DigiLit Leicester: Project Activities Report


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The DigiLit Leicester project is a two year collaboration between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and 23 of the city’s secondary schools. The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and their effective use of digital tools, environments and approaches in their work with learners.

Using recommendations generated from the 2013 Survey Results, a wide range of activities, projects and events have taken place across the city – designed to support and develop staff confidence in the use of technology to support learning. In keeping with the project team’s commitment both to working in partnership with schools, and to supporting access to opportunity as widely as possible, we organised activities in two key ways:

DigiLit Leicester team managed activities

Centrally supported activities provided opportunities across all schools, allowing individual staff members to participate. Activities were either promoted openly to all BSF school staff members, or targeted at specific groups – either to staff role (for example, school leadership) or to survey area or area and level (for example, entry level staff in Technology supported Professional Development). The majority of activities took place within BSF Programme schools, allowing colleagues from across the city to visit other – often newly built – teaching spaces, and increasing accessibility for staff working at the host school.

This category includes our digital literacy focused TeachMeet, our e-Safety Pioneers Event and our Autism and Online Safety project – a collaboration between Childnet International and three of our SEN schools.

School led activities

These projects were supported through calls that were open to individuals and schools. Individual projects were designed to support members of staff in carrying out small scale projects which help them to take their practice forward in one or more of the DigiLit Framework strands. School level projects may have been led by an individual or team of staff, e.g. a department, and focused on developing practice across the school in one or more of the DigiLit Framework strands.

This category of activities includes projects such as Hamilton Community College’s Siyabonga project, which involved learners collaborating via Skype on a live concert with children from South Africa and The City of Leicester College’s Bring Your Own Device trial, the first of its kind in the city, using iPad minis with a Y8 tutor group.

To date, we have carried out six projects centrally and supported 21 school based projects. We’ve rounded up all of the DigiLit Leicester project activities, and provided links to further information and related resources. These can be downloaded here. The short version provides brief summaries of all of the projects – the longer version provides more detail.

DigiLit Leicester: Project Activities Report – May 2014                (PDF) (Word)

DigiLit Leicester: Project Activities Short Report – May 2014     (PDF) (Word)

Next Steps

Feedback from schools has been very positive in relation to all of the approaches taken to support staff development this year. However, several issues have emerged that will be taken in to account for planning for the next year:

  • Staff ambition relating to project opportunities is high and this has sometimes resulted in over commitment to project activity and outputs. The team have worked with some school staff to help reduce project scope in order to better focus on the quality of their outputs and the manageability of their project schedules.
  • Schools often need or would welcome additional support in the production of outputs, particularly relating to framing projects in research terms and having capacity to provide very high quality outputs.
  • Pressures on staff time remains one of the key reasons staff cannot engage with opportunities and activities. The flexible approach taken to by the project team, supporting a range of ways that staff can engage with project opportunities, has helped address this to some extent.
  • Significant activities relating to the project focus have taken place across the schools. Communications relating to work not directly carried out or supported by the project team have, however, been limited. This is an area that needs improving.

The approach taken for the Autism and Online Safety project recognised issues relating to capacity and the schools’ need for external support for larger projects – particularly in relation to brokering external partnerships and connecting projects to external expertise and organisations. It allowed us to trial a hybridised approach to support for staff development. The DigiLit team took responsibility for preparing the project scope in consultation with the schools who proposed the project, and managing the appointment process through public tender. This approach has proven to be very effective, and we will be looking to implement and manage further projects in this way.

The 2014 DigiLit Leicester survey was open between 17 March and 16 May 2014. Once collected and analysed, these data will be used to review current recommendations and their related action priorities, in the context of this year’s successes and identified issues.



DigiLit Leicester: 2013 Survey Results

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The DigiLit Leicester project is a two year collaboration between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and 23 secondary schools. Digital literacy is increasingly recognised as critical for learners to thrive within digital society. The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and their effective use of digital tools, environments and approaches in their work with learners.

