MIND SHIFT: Leaders of Learning Creating Independent Learners

How to create a learner who is equipped for life and work in the 21st Century is a big topic of discussion and needs a mind shift in education to do this. THIS is a skills learning topic that I have been wanting to cover for some time now. What should a 21st Century classroom look like? What should 21st Century learning look like? Finally what does a 21st Century learner look like?


THIS is how we can create learners ready for life and work in the 21st Century. The first thing to do is to create classrooms which are manged by ‘Leaders of Learning’ and to make a conscious move away from the idea of a being a ‘Teacher’. The second thing to do is create classrooms that have Independent Learners. Learners who are not passive in their learning but who are actually deeply engaged in and making decisions on developing their skills for learning. Learners need to move away from that of being a reliant learner to being an active learner.

A couple of definitions to get the ball rolling (Examples from ‘Collins’ online dictionary):

Teacher: ‘a person whose occupation is teaching others, especially children’.

Leader: ‘a person who rules, guides, or inspires others’.

Learner: ‘someone who is learning something; beginner’

Independent: ‘capable of acting for oneself or on one’s own’

If a teachers occupation is that of ‘teaching others’ then learners will continue to be passive in the classroom and should be able to absorb knowledge enough to be able to pass exams. In my opinion therefore teachers in this sense are information givers. Let’s look at what a leader is? Someone who ‘guides or inspires’; a learner is someone who is ‘learning something or a beginner’. So if we had someone who is leading a classroom that can inspire and guide others in learning then that would be a great starting point. To be fair, I would suggest that most teachers inspire, or they would not be teachers for long. But does a teacher ‘guide’ or does a teacher ‘tell’? If it is the latter then we are not providing the opportunity for young people to develop skills for the 21st Century. Let’s bring in the word ‘Independent’. That is the ‘capability’ or the skill of acting on one’s own. I am not suggesting any learner can act on their own at all times but they must be given the opportunity to be able to develop that skill.

So this is where we must move away from the traditional idea of a teacher and towards a leader of learning who will inspire and guide learners to be independent. The final thing we need to address is the classroom environment. The classroom cannot be set up in a 1950’s style straight rows with the teacher at the front and all the learners lined up. This will never have the effect of creating an environment that is conducive to developing skills that learners can use for higher education and the workplace.

What does Leading for Learning look like in the classroom?

Experts have called this type of learning ‘Student centered learning’ and others ‘Independent learning’ and have come up with ways of explaining this. In truth, for me it is a mixture. Whether you are putting the learner at the center or developing independent learning you are giving the learner ownership of their own learning. To what degree is up to the leader of learning and it may depend on how advanced that class of learners are in this skill.

Let me give you an example of how this can be carried out in a school or college setting.

Firstly the learners must be actively and cooperatively learning and working on activities around problem solving or a question that they can become engaged in. If they are encouraged to inquire that will raise their engagement in the activity or the subject area. Cooperative learning can also be independent learning because when involved in a team structure each person has their own responsibility, which contributes to the overall team performance.

As you will have been able to tell from my other blogs, I love getting the learners to work cooperatively as that is what we do as adults in the working environment. When doing this it is important that learners feel that they are allowed to make mistakes or get it wrong. After all it is making mistakes or getting it wrong, that make us better at what we do. Mistakes and getting it wrong should happen every day in learning and should be encouraged!

A very basic way of encouraging such behaviour in learners is to offer a question that they need to find the answer for. Then create it in such a way that allows the learners to work together in groups of 2-4 which could be easily set up in a classroom situation. A question I could ask in my Business Studies lessons would be; How can we find out about X organisation and the quality of customer service they provide? This empowers the students to work in teams and decide how to approach the problem. The Leader of Learning could create a learning framework for the group that gives instructions that each person in the group must take on a role and responsibility towards the overall team goal or question answer. This further empowers the teams to take responsibility for their own learning and how they will approach the task in their own way and more importantly how they they will learn. The key part to this task is that learners are told that they have to take on their own individual responsibility and make their own decisions. Therefore becoming Independent, cooperative and active. Do this as often as possible. I would try and do something however small in every lesson. As a teacher you then find yourself quickly becoming a Leader of learning.

