Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Digital Divide

Did you read this report from the BBC yesterday?

The article refers to the recent British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) report that found that there was a big correlation between those schools with poor use of ICT in the classroom and the UK's broadband 'not spots' as identified by Ofcom. The article stuck a chord with myself as I'm finding internet connectivity is still a problem in most of the schools I visit. I was recently delivering an twilight meeting with staff at a school, demonstrating a web based system for pupils and teachers. A maximum of 12 people in an ICT suite, 'hard wired' into the school network (not WiFi) and still many of the pages were taking an age to load or not loading at all. What hope has this particular school got in the short term in driving ICT forward? 'Cloud computing'? No where near it. Forget mobile devices around the school when they still have 12 PCs struggling to load a web page. 
"In today's digital society, classroom connectivity to an online world of knowledge and resources should be a right for every student in their place of learning and not a lottery.
If a teacher standing at the front of the class knows that they have unreliable wi-fi they are less likely to use internet-connected resources and devices."
Caroline Wright (director, BESA)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A New School Year and A New Enterprise!

The start of another school year and for me the start of a new enterprise! For the last 11 years I've worked as a local authority ICT advisor but in July I finally made the leap into education consultancy. So Gareth Morgan Consultancy Ltd. has been formed to help schools get the most from their technology investments; providing ICT / Computing curriculum advice, guidance, training and courses. It's still early days but it looks like there are lots of opportunities out there to work with schools  - so at least my family won't starve! I'm currently trying to involve myself in as many projects as possible - working with C-Learning on a digital classroom project run by a large international technology company; about to continue working with the Welsh Government on the curriculum and other projects; beginning to set up and run my own courses; ICT Mark assessments; and in school support through INSET and twilight meetings. I think I may need a nine day week! ;-)

Friday, 13 June 2014

Online Real-Time Collaboration Between Primary Schools

As some of you may know from previous posts I have a strong interest in the use of cloud computing technologies in education. In particular Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps for Education. So it was with much interest that I found myself this afternoon observing some online real-time collaboration between pupils from two primary schools from Newport using Google Apps.

Mount Pleasant Primary School have been using Google Apps for some time at the school, creating an excellent literacy/numeracy framework pupil tracker for teachers using Google Sheets and a utilising Google Sites for cluster transition work. They've also previously done some online work with their students, where I was invited to observe and interact remotely on the work pupils were carrying out, from the comfort of my office!

Glan Usk Primary School have recent 'gone Google', signing themselves up to Google Apps for Education, with I believe the intention of using the various tools to support organisation and management across the school and obviously for its use in supporting pupils' learning.

Both schools organised the collaboration between themselves and I was invited this afternoon to observe online what was happening. Mount Pleasant had 31 Year 5 pupils, along with 1 pupil who was working from home! Glan Usk had 30+ Year 6 pupils involved. The pupils worked together on a World Cup topic, using pre-prepared Google Slides. 16 groups were organised and from what I could 'observe' pairs of children from each school were in each group. I've created a short video which you can view below which may hopefully give you some idea and a feel of what was going on.

As far as I could tell everything seemed to work seamlessly, with no technical issues at all. I'll speak to my colleagues in both schools to find out more about how they felt about the learning and teaching aspects of the collaborative process. Initial feedback from them has been very positive.

"Amazing session. Must do it again some time." - Mount Pleasant
#greatexcitement #greatlearning - Glan Usk Primary School

Mount Pleasant pupils at work on the project this afternoon

Glan Usk Primary School pupils working on the project this afternoon

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

E-Safety Links for Pupils, Teachers and Parents

I've recently been updating my e-safety links for an e-safety awareness raising session with parents. Here is a list of the resources I've gathered that could be suitable to share with children, teachers and parents. I'll try my best to keep the links active and update when I can :-)

*Last updated 7th December 2016*

Parental Controls (Gaming Consoles)
Microsoft Xbox 360 - Parental Controls
Microsoft Xbox One -Family Settings
Sony PS3 - Parental Controls
Sony PS4 - Parental Controls
Nintendo Wii U - Parental Controls
Nintendo Wii - Parental Controls

UK Safer Internet Centre - Parental Advice on Gaming Devices

Video Games
Common Sense Media Games Reviews for Parents
Ask About Games
PEGI Games Ratings
Online Gaming

