Many organisations use the idea of digital champions to embed new, tech-led, approaches to their services.
In schools, or in school districts, many have adopted the idea of recruiting a range of digital champions and embed them right across the school or across the district so that each school year or each department has someone responsible for driving change and digital technologies into the everyday work of the rest of the organisation. They lead change by doing; drive the process though delivery.
So if your school should hit on the idea of digital champions, what should those people actually do?
Here’s a cheat sheet of tasks which you can use as a check list or even as the basis of a job spec to recruit digital champions and get them to work.
Develop and embed the culture and practice of digital and, possibly even blended, learning models across the school.
Identify the needs of individual teachers and support staff, providing effective coaching and team teaching support to develop a model of sustainable self-sufficiency
Model, advocate and support the development of teachers’ online personal learning networks
Provide information, training and support for parents to ensure their familiarity with, and confidence in, the blended learning initiative and the benefits of digital learning
Liaise with the school’s parental engagement teams to ensure that parents are fully integrated in the digitisation process and empowered to support and facilitate their children’s learning
Promote the use of the school’s Digital Learning Platform across the school, by staff, parents and students
Work with the school’s Curriculum Co-ordinator(s) and all teachers to ensure the effective integration of digital learning tools and practices across the curriculum
Be responsible for researching, reviewing and advising on digital content to be provided on the school’s platform, in liaison with other colleagues
Oversee Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives across the school
Engage proactively with other digital champions in the school and in the district to share best practice
Many organisations use the idea of digital champions to embed new, tech-led, approaches to their services.
It might be a threat to teaching jobs or a blessed relief from a tedious chore, but an Australian academic study claims that software can be just as good as human when marking essays.
The testing of the testers was done by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which looked at essays typed directly into computers for the country’s standardised tests, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).
Those typed essays, ACARA believes, are suited to automated marking because they have “criteria that target lexical properties of essays (sentence structure, paragraphing, punctuation and spelling), criteria that target semantic properties of essays (audience and ideas) and criteria that explicitly target successful interplay of lexical and semantic features of writing (test structures and cohesion).”
ACARA’s research paper (PDF) is based on the premise that such automated software is proven to and designed for assessing those qualities, so the Authority decided to give four vendors a run and compare their assessments to those of human essay markers.
To help train their systems the four vendors were provided with 1,014 essays plus scores provided by human markers. The vendors were then handed 339 essays to mark with their automated systems.
Try the pdf for the methodology, but ACARA concluded that “the investigation showed that at both the rubric criteria and total score levels, the four marking systems provided satisfactory (equivalent or better) results relative to human marking.”
Given that ACARA is planning a lot more onlone testing so the research is significant, although perhaps a little bleak for those teachers hoping to pick up the extra cash for exam marking this summer.
Many schools are getting to grips with teaching coding, but the resources available, while numerous, can be difficult for any teacher to get their head around. There’s different approaches and different languages to learn, and it can be hard to work out what is most suitable.
The tendency is to think ‘what do kids like?’ and then attach the coding skills to that. Hence the newly announced partnership to help pupils learn to code with Minecraft. Using a system called Blockly, rather than text instructions, pupils can use the game mechanics to build up their understanding of coding. Alternatively, you can learn to code with Star Wars, or with the Raspberry Pi.
Such things can take you so far, and with certain groups – to fully emerse yourself in any language, you need to offer a variety of challenges that will engage everyone in the classroom.
And these are not bad places to start – some are just starting points, while some are simply guides to further resources. None will make you, or your students, coding geniuses, but they will help give some structure to your learning.
Code.org was launched a couple of years ago to push for wider access to computer science learning in schools, but is relevant here not for its campaigning but for its resources, from lessons like the K-8 Introduction to Computer Science, to the collection of tutorials from a range of sources.
EdSurge Guide To Teaching Kids To Code
The EdSurge Guide to Teaching Kids to Code is a pretty all-encompassing guide to coding resources, largely from the point of view of parents. The best place to begin is, unsurprisingly,”Teaching Coding: Where Do You Start?” but there’s around 50 very decent resources to use.
Blogging.com’s Coding for Kids Resources
From Blogging.com this is an admirable and hugely useful collection of best links, guides, apps and resources from around the web to help kids learn to code and to help parents/educators do the teaching.
Awesome Coding Resources From Google
Made With Code by Google: Google have a mission encourage girls into the computer sciences. And they’ve made it a great place to start, for brand new and intermediate coders. It has projects which are easy to follow, with a very decent Resources section, which is updated regularly.
MIT Media Lab
MIT Media Lab’s Scratch Team offers up support for Scratch, one of the most popular coding tools for youngsters, and built to help those with little or no experience of coding, but who want to jump right in. It lets students create animations and stories with building blocks that mimic the structure of computer code. It’s pretty simple for beginners, but there’s a guide to help everyone get started.
