Space & Place

Young People’s Learning Technology Priorities

Young boy with tablet device
Photo credit: Marcus Kwan, shared under a Creative Commence Licence

Leicester City Council’s Youth Engagement project was a year-long innovative programme of research which involved 400 young people (11-19 years old).

The Youth Engagement Project was designed to ensure that the voice, opinions and views of young people are included in the development of Leicester City Council’s Building Schools for the Future Programme.

The project focussed on identifying young people’s priorities as they relate to the school environment. Their top 10 priorities were:

1. More indoor social spaces
2. Better designed library spaces
3. Comfortable chairs
4. Well-designed interiors – especially use of colour
5. More vegetable `patches/allotments
6. Sustainable features – including use of biofuels and recycling programmes
7. Nicer toilets
8. Larger dining room spaces –flexible seating arrangements and more food choice
9. Flexible classroom spaces
10. Greater variety in teaching methods

Learners were also asked to think about their priorities as they related to technology.

Young people told us their top 10 learning technology priorities are:

1.  Faster computers

Young people’s number one learning technology priority is for consistently fast, reliable computers and network access. They told us slow computers make them feel frustrated, waste class time and hold up learning. Problems with computers running programmes or connecting to the internet slowly also make teachers less likely to want to use them with learners within lessons.

2.  More creative uses of technology for learning

Even the most interesting uses of technology became boring if teachers use them in the same way all the time. Students told us that their experience of technology used to support learning was too frequently the same – a teacher delivering a Power Point presentation to the class, or being taken through tasks as a whole class on a fixed computer.

3.  More student centred and student led use of technology

Young People talked to us about the ways in which they work together on social networking services, particularly for revision and homework. They want more opportunities to use technology to support their peers and potentially other learners – younger pupils as well as teachers, parents, carers and governors.
Students want to be supported in using online platforms and sites to develop their school councils and other student organised initiatives such as internet radio shows, online magazines and blog sites.

4.  More flexible use/internet access – in schools, the city centre, and in local communities

Students want to be able to use technology and connect to the school network and internet from anywhere in their school. They tell us they do not like only being able to use computers in ICT suites. They want to see greater use of mobile devices – laptops, netbooks, tablets and phones.

5.  Laptop borrowing schemes for home use

Young people told us that going online and working collaboratively with their friends via their mobiles and computers was really helpful, and they did not think it was fair that some young people didn’t have good access so could not develop the skills to use technology effectively. They understand that not every family can afford computers and internet access, and that when money was very tight these would not be seen as priorities.
They also say that computer and internet access at home is really important to them to research and complete homework, and to talk to other people about lessons and exams.

6.  More collaboration with young people in other schools and countries

Young people told us about their positive experience of talking to students online from other countries, and learning about other cultures and ways of thinking about the world.

7.  Access to local and national decision makers via social media and social networking sites

Young people told us they want more opportunities to have a say in how decisions are made in schools, across the city and at national level. They would like to be able to use social media sites to talk about the issues that concern them with decision makers.

8.  ‘Young people only’ space in the city centre with computers and internet access

Young people would like a space that they can meet friends and drop in to use a range of technologies, learn new skills and work on either their school work or their own interests. They would like access to support but space to do things in their own time and at their own pace.

9.  Teachers who can help them use social media and social networking services and sites more effectively

Nearly all of the young people we talked to have social networking profiles and use social networks or social media sites. Many of them have friends who have been bullied online, or have been bullied themselves. Young people recognise that technology can be used in negative ways and would like support in dealing with online bullying. They would like more information and support in managing their online privacy.

10.  A say in school filtering and blocking policies

Students tell us that they would like to see fewer restrictions on accessing sites in their schools. They feel that many sites that would be useful for learning are currently blocked. They also want to be able to access games and social media sites in break times.

The full report lists and expands on young people’s top 15 priorities for the school environment, and young people’s top 10 learning technology priorities:

Download Learner Voice in Leicester City 2012 (Word)

Download Learner Voice in Leicester City 2012 (PDF)

Connected Libraries

Leicester City Council is organising and running an exciting project for secondary school librarians and Learning Resource Centre (LRC) managers, in partnership with De Montfort University’s Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT). The LRC Connect project supports the Leicester Building Schools for the Future Programme ICT priorities Space & Place, CPD & Innovation, Networked Learning & Communities, and Information Management.

