Friday, 26 September 2014

Tentative first steps as a digital leader

Despite all my ideals and lofty targets, reality hit me this week. Lessons to plan, work to mark, subjects to lead. As a result, my sights had to be lowered somewhat.
Still, I have made some progress on my journey.
Firstly, I carried out some initial research with several KS3 classes and discovered a little about their digital habits. I set aside time during a Year 7 and a year 8 lesson to discuss what I am working towards and why. Some of the responses I received have been eye-opening, disconcerting and worrying...

  • Approximately 90% of learners have access to a smartphone, laptop/tablet or desktop PC
  • Well over half of the pupils claimed to use the internet and related devices in a completely unsupervised, unfiltered and unmoderated manner. Of the remaining pupils, a handful have time restrictions imposed on them, and a few parents use filtering software
  • Very few year 8 pupils were fearful of the internet and did not admit to feeling concerned about its risks
  • A few year 7 pupils confessed to having experienced a difficult situation when online, but the anecdotes they shared seemed relatively trivial
  • About a third of the classes confessed to using a device/app/site in a manner that they knew their parents would disapprove of
  • Playing the devil's advocate even further, I asked how many of them take advantage of their parents' lack of ICT skills to conceal what they are doing. There was some reluctance to them confessing to this, but about a quarter of the class admitted they behaved in such a way
The last two points, whilst not particularly surprising, gave me pause for thought. I expected a level of disinterest from parents; I am prepared for apathy from my overworked and overstretched SLT, but I wasn't expecting the pupils to be anything other than fully committed to this process. In retrospect, this was naive of me. Of course the pupils will object to what we are trying to do when it shines a light on them capitalising on their parents' ignorance! Clearly we need to address another strand of digital citizenship, Digital Transparency.
However, before I can draw any firm conclusions or present this data to SLT/parents, it needs to be more substantial and less anecdotal. To this end, I will collaborate on a survey with fellow digital leaders to get a more complete picture of our learners' habits and opinions.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I've thrown my lesson plans away (not literally, of course) and asked a few classes the big question "What do you want to learn?". As you can see below, it's pretty much a who's who of social messaging and social networking. Turning this wishlist into something meaningful and challenging will be an interesting prospect.

I've tried to broaden the impact of digital citizenship, by trying to incorporating more digital literacy skills into a non-ICT subject. I suggested to a business studies class would they be interested in the use of wikis, podcasts, blogs, vlogs and creating their own YouTube channel to help them revise and consolidate learning, and they all seemed really enthusiastic about this suggestion. 

I am fully aware at this stage that I've only made ideological progress; I now need to start actualising my goals. By the time I next write, I intend to have made tangible progress.Wish me luck.


  1. Do you fancy collaborating on an online survey? SurveyMonkey…

  2. Yes, we'll definitely do that Stu, thanks

  3. As discussed when we caught up Al, a thought provoking post - thank you. So lovely to have your honest reflections as they come up. I can also feel the parent in you speaking. I think asking pupils how they use these technologies is key - creating that non-judgemental space, which we all discussed in the first 3 days, allows us to learn more more authentically about the positive and negative experiences that children have. It seems to me that the children you spoke to are quite resilient. Once you've surveyed them, and done informal group consultations with them and gained an insight into what may be helpful to address in terms of online safety and critical thinking skills - maybe you can think of ways for the pupils to create something that will engage/inform parents. One idea is to get pupils involved in creating a Drama/ Roleplay, for example: 'A day in the life of a gamer' that could be put on for parents. Such an event would be educational for teachers and parents. However, a summing up at the end of the play, could also be one way to highlight wider themes like balance, or positive experiences, or risky experiences in a game environment - all within a framework of Digital Literacy, Digital Citizenship and Well-being. And this could be a nice way of highlighting to parents what support their children may need. Hmmm, much food for reflection! Thanks for the post! :)

  4. Sangeet would it be possible to get a copy of the questionnaire you used for your research please?

    1. Hi Stu, sorry been offsite today - will get this to you tomorrow.