THIS is what I know about learning and encouraging young people to become both cooperative and independent learners. Its a life long process that involves making mistakes and then learning from those mistakes along the way. This will be a mind shift for educational curriculum’s. Leaders of Learning need to become open minded and more creative in the classroom. Teachers HAVE to become Leaders of Learning and this may take time but change has to happen! I know from my own experience of being a curriculum leader and a teacher that this mind shift will create skilled and academically successful young people better prepared for life and work in the 21st Century.


Is Education Letting Young People Down (Updated)?

THIS is an update on a blog I originally posted in January.  I am proud to say that this updated blog was first posted by www.showmyhomework.co.uk who asked if I would write a blog for their organisation. This version has links to the specific blogs that may offer further advice for teachers on skills based learning in the classroom.

My own feeling is that education is not helping young people develop soft skills (or transferable skills) which are much needed in the workplace. I would like to take the opportunity in this blog to explore this thought further.

Firstly a quote from President Barack Obama (10th March, 2009) “I’m calling on our nation’s governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity“. This was said in a speech promoting ‘a complete and competitive American education’ in order to keep pace with the world’s top performing educational systems. He is suggesting that not only do young people need to have a sound knowledge base but also the skills to adapt and be creative in an ever changing world. This will in turn help the USA’s economic development. Within this speech he presses home the point of young people staying in education to develop these skills.

At the start of 2015 this issue is again highlighted, but this time in the UK by research and a subsequent consultation led by McDonald’s and supported by Businessman and Entrepreneur, James Caan. The research suggesting that the lack of skills in young people is costing the economy around £88 billion. So why is it that very nearly 6 years on from the President of the USA suggesting that their education system needs to make changes to include skills, do UK business leaders find themselves raising the same rallying call? The main problem we have in this country is that we have created a system which apparently needs to be ‘academic and rigorous’. I would agree with this but not at the expense of soft skills which seem to have been forgotten about and very much downgraded. Indeed Nicky Morgan, MP (19th December 2014, Daily Mail) was quoted as saying that having qualifications based on Personal Effectiveness (which are primarily soft skills) was “frankly ridiculous“. I would challenge that! I would ask where are these personal effectiveness / soft skills being learnt then, if not in these qualifications? If they are being learnt throughout academic courses then that is fine. I am, however, struggling to find the evidence of this!

The current government have set up a system where an academically rigorous test/exam score is the only thing that is important. Couple this with on-going data collections and constant re-testing for this purpose then learning becomes very dull and lacking in creativity (Incidentally ‘creativity’ is a soft skill treasured by business leaders). When a child is educated from secondary education on-wards they are completing a one, two or three year course in which the only assessment they receive is an exam with an element of controlled assessment. ‘Controlled’ being the key word! It is more like an examined project which again eliminates creativity in my opinion.

To take this argument further, and I challenge anyone to respond with examples if you can give me them; When in your job role do you sit in lines, at a desk on your own, and work in silence for 1 or 2 hours? Do you do this in order to tick a box on your yearly review? Perhaps you do this when asked to complete some daily or weekly task? I think that most of you would come back with the answer ‘No’. So why do we ask our young people to do this over and over again throughout their education. Surely there has to be a better way of assessing?


I have attempted to answer this question about how to assess skills within two other blogs. Does Passing Traditional Exams Make You A Success in Life and A Different Baccalaureate Option For Soft Skills.

The point is though that we have built/are building a knowledge only style education system. While knowledge is important it is only one part of what young people need. As a footnote to this point, ‘knowledge’ is lower level learning on the educationally revered Blooms taxonomy!