The initial event runs on Friday May 4 2012, and secondary schools across the city will be taking part. The event provides a great opportunity for school librarians to meet and network and discuss the latest thinking, research and practice. The hands on workshop brings together leading experts from across the UK to work with school LRC/library staff to focus on a range of issues, including:

• What is the role of the LRC in a digital age?
• What is the latest thinking around LRC design and use of space?
• What kind of digital search, evaluation and study skills do learners need?
• How are school libraries around the country meeting the challenge of ‘Google and Wikipedia by default’?

In addition to providing staff across the city with an opportunity to compare and share practice, the event provides an opportunity to reflect on the relevance and use of technology for learners and the relationship of their role and of the school library to digital environments.

Organisers & Speakers





Josie Fraser
Josie Fraser is a UK-based Social and Educational Technologist, currently working for Leicester City Council as ICT Strategy Lead (Children’s Capital). She leads on ICT for the City’s multi-million pound Building Schools for the Future programme, designed to raise learner engagement, achievement and aspiration, and deliver inspiring and effective community centred learning environments.

This project is one in a range of initiatives designed to make sure schools in Leicester are at the forefront in the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) for learning.  Leicester aspires to be an online, connected learning city, and the BSF Programme is equipping our schools with world class technologies – and enabling Leicester City Council to support staff in developing the skills and confidence to match. The event is designed to support  staff working in school libraries and learning resource centres, who have a crucial role to play in supporting their communities in continuing to develop the confidence and skills necessary to access, evaluate and apply information.

Josie on Twitter @josiefraser

Rachael Guy

Rachael has worked in School Libraries for 12 years -7 at Merchant Taylors School  and 5 at Berkhamsted School – where she is Head of Learning Resources ( Libraries and Archives).  She has an appetite for new digital technology and social communication media within a learning development framework and pedagogy and my vision is to develop a 21st century dynamic learning environment.

Rachael will be talking about practical approaches and lessons learnt: New technologies and resources to support staff, faculties and learners

The talk will offer an insight into the work – pitfalls, challenges and achievements – Berkhamsted School are experiencing with digital literacy ( from KS3 – Sixth form)  and new technologies. Within the presentation I will focus and share best practice on the KS3 support framework, our future developments for KS4, and the strategy for Sixth Form. Across this framework I will refer to new technologies and resources introduced over the last two years alongside further plans for the future.

Rachel on Twitter – @berkholibrarian

Berkhamsted School Library blog





Richard Hall is the Head of ELT, based in the Directorate of Library Services at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. He is also a National Teaching Fellow (2009) and a Reader in Education and Technology (2010). Richard is a Research Associate in the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at DMU. He is responsible for the academic implementation of ELT with the aim of enhancing the student learning experience.

Richard on Twitter @Hallymk1

DMU Learning Exchanges blog





Laura Taylor, BLib, MSc Econ., MCLIP, has worked throughout her 35 year career in children’s, schools and school library services. She has been involved in developing a number of new school libraries including her own in her last post at the City of London Academy, Southwark. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience having visited numerous school libraries across the country and networking with colleagues via the School Librarians’ Network, her role on CILIP’s School Libraries’ Group, and as an SSAT Lead Practitioner and consultant for Academy Libraries. Her particular interests are in developing libraries at the heart of the school and she sees it as essential that school librarians seize the opportunities presented by digital technologies to ensure that their libraries are embedded in the curriculum and equipped to enthuse and engage students in their reading for pleasure and information.  She currently is working freelance as a library advisor/consultant with Taylormade Libraries.

Laura will be talking about Design issues and considerations in Learning Resource Centre/library physical and digital spaces.

Laura will be looking at examples of good and bad design/layout, helping us to consider what makes a good school library/LRC, and raising questions about how we can incorporate new technologies to develop our services and our roles as school librarians.

Taylormade Libraries





David White

David manages the University of Oxford  Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning unit and has worked at the intersection of learning and technology for many years. David researches the approaches students take when engaging with the web for their learning. He is interested in how the availability of content and the opportunity to connect online is repositioning the role of educational institutions.

David will talk about What students know they don’t know online.

