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Jan 24

Digital Leaders badge learning with Mozilla

Mozilla badges freshen up learning for Digital Leaders, writes Bob Harrison

 picbadgethon

In what was a perfect antidote to the stuffy and tired format of last week’s Westminster Education Forum on the Priority Schools Building Programme, the Digital Leaders’ Badgethon at Mozilla Space proved a refreshing and inspiring contrast over in London’s Covent Garden. Mozilla Space is a light, airy, funky, fun and digitech learning space which went down very well with Digital Leaders and teachers from a number of schools, like Barbak, Dylan and Liam from John Henry Newman school (above).

The Digital Leaders movement was initiated several years ago by two young teachers, Kristian Still, of Hamble College, and Dan Stucke, of Stretford High, with Initial support provided by Toshiba and Vital. The SSAT supported and extended the Digital Leader Network until it hit its own financial problems and that is where Sheli Blackburn a primary ICT teacher/adviser picked up the torch and started the Digital Leaders Network firstly as a Google group which now has its own web presence:

Digital Open Badges are the brainchild of Tim Riches, who was also one of the founders of the popular RadioWaves service. In partnership with Mozilla and with funding from the Nominet Trust, the scheme was set up so that pupils cold receive some acknowledgement  and accreditation of the real learning that takes place outside the formal learning organised inside schools.

At the Whole Education Conference in 2012 Tim Riches, from Digital Me, gave an interview about the Mozilla Open Badges scheme “What’s in a badge”. And the prospect of collaborations between Digital Leaders and Open Badges germinated in Tim’s mind.

‘We are looking to introduce badges to acknowledge learning and motivate students’

So last week around 50 pupils and teachers gathered in the inspiring Mozilla Space in Covent Garden to design and develop some Digital Badges which will be made available to all schools. Ryan Guest one of the eight members of the dedicated elearning  team at Shireland, where headteacher Sir Mark Grundy has been a long-standing visionary in the effective use of technology to enhance learning, said: “Our young people’s elearning network helps us assess what learning resources will be helpful in supporting learning and advise us about procurement.”

Shireland Academy assistant principal George Faux was delighted with the work of the DLs. “Elearning has made a significant contribution to how we have raised standards at Shireland,” he said, “and the Digital Leaders have been an integral part of that effort”,

Why is George Faux SO interested in Digital Badges for Shireland Academy? “Our curriculum is competency-based, and is built on cross-curricular themes and we are looking to introduce badges to acknowledge learning and motivate students,” he said. “Badges can be a strong motivator but they need to be seen to have value.”

Babak, Dylan, Liam and Tom, Year 8 and 9 Digital Leaders from John Henry Newman School in Solihull needed no convincing about the value of Digital Leaders. “I like helping people learn with technology” said Babak, whilE Liam was even more enthusiastic: “It’s the best thing I have done at school so far. We get to trial, test and create software and that will give me great experience for my future career.”

Dylan particularly liked helping teachers: “I like helping teachers understand how to use the tablets and use them to help them teach,” Daniel Harvey, director of digital learning at John Henry Newman, was pleased with the work of his digital leaders; “They have helped shape the ICT policy at the school, trained staff, delivered TeachMeets and taught pupils in our feeder primary schools. Open badges are a great idea and give pupils rewards and show the value of learning.”

Digital Leaders are a necessary part of the ICT team you have in a school

Tim Riches from Digital Me explained what happens next. “We will continue to work with our partners in this exciting project to refine the children’s ideas for digital badges and convert them into accessible and recognised records of learning which will be valuable to the pupils themselves,” he said.

Jon Audain, senior lecturer at Winchester University, promotes the value of Digital Leaders to his student teachers. “Digital Leaders are a necessary part of the ICT team you have in a school,” he explained. “Children possess the immense potential to impact on the daily work teachers do within their classrooms. Digitally, children have access to more free time than the adults who surround them. They can devote time to demonstrating the potential of technology or software, and furthermore can give you a grassroots impression as to whether something will work before it is implemented across the school.

“If technology is going to move a generation of teachers and teaching ideology, then we must begin to listen to the youngsters instead of telling them what we think they should learn based on an out-of-date curriculum written for a different age. Digital Leaders can bridge the gap, support staff, teach their peers and explain the benefits of technology. It provides children with opportunities to showcase their talents in technology, reinforcing their value and usefulness for the future as an employable skill. Implementing a Digital Leader scheme in a school not only provides opportunities but a voice for the direction of new learning and technology.”

The original post can be seen here.

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