First steps: what I would do if I was the Digital Strategist?

Jane Basnett

Jane Basnett is head of MFL at Downe House, a successful Independent Girls School in Berkshire. She has been teaching for almost 20 years and is still learning. She achieved an MA in Digital Technology for Language Teaching at Nottingham University.

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Jane Basnett, Downe House’s head of MFL, returns to Innovate My School with a follow up to her piece on digital strategy. In this article, she discusses which methods she would implement to get the most out of the position.

So, here I am, in my not-so-new, not-state-of-the-art office with my brand new role of Digital Strategist. I need to oversee the implementation of a good Digital Strategy and in my original brief to my employer I stated that, in the first place, I would look at the teaching and learning that goes on. Now, I know that there is a great deal of good practice going on behind closed doors all round the school site. How to go about sharing it and making people open to such collaboration is another task.

For many there is a dislike and some mistrust about sharing ideas; it links, unfortunately, to the idea of lesson observation. There is nothing wrong with lesson observation per se, however, it has become synonymous with grading for staff and the dreaded OFSTED inspection. Lesson observation often sits uncomfortably in the mind-set of some colleagues. This is a small fence to overcome but I think I have the key to open the gate.

Let us start with some in-house Teach Meets; moments in the week where colleagues can come together and see what others are up to in their classrooms. A short informal meeting at which anyone can present an idea, a resource, a teaching methodology and anyone can attend simply to listen and learn. It is a very easy, non-threatening way to get started on the idea of sharing and collaborating. At first, I predict that they will come to listen and then slowly, but surely, they will feel able to share their ideas. There will doubtless be those who want to share what they are doing using technology and those who will be able to suggest enhancements to ideas either with or without technology. The goal at this stage is to encourage and embolden the teaching community to embrace a sharing and collaborative culture.

With these small baby-steps in place, the next step is to introduce the world of social media and in particular twitter. The 140 character twittersphere is a fine forum through which to extend the idea of sharing and collaborating and to alert colleagues to the idea that good teaching is going on in classrooms across the country and further afield. It is CPD at its very best and it’s easy to get started.

To back up all this good work, we will need a blog which will be a resource for those who are not so technologically savvy to turn to for advice, as well as those who are happy in the company of technology; to look at and remind themselves of just what can be done. It will be an online dictionary, if you will, that will list the useful websites, and apps that colleagues should search for to enhance what they are doing in their classrooms. In addition, it will be a blog that encourages further cooperation and teamwork, and that looks to spread good ideas about teaching methodology incorporating technology that will ultimately assist pupils’ learning.

Of course, creating our staff blog has a dual purpose; encouraging colleagues to use the very tools that the pupils themselves will need to employ as they move up the school into further education and beyond is paramount.

Admittedly these are just small steps, but it is this approach that is going to lay down the solid foundations needed to support teachers’ integration of technology into instruction and improve teachers’ pedagogical skills. These initial first steps will enable all my colleagues to make full use of technology that will lead to more engaging, relevant, meaningful and personalised learning, all of which will enable greater focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills which will lead to higher academic achievement.

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