Learner Voice In Leicester City

Photo of young women using laptop in the park.
Ed Yourdon / Foter
The wonderful Josie Fraser highlighted a document released by Leicester City Council discussing learner voice. The students at the city schools were asked about their environment and their technology priorities.

Below I have picked out parts of the report which stood out but I will start with the initial lists as they make interesting reading.

The Top 10

Young people in Leicester’s top 10 priorities for the school environment are:1. More indoor social spaces
2. Better designed library spaces
3. Comfortable chairs
4. Well-designed interiors – especially use of colour
5. More vegetable `patches/allotments
6. Sustainable features – including use of biofuels and recycling programmes
7. Nicer toilets
8. Larger dining room spaces –flexible seating arrangements and more food choice
9. Flexible classroom spaces
10. Greater variety in teaching methods
Young people in Leicester’s top 10 learning technology priorities are:1. Faster computers
2. More creative uses of technology for learning
3. More student centred and student led use of technology
4. More flexible use/internet access – in schools, the city centre, and in local communities
5. Laptop borrowing schemes for home use
6. More collaboration with young people in other schools & countries
7. Access to local and national decision makers via social media and social networking sites
8. ‘Young people only’ space in the city centre with computers and internet access
9. Teachers who can help them use social media and social networking services and sites more effectively
10. A say in school filtering & blocking policies
Learning Being A Collaborative Experience

I have always found the best teaching is where the teacher is confident to admit that students sometimes know more than they do especially when it comes to technology. They give the students control of the classroom experience and then the learning become a collaborative experience. The students in this report picked up on this.

“Young people told us that they want to use devices and technology themselves – not just watch teachers use equipment, or copy what teachers were doing. Students want to be supported and trusted to work with technology more independently and feel confident that they had the skills to do so, or would be able to work out solutions between themselves.”

The people who tend to like their jobs and feel empowered in their work are people whose employment has variety. The students wanted the same from their lessons they wanted them to interesting they even commented on the fact they even new technology can get boring if used all the time.

“Even the most interesting uses of technology became boring if teachers used them in the same way all the time. Students told us that their experience of technology used to support learning was too frequently the same – a teacher delivering a Power Point presentation to the class, or being taken through tasks as a whole class on a fixed computer.
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Students want more variety and more interaction. They want to be able to work at their own pace and have more opportunity to direct their own learning.”

ICT in education started to take off many years ago when Tony Blair was a fresh-faced Prime Minster and he initiated programmes to help fund ICT in schools at that point the key figure was the computer to student ratio.  Then just before the credit crunch there was a focus on students having one-to-one access.  However when the credit crunch came along it made it impossible for a lot of projects to continue this has meant that the focus has moved to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).  The students however clearly saw the need for better access to ICT.

“Most students we talked to said they were very confident in their use of technology. They want opportunities to use technology in school more independently. They made it clear that they prefer not to have to share computers and laptops within pairs or groups, but like to have 1:1 access. They point out that if they were working on a collaborative document, they could work faster in pairs or in small groups with individual devices and that it ensures everyone got to practise their skills and contribute.”

Students Informing Policy

Photo of three women with a laptop in front of projector displaying information about E-Safety
e-Crime Wales / Foter
One thing I mentioned in my E-Safety talk at the Impero Software 3.5 launch was for the need to educate young people in e-safety. There have been a few news stories recently about the fact the students are understanding the e-safety message. However schools still have some work to do and the need to make sure that students know the best way to conduct themselves online and this especially true when it comes to protecting their privacy online.

Nearly all of the young people we talked to have social networking profiles and use social networks or social media sites. Many of them have friends who have been bullied online, or have been bullied themselves. Young people recognise that technology can be used in negative ways and would like support in dealing with online bullying. They would like more information and support in managing their online privacy.

They would also like advice on building positive online identities, and using social network services effectively – for example to create online showcases for their work or interests.
* They would like more information about using popular tools and sites – for example Google and Wikipedia – to help them with their school work.”*

Making sure that all stakeholders help create the establishments  filtering policy is important the report highlighted the fact students understood the need for filtering but wanted a more managed access that enhanced their learning. However even with OFSTED highlighting the need for ‘Managed Filtering’ students still felt educational resources where being blocked.

If you have an e-safety solution installed you need to make sure that you can give appropriate access to staff so that they control the filtering but making sure that any safe guarding rules are kept. This might mean a teacher could potentially white list a website but not allow the over-riding of certain sites that are blocked due to safe guarding concerns.

Image of school playgrounds.
Blackcatuk / Foter
“Most young people tell us that social networking and social media sites are currently blocked at their schools.”

“Students tell us that they would like to see fewer restrictions on accessing sites in their schools. They feel that many sites that would be useful for learning are currently blocked. They also want to be able to access games and social media sites in break times.

Young People made it clear to us that they understood there should be blocks on inappropriate sites. They are frustrated at sometimes not being able to access sites they believe would be useful to them for school work, and do not understand why some sites were blocked.

Students feel that social networking sites could be made accessible outside lesson times – for example at lunch times. They recognize that schools were blocking these because they believe they would cause bullying or behaviour incidents but do not think that just blocking sites they used at home and connected to via their mobile networks made sense. Young people think a better approach would be to support them in looking after themselves online.

They would like to know more about why some sites are blocked and others not, and they would like to be able to suggest sites that are useful to them are unblocked.”

*The Challenge *

This report highlights that students have some sensible and concrete ideas on the education system in general however when implementing any kind of ICT system but especially systems that include e-safety the learner voice sometimes gets forgotten .

The report is a great example of getting learner voice and using that to inform the education system. The challenge for Josie and the rest of team at Leicester is to take that data and translate into meaningful projects that will allow the students ideas to be integrated into the education system.

The full report can be downloaded below.

*Download Learner Voice in Leicester City 2012 *(Word)

*Download Learner Voice in Leicester City 2012 *(PDF)

Russell Dyas

 I am a technologist.. I am a geek.. Who has a passion for providing honest advice, sharing resources and connecting people and ideas together. Currently working for Rencore.