Visit to Sky Academy Studios
My students and I visited the Sky Academy Studios in order to make our own news report. Prior to our visit, we discussed the merits of a variety of topics, from bionic limbs to artificial intelligence, before deciding to look at whether screen time is damaging because of its universal relevance amongst children, parents, and teachers alike.
The children researched their ideas using the internet, before opting to have an expert witness (an imagined ‘Professor of Sleep Studies’), an on-location report with a typical family, and an eyewitness report from a Head Teacher. We highlighted the importance of ensuring our sources of information were trustworthy, providing a real life context to the teaching of reading information with a critical eye in our digital literacy lessons.
We also discussed the need for our report to be balanced, so that it was valued as a reliable source of information without being biased. The children decided which role they would like to take on and these included being a director, producer, camera operative, and script editor, amongst others. Everybody felt they had an important role to play and that they were a significant member of the team. The children had a behind the scenes tour when they arrived at the studios, where they learnt about the latest innovations that Sky are pioneering, including developing a biodegradable alternative to plastic.
The children were engaged throughout the whole experience, and were well supported by a team of Sky experts to produce their own individual segments, complete with moving captions and voice-overs. The children came away with a first-hand understanding of the importance of teamwork, an appreciation for what goes into the making of television, and had the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology. They were so proud to watch the finished output, which was incredibly professional, and they erupted into spontaneous applause at the end! The children received a wristband with an in-built USB memory stick containing a digital copy of the report as a keepsake to share with their families.
All those involved were left inspired, and one parent even relayed that their daughter now wants to pursue a role in the media after being a presenter in the project. The video was shared in classrooms during our digital literacy sessions, as well as via the school website to inform parents when considering their own/their child’s access to devices. It really was an enriching experience for all those involved, and highlighted to the children participating how their interest in technology could support them in whichever career path they were to choose.
Apply for a Sky visit
Register at skyacademystudios.com as a teacher to apply for a session. Sessions are released on a quarterly basis, and are free to attend. Suitable for 32 children, aged 7-18. Studios are situated in Osterley, West London and Livingstone, Scotland. Story trailers and promo videos are available as alternative activities to creating a news reel.
Application for Blue Peter badges
I consider it fundamental to encourage all girls to embrace the opportunities that computing presents, and they make up a significant presence within the Digital Leader team, with representation in each year group. In order to highlight the important role that women have played in the history of computing, we marked Ada Lovelace Day in October 2018, by compiling a digital fact file, consolidating our information technology skills on Purple Mash. The children then wrote an accompanying letter to Blue Peter to apply for a badge, detailing and enclosing their fact file about Ada Lovelace. The children were delighted to receive their badges by the post in due course, and have inspired many others to apply for one after sharing their achievement in assembly.
Blue Peter badges
Further information on how to apply can be found via the Blue Peter website. The benefits include free access for children to over 200 attractions nationwide, until the age of 16. Children must be aged 6–15 to apply, and applications must be made on an individual basis. The application process can take at least ten weeks.
Website design for a local business
The children used the free app, Adobe Spark, to design their own website for a local newsagent without an online presence. We discussed the potential benefits of having a website for small businesses. Together the children devised a list of questions to ask the owner to compile the information that an effective website should include; such as opening hours, contact information, and services offered. They also had to source their own images, and decided on a layout for their site. We are passionate about giving children opportunities to be creative in using technology at our school, rather than just being passive users of it, which we hope was epitomised by this activity.
How were the Digital Leaders recruited?
An introduction to the role, the opportunities it presented, and the responsibilities it entailed was made in assembly, and interested children were encouraged to apply by completing an application form detailing why they love technology, what they access, what they hoped to gain from the role, and what skills they could offer to the team. An informal ‘reference’ was then sought from class teachers, before the team was decided upon. Most children opted to stay in the role after their initial term of one academic year, which allowed them the opportunity to develop their skills further, and created a real team ethos for our second year too. Other activities we have undertaken include visiting a local radio station and being interviewed for a live broadcast whilst there, creating a blog to introduce themselves, recording each other reading stories to share on the school website for the community to enjoy, and writing book reviews to display in the library for World Book Day. This is just a small snapshot of projects we have undertaken and I am very much led by the children’s interests.
It is my hope that those involved have had the opportunity to develop a plethora of valuable skills during their time as Digital Leaders, which I hope have boosted their self-esteem in the immediate term and increased their employability in the longer term. Most pertinently, their self-confidence and leadership skills have been developed through the opportunity to support their peers and teachers in rolling out new software and hardware, as well as writing and presenting a segment for Safer Internet Day in assembly. Their enthusiasm and dedication to the role has made me very proud, and I look forward to continuing to work with them going forwards to see how technology inspires them, and the rest of our school, further in the future!