Drawing on interviews undertaken with late stage secondary pupils this talk will outline some of the ways in which students are using the web to learn and to complete homework. David will describe what he calls the ‘Learning Black Market’, some of the concerns students have around the validity of information online and the fine line between collaboration and plagiarism when discussing homework in social media.

Developing digital literacies in practice


Picture Credit: Scaffolding by Victoria Pickering

Last week I took part in The Guardian Higher Education Network's Developing Digital Literacy in HE live chat. How we defining digital literacy obviously shapes how we take work in this area forward, and I added the definition I use to the conversation:

Currently, my favourite definition is the one Sarah Knight uses here and in the recent Guardian article:

digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society

The definition I use most frequently is based on the version introduced by the wonderful Tabitha Newman in her still pertinent 2009 presentation Digital Literacy literature review: from terminology to action:

The 'short hand' definition I most frequently use is this one:

Digital Literacy =
digital tool knowledge +
critical thinking +
social engagement

My version only changes Tabitha's in the last point – she uses the term 'social awareness' whereas I'd always use the term 'social engagement' or even 'social activism', to highlight the importance of real world practice and activity as critical to socially situated digital literacy. Digital literacy is not just about supporting learners to understand and engage with the world, but about enabling learners to challenge, shape and change their worlds.

JISC adviser Helen Beetham replied to my definition post with a great link and a summery of how we can go about translating our aspirations for digital literacy into practice:

 Hello Josie, thanks for the chance to come out in public and admit to coining that definition – along with my colleagues Allison Littlejohn and Lou McGill, in our report Thriving in the C21st.

More important than our definition, I stick by what we concluded about actually developing digital literacies in practice, that it requires:

– providing authentic contexts for practice, including digitally-mediated contexts
– individual scaffolding and support
– making practices of meaning-making explicit
– anticipating and helping learners manage conflict between different practice contexts
recognising and helping learners integrate their prior conceptions and practices

Anyone doing all that? I thought not. But it's very important to me that the Developing Digital Literacies programme involves groups of staff that have always taken this person-centred, culturally-situated approach to student development i.e. careers/employability staff, and learning development/learning skills staff. As well as student-facing staff in libraries of course.

I'm currently developing and rolling out a city-wide digital literacy programme across Leicester's Secondary Schools, as part of my role with Leicester City Council as ICT Strategy Lead for Children's Capital. One of the approaches I am taking is to work with the schools to talk about and to design a range of activities that support the development of digital literacy in the context of meeting challenges and solving problems faced by school communities. I'll write more about these and the process of supporting them as we get further along – there are some really exciting projects – but in this post I'm going to focus on the framework I'm using with schools to structure conversation around the ways in which developing skills, and reviewing or introducing new policies and processes can meet current needs and support learner outcomes.

The topics have been identified and developed in discussion with schools and with a range of individuals, governing bodies and working groups. They act as development framework markers to frame discussion, activity and research, and to structure the ongoing review of projects and commissioning taking place at individual school and estate-wide level.

The bullet points are indicative of areas that actions might be agreed and developed with schools to address. The majority of the 25 secondary (supporting students between 11 and 16 years old) have completed their first draft of actions and from these a range of activities and projects – either at individual schools, or where shared interests and issues have been identified, across clusters of schools, subject areas, or role.

Space & Place

  • Ensuring the best possible use is made of digital environments in relation to the physical environment of the school buildings and grounds in supporting learning and teaching.
  • Ensuring access and active participation as appropriate for all members of the school community from any location via both school and user owned internet connected devices; recognising that the function and role of the school is not confined to the school grounds and restricted by the school day.
  • Increasing the numbers of parents and carers actively engaging with and contributing to school activities.
  • Ensuring schools’ digital presence supports whole school community development, takes full advantage of engagement opportunities and keeps it’s community well informed of activities.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Innovation

  • Identifying and addressing ICT training strengths and weaknesses at estate-wide and local school level.
  • Raising the level of skills and confidence across the estate to ensure schools and individual staff are equipped to recognise and take advantage of opportunities for technology to support and enhance learning, teaching and school management.
  • Promoting and supporting learner-centred and learner-led practice and pedagogy.
  • Supporting staff in modelling effective and positive uses of technology for both learners and peers.
  • Targeting the development of staff skills, competencies and confidence to support innovative and effective use of technology by learners.

