of digital technology, the posters feature augmented reality content, created using DAQRI 4D Studio. You can see the experience for yourself by downloading the free DAQRI app to your iOS or Android device and scanning the trigger image.
During the period between the initial launch and application deadline, the video was also played on television screens located in communal areas around the school.
The Application Process
During my initial research, I came across the work of Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist), who has done an amazing job at modelling good practice for developing Digital Leaders. I would highly recommend checking out his blog, and his free iBook, Digital Leaders: Transforming Learning with Students in the Lead. Anderson suggests that this role “should not be seen as a ‘club’ or even a ‘club for geeks’. Being awarded the role of a ‘digital leader’ should be a big deal in any school”. As a result, I decided to adopt the methods used by others within the Digital Leader Network who had successfully set up similar projects and invited potential candidates to submit an application for the role. Those who demonstrated an interest could either collect a application form from myself or complete an online application by scanning the QR code on the poster.
The Interview Process
The response was superb: more than 70 applications were submitted by students from all year groups. I read through each application and identified 20 candidates I felt were most suitable. These were then invited by letter to attend an interview to further assess their suitability.
Once students were shortlisted for interview, the next step was to formulate a series of questions. The following were used during the interview process:
To help formulate the questions I took inspiration from the Digital Leader Network website which features a bank of free resources created by Digital Leader coordinators. Another useful resource is the #DLDropbox which also contains numerous free resources (request an invite either by completing the form here or by Tweeting @ICTEvangelist directly).
After much deliberation, we decided to elect all who were interviewed to form our Digital Leaders @ SJHS: Class of 2015. Initially, the aim was to recruit approximately 15 Digital Leaders, with some flexibility. However the choice was too difficult. Each individual who was interviewed was selected because of their knowledge, variety of skills and willingness to work with others. The panel were blown away by the level of skill each candidate possessed and their sense of responsibility, which shone through. We managed to recruit a range of talented individuals from Internet bloggers, music and video creators, social networkers, technicians and coders. Just one example of the level of talent at our disposal came from a candidate who won a competition after designing a child safety app and was invited to spend a day at the Headquarters of Google in London! The following letter was sent out to the parents/carers of our newly appointed Digital Leaders to inform them about some of activities they would be involved in:
Once the group had been established, we decided to conduct a weekly meeting. During these sessions, Digital Leaders will be working on developing screencasts for their blog, workshops for staff, students and parents and discussing some of the ways they have been using technology around school. In addition, a “Genius Bar” style are is currently being developed in school which will be run by the Digital Leader team to help troubleshoot technology issues people are facing.
Thinking of starting a Digital Leader project?
If you are considering setting up Digital Leaders at your school and would like to know more or would like access to any of our resources, do not hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment below, by email or via Twitter. Also, be sure to check out the links in this post which provide excellent guidance.