Reflecting on the Process, Considering Where to Next and Implications for eLearning

As this inquiry into the possibility of children working as eLearning experts, who support their peers and teachers, comes to an end I have been reflecting on the entire process and also considering particular aspects. Overall from a personal perspective the initiative has been extremely successful. The Digikidz in both Years 1 and 2 have been upskilled in the specified programs and web 2.0 tools whilst also learning to use a range of equipment independently. They have developed their ability to work alongside their peers offering support and advice. The children have gained an appreciation of their role and are able to differentiate between doing their own work and assisting others in their eLearning. Feedback from classroom teachers has been positive and indicates their preference for the involved children to continue in their Digikidz role. The teachers are keen for the group to be extended so that more children can become involved, particularly towards the end of the year so that suitable Year 0 children can be identified for 2011.

Collected evidence supports the idea that Digikidz can be a valuable eLearning resource. Although potential benefits were identified during the planning stage of the project, there have been additional gains which were not anticipated. Although the inquiry was targeted and trialled in the Junior School there was almost an immediate flow-on effect throughout the school. Teachers and children in the Middle and Senior Schools could see the potential benefits and they were motivated to implement Digikidz within their year levels. All Junior School teachers have been encouraged to integrate more eLearning in their classes as the children possess enough expertise to guide them when they are given an oportunity. Several teachers were so motivated by the enthusiasm of their Digikidz that they felt confident to attempt something entirely new. They then sought advice from me as required. This occurred on two occasions following upskilling sessions with me on using the easi-speak microphones and creating animations in Kid Pix respectively. In addition one class teacher who did not have a class blog at the start of this year has since started one and other teachers have introduced blogging into their literacy programmes where the children visit other class blogs and provide feedback to the children about their work.

As a teacher who is a confident and capable integrator of ICTs in the classroom I would not personally have a need for Digikidz as regular, purposeful inclusion of eLearning supports the children to become confident, independent and skilled. However, in schools there is a wide range of staff who all have different strengths to offer the children they teach and it cannot be assumed that everyone has the time or ability to upskill themselves in eLearning. Digikidz are an excellent support for teachers who may not be confident to demonstrate how to use a particular tool or who may need some support with using the tool in a learning experience. Having the ability to call upon children in their class and make use of their expertise is very useful. The fact that the children have some prior knowledge has given teachers more confidence to plan for them to use computers as they are more able to achieve success independently. Junior school classes are very busy and younger children require more one-to-one attention than older learners. They are also unable to work independently for sustained periods of time. It is very helpful to be able to ask a Digkid to support a child and frees the teacher to work with instructional groups with less interruption.

From my observations of the interactions between the Digikidz and their peers there could be further additional benefits. The children remained on-task and engaged during the entire session, during both observations. Having a friend to work alongside them allows a near constant dialogue related to the learning. The children are engaged in focused talk, referring to the WILF and because the Digikid is an expert they are able to suggest next learning steps for the child as they have had this modelled to them previously by me. The Digikidz were quick to adopt similar language, effectively mimicking conversations that took place between myself and them during their upskilling.

The Digikidz Feedback Session for Parents, where the Digikidz had an opportunity to showcase their learning and parents were invited to ask questions, was extremely successful. I was very interested to hear that parents have noticed positive changes in their children which they acredit directly to them being involved in the Digikidz group. Although it is likely over a six month period that children will gain self confidence both myself and the class teachers have noticed a marked increase in the Digikidz' willingness to take risks, demonstrate leadership skills and initiative and these observations were echoed by parents. I can conclude from this that being appropriately challenged, exposure to new experiences which has required perseverence to complete and taking responsibility for their own and others' learning has had a personal impact on the children involved. The Digikidz are respected and valued by their peers and teachers and the other children view the Digikidz role as privilege and something they would aspire to being part of.

If the role of education as originally described by Vygotsky (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development), and then supported by other educational professionals, is to provide children with experiences which encourage and advance their individual learning by guiding them to progress from their current level of achievement to reach their potential level of achievement with support from an adult or in collaboration with more capable peers then the idea of Digikidz is not a new one but rather a remix of the concept applied to eLearning!