In order to understand what current practice looks like, a digital literacy framework was developed in consultation with schools and staff, mapped to classroom practice. This framework defines 6 key strands of digital literacy for secondary school staff: Finding, Evaluating and Organising; Creating and Sharing; Assessment and Feedback; Communication, Collaboration and Participation; E-Safety and Online Identity; Technology supported Professional Development. Practices within these six strands were assigned to four level descriptors: Entry, Core, Developer or Pioneer.

The Results are in!  

The DigiLit Leicester framework was used to create an online survey, which was open from April to July 2013. The survey is designed to help individual staff members reflect on where they are in their use of technology, and provide schools and the Council with information to inform our planning and next steps. All staff who support learning in the BSF schools – teachers, classroom assistants, specialist provision and library staff – were invited to complete the survey. 24% of the the 1,912 eligible members of staff completed the 2013 survey – or 450 staff members.

The new project report provides a high-level summary of the city-wide findings of the DigiLit Leicester survey, contributing to a clearer understanding of the current digital literacy confidence levels of secondary school staff, and includes recommendations that the project team will be taking forward within Leicester schools.

Headline findings:

  • 52% of staff across the city who participated in the survey classified their skills and confidence at the highest level – Pioneer – in one or more of the six key digital literacy areas.

Staff who score at Pioneer level are typically confident with a wide range of different technologies and approaches to using these to support learners. They may be helping colleagues develop skills, and producing resources for others to use.

  • 26% of all those who participated in the survey placed themselves at Entry level in one or more of the six key areas.

Entry-level competencies are typified by personal, rather than professional application of technologies. Practitioners with a strand score at this level will currently not be taking advantage of the ways in which technology can enhance school based practice.

  • Staff rate their skills and confidence highest in the area of E-Safety and Online Identity, with 43% of respondents scoring at Pioneer level.
  • Staff feel least confident in the area of Communication, Collaboration and Participation, with 12% of staff rating themselves as Entry level and 47 % falling within the lower levels of the framework (at either Entry or Core level).

While the city as a whole scored strongly on the E-Safety and Online Identity strand,  corresponding scores for Communication, Collaboration and Participation were not in alignment – as would be expected given the close relationship between competencies and practices within these areas. This suggests that e-safety education is being managed within a context of restriction and limits on access to certain technologies and digital environments. Whilst effective, this approach has been identified as potentially limiting to online opportunities and the development of digital literacy.

  • Forty-three per cent of staff rated their skills and confidence in the lower levels of the framework (Entry and Core levels) in Creating and Sharing.

While creating and customising resources for classroom use is a common practice amongst school staff, Creating and Sharing was the second lowest scoring strand.

At Developer and Pioneer levels, the strand covers collaborative creation of resources, supporting learners in creating resources, and the creation and development of Open Education Resources. These findings are in line with European Commission concerns that education and training providers are currently not taking advantage of the use and creation of Open Educational Resources, running the risk of “losing the opportunity to innovate the teaching and learning practices, to increase the efficiency and equity of the education and training provision and to raise the digital skills of learners necessary for a more competitive and knowledge-based economy” (European Commission 2013).

Find out more by downloading a copy of the report on the survey results here:

DigiLit Leicester Survey Report 2013 (word)

DigiLit Leicester Survey Report 2013 (PDF)

Next Steps

During the next phase of the project, the team will be working with and supporting staff in developing school based approaches across the framework strands. In line with the survey findings, the team will focus on surfacing and sharing the work of Pioneer level staff and increasing the confidence levels of staff working at Entry level.

Key activity areas will be:

  • Facilitating school based and school led activities and projects that support staff digital literacy and professional development
  • The development and curation of information and guidance in the use of social technologies to support collaborative practice and participation
  • The development and curation of resources for staff relating to open licencing models and the production, use and remixing of Open Educational Resources.
  • Promoting the approaches included in the Technology Supported Professional Development strand, as a way of supporting staff in developing and participating in effective professional networks.

We are looking forward to sharing the work that the city takes forward!