Parental Controls (Operating Systems)
Apple OS X Yosemite
Apple OS X Mountain Lion
Apple OS X Mavericks
Setting Restrictions on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
Microsoft Windows 7 Parental Controls
Microsoft Windows 8 Parental Controls
Microsoft Windows 10 Parental Controls
How to Use Android Parental Controls to Keep Your Children Safe Online

Parental Controls (Mobile Phones)
EE / Orange / TMobile

Control for In-App Purchases
Common Sense Media App Reviews for Parents
Apple iPhone & iPad

For Pupils
Thinkuknow - Foundation Phase
Thinkuknow - KS2
Thinkuknow - KS3
Thinkuknow - 14+
UK Safer Internet Centre - Primary School Pupils
UK Safer Internet Centre - Secondary School Pupils
Childnet International - Primary School Pupils
Childnet International - Secondary School Pupils
BBC CBBC Stay Safe
BBC Advice and Tips for Staying Safe Online

Teacher and Parent Support
Thinkuknow - Parents
Thinkuknow - Teachers
Google Safety Centre
UK Safer Internet Centre - Parents
UK Safer Internet Centre - Teachers
Childnet International - Parents
Childnet International - Teachers
Kidsmart - Foundation Phase
Kidsmart - KS2
Kidsmart - Parents
Professional Reputation

SWGfL - Digital Literacy Curriculum (Wales)
SWGfL - Digital Literacy Curriculum

Advice for Schools and Teachers (Unions)
NASUWT - A Checklist for NQTs
NASUWT - Abuse of Technology
NAHT - Social Media and Online Safety
ATL - Social Networking Sites

CEOP - Lee & Kim (5 to 7 year olds)
CEOP - Jigsaw (8 to 10 year olds)
CEOP - Matt Thought He Knew (KS3 / KS4)
CEOP - Clare Thought She Knew (KS3/KS4)
CBBC - Caught in the Web
CBBC Horrible Histories - Don't Lie About Your Age Online
CBBC Horrible Histories - Internet Privacy Settings
CBBC Horrible Histories - Beware What Your Download
How Search Works
How does the internet work?
The Internet (Wise Kids)
Can I Be Your Friend?

Further e-Safety Resource Sites
Hwb Esafety Zone
SWGfL e-Safety Resources
Thomas Tolkien Blog

Digital and Media Literacy
Common Sense Media

Other Resources
Facebook Advice from the UK Safety Centre

Monday, 26 May 2014

Getting Value for Money

Over the weekend I read a post from Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) called "iPads in the Classroom - are we machine gunning emus?" In it Tom argues that iPad adoption is an expensive exercise with
"little evidence that iPad adoption has any discernible effect on the educational outcomes of children whatsoever." 
Adding, "however shiny and groovy they are" they aren't necessarily the answer for under achieving children. His thoughts very much resonated with myself, as this an area of concern that I've had for a while. In 2011 I wrote a post called "They Want A Shiny New One", which outlined similar concerns about the way some schools were approaching the buying of what is an expensive piece of kit without any real vision about how they were going to use them. Over the last three years, since that post was written, the purchasing of iPads by schools has increased considerably, and this is now being exacerbated in Wales with money available through the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG). Most schools I'm now talking to are buying iPads with this year's increase in money and to be honest I doubt that many of them can honestly say what difference having these devices will make for their free school meals (FSM) children which is where the money is supposed to be targeted. It appears that they just want to have have iPads and the PDG is a means of getting them. 

To help schools it may be worthwhile for them to read "The Impact of Digital Technology" report from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). On page 15 in its conclusions and recommendations it says:
"Studies linking provision and use of technology with attainment tend to find consistent but small positive associations with educational outcomes. However, a causal link cannot be inferred from this kind of research. It seems probable that more effective schools and teachers are more likely to use ICT and digital technologies more effectively than other schools."
As I've seen written several times before, good teachers use good technology well, poor teachers will use good technology poorly. A good teacher will be able to use a resource or tool effectively, what ever it is. It could be an iPad, but equally it could be the ageing PC in the corner of the classroom, a poster, TV programme or a reference book from the school library.