Network Learning and Communities

  • Supporting staff and learners to participate within, develop, create and manage collaborative web and mobile based networks.
  • Ensuring staff and learners are equipped with the skills to support their own developmental personal learning networks.
  • Supporting and developing collaborative working practices and activities between learners across schools, the city, nationally and internationally, including learner-organised activity.
  • Supporting learners to utilise mobile and social technologies and practices for learning.
  • Embedding a whole community approach to school practice and engagement in decision making.
  • Ensure digital environments are safe and inclusive, support and promote equality of access for all members.

Information Management

  • Supporting a city wide, robust approach to information management school policy and practices which address the management, handling, storage and disposal of data legally, effectively and safety.
  • Managing the move to cloud based services and storage.
  • Planning and support for the management of User Owned Devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) across the school estate.
  • Promoting the creation and use of Open Education Resources.
Green ICT

  • Ensuring a robust and accessible approach to Green ICT issues in schools, focusing on reducing unnecessary energy consumption and using technology to support schools in developing a culture of practical engagement with energy reduction.
  • Ensuring that energy consumption data can be easily and effectively used to support the curriculum and evidence the schools commitment to ensuring energy consumption is kept to a minimum.
  • Supporting effective user engagement programmes which allow learners and staff to manage their school environment.

e-Safety and Cyberbullying

  • Ensure robust internal education, policy and processes are in place to effectively address e-safety and cyberbullying with regard to awareness, prevention, reporting, incident reporting, response and sanctions.
  • Ensure that issues are addressed through whole community education and discussion, and responsible and safe use of technologies is addressed across the curriculum, wherever appropriate.
  • Ensure that discussion, planning and accounts for the schools wider responsibility to learners and employees, and activity taking place outside of the school day, premises and networks are recognised and action taken where the school has responsibility/liability.
  • Ensure that e-safety and cyberbullying guidance and activity accounts for the ways in which learners are using technologies, and that information, policy and planning remains up to date and relevant, and that learners are actively involved in shaping and supporting the schools approach.
  • Ensure that the needs of vulnerable learners are identified and met.

TeachMeet SEN 2012


Tickets here!

I'm very excited to be organising TeachMeet SEN 2012 – or TMSEN12, a meetup talking place later this month on Saturday 28th of January, in Leicester's lovely Phoenix Square.

What's a TeachMeet?

A TeachMeet is an informal meet up of people working in and passionate about education – they support grassroots professional development. Events are framed by short talks and demos from people working within education – sharing practice that works. You can check out the Wikipedia definition here.

Practitioner talk and demo slots at TMEN12 are typical of TeachMeet talk lengths – 7 minute micro presentations or 2 minute mini presentations. These are short to encourage a wide range and diversity of contribution, to make sure as many people attending as possible get the opportunity to share, and to make joining in more accessible and less scary for people who have never spoken at an event before.

What's different about TMSEN12?

1. This is a Special Education Needs (SEN) focused TeachMeet. Learners with SEN are a significant and diverse group, and we expect the first SEN focused TeachMeet to be an exciting one – reflecting the creativity, enthusiasm and the wide range of knowledge and approaches of practitioners.

2. This is the first face-to-face SEN focused TeachMeet. There was an online TeachMeet for Additional Support Needs/Special Education Needs back in April 2009. We are very proud to be continuing the tradition.

3. We recognise that parents and carers play an important role in supporting children and young peoples education, and that while parent and carer partnership with schools are always important, parents and carers sometimes play a particularly critical role in supporting learners with SEN. We also recognise that parents and carers of learners with SEN may home school. Because of this, we are also inviting parents and carers who would like to share effective practice to come along.

Is TMSEN12 just for SENCos and people who work at SEN Schools?

No! Every school supports learners with SEN.

What kind of thing do people talk about/demo at TeachMeet?

All sorts of things! You might speak about a really useful app, web tool or site; a technique that supports listening or speaking; an interesting and successful project; how you capture or share achievement; a simple, little change that has made all the difference to your learners; something you've created or a resource someone else has shared.

I think TeachMeet SEN is a great idea! How can I support it?

Excellent! Here are 7 ways you can help us:

1. Sign up to present your ingenious and effective practice. Come along and share.

Get your free ticket here, and then head over to the wiki to tell us what you will be presenting on.

