ICT - Bright sparks
Jack moves around the crowded classroom, explaining and fixing problems. His fingers dance across the keyboards of laptops and PCs and skate over the smooth glossy surface of a handheld device. His reassuring tone can soothe almost any technology-induced migraine. But Jack is not a teacher, nor a computer technician. He is one of my Year 5 digital leaders, who came to help and instruct teachers at a recent staff meeting.
Every classroom has one: a pupil who seems to be able to fix any computer problem by waving his or her hands over the troublesome device, as though it were an app-filled Ouija board, while muttering incantations about cookies, domains and protocols. A growing number of primary and secondary schools across the UK and beyond are setting up groups of digital leaders to encourage and support these talented children to develop their expertise and enthusiasm for technology.
They support teachers with computing ideas and teach fellow pupils vital computing skills that will be desperately sought after by employers in the years to come - skills that are likely to become crucial to the way pupils study in the future. In some schools, the teams get together to produce new ideas and work on projects. Most groups and their teachers are collaborating between schools at face-to-face events and also virtually, over the internet, using tools such as Skype and blogging.
At every level, sharing and collaborating is key to the process. Pupils want to report on their technological discoveries and are eager to show what they have been designing and creating both at home and in school. Teachers are encouraged to swap ideas about what their digital leaders are doing by recording videos, taking photos and writing blogs. There is also a weekly Thursday evening discussion on Twitter where teachers can talk about their ideas and what has worked well; the idea of sharing children's ICT expertise and grouping schools in clusters was developed on Twitter.
Jack's enthusiasm is clear. "I've really enjoyed coding games and making websites this year. But I've liked helping out my friends in class even more," he says.
Martin Burrett is a Years 5-6 teacher at Mersea Island School in Essex. Find him on Twitter at @ICTmagic. For more ideas about developing a digital leaders scheme in your school, go to www.digitalleadernetwork.co.uk and follow @DigitalLeaderUK on Twitter
Teacher and TES ICT expert Dan Roberts' practical ideas for the classroom include a tool for a web-based jump-off page to get pupils started in their research.
Check out TES's range of whole-school ICT resources.