As I have said previously I have no issue at all with the iPad. It is a fantastic personal device that has revolutionised the way the world uses technology. However, it is a product that comes at a premium cost, and I do question whether schools are getting value for money from them. You may have 50 iPads, but so what? What impact is this having on the pupils? The EEF toolkit says that digital technologies are high cost for moderate student progress. The iPad is most certainly at the higher cost end of educational technologies. Therefore couldn't the moderate improvement in student progress be made using digital technologies that provide greater value for money to a school?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

BBC Wales Reports

Isn't it funny the way the press report things as if it were fact? Take yesterday morning's report from the BBC called "Wales' schools left behind in digital age, experts claim". The article is basically saying that if we don't implement changes recommended in the ICT Steering Group report then we will be falling behind England where the changes come into effect in Sept 2014.  What caught my eye was the statement six lines in which says:
"a similar plan will not be introduced in schools in Wales for at least four years."
Four years? Where did this figure come from? I haven't seen anything announced by the Welsh Government saying that this is the predicted timescale of a new Computing PoS. Searching through the article I thought something must have been announced, but no, nothing. So who is it that's saying four years? Why not say 6 months, 1 year or 10 years? Four years seems to be an arbitrary figure, plucked from the ether by someone.

Interestingly this is the second piece in two weeks from BBC Wales on concerns over what they see as delays to the new curriculum, with the focus primarily on programming. I wonder where this story is coming from? Could there be vested interests pushing it for their own benefit? No, that's just silly.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Sutton Trust - EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit

If you are wondering about ways to spend your PDG effectively have a look at the Sutton Trust EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit. It provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. You'll find a wide selection of approaches that a school can take, along with the estimated cost, the availability and the quality of evidence, and finally the average impact expected estimated in terms of additional months progress pupils might be expected to make as a result of that approach being taken in the school.

We can see from this screen shot of the tool kit that Digital technology approaches are high cost approaches with moderate student progress, which is supported by extensive evidence. Whereas Collaborative learning approaches for instance is low cost that produces the approximately the same student progress. Certainly makes me think. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

PDG - "What really works?"

Welsh Government have just released some follow up Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) guidance for schools. "What really works?"is a useful guide intended to give practical advice to schools on appropriate approaches that will help poorer pupils overcome the additional barriers they face that prevent them from achieving their full potential. I must say I'm surprised and shocked to the core......not one single mention that buying 30 iPads with the grant is an approach that will help these pupils! #sarcasm

Monday, 5 May 2014

ICT and Numeracy Day

A very good day looking at numeracy and ICT at Clytha Primary School last Friday. One of the intentions of the day was also to focus on getting the most from resources that the school has. The school had purchased 2Simple's Purple Mash, so I looked at many of its tools that can support aspects of numeracy. The staff particularly enjoyed using LOGO, talking about shape and angle. Lots of good discussing between them to work out how to complete the challenges I set. In fact, I found it difficult to get them to go for their coffee break! We then looked at using databases (2Investigate) and opportunities for graphing with 2Graph and 2Count. In the afternoon my colleague Steve Singer gave an excellent introduction to 'Scratch' and finally we finished the day off with SMART Notebook tools that can help support the teaching of mathematics.

Building procedures in LOGO

Getting to grips with Scratch

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Digital Literacy: Across the Border

In my previous post about Digital Literacy I attempted to set the context of what is currently happening in education in Wales with regards to the recommendations from the ICT Steering Group report. These recommendations included the changing of ICT to the new subject of Computing, and the introduction of a statutory Digital Literacy Framework that would sit alongside the current Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks. The Welsh Government in their response to that report explained that Digital Literacy would now become part of a statutory Wider Skills Framework. Currently Professor Graham Donaldson has been tasked with reviewing education in Wales and one of his remits is to look at the ICT Steering Group report and recommendations. His review findings should be released at the end of 2014.

It was was important for me to try and look at the definition of digital literacy. I personally feel that there is some ambiguity about the term, which I will come back to at the end of this post. For me the term is closely related to someone who can be thought of as being 'digitally literate', someone who is educated or has a good understanding in the field of using digital technology. The Royal Society definition of Digital Literacy does outline some of the skills which a person would need, which were very much around the basic functional skills of using a variety of devices and software safely. This is to my mind what schools were doing (or are doing) currently under the umbrella of ICT. I also looked at a definition from Futurelab which broke down digital literacy into eight areas. These included functional skills alongside, e-safety, collaboration, creativity, cultural and social understanding, critical thinking and evaluation, effective communication and the ability to find and select information. Common Sense Media in their description of digital literacy include areas such as; privacy and security, digital footprint and reputation, and creative credit and copyright. All of which you may arguably agree are equally important for someone who can be thought of as being digitally literate in society today.

