Diary of a Lead Teacher: Episode one - climbing the mountain
My first blog entry as a Digital Schoolhouse lead teacher - how exciting! I am a relative baby to this being at the start of my first year with the Digital Schoolhouse movement which seems to have come a long way in a relatively short space of time - a little like the small school in Devon for which I teach, Totnes Progressive School. My own background is in Music Technology having worked my way, over the past 20 years, through further and higher education teaching and managing, culminating in creating a school in Berlin for my previous employers 7 years ago. Back in the UK - I am now thrilled to be back at the ‘coalface’ teaching 120 secondary school children all aspects of media production and computational thinking (I said it was a small school!).
To set the scene, this blog entry comes at probably the most intrepid of times, the set-up period of the new Digital Schoolhouse venture. I have attended training workshops in June and September in London which really activated the whole project and after these events started to grapple with creating the format of my planned three hour morning workshops to deliver to primary school children throughout the year ahead.
My other challenge was to get the word out there and try and reach out to as many primary schools as possible. We do not really have an in-house marketing team so this meant turning my hand to it myself. Still... nothing ventured etc. At this stage it was still mid June and advice from DSH was to get a first-contact with schools before the summer to get the ball rolling. But what was the ball, and how to roll it? We had been advised to create a ‘Launch Event’ and at the very last staff meeting of the summer term our staff team supported the idea of running our first ever open day (we are over-subscribed and hadn’t really needed to run them) in combination with our Digital Schoolhouse launch.
With an actual date for the opening now in hand I started by procuring a list of 350 email addresses of all the primary schools in Devon. I used ‘Mailchimp’ to create a nice looking email with images and sent it out there. An IMMEDIATE response…. Of about 86 individual auto-replies saying that this and that email address were no longer valid. Hmmm…
However, I did get some really nice emails from teachers who were thankful for the initiative and couldn’t wait to get started. This gave me a nice buzz at the start of the summer holidays and encouraged me to try different approaches. I sent out a hand signed letter to the fifteen or so primaries in the local area, and after following up with phone calls this eventually resulted in workshop bookings. The Launch Event went well with some teachers showing up and an awful lot of very impressed new-parents who had come for the open-day part too. I am now the happy recipient of eleven initial workshop bookings for different schools starting in mid-November and can’t wait to meet children and staff and start refining my workshop plan in the field. (Well in the IT Suite actually…) We have a Year 5-6 foundation class so I do know at least how the different bits work out individually. I will let you know how it goes.