Trilling and Fadel (2012) identified 3 areas for skills development in their book, ’21st Century Skills’. They are; Learning and Innovation Skills, Digital Literacy Skills & Career and Life Skills. Not one of these involve taking tests/exams and doing tasks during learning to hammer home key facts and knowledge. They do talk about ‘high levels of learning challenge‘ though. Maybe, just maybe, then it is possible to incorporate skills into what is seen as academic learning?

So again I come to the conclusion that skills needed for the work place/employment are not being taught to our young people. I have written a few blogs where I have looked at how skills based education can be delivered in an academic setting. I know these work as this is what I used to do. Please see my more recent blogs on Soft Skills In your lesson and Developing Character, Grit & Resilience In The Classroom for examples of how these skills can be taught in schools and colleges.

My final thought about what I know about THIS Education and about the statement I raised at the start of this blog. I was recently debating skills based learning and personal effectiveness with an ex-colleague who’s opinions I genuinely have the greatest respect for. Their suggestion was that “Soft Skills can be picked up in a week or two on the job”. I will link this point to another raised by James Caan. He said that he would recruit, on interview, a person with good soft skills over someone with a degree if they did not have those qualities. Therefore the question I would respond with is; how does a young person get that job in the first place without being taught these skills?

Soft Skills! What about ‘Essential’ Skills?

THIS is a question I have been asked a lot lately, both directly and indirectly through my role as a National Development Co-ordinator with an educational awarding body. This question has come about in discussions with different types of leaders of learning, teachers and school & college leaders.

Why call these skills Soft Skills when they are not soft, they are so ‘hard’ to achieve and be good at?

As stated I have had many conversations on the Soft Skills naming debate with many different people from different educational backgrounds. The one thing that comes across is that ‘Hard’ skills are used to explain subject knowledge learning e.g. the ability to name England’s kings and queens in order. It could also be for other more specific vocational skills that are used which cannot be transferred easily e.g. plumbing in a tap or wiring a plug.

People seem to understand the term Soft Skills as those that can be transferred from job to job or maybe skills that can be used in different life situations. Initially I quite liked the term transferable skills as they can be used in different contexts e.g. communicating effectively with the bank manager (life scenario) may well be used equally for communicating with your boss (work scenario). Same skill but transferred to a different situation. People seem to understand this concept and how important it is.

I then started to think more about the term ‘Essential Skills’. I do like the word ‘essential’ because it gives the term more feeling and may be more encompassing of the skills required in the 21st Century. Making it sound ‘hard’ to get and a must have. The word essential is powerful because, in my opinion, if you don’t have the Essential Skills then you may struggle to be successful in your life. We should not forget, of course, success means different things to different people. What we are looking for however is a term that can be used to suggest the skills needed for the modern world.

Essential skills could be described as Literacy, Numeracy, Communication, Writing, Thinking, ICT, Working with Others and Learning to Learn. For me these skills are important, but in the 21st Century we need other important skills as well like Problem Solving and Enterprise including the ability to take risks. For me, all these skills mentioned should all be a focus. Of course we should not forget about basic knowledge in subjects. When I say ‘basic knowledge’, I mean the basic and general knowledge we need in order to be succseful in life and work e.g. do we have the basic numeracy to function e.g. be able to manage a budget. I do not include being part of this the ability to name all the kings and queens of England in order! That may only useful for a pub quiz or if you want to work in an historical context e.g. Museum Curator or History Teacher.

THIS is the term I would like to put forward as the universal term to be used for skills learning – Essential Skills. I am making the call right now that around the world we get away from the term soft skills which may be seen by some as woolly and be possibly misinterpreted as easy. I am also making the call that these ‘Essential Skills’ should be made a priority as part of a school curriculum. I also support the call by Peter Jones (Dragons Den) for Enterprise Education to be part of a school curriculum. After all the misinterpretation of Enterprise is that it is all about business, when in fact Enterprise Skills are actually ‘Essential Skills‘ needed for life and work in the 21st Century.