Winning! The DigiLit Leicester Project

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The core project team – Lucy Atkins, Josie Fraser and Richard Hall -are all delighted the DigiLit Leicester project has been selected as one of the five winners of the Reclaim Open Learning  innovation contest, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Media and Learning Hub, and the MIT Media Lab.

Being selected alongside other projects of such high caliber is a real honour:

It’s a great win, not just for the project, but for the city. Our project is a partnership between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and the 23 Leicester Building Schools for the Future (BSF) mainstream and SEN secondary schools. It’s an important project in terms of the city, since it’s how the ICT strand of the BSF Programme is structuring, designing and delivering on staff development, to make sure learners in the city get the most benefit from the investment being made in technology.

The project is explicit about the important role open education plays within digital literacy  – particularly in terms of the ability to find, evaluate, create, build on and use open educational resources, and in connecting to, participating in and creating open learning networks. The framework and survey content is available under open licence for others to make use of, build on, or adjust for their own settings.   

The project aims to improve learner outcomes and opportunities in Leicester by identifying the ways in which school staff are able to use technology to enhance their teaching practice and communities, and support development where gaps are identified. We’ve done this by developing a framework of digital literacy, in partnership with schools, situated in secondary school practice. We’ve developed a survey, again in partnership, mapped to the framework, from which we’ve collected information at the level of individual staff members, schools, and city wide. This month we have been busy meeting with schools to feed back their survey results, decide priorities and plan next steps. We’ll be releasing an external report on the initial findings at the beginning of October 2013. In the second year of the project, we’ll be working with schools on a range of initiatives to further increase staff digital literacy skills and confidence across the city.

written by Josie Fraser

DigiLit Leicester: Secondary School Digital Literacy Framework and Survey

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The DigiLit Leicester project has been up and running for nine months now. We’ve been incredibly busy, working with 23 schools across Leicester to design and implement a digital literacy framework situated in secondary (11-18 year olds) school practice. We’ve linked this to a survey open to all schools in the city’s Building Schools for the Future Programme – in order to capture where school staff are across the city in terms of their current practice. This will help us promote and share the innovative and effective work currently happening, and support staff of all levels of confidence to move forward.  

We’ll be using the survey results to work with schools to plan their next steps and to target activity where it will have the greatest impact.

There are three key project stages:

  • Investigate and define digital literacy, in the context of secondary school based practice
  • Identify current school staff confidence levels, and what the strengths and gaps across city schools are, in relation to this definition
  • Support staff in developing their digital literacy skills and knowledge – raising baseline skills and confidence levels across the city, and promoting existing effective and innovative practice

The project is designed to benefit schools both prior to and after the opening of their new school, and to be of relevance to staff working in secondary schools both old and new. It will help all school staff supporting learning and learners to develop their skills and confidence in using technology – from absolute beginner to advanced practitioner. It recognises that staff work in different environments and have different strengths and interests.

The project team are pleased to share our first project outputs here – the development of a digital literacy framework situated in secondary school practice, and the creation of a survey tool designed to identify staff confidence levels in relation to the framework. We are releasing this report under an Open Licence, which means that others are free to share, adapt and use our work non-commercially – for the benefit of other secondary schools or other sectors. Please do get in touch if you make use of our work – we would be delighted to hear from you!

Download the project report:

DigiLit Leicester – initial report June 2013 (Word)

DigiLit Leicester – initial report June 2013(PDF)


written by Josie Fraser

DigiLit Leicester Project Update

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With the release of the DigiLit Framework only a few weeks away, we wanted to let you know that we are making good progress with the project, from the development of the online tool to discussions with schools about how they wish to engage with the framework.

The Pilot phase of the project is now complete and I am now working on the final draft of the framework content. This final draft, which has been developed in consultation with experts in the field of digital literacy and our schools, will be a result of close practical consultation with school staff during the pilot phase, ensuring that the framework tool is clear and easy to use. We were able to meet with a range of staff, from both mainstream and SEN schools, providing a well-rounded perspective on the content. We are very grateful for the continued support we have received from both staff and schools throughout this process.

