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DMU at cutting edge of a digital learning revolution

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RESEARCH: Lucy Atkins

An award-winning research project to help school staff make the most of technology has been released on open licence so its work can be copied around the world.
Experts at De Montfort University (DMU) work in partnership with Leicester City Council’s Building Schools for the Future IT team on the DigiLit Leicester Project.
The project asked teachers and support staff in Leicester’s secondary and special schools how confident they were about using new technology. Their answers were fed back and now work is starting on a range of initiatives to further increase staff digital literacy skills and confidence.
All of Leicester’s secondary schools are being rebuilt as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme and some £32million invested in the latest technology.
Project leader Josie Fraser said: “The project helps staff and schools identify how they could use technology to enhance their teaching, to make sure learners benefit from the new investments in IT.”
The DigiLit Leicester project has been selected as one of five winners of the international Reclaim Open Learning innovation contest, sponsored by the Digital Media and Learning Hub, MIT Media Lab and the MacArthur Foundation.
The team won a £2,000 prize and Josie was invited to Los Angeles to present the Leicester project’s work at the Reclaim Open Learning Symposium.
Professor Richard Hall, the academic lead on the DigiLit Leicester Project, said it was the first time anyone had done such a study. He said: "Leicester's teachers demonstrate a wealth of digital expertise.
“This unique city-wide partnership between the council and DMU is extending these professional practices, in order to enable teachers to flourish in their use of new technologies."
DMU researcher Lucy Atkins, working with Leicester City Council, conducted the survey. Lucy, who has been in post 10 months, said: “It is a very ambitious programme. As the city council has funding to rebuild all the schools through the Building Schools for the Future programme, a lot of money is being invested in new technology. We need to know that the teachers are confident and supported in using their technologies.
“Where schools have a high level of literacy, we’re hoping to set up mentoring links between schools to help each other.”
Lucy, who graduated from DMU with joint honours in dance and education, did her dissertation on how Nintendo DS could be used in the classroom. A Master’s at the University of Nottingham followed, where she studied digital literacy in primary school Key Stage 2.
She is the first digital literacy research associate in the country. “Technology offers so many opportunities to enhance learning for students and staff,” she said.
Laura Iredale, a music teacher at Hamilton Community College, said: “We ran a project called ‘Project Africa,’ where we used IT for music technology, video recording and editing. It was wonderful to see this project benefitting our young people.”
As part of the BSF programme, just under £32million will be invested in IT infrastructure, systems and devices at secondary and special schools across the city.
Councillor Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor responsible for children, young people and schools, said: “The Building Schools for the Future programme isn’t just about rebuilding our schools, important though that is. It’s about transforming learning for city schoolchildren, and updates to our IT systems are an essential part of that. I’m delighted that we have been recognised for our innovative work in this area.” 

Posted on Friday 18th October 2013

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