19 Quotes For All Occasions

THIS blog is for a bit of fun but it may also be useful to different people for different reasons?

It is a mixture of different quotes. I love my quotes and some quotes written down here are even made up by me. All of these quotes I have used at some point or another throughout my life. They may have been used to get through a particularly difficult time in my life, they may have been used when giving advice to others, they have definitely been used in conversation and in learning. I hope you will be able to use some of these in your own way.

I have categorized them to use for different situations or settings…


Quotes for the tough times in life

You will face many defeats in your life but don’t let yourself be defeated.” (Maya Angelou)

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, its about learning to dance in the rain.” (Unknown)

The struggle your in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.” (Unknown)

Its not about how many times you get hit. Its about how many times you get hit but keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (@AlexIoanna1)

The lessons you have learnt yesterday, you should use as your strength for tomorrow” (@garethlewis76)

Inspirational Quotes

I failed my exam in some subjects but my friend passed, now he’s an engineer in Microsoft… and I am the owner.” (Bill Gates)

Someday is really just a code word for never, Someday is where beautiful dreams and amazing ideas go to die.” (@Detavio)

Actions speak louder than words.” (Julia Lewis).

People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)

Different doesn’t mean wrong.” (Unknown)

Quotes linked to Employment and Skills

Soft Skills get little respect but can make or break your career.” (Peggy Klaus)

Subject knowledge MAY help get an interview for a job. Soft skills WILL get you promoted into leadership” (@garethlewis76)

Soft skills are what help make you a good employee, a good leader and a good colleague“. (@garethlewis76)

A good leader leads from the front and empower others. Other leaders hide away and blame others.” (@garethlewis76)

Skills and Education

Subject knowledge MAY open up opportunities in that area. Soft skills WILL open up opportunities in every area.“(@garethlewis76)

Soft skills learnt early in life create opportunities to rise above your peers.” (@garethlewis76)

Inclusion is about every aspect of a life. Academic and skills learning in balance.” (A Teacher)

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” (Thomas Carruthers)

Success isn’t about what you accomplish in your life, its about what you inspire others to do.” (Unknown)

THIS is my little selection of quotes to live, work and learn by. I hope you have enjoyed reading them? Use them whenever and wherever you feel the need.

Using IRIS Connect For Skills Development in Learners

Discovering IRIS Connect

IRIS Camera

THIS is about when I discovered IRIS Connect a few years ago as part of a strategic plan to improve teaching and learning in a school where I was an Assistant Headteacher. I remember a leadership colleague bringing this ‘ball-like’ camera into a meeting and explaining. We were instantly hooked! At first there seemed to be a lot of hesitation amongst our staff at the prospect of being filmed carrying out a lesson. It wasn’t so much the filming, but the thought that it could be used as evidence of weaknesses. This was not the case and ‘hearts and minds’ needed to be won. It came down to a few of our more confident teachers giving it a go and the using it to improve their own teaching practice.

At first we found it was important to let the teachers (and learners) have time to feel comfortable with having the camera in the classroom.We also found it was important to encourage teachers to use it and watch their own lessons and self-assess. Once this had been done a few times, teachers became more open to colleagues seeing it. We firstly used it in departments to share practice. Then, in very little time, all the participants started to watch each other on a whole school basis and began providing constructive peer assessment, proving IRIS Connect to be a great platform to use for improving teaching and learning without the need to pay high CPD fees for workshops, not to mention the savings in cover costs.

Then it struck me!

If IRIS Connect can be used for self and peer assessment for teachers; then surely it can be used in the same way for students? Surely we can film learners in the classroom doing activities and be able demonstrate progress in different ways? I was really interested in doing this. After all, one of the reasons why skills learning doesn’t do very well in government educational policy development is that it can’t be evidenced easily. For example; how do you give an A grade for teamwork? What does it look like? We know that if a learner answers a question in a Maths exam and gets it right, that will contribute to their grade. I wanted to try to use IRIS Connect in a different way.

