Digital at the heart of HeadStart

Interactions with digital technologies - the internet, social networking, gaming, mobile devices, and PCs - are incredibly important to young people today. They use digital technologies to learn, to communicate, to play, and to create. The use of digital technologies has the power to make their lives better, but is also accompanied by risks: the risk of accessing inappropriate content, and the risk of communicating with people they shouldn't, among others.

HeadStart Wolverhampton has focussed from the start on encouraging young people to make positive use of technologies, while minimising these risks.

The Open Space Event - Wolverhampton Civic Centre, October 2014

The launching point for our digital work was an 'Open Space' event at The Civic in Wolverhampton. This event brought together over 150 young people from around the city to plan and share ideas for digital work in the city, and made use of an innovative meeting technique ('Open Space') that encourages the free exchange of ideas and collaboration. Research into Open Space has been pioneered by Karl Royle of Wolverhampton University, although Karl admitted after the event that he had never tried it with children or young people before!

The Open Space event was a great success and we left with a wide range of wonderful ideas for creative digital projects.

Karl Royle from Wolverhampton University discusses the Open Space Event (audio interview)

Phase 2 Digital Projects

Following the success of the Open Space Event, HeadStart commissioned a range of digital pilot projects working in schools:

  • Stone’s Throw Media, worked with schools to write, rehearse and produce films relating to themes that had arisen in the Open Space Event. Themes included bullying, eSafety, relationships, moving to secondary schools, and family issues. The project focused the learners on the motivations and feelings of characters involved in challenging scenarios and on how a film could help others dealing with similar situations.
  • Russell Prue of Anderton Tiger worked on live broadcasting workshops with young people, giving them the experience of being live without the 'safety net' of pre-recording their shows. This work ultimately developed into the creation of the 4YP radio shows (more details below).
  • The Switch Project worked with school students on music and song production. Groups of children wrote lyrics and melodies to compose and record songs which explored issues of resilience and well-being.
  • Wolverhampton Learning Technologies Team worked with school classes in Year 5 and Year 6 on Junior Apprentice app creation sessions. Young people worked in teams to create concepts for mobile apps to support Year 6 in students in transitioning into Year 7 at secondary school. They then presented their ideas to a team of judges. Winning teams from all of the participating schools came together for a grand final, in which a class from Parkfield Primary school won the right to have their app ideas prototyped for real by Void Applications.

Gallery: Junior Apprentice Project

Getting Ahead

The Getting Ahead project explores the interaction between digital technologies and resilience using a series of workshops. 

Making extensive use of the themes of SUMO, Getting Head sessions challenged a group of young people to conquer fears, build confidence, and make use of digital media to communicate and share positive messages to their peers. Young people shared their experiences and ideas with each other using the secure Yammer social network.

Staff from Wolverhampton Learning Technologies Team led sessions with the following themes:

Day 1 (Introduction – Change Your T-Shirt)

  • Q&A with Steve Bull discussing resilience and overcoming setbacks
  • Designing SUMO T-Shirts with positive messages.

Day 2 Woodlands Camp

  • Adventurous and problem solving activities
  • Overcoming fears and supporting others to overcome theirs
  • Assault course, high ropes, climbing wall and abseiling!

Day 3 Democracy (Civic Centre)

  • Introduction by the Mayor of Wolverhampton on decision-making process within the city. The Mayor set a challenge for the young people to be in charge of the Council for the day and decide on City priorities
  • Interview local residents in Wolverhampton City Council
  • Analyse the results and produce a presentation
  • Public speaking workshops
  • Present findings and suggestions in the Council Chamber to the rest of the group and invited guests

Day 4 Public Service Films (SafeSide)

  • Challenged to create a modern public service film dealing with key issues: homelessness, personal safety, e-safety, consideration for others. Films shared at the end of the day

Day 5 Shelter Building & Problem Solving (Kingswood)

  • Mental and physical activities at Kingswood. Collaborate in groups to complete the challenges. Points awarded for each activitiy which converted into 'currency'.
  • Currency used to buy materials for shelter building
  • Shelters built and the quality judged by how wet the young people got when sat underneath them and subjected to a “storm”

Day 6 Celebration Event, Experience Sharing and presentation by Paul McGee

  • Celebrating Getting Ahead achievements!

HeadStart FM and 4YP Radio

Russell Prue of has been a key partner in the digital work in phase 2 of HeadStart. Russell has worked with HeadStart in recording interviews with local and national experts in the field of mental health and resilience.

Through the last year, Russell has also facilitated a series of 4YP Radio shows, working with groups of young people from primary and secondary schools to create a weekly radio show in term-time, broadcast live at 4:3pm on Thursdays. These shows allow young people to communicate their ideas about HeadStart themes - for example, resilience and e-safety - and to interview professionals and school teachers about HeadStart work. Young broadcasters respond live on-air to texts, tweets and phone calls from listeners.

Social media and the HeadStart FM website

HeadStart Wolverhampton has always made extensive use of our website and social media platforms to share the work that is happening in the city, and helpful links with followers who are interested in the objectives of HeadStart and the well-being of young people.

We have over 3500 Twitter followers, and good levels of traffic arriving at our site to catch up on the news, listen to radio shows or podcasts. As we move into the next phase of HeadStart, the website will also become a resource base for documents, media and presentations which support the objectives of HeadStart.

Our most recent tweets