Sunday, 2 June 2013

BYOD In Schools - Part 4: Student Engagement

This year has seen our school begin the process of implementing a Bring Your Own Device Strategy (BYOD) across the whole school, notionally led by me, which is somewhat worrying. Fortunately my erstwhile co-leader @Gripweed1 has made up for my many deficiencies in the process, and we enter the final half-term of the year, 6 months after starting, having successfully negotiated the first stage of the process. I've blogged about the different parts of Stage One before, but a quick recap may save you trawling through all that:

We started by mapping out the route we would take, looking into other schools which had gone down similar or alternative roads, and identifying areas of planning and infrastructure issues we had to address first before moving forward. We then began involving students with @Gripweed1 leading a highly successful Safer Internet Day, where students were consulted about the rights and responsibilities of them being able to use their own devices in school as a learning tool. Their input was critical in allowing us to develop a BYOD policy, and the intention is to have students review this annually as part of our PHSE programme, to ensure it remains up-to-date and fit for purpose. While our focus shifted on to a small group of "dangerous teachers" who were conducting class trials with the students, we realised that the students were going to be the key to the success or failure of the whole process, and it is this student engagement I want to address today.

So far, we have engaged different sections of the student community at different levels. All were involved in the development of the Acceptable Use Policy, and several classes across different year groups have been involved in exploring the technologies through trials. Now we're looking at the issue of digital leaders, and the contributions they might make to moving the process forward. There is a great deal of talk across the Twittersphere about digital leadership: Some of it is little more than a nod towards it, as I've seen in several schools where student leaders are more or less teachers' assistants. However, there are many other schools where it is clear that students are genuinely leading not just other students, but also the teaching and learning process through mobile technology, and here they seem to be driving the idea forward almost more effectively than if the process were top-down. Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist)'s work at Clevedon in the South-West is a case in point, and we have learnt a great deal from his generously shared expertise.

Our initial discussions for the roles of digital leaders looked at a variety of potential roles Digital Leaders could undertake. These ranged from having

  • FROG champions who would train students and teachers in the use of our FROG VLE
  • Technical support leaders who would almost be apprentice technicians 
  • E-Safety Specialists whose job would be to advise and monitor e-safety across the school
  • Device Specialists whose job would be to look at the way certain device workflows could be translated to other devices without causing problems 
  • We even then started thinking about having specialists in different types of software as these need considerable training too, for example Adobe specialists, Microsoft Specialists, Android Specialists etc

You can see that the lists eventually became far too cumbersome to be workable! We were ourselves in danger of losing sight of "the main thing" and turning our digital leaders into glorified Techies, so we changed our focus back to Teaching and Learning, and this proved far more fruitful. All aspects of the role can now be clearly related back to leading, enhancing or supporting teaching and learning, and we have also looked at how digital leaders can be used to smooth the transition of students coming up from primary schools so that they are confident and ready to meet the challenges of secondary. Equally, we would like Digital Leaders to be able to use their experiences to gain accredited qualifications which would help them further a career in this sector if they so wished, and we are currently exploring the sorts of qualifications on offer.

This is what we came up with in the end...

Digital Leadership at Finham Park

Job description

Digital leaders will...

Be able to support teaching and learning through SMART Learning
Be able to support the use of mobile devices by teachers and students
Be able to support and develop the use of VLE
Be able to assist specific departments with the acquisition of teaching and learning resources (apps, websites, software)

Be able to develop outreach programmes
Be able to liaise with primary schools to promote digital transition
Be able to manage the digital leaders' social media presence
Be able to work with collaborative networks in order promote and share best practice

Be able to support the development of e-safety training across the school
Lead assemblies to whole school on e-safety
Lead lessons to students in e-safety
Lead whole staff training on e-safety
Be able to promote the use of digital technology at whole-school events (e.g. Genius bars at Year 7 parental events)

Be able to offer basic technical support to teachers and departments
Checking computer power, peripherals, sound, mice and keyboards
Helping teachers to use iPads with AppleTV
Clearing a printer jam
Checking toner and paper
Projectors and connections
Problem diagnosis?
Management of school computer screens, uploads and podcasts
Preparation of machine images through FOG
Device usage (ipads and other devices, especially help for staff)

Person Specification

Digital Leaders should...

Be dedicated to this single area of student leadership (there are many other areas of student leadership around the school, but we feel this role is so big it will be time-consuming)
Be a positive role model to other students
Have an interest in developing digital technology skills further
Be responsible users of technology
Be keen to learn to work with other people involved in the creation of a digital environment
Show tenacity and commitment
Be able to demonstrate prior digital skills
Have a clear understanding of safe and responsible social media use
Be willing to foster leadership skills

Our second draft of a job description has yet to be approved, so I put it out here for discussion: Have we missed anything? Can you help us to tweak it further? If I've learnt anything from blogging and tweeting, it's that no idea I've ever had couldn't be improved by somebody out there, so we very much welcome any input here via the comments section below.

The class trials will report back at the end of the year, and hopefully we will have enough evidence that mobile technology can have a tangible impact on teaching and learning to move the project forward across the whole school. At this point, the role of the digital leaders will become crucial in the process, and it is more than likely that they will be leading teachers as much as students. This gets us to a stage I think many schools and SLTs are nervous about, namely where the students' expertise begins to overtake that of the staff. I can empathise with this to an extent, although I have to say that mobile technology is one key area where, if teachers don't learn to step outside of their "sage on the stage" role, we won't move forward very fast. As an old t'ai chi teacher of mine once told his students, "if I don't train you with the aspiration of becoming better than me, who then will I learn from?"

Only if we can get over this psychological obstacle in how we see our role will we truly begin to create a collaborative learning environment, where teachers and students move each other forward.