[First published by Headteacher Update magazine January 2014]
Looking for inspiration? You can find it in your children
Here, Matt Brooks, Online and Mobile Learning Leader at Bidston Avenue Primary School, Wirral, shares his experience of hosting a multi-school day sharing ideas and inspiration across 6 schools; both in person and virtually. The best part? It’s the children doing the presentations – and providing the inspiration.
“It was back in May 2013, at the SSAT’s Achievement Show that I met Alan Frame, a Headteacher from Downlands Community School in Dorset. We talked about our Digital Leaders and the impact they were having on our schools. He also mentioned that he was holding a KidsMeet, something that I had heard of, but didn’t know too much about. Before long we’d agreed to try to find a date to hold our own KidsMeets, and link up via Skype. This was the beginning of a fantastic journey.
On November 13th, children from five Wirral schools, St. Andrews CoE Primary, Poulton Lancelyn Primary, Heygarth Primary, The Priory Parish and Hillside Primary, joined us for a whole day. Our original plan was to run the event in a similar way to a TeachMeet, one presenter at a time, sharing their work, a website, an app, or a particular style of learning that they enjoy or helps them to learn. However, after hosting an SSAT Speed Learning event at the beginning of October, we realised that the Speed Learning format works far better – it means that the children would be more active in their learning and could choose topics that were relevant or interested them. SSAT’s Speed Learning works on three principles; first that the entire experience is discussion based so that you are actively involved in learning about every idea. Second, is that every idea focuses on the impact on children’s learning, and third, that you have choice throughout, so you can pick and choose the ideas most relevant to your own classroom, and focus on how you will apply them.
So our day would be made up of ‘get to know you’ activities; two Speed Learning sessions; linking up with another school via Skype; a ‘Genius bar’; and a project to create an advert for our next event! Last year we appointed our first Digital Leaders in Years 4-6. This would be a chance for them to share their skills with other children and would be the next step in their journey. Our four Year 6 Digi-Champs met at lunchtimes to plan out the day and discuss what they would say, as they would be responsible for organising everybody and leading activities. They were daunted by this at first, but soon began to relish the opportunity to shape the day to how they wanted it to look.
Our other Digi-Champs would help out during the day and had been planning their Speed Learning presentations. They did this at lunchtimes and at home, after choosing their own topic. It was encouraging to see the children talking about the websites we subscribe to and how they use them, and our school blogs, so well. Their focus was about the impact on their learning, not just the activities that they were engaging with.
On the day, children from the participating schools arrived and were greeted by our Digi-Champs. They took part in some ‘get to know you’ activities and prepared for the first Speed Learning session. There was no fixed theme for the presentations, it was up to the children to choose a topic or website or app that they were familiar and passionate about and able to share. It soon became clear that we had a great selection of topics; Ancient Greece, Children in Need, the 100 word challenge, Bug Club, a favourite sport, and so on. Some of the children chose to present using powerpoint presentations; others opted to bring along ‘Top Trump’ cards, or share posters they had created. We wanted to ensure that the children were making real decisions about the content and format themselves.
One of the children chose to share about how the 100 word challenge has impacted on her writing, especially when her work is ‘showcased’ and people from all over the world leave a comment on it. To make her presentation interactive, she set all those visiting her table a 50 word challenge (there isn’t enough time to write 100 words in the time we had!), and ensure that they blogged the entries before they moved on. She made sure that even our Headteacher completed a post!
Standing back and looking around the room, it was incredible to see how children from different schools, backgrounds and abilities can come together so well and share their learning as articulately as they did. It is testament to the work that goes on in our schools. Children were thriving in an environment where they were focusing on learning and making real decisions about what, how and where they shared the impact that these ideas had made on them. ‘Focus on the thing that matters, and the thing that matters is Learning’.
As part of our day we linked up with Downlands Community School, Dorset. This gave all the children involved a greater and wider audience and a more diverse range of ideas to share and received. The children had a chance to discuss what they had been doing and found out a little more about each other’s local areas. This was a great opportunity for the children (and staff) to see the great work going on around the country. We find that SSAT’s Primary Network helps us to identify new schools and partners to link up with so that we connect to schools who share the same priorities and interests as us.
One of the other features of our day was our ‘Genius Bar’, where children demonstrated websites, apps and software to one another and suggested ways these could be used back at school. Lots of great ideas were shared and again, it was inspiring to see so many imaginative and creative learning that happens in our schools. Finally, the children had to create an advert for our next event, using iPads. They had to sum up what they had got out of the day and make a video that was sure to attract others to take part, next year. We all watched the adverts and were astounded at how good they were!
When signing up for this project, schools had to pledge to dedicate staff meeting time for their children to share what they had learned and any useful websites and apps that others were using, that they thought their school should adopt. So far, we’ve heard of children sharing their experiences back at their schools in assemblies, staff meetings and to governors as well as in their own classrooms and with their families and friends.
When the children take over, that’s when the magic really happens”.