Using IRIS Connect with learners

I taught Business Studies at GCSE level. As part of this learning, I always ensured that the students who were in my classes went away with knowledge and transferable skills, or ‘Soft Skills’ as they may be known. I did this by using the ASDAN Wider Key Skills qualifications of Working with Others, Problem Solving and Improving Own Learning. In short, students who opted for Business Studies in my department went away with academic and skills qualifications that would make them more effective potential employees than their peers in the future.

Here’s an example: The learners had to cover Stakeholders as part of their GCSE in Business Studies. I set up a task where the learners got together and planned a meeting where they would take on different stakeholder interests in a decision that needed to be made. In this case the task was set around a local context, being based in Scarborough and a football fan, the task was; ‘Should Scarborough Athletic be allowed to build a new stadium in the town at a proposed site?’ Students got themselves into groups who were for and against. I had decided that the meeting should be chaired by a particularly gifted student who had the respect of their peers. I briefed them and extended their thinking in order for that person to be prepared in the skills of meeting management. The others researched about their stakeholder interest in the discussion. All the time the small groups of students were working independently, the filming was going on.

The next week/lesson came and the meeting took place. The learners had a great discussion and conducted themselves, on the whole, very well. The filming took place once more. The third week/lesson came and we all sat down and watched the film of the planning and discussion. As part of their review for the Working with Others qualification they had to review their performance through peer assessment (random selection determined who assessed who) and a personal review of their own performance and participation. The filming provided this opportunity. The students were very respectful in their constructive criticism and each learner gave the other good advice for improvement. Each learner did two of these ‘Working with Others’ tasks over time so that they could demonstrate their progress.

Let’s not forget the academic learning that took place. At the end of that review process the students answered an exam question about stakeholders. With very little direction, or the giving of knowledge from me, and without any revision the students all achieved at least their target grade. Many students demonstrated over-achievement on expected progress. They also eventually passed their Working with Others, Wider Key Skills qualification.

How did this happen? The students were engaged in the learning. They took part in a real world activity. They made some of their own decisions about their learning and without realising they had secured both skills and academic knowledge by watching the film back and had helped each other.

THIS is where IRIS Connect can be used for the continual skills and academic development of young people in school or college. This works nicely alongside the benefit of IRIS Connect for the CPD of classroom practitioners.

Characteristics Of A Senior Leader In Education

I took part in a really good discussion recently through @SLTChat on Twitter. The focus of the discussion was; What does Leadership mean to you. This was based on leadership in an educational setting. The usual key phrases came up including; clear vision, challenge, clear communication, holding to account and high expectations. All the things that you would expect to hear any good Headteacher demonstrate to an OFSTED Inspector. However for me there was something missing. I watched with interest for most of the discussion, reading the tweets and the good points raised as they came through. Very near the end of the session I gave my thoughts.

THIS is what I said about the skills/characteristics of a good leader…

“Leading by example is the only form of leadership. Only challenge others if you would do it yourself. Model how it can be done”.

This was very well received with a number of re-tweets and people being kind enough to tweet back about it. However, while I have always believed this is how leadership should be carried out, it actually made me question; What does look like in practice?

It took me back to my leadership style as an Assistant Headteacher working in a large school of 1500 students across two sites. My leadership responsibility was for the curriculum which involved doing the timetable, ensuring that the curriculum met the needs of the learners as well as managing duties for the safeguarding of students within lesson and social time. All of these jobs were made even more challenging with a split site school. Those that work in one will know what I mean!

Before reading on please understand that I am not saying that I am a ‘good’ leader. That is for others to decide. What I am saying though is that leadership is not rocket science, it is about ‘the action of leading’ and ‘actions speaking louder than words’.

