Leadership Briefings: Student Digital Leaders

The DigiLit Leicester team are currently running a series of briefings for school leaders. The briefings are designed to ensure school leaders are aware of and up to date with current, effective approaches to using technology to support learning, teaching and school community development.

Our second briefing was held in January at the Soar Valley Training Centre. Chris Sharples led the session which focused on school based Student Digital Leaders (SDL) programmes.

Chris defines Student Digital Leaders as “a team of enthusiastic students who work with teachers and students on regular or one-off projects to improve learning with digital technologies.”

SDL initiatives represent a creative and effective approach to supporting learners who are enthusiastic about technologies in playing an active role in school technology development and use. Programmes usually involve one or more students in each class being identified as digital leaders. At Chris’s school, there are 25 SDLs, across years 7 to 10, with a decrease in pupil involvement in year 10 as a result of GCSE commitments. SDLs were recruited from an open, year based call, with all pupils who wanted to be involved joining the group. Other schools have selected participants by interviews. SDLs are then responsible for supporting the school community in their use of technology. This could be through trialling of devices or techniques, making recommendations about the best technologies and apps to use for specific tasks, providing training to peers or staff members, or being able to provide basic technical support in the classroom.

Student Digital Leaders at Chris’s School have been involved with a range of projects this year, including creating resources, developing Open Badges, attending conferences, writing reviews, providing training and leading assemblies.

Chris provided us with a mind map of the kinds of activities SDL were involved with:

Digital Leaders Mind Map

Student Digital Leaders programmes are a great way to give responsibility to learners and a non-confrontational method of embedding enhanced technology use across the whole school.

Key take aways from the briefing were:

  • Student Digital Leaders can be integral to schools responding to the challenges of the new computing curriculum. They can can play an active part in the way that the school designs and delivers learning and teaching around computing.
  • Chris emphasised the importance of a student leadership opportunities in developing a culture of learner engagement. Student leadership provides opportunities for young people to take responsibility for actively supporting their communities and peers, fostering a community expectation that everyone has a contribution to make and will help others if they can. Chris’s school has active sports leadership and Duke of Edinburgh Award programmes for learners as well as a Digital Leaders programme.
  • Student Digital Leadership programmes actively support and promote learner voice – learners contribute to the decision-making process (which tools are best to use, surveying students about preference), provide an opportunity to develop communication skills (training  peers and staff, demonstrating tools, writing about their recommendations, activities and preparing support materials). Chris quoted David Hargreaves as saying “one of the most successful entry points into effecting change and transformation lies in the area of student voice, and the opportunities offered to students to share the leadership and redesign of learning with their teachers.”

Want to find out more? Download the resources sheet Chris produced:

Digital Leaders Briefing (Word)

Digital Leaders Briefing (PDF)

You can find even more resources and links on the Digital Leaders Network blog.

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