The online survey development is currently underway; it is a custom built tool to ensure that it meets our requirements and offers the best possible user experience. We are also very excited by the progress being made with the graphics and imagery that will accompany the framework tool and its supplementary materials. The tool will undergo testing over the Easter holidays and will be released, as planned, on Monday 15th April.

We are developing a collection of promotional and support materials to accompany the framework release, which will also be available to schools on the 15th. These materials will include an introduction to the project as a whole, an explanation of the six key themes or strands of the framework and a ‘walkthrough’ video of the framework being used. The resources are designed to support school staff, either working together or individually, in completing the framework and will hopefully answer any questions staff may have prior to engaging with the survey tool.

Alongside the support materials, we will also be sending posters to schools to display in staffrooms and other common staff areas in order to promote engagement with the Framework. Information will be sent out to staff through our project blog, the Learning & Innovation Lowdown (the BSF ICT strategy team’s newsletter), BSF News (the BSF programme newsletter) and the Schools Extranet Bulletin/E-Bulletin. We want to ensure all BSF Secondary school staff are aware of the framework, and how it can help support their practice.

Following emails sent out to schools regarding engagement with the framework, we have already been to visit 7 schools to discuss how they plan to use the survey to support their staff and to help them develop a strategy which suits the school’s needs. We’re pleased with the initial level of interest from schools who have been very enthusiastic about working with us to take the project forward– and we are keen to support more schools in engaging with our work.

The Digilit Leicester Framework

We are now working through the pilot stage of the project, and preparing for the release of the survey tool in April. In the last week, ideas around the identity of the framework have been developed and so I wanted to create a post to formally introduce the framework project.


Defining Digital Literacy

In order to explain the project, it is useful to provide a definition of what we mean when we talk about digital literacy, within the context of this project. As Doug Belshaw notes in his thesis, ‘there are almost as many definitions of ‘digital literacy’ as there are proponents of the concept’ – however, there are few used in relation to the skills of educators and with this in mind I have developed the following working definition:

Digital Literacy refers to the skills, attitudes and knowledge required by educators to support learning in a digitally-rich world. To be digitally literate, educators must be able to utilise technology to enhance and transform classroom practices, and to enrich their own professional development and identity. The digitally literate educator will be able to think critically about why, how and when technology supplements learning and teaching.

There are also links between Bélisle’s Three Models of Literacy and the levels within the framework, as discussed in an earlier post.

Aim of the Project

The aim of this project is to transform educational provision across Leicester city secondary schools through the development and implementation of a digital literacy framework. The framework will be a self-evaluation tool, designed to aid staff in reflecting on their use of technology to support teaching and learning. Over the next two years, the framework will be developed, piloted with staff and implemented across the city. The data we collect from the implementation will be used to create a city-wide picture of the digital literacy skills of secondary school staff in Leicester.

With this information, head teachers and heads of departments will be able to identify strengths and gaps in staff skills – assisting in planning and performance management. The Authority will use the data to highlight those pockets of excellence which exist across the city in order to share best practice, and to better tailor funding and resources for professional development. Most importantly, the framework is being designed to help enhance and support the continuous improvement of the educational experience and outcomes for our learners.

The self-evaluation framework is intended as a tool to aid staff, to help them to structure a narrative around their own skills and then help them to drive those skills forward. It is designed to positively enhance the learning experience in Leicester City schools.

The Framework Tool

Staff will be able to complete the self-evaluation framework will in the form of an online survey, which will take approximately 20-25 minutes. Staff will be presented with a grid of statements and asked to select the option which best describes their skill in a given area.

Upon completion, staff will be given a summary of their results, along with tips on how to progress to the next level of the framework.