Anyway, how did I follow my own mantra? The first thing I did was made sure that I did my fair share of teaching. I did the timetable, I could have made sure that I had a cushy time of it, but instead I used myself like a piece of glue to the stick the timetable together. I was an experienced teacher, therefore I decided that I would fill the gaps which usually meant taking on those groups that the other staff may not have relished having on a weekly basis. Every school has them so you will know what I mean. I even made sure that no-one switched site more often than me where possible. I did this to win hearts and minds and I think it worked!

The second thing that I did during the curriculum planning process was involve as many curriculum leaders (subject leaders and heads of faculty) as possible in the planning process. Basically what I was doing was empowering them to be part of the decision making process. They did not make the final decision, as the book stopped with me I had the casting vote! I did try and do as much problem solving as possible to ensure that most curriculum leaders got as close to what they needed as possible, within the constraints that we were working under. I did this because I wanted them to be part of the decision making process and selfishly I wanted them to think, “Wow, he really values my opinion!”. The real reason was that they probably knew the school and learners better than me so I was actually stealing their great ideas to make the curriculum better for every learner!

Finally when it came to duties. I made sure that I did more duty than anyone else. Why? The reason was simple, I wanted to show what a great opportunity this was for creating relationships with the learners that could be taken back into my own classroom. Again, this started to work after a while and more members of staff were offering to do even more duty than their allocation. As part of this idea of doing duty I was always one of the first to support in lessons when I was available and was needed. This developed trust and respect because I was supporting colleagues. I did not, however, discipline any learner myself through these situations. That would have dis-empowered the member of staff. Instead I supported them in the disciplinary action that was decided. This ensured that the member of staff was seen as the one handing out the discipline and allowed them to keep the initiative with the learner/s.

Why do all this and put myself out? It was because I was a leader and that is the way I felt that I needed to do it. To gain respect, to gain trust and moreover to be able to challenge members of staff towards the collective vision. I believe that you cannot, as a leader, challenge or hold to account or have a great vision until the basics have been put in place. The basic skills/characteristics a leader needs to demonstrate to their staff is that they can roll up their sleeves and be a part of the team. Being part of the team should be displayed right from the start and ideally before, or at least at the same time as all the ideological leadership takes place.

THIS is what I believe makes a good leader before (or alongside) any other OFSTED related expectations. These are the skills/characteristics that a good leader should demonstrate very early on in their leadership. Once done a leader will then be able to do the other more strategic parts of the role.


Footnote: Although my experiences are based around the role of an Assistant Headteacher in education, these skills/characteristics should be even more needed in a Headteacher as the main role model in every school. My belief is that a good or outstanding school has these characteristics in their Headteacher, unfortunately there are many schools that do not have this type of Headteacher or leadership team.

Digital Literacy Advice For Leaders Of Learning


THIS is my take on Digital Literacy and some advice for how to incorporate these skills into learning. It should be noted right from the start that I am not an expert in the world of Digital Literacy. I am writing this to gain a better understanding of the concept which will hopefully help other people similar to me who work as leaders of learning.

Recently the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee released a report with the title ‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’. The report highlighted these key development points (among others) for schools and further education:

  • Digital Literacy as the 3rd core skill in schools alongside English (Literacy) and Maths (Numeracy).
  • Training to give teachers the skills to deliver Digital Literacy
  • Stronger careers guidance especially for 16-19 year old’s.
  • A digital element in all further education courses.
  • Short, flexible courses and apprenticeships with digital skills elements which will qualify for skills funding.

The idea is that citizens of the UK will be ready for the work and the life effects of the digital era. Schools and colleges therefore need to make sure that they are in a position to supply this need.

What I am particularly interested in is the suggestion that Digital Literacy should become the third core skill. In my view all leaders of learning have to focus on Literacy and Numeracy within whatever subject they teach. If we can agree to that statement then we would have to treat Digital Literacy within the same context and also deliver it through our own subject.

I believe this could be easily done and I would like to take this opportunity to explore the idea further of Digital literacy becoming the third core skill.

