In a recent conversation with the husband to a friend of my wife, he talked about working with graduates and apprentices in his job. As this discussion developed he said this about the new recruits to his company,
“I don’t care what degree they’ve done. I don’t care what A Levels they’ve got. The ability to communicate, that’s all I want”.
Whether you agree with this statement or not, there is clearly great importance in having this ability. Here, I will show how a scheme in our school is, in my view, having such an impact on the ability of students to communicate.
We set up a Digital Leaders scheme in our school in the last academic year as a spin off from my role as Lead Practitioner for SSAT and as a result of being educated about such schemes by @KristianStill and @mrstucke. After an application process, we recruited a Year 7, 9, three Year 11s and a Year 12.
Several months on from this, these students have met regularly, shared ideas, learned how to use tools, helped in classrooms, filmed teachers, presented in school and in a University to teachers on use of technology in the classroom not to mention visits to other schools to observe practices and provide insight into the possible integration of mobile technology into school.
The Impact on Communication
They have now advanced a year at school but on our recent Inset day I really got to see a great spin-off from their involvement namely a startling development in their communication and presentation skills. The Digital Leaders were running staff training sessions. I will repeat: they were running staff training sessions, in itself quite an achievement in such a short space of time. Yet, it was the way they ran them that stayed with me and sparked multitudes of positive feedback from staff who attended.
Jokes and Rolling With The Punches
The delivery of these students in a whole class setting would not have looked out of place had it been an experienced teacher. There was good pace, clear delivery, no visible signs of nerves, a good mix of talk/participation/demonstration. Yet, the two aspects of communicating in this setting, I never expected to witness from students were the use of humour and the ability to just roll with the punches.
Light-hearted banter-type jokes were just slotted in at opportune moments as the students delivered. These were not rehearsed nor intended but only served to put some of the more techno-phobic staff at ease, which as outlined in Presentations Skills – Do’s and Dont’s of Using Humour in Presentations and Speeches is a vital component of “connecting with the audience”.
Then, as the sessions developed and individual needs were tended to and different explanations and demonstrations had to be given, there was not one moment during the day when they were knocked out of their ‘delivery’ stride. They coped with late-comers, chatting staff at the back who were not paying attention, those lacking confidence, the naysayers and the most senior of staff.
Where did this expertise come from?
It was certainly not taught by anyone in school and I don’t think there is anyone out of school providing any such instruction to these students. Rather, I can only put it down to the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’. The various environments they had delivered at and visited including classrooms, school offices, Microsoft meeting rooms, University lecture theatres plus the various audiences got them to this point. Whatever, the cause, their ability to communicate and to present, I can see, one day will make them very employable but even more important in my mind is that they:
“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people” (Yeats)
This will not only greatly enhance their career opportunities but add to a whole spectrum of their lives.