Learning to walk as a 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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Website: janeebasnett.blogspot.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jane Basnett has written articles previously on how she’d go about implementing digital strategist position. In her third article on the subject, she discusses how to best get the position rolling effectively.

So what next in my hypothetical journey as a school's digital strategist? As a school we are beginning to embrace our TeachMeets and increasingly more staff are beginning to contribute to the meetings. The time slots have been fine tuned so that everyone can attend, no one feels left out, and those staff who previously may not have felt easy about sharing ideas can now be, at least, part of the process. The staff blog is up and running and through this medium we are now reaching the majority of the staff room.

However, there are still mountains to climb, and we will need to go through many stages before we finally make it to the summit. In fact, given the fast pace of change, it is hard to imagine that an actual summit exists. The technological world is fast moving and updates to apps and online tools are constantly changing; this is daunting to the most technologically savvy let alone the technologically resistant.

Thus, how to embrace this technology and help others to want to embrace it? This must be the next step. To ensure that a school can move ahead and implement its digital strategy, it is vital that all the participants feel part of the process, as well as understand that digital strategy is not purely about substituting tried and tested methods with technology just for the sake of it. At this stage it is about getting it right with the teachers and support staff so that they can use technology with contextual confidence; at the right time, in the right place and for the right reasons.

If, for example, they are going to supplement what they usually do in class with some apps or web-based tools they will need to know what tools are available and how they work. Unless a teacher has access to what is available, in particular when it comes to tablets, then they are not going to feel confident let alone contextually confident.

For this reason, my next step should be to introduce my colleagues to some key apps and online tools. Bearing in mind the key principles of Bloom’s taxonomy, my chosen tools will need to reflect and put into practice some of these key stages, and be able not only to substitute what can already be done in class but improve upon it in some way.

The SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) model will, and indeed must, play a key part in developing a school and moving it towards its digital goal. It is imperative that I keep these two key concepts in mind as the school begins its journey towards its digital strategy.

However, back to implementation. This is vital too. Having the ideas is one thing, but bringing the significant players with me is the human side of the role that takes patience, encouragement, enthusiasm and empathy. Patience - because not everyone is going to pick up the ideas or the ability to execute the ideas quickly or willingly. Encouragement - because we all need encouragement to continue doing the good things that we do, and to know that what we are doing is appreciated and will be appreciated by teachers and learners alike. Enthusiasm - because without it I will not bring anyone with me on our mountain climb. Finally, empathy - because, let’s face it, if you have taught for 30 years successfully - why change? I believe this last point is crucial. I can only encourage a naysayer to subscribe to this new technological world if I can understand what is holding them back. Perhaps I need to add one more word to this list? Creativity. Creativity to help me find ways to demonstrate how technology can enhance what is happening in the classroom. This will be crucial in helping to persuade the aforementioned naysayers.

So if I am going to introduce my colleagues to some apps and tools I will need to do this in three steps. Perhaps as a large group first, then in smaller groups and then on a one-to-one level. It will be time consuming but such an effort will be invaluable. It will not take long before there will be others who can spread the word and in the time-honoured tradition of teachers coming back from CPD courses they can cascade information back to their teams.

Undoubtedly, this will all be a slow process but the time and effort will be worth it as we will get it right. Getting a digital strategy right is essential as it means that it will be meaningful and worthwhile for the very learners who are meant to gain from it.

Does your school include a digital strategist? If so, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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