Hour of Code
Tynker’s Hour of Code Free Activities is a set of games for pupils to pick up basic ‘computational thinking and programming skills’, centred around the Hour of Code offering. A good section for parents section too.
Common Sense Media Tools
The excellent Common Sense Media group have a typically sensible and moderated selection of Apps and Websites for Learning Programming and Coding with reviews and insights from teachers which will act as a pleasingly strict guide.
Be A Code Avenger!
CodeAvengers is an online platform will enthuse those hard-to-reach kids who want, most of all, to learn to code games, apps, and websites. There is over 100 hours of lessons on how to code.
Check out W3Schools
W3Schools is a series of free online tutorials to help older kids (and adults) learn individual coding skills. You can pick and choose what you want to learn, rather than going through a series of specific courses (as is often the case) – especially useful if you already have some skills but want to fill in the gaps.
Kodable is designed for those aged 5. It’s a visual programming curriculum that makes it easy for kids to learn to code even if they can’t yet read. The app is free, but has the, dreaded, in-app purchases, done via a school or class licence.
Do you know any better? Add your favourites to the comments below and we’ll add the best to the page.
The chances are that if you’re over 25, you’ve missed them. A whole range of seemingly invisible, yet hugely famous, people. Massive audiences, but no TV or radio shows, and very little coverage in the mainstream media.
These are the new stars of online platforms – people who have built up massive, and lucrative, online audiences of tens of millions yet seem to be under the radar to parents and even older siblings. You may have heard of the YouTuber phenomenon, but do you know their names? And the Periscope-famous? And the Vine stars?
So treat this as a quick guide to the people your students know about, but you’re not supposed to. Drop their names into lessons casually. Just let them know how hip you are. Just don’t use words like ‘hip’.
He’s hit 10 billion views on his YouTube channel, and is the first to do so, so while some may view him as old-school already, he’s still raking in the numbers. Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg is a Swedish comedian and producer. At 26 he defines the excesses of the YouTuber market.
The third largest YouTube channel with 225m monthly views. It’s hidden creator is an ‘unboxer’. He/she opens toys and videos the process. One estimate has it that whoever it is earns ‘seven figures’ for doing so. Opens toys. Seven figures. Go and tell that to the careers advisor.
It’s all about the numbers. Eleanora Pons is 19 makes six second videos on the Vine platform, and her little vignettes have been ‘looped’ (watched) 7.3billion times. Over 9 million people watch her little jokes and sketches.
This Canadian gamer, also known as The Odd One, plays long gaming sessions on the Twitch platform, live for his audiences to watch, around 185 million times. Again, he has made enough money (from gaming, I repeat) that he has no fear about where his next pizza is coming from til around 2045.
‘Stampy’ is (obviously) a cat character, the guise of another gamer Joseph Garrett, British this time, who concentrates on Minecraft game – and 6.6m people subscribe to watch him potter round. Garrett is preparing to launch a second channel, Stampy School, which concentrates on education.
Oleander is a multi-channel performer, on Instagram, YouTube and the rest, but is of note because of her swift adoption of Periscope. She has collected 34 million likes (or hearts in Periscope-land) over 300,000 followers on the new channel, where they watch her marathon sessions.
Definition of Blog:
- noun – a web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other web sites.
- verb – to maintain or add new entries to a blog.
Courtesy of Dictionary.com
We’ve spoken before on this site about the benefits of blogging for your school or education district. It can, in short, be a great way to break down the complexities of the school day – the targets, the pedagogy, the learning outcomes, the socialisation, the enrichments – into bite-size chunks which use none of those words and speak to your audience, primarily parents, in ways they understand.
In other words, it’s a great way to speak about education, while speaking ‘normal’.
It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to your audience (parents, prospective parents, pupils and colleagues) and to ‘humanise’ your work. To make them think of you as a good person, just trying to do good things…
But to get this blogging lark done right, there’s a number of things to consider
Why? What’s it all about? What’s it all for?
What is the topic of your blog post?
What is the point of your blog post? You may already have a topic, but the point will drive your blog post. What conclusion do you want people to reach?
Are you going to include a Call to Action? (Do you want people to respond to your post with comments or suggestions?
What are you going to call it?
You will want a catchy title. Something that intrigues the reader to click on the link to your blog and/or to start reading it but is also not too long. You may want to use strong (but not fruity) language, alliteration, or another literary tactic to grab your audience. You would also want to consider how that title will resonate in search – does it use the words that people normally use to talk about that subject?
Get the style and tone right
You’ll need an editorial style guide of some kind, but, in general, the tone and style of a blog post needs to be informal, and more so than the ‘corporate’ communications that comes from elsewhere in your organisation. This is not a research paper and definitely not a time for pedadogical ruminations. You should write this as if you are writing to a friend; it should feel personal and be in plain language.