Firstly, what is Digital Literacy? My view is that the essential parts of Digital Literacy would include developing skills in the following key areas:

  • The ability to be creative using digital resources.
  • The ability to think critically (including evaluation).
  • The ability to collaborate online.
  • The ability to find and select appropriate digital information.
  • The ability to communicate effectively in a digital world.
  • The ability to be safe online and through digital applications (E-safety).

That list may not be exhaustive and I am sure there are people who are much more digitally literate than me that may suggest that there is more to it. However, I am fairly confident that I have grasped enough of an understanding for the purpose of this blog.

To explore these key points further; leaders of learning for young people between the ages of 11-19 will be expected to change their curriculum to meet this need.

Policy makers, schools and colleges therefore will need to have a mind shift towards new pedagogical approaches that will support skills development and personalised learning. Helping to support young people in the digital world and equipping them with skills considered essential for their future roles in employment. There has been a call recently by employers for young people and prospective employees to have developed basic ‘Soft Skills’ which could be described as thinking skills, learning how to learn, having flexibility, being creative or innovative and problem solving. Activities based around Digital Literacy should provide an opportunity to be able to develop many of these skills.

There are two skills which are at the forefront of my thinking that I would like to explore further regarding Digital Literacy. These are E-Safety and being able to identify appropriate information while using digital technology. When it comes to Digital Literacy skills these are the most important for development in my opinion. My reasoning for this is that although young people seem to know more about, and be more comfortable with, new technologies than most experienced leaders of learning, they do not always use this technology appropriately. There are many examples in the news of safety when using the internet, where young people have all this power at their fingertips but use it in ignorance of the potential consequences.

Being able to source appropriate information is also a key thought for me. The internet provides the opportunity to research an unlimited amount of information. Young people need to be taught the process of deciding on what information is appropriate and more importantly which information can be trusted as correct.

As a starting point to help leaders of learning I would like to focus on these two Digital Literacy skills and explain how these could be learnt through any subject or personal development session.

The ability to find and select appropriate digital information (research skills)

When working on any skill development it is important to have an approach that allows the learner to be able to concentrate on the process of learning rather than the end result. I have found that following a Plan, Do, Review process is a brilliant way of focusing the learner on the process and at the same time develop independent learning skills. This will also provide and opportunity for the learner to make decisions and make choices about their own learning at the same time.

In practice it could look something like this. Firstly provide a brief hand-out which covers key principles of research including things like plagiarism, what counts as legitimate digital research, what primary and secondary research is, research techniques and anything else that you think is useful. Within your subject area get the learners to choose something they would like to do some research on. Encourage originality by helping them to personalise their research. Students then ‘Plan’ their individual response to the research where they identify how they intend to carry this out digitally. The learner then carries out the research (‘Do’) identifying any changes they make and re-planning as they go along. Finally, once the research has been done they could present this to peers, and to the teacher. All participants would provide peer and teacher feedback which will contribute to their ‘Review’. The review will highlight areas where they could improve for the next time they carry out any research. The Plan, Do, Review process also helps to demonstrates progress in skills development from their starting point in the Plan, to where they moved to and improved upon in the Review.

The ability to be safe online and through digital applications (E-safety)

This could be managed in the same way through the Plan, Do, Review process. An example for this skill development may be a learning challenge developed around examples including keeping personal things private, thinking about what to say and do online, blocking people who send upsetting messages or not opening unknown links and attachments. It may also be based around telling trusted people when things upset you or when someone that is not known to you wants to meet you offline.

ASDAN are an awarding body who have developed qualifications and lighter touch programmes and accreditation to suit all learners from pre-entry level to level 3/4. All programmes and qualifications are based around the process of the Plan, Do, Review model. These programmes and qualifications are flexible and allow personal effectiveness to be developed through any subject area with an outcome at the end of the course/activity for the learner.

THIS is where my understanding is currently with Digital Literacy and how it can delivered in educational settings.

I hope that leaders of learning will have found this blog useful and can use these approaches within their role. I would welcome any comments or further ideas for the development of Digital Literacy skills.