Digital Literacy Advice For Leaders Of Learning

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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.

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