This is a time when using personal pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ will benefit your blog post. They help make the blog more feel more personal, like you are having a one on one conversation with the reader.
Make sure there’s images and links
Include images! Images will help make your text more engaging. Include links to create more depth to your blog. If there are supplementary materials you can link to, an event website, video of an event, etc. Use these items to help tell your story and make your point.
The general recommendation is a blog should be between 300-600 words. When a blog post is much more than 600 words studies show people tend to stop reading.
Don’t forget to spread the word
Writing a blog without trying to ‘market’ it is like writing a letter without bothering to post it. Email, tweet, post, link – just make sure that you connect this with your networks, both professional and personal.
And watch the reactions
Once you’ve posted, see what the reaction is – what topics get people re-tweeting, commenting, liking and so on. Not that you should just keep on on those topics (there’s a law of dwindling returns), but see what sort of tone, topic and approach seems to hit people’s buttons.
The best way to get on with it? Try it here.
You’ll know Pinterest, the social network which allows you to share and comment on visual material, which could be photographs, sketches, videos or web pages. It’s a visual scrapbook, an aggregation tool – and, usefully, there are no copyright issues either. In fact, sharing from other people’s websites is the whole point.
Content is organised around boards, split into themes. In education, you can use it to:
- Compile content – words, pictures, audio, video…
- Organise and store ideas
- Connect and comment on students’ work
- Make connections with other teachers and get ideas for future projects
- Create group projects: community boards can be perfect for collaborative projects
To understand how to get the best from Pinterest, this, from WorldWideLearn, is as handy a graphic as you’ll see, on how and where to deploy it best.
You’ll have seen the hashtags for educational Twitter chats, #edchat this or #edutech that, where like-minded education-types gather for a pre-determined digital appointment to exchange questions, answers and ideas.
Try here for a full guide to existing education Twitter chats.
They are a great way to build and join communities to share issues of common relevance. They often generate a lot of activity and build great connections across the community, and with the host, allowing that host to build a greater social following, and build your own reputation for thought leadership in your part of the ‘industry’.
So how do you build up a regular, quality education Twitter chat?
Ask yourself why
Why am you hosting this? What is it you want to achieve? Hosting an opinion-led conversation in a public space can be tricky if opinions lead to arguments. Given the potential hassle, you need to have a clear vision as to why you want to build and run a professional Twitter gathering and what you want from it.
Learn the process
Do you know how Twitter chats work? You’ll need to learn the etiquette and lingo of Twitter chats – the best way to do that is to participate in others, on similar topics. Participants in those will join yours too, if you’re not obviously trying to cut across them, that is.
Think about timing
What’s the optimum time to run them? Will your chats be weekly, monthly or opportunistic? Be consistent, in whatever timing you choose and make sure it fits the majority of your audience – when they will have the time to participate.
Pick a hashtag
Your hashtag will define your community so make it simple, relevant, concise and unique (so far as possible). You may want to define yourself by geography (so use the name of your district), by the issue you want to discuss (a subject or technology). Choose carefully.
What’s your angle?
There’s plenty of education chats on Twitter already, so make sure yours fills a gap that no-one else does. Find a niche or an angle that offers people real value. Then they’ll come to you.
How will you promote your chat?
Build it and they will come simply doesn’t work, so you have to make sure people know about it. Tweet out beforehand, perhaps, or email colleagues you know will be interested; build a list of people on Twitter you know would be interested and invite them (individually, not spammily). It might take a few sessions to hit your stride, but you’ll find you audience, in the end.
Now it’s time to launch. So:
– Kick off the chat with a welcome tweet that sets the tone. You could schedule that tweet (use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite) to make sure that goes out on time.
– Welcome participants and ask them to introduce themselves. This gets the dialogie going – which is kind of the pointGiven some time for introductions to be made, you’re on to the questions and answers: the reason you’ve brought your audience together to chat.
– Set questions with numbers (Q1) and the answers the same (A1) so that users can make the links.
– Give around 5-10 minutes for the chats around each questions
– Set the minimum number of questions, therefore, at 6, but, if you’ve set an hour for the chat, don’t set more than around 10 questions.
– Make sure that, as the host, you’re prominent, but not dominant.
– Close by thanking everyone, and reminding them of the next chat (and topic of the next conversation if that’s how you do it)
See here for the three best tools for Twitter chats
After you’ve congratulated yourself, it’s time to measure, reflect and learn. You can look at measures like:
– Hashtag mentions
– Participants, both new and old
– Number of contributions
– Growth in Twitter followers
Make sure your measure the same thing each month or week so that you can see progression – but remember to tie those numbers back to your original intention. Are you getting the meaningful conversations, new ideas, engaged community and enhanced reputation that you wanted?
Then carry on…