2. Sign up to encourage and support. Get your free ticket here.

3. Tell people and organisation who need to know about TMEN12 – send them a link, encourage them to sign up to speak. We really appreciate it!

4. Tag your favorite blog posts, resources and ideas: Use #TMSEN12 on Twitter, TMSEN12 on Delicious. Let us know what and where else you tag resources. We will curate and share!

5. Watch the live stream and join in the debate on Twitter. The link will magically appear here and across the web nearer the time.

6. Sponsor TMSEN12! Help towards the event costs/resource for sponsor credit. Get in touch to find out more.

7. Suggest other ways you/people can support and celebrate TMEN12. Share your ideas!


Should you friend your students? The short answer is no

Earlier this year I delivered a further cyberbullying guidance document on behalf of Childnet International for the UK Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families. The Guidance follows up (and designed to compliment) cyberbullying guidance, a comprehensive document  that formed part of the Safe To Learn: Embedding anti-bullying work in schools suite of advice. While the initial document was really well received both within the UK & internationally, teachers unions and associations were increasingly being asked to deal with school employee cyberbullying cases – in which the staff member was the person being victimised. I welcomed the opportunity to produce further guidance which would both support employees in term of basic digital literacy information and encourage employers to meet their statutory obligations. The document set out, ambitiously, to encourage policy and procedure be put in place for preventing and dealing with cyberbullying as a whole school community issue – which includes meeting and recognising the specific needs, rights and responsibilities of employees. In no other area of harassment would it be acceptable for an employee to be expected to deal with cases that rose within the work place on their own – yet the reports from school staff included cases where cyberbullying was not taken seriously or understood, and where they had been expected to sort out situations for themselves.

Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff (PDF) was released in April this year (Google doc version here).  I've been talking about the document a lot recently, and I want to just explore in a little more detail the thinking behind the advice given to school employees regarding friending students in social networking services. The actual text is (with my emphasis):

‘Friending’ refers to the act of giving contacts permission to view information or contact you within web-based services. The terminology will vary from service to service – ‘Friends’ may be called contacts or connections, for example. Most social sites enable you to give different levels of access and set privacy levels on your own content and activity. These functions will vary from service to service but typically include:
•     Information that is only available to the account holder
•     Information that is accessible by contacts on the account
holder’s approved list, and
•     Information that is made publicly available, either within
the service or across the whole of the internet.

‘Friends’ does not necessarily refer in this case to people who are your actual friends, although you may choose to restrict your connections to that. ’Friends’ in this context may also be work colleagues, family members, and people that you have met online.

If you have a social networking account, do not friend pupils or add them to your contact lists. You may be giving them access to personal information and allowing them to contact you inappropriately. They may also be giving you access to their personal information and activities

So the text above outlines three basic levels of permissions granularity that can be found on most sites, gives a definition of friending, and very explicitly says don't friend pupils. This is explicitly prescriptive advice, based on the case studies reviewed during the document negotiations, and an implicit understanding that the school staff accounts referred to are either personal, or contain elements of personal activity (I previously posted on a definition of three basic online identities, characterised as personal, professional, and organisational).

The approach taken then – don't friend pupils – reflects the kind of boundaries between staff and learners that we'd expect to see in offline behavior. You wouldn't expect a teacher to give a school aged pupil their home phone number, show them pictures of their friends or regale them with the weekends social exploits. Obviously friending isn't the only issue here – managing publicly available information so that you are comfortable with what co-workers, learners and employers can access about you is also addressed in the document. The research and anecdotal evidence indicates that we operate within social network services as if we were in a closed, private world. This isn't naive – I think it's a necessary fiction which makes social networking services human spaces. The do not friend advice is there to reinforce the message that private online is typically back of a post-card private, especially if we are within environments where we're not entirely sure who has permission to see what (*cough*Facebook*cough). It also reflects the leakiness of our online identities, the way in which the personal is often hand in hand with the professional.

What the advice isn't trying to do is to put anyone off evaluating social networking services to see if they could support learning & teaching effectively. The advice goes on to state:

If you want to use web-based social networking sites for a class or for the whole school, use a service that doesn’t give contacts access to personal information and updates, or allows collaboration without requiring permissions.

Alternatively ask pupils to create new, work-focused accounts for themselves, and run them as they would an online portfolio or CV.

You can find more information and advice about Social Network Services at