Next Steps

April 15th    2013         –         Framework goes live
July 22nd                      –         Framework activity ends
July-August                  –         Analysis and reporting
Early September         –         External report of findings
September                    –         School focused activities begin
April 2014                    –         Framework re-opens

Digital Literacies Self-Evaluation Framework – Consultation

The project is currently in its consultation phase, the aim being to refine the framework through discussion with school staff and experts in the field of digital literacy. In the last week two sessions were held, the first with school staff and leaders and the second with Doug Belshaw and David White. In addition to these sessions, external consultation has been collected from a number of other experts.

Schools Expert Advisory Panel


Representatives joined us from Babington Community College, Judgemeadow Community College and The Lancaster School. The underlying issue throughout the discussion with school staff was the importance of supporting staff in a way that positively contributes to the requirements of their jobs and supports on-going school improvement. Attendees commented on the emphasis on social networking and social media sites, in the context of current restrictions in accessing these. They also highlighted the importance of staff being aware of issues around safeguarding and data protection when using sites with learners.

A useful point raised by one member of the group related to the order in which the strands were presented. The first strand was initially Technology for Professional Development and it was felt that as the majority of staff will be unfamiliar with the ‘connected learner’ approach to professional development it could be seen as intimidating and off putting to begin with this area. However, Finding and Evaluating, an area of work that school staff are very familiar with would be more likely to ease the user into the process. Therefore, the proposed new order for the strands is as follows:

  • Finding and evaluating
  • Creating and organising
  • Assessment and feedback
  • Communication collaboration and participation
  • E-safety
  • Technology for professional development

After considering the strands of the framework, we moved onto the levels. It was felt that an entry-level was needed for those members of staff who were just beginning to interact with new technologies. It was also noted that the expert level of the framework, which had explicitly been identified as unlikely to be attainable by the majority of staff, was off-putting and affected the balance of the framework. With these changes made a beginner would then be half way up the scale, rather than at the bottom of it – which is likely to be more motivating for users. Staff commented that they felt labelling the levels with titles such as beginner and intermediate did not have positive connotations and that perhaps a numbering or other abstract labelling may be more appropriate.

Digital Literacies Expert Panel


It was highlighted in this session that in order for the project to be successful, the approach taken would need to be carefully considered to ensure that the intentions of the framework were made clear to all stakeholders. A few methods were discussed; meetings with school leaders, presentations to whole schools and an introductory page in the framework expressing the benefits of participation. Whatever the method, it is very important that we make clear to teachers why they should utilise the framework.

There are 25 schools within the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in Leicester. There is great diversity within schools; enrolment ranges from 1,570 to 50, mainstream to severe disability SEN, secular and faith schools. It became clear during the schools consultation and was highlighted in more detail during this session that implementation of the framework would need to be differentiated across the secondary estate, negotiated at a local level with school leaders.

As mentioned above, the levels of framework were discussed in much detail during the school experts consultation. Dave and Doug suggested a new structure to the framework where instead of levelled statements each section was broken up into skills, practices and understanding. Staff then check the boxes which apply to them and the system tallies their responses. The levels will still essentially exist, only in grade boundaries rather than explicit labels. This way we can pinpoint the actual skills, not merely skill levels of our staff, allowing for much greater tailoring of future CPD opportunities. This alteration should also make completing the framework much simpler for staff, particularly those who fall across level boundaries in the original design.

For a while we have been considering the inclusion of Open Badges within the framework project, not only to provide staff with proof of CPD progression, but also to add a little fun to the experience. We were lucky to have Doug with us this week so that we could clarify our ideas for integrating badges into the framework tool. We had worried that awarding badges for completing the framework itself may not add any value to the process and Doug agreed; he felt that badges would best be used to award staff for participating in CPD opportunities – networking, training, sharing and supporting others.

Next steps for the project

Over the next few weeks, the comments and ideas collected throughout this consultation phase will be used to inform the next iteration of the self-evaluation framework. Once this is complete a further open web consultation will be released for open comments on the revised draft.

Throughout February a qualitative pilot will also take place with a small group of school staff, from a mixture of schools across the city. The pilot will help us to improve the end user experience and ensure that the terminology is clear. It will involve focused interviews with members of staff where they fill out the framework and we will discuss the process as they go along.