Innovative practice - An Apple a day ..

9th November 2012 at 00:00
A scheme to appoint 'digital leaders' at one primary is improving the ICT experience for the whole school

The background

Three years ago, three classrooms at Penygarn Community Primary School in Pontypool were knocked into one to create a "learning plaza". The idea was to create a 21st-century learning environment that would inspire pupils with the latest in computer technology.

Now the plaza is equipped with 13 iMacs, 40 laptops, three plasma-screen televisions and 90 iPads, and the school has become a regional training centre for Apple.

In an effort to give the pupils ownership of the technology, the school has trained a team of "digital leaders". They are responsible for managing the system and helping other pupils and staff with technical queries.

The project

Seven Year 6 pupils were chosen to be the school's "digital leaders". They were trained to facilitate the use of ICT around the school, to set up the iPads and other technology for classroom use, and to help other pupils and even teachers to use the system.

Martin Jones, Penygarn's deputy headteacher, says that the scheme is improving the pupils' skills and their belief in themselves.

"By just giving them the title of digital leader it starts to give them a bit of prestige and it builds up their confidence," he says.

"As they grow into their roles they are gaining a sense of responsibility as well as a number of valuable skills that will prepare them for key stage 3 and even for later life when they enter the workforce.

"They are not afraid of new technology or change, and they are not afraid of helping others. They have essentially become peer mentors," Jones adds.

"We want our pupils to be independent learners and to lead their own education. We are quickly moving away from the time when the teacher was the person at the front of the class."

Tips from the scheme

Make sure that staff are fully on board with the idea before going ahead. Set out the pupils' role clearly and explain what you are trying to achieve.

Make sure you pick the right pupils. They have to be confident enough to help other pupils and comfortable dealing with adults.

Give them smaller tasks to do at first to build their confidence gradually.

Evidence that it works?

It is too early to fully judge the success of the digital leaders, but Jones says they are growing in confidence and are regularly called upon to solve ICT issues for teachers and to talk to visitors about their role and show them around the learning plaza.

The school's emphasis on using technology in the classroom has paid dividends; Penygarn was nominated in the 2012 TES Schools Awards for its outstanding ICT partnership.

The project

Approach: Having a team of pupils act as "digital leaders" to introduce new technology to classmates and teachers alike

Started: 2012

Leader: Martin Jones, deputy headteacher

The School

Name: Penygarn Community Primary

Location: Pontypool, South Wales

Number of pupils: 397

Age range: 4-11

Intake: The school serves one of the most deprived areas of Wales, with high levels of social deprivation and unemployment. Around 48 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals, three times the Welsh average

Estyn overall rating: Good (2009).

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