Digital Literacy in the Computing PoS for England

I'm going to look next at what I see currently happening in England with regards to the new Computing PoS changes which come into effect in September 2014, as this might help us in Wales gain some idea about where things maybe possibly heading. I explained in the previous post that the new Computing PoS requirements could be thought of as being split into three sections - Computer Science (CS), Information Technology (IT) and Digital Literacy (DL). For this post I shall only be concentrating on the Information Technology and Digital Literacy elements. In the Computing PoS requirements are written the aims of the new curriculum:
  • can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems
  • are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.
The first point could be thought of as being related to Information Technology, the second to Digital Literacy.

A very good guide to the new Computing PoS for primary schools has been jointly produced by Computing at School and NAACE called "Computing in the National Curriculum: A Guide for Primary Teachers". The document, authored by Miles Berry, provides a very good overview to the new requirements by key stage, the terminology used, planning and teaching approaches. Below you can see a screen shot from that document showing how they have interpreted those requirements into the three sections by key stage.
Taken from Computing in the national curriculum - a guide for primary teachers (2013)
Looking at this interpretation of what constitutes Digital Literacy in the primary school we can see that the focus is very much on e-safety, respectful and responsible use of technology, how technologies are used beyond school and opportunities to use technology to support collaborative practices and for communication. These relate closely to the models from Futurelab, Jisc or other organisations such as Common Sense Media and MediaSmarts. The Information Technology requirements basically look very similar to the ICT requirements as they currently stand in Wales under the strands of Finding and Analysing, and Creating and Communicating.

Interestingly the Royal Society's definition of Digital Literacy is actually probably more akin in this example to the Information Technology requirements and not Digital Literacy:
"Digital literacy should be understood to mean the basic skill or ability to use a computer confidently, safely and effectively, including: the ability to use office software such as word processors, email and presentation software, the ability to create and edit images, audio and video, and the ability to use a web browser and internet search engines
I've been unable to find a similar document to the “Computing in the National Curriculum” for secondary teachers (although I'm sure there must be one out there). I've therefore taken the KS3 requirements for England and constructed a table with a similar interpretation of the requirements as the table above.


  • design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems
  • understand several key algorithms that reflect computational thinking [for example, ones for sorting and searching]; use logical reasoning to compare the utility of alternative algorithms for the same problem
  • use two or more programming languages, at least one of which is textual, to solve a variety of computational problems; make appropriate use of data structures [for example, lists, tables or arrays]; design and develop modular programs that use procedures or functions
  • understand simple Boolean logic [for example, AND, OR and NOT] and some of its uses in circuits and programming; understand how numbers can be represented in binary, and be able to carry out simple operations on binary numbers [for example, binary addition, and conversion between binary and decimal]
  • understand the hardware and software components that make up computer systems, and how they communicate with one another and with other systems
  • understand how instructions are stored and executed within a computer system; understand how data of various types (including text, sounds and pictures) can be represented and manipulated digitally, in the form of binary digits

  • undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users
  • create, re-use, revise and re-purpose digital artefacts for a given audience, with attention to trustworthiness, design and usability


  • understand a range of ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly and securely, including protecting their online identity and privacy; recognise inappropriate content, contact and conduct and know how to report concerns.

Again Digital Literacy is being defined as e-safety and being responsible and respectful users, but does now develop this into issues around online identity, privacy, and security. Interestingly there are no specific mentions of effective searching (or researching), which I personally would have thought would be developed further as the pupils get older, nor mentions about networks for communication and collaboration. Information Technology is very much about combining applications from a variety of devices to create, re-use, revise or re-purpose digital artefacts to solve a problem.

Digital Literacy Ambiguity

It's worth noting that the ambiguity as to what exactly constitutes Digital Literacy is actually referred to in the "Computing in the National Curriculum" document. The Digital Literacy definitions and descriptions outlined in my last post are being separated out between Information Literacy and Digital Literacy:
“(The) distinction between information technology and digital literacy is open to some interpretation, (the) important thing is to cover the content in a balanced, stimulating and creative way rather than being overly concerned about the specifics of terminology.”
I understand and very much agree with the principle of what is said, however I would like to pick up on the specifics of the Digital Literacy terminology, for the reasons that I'll explain below.

At this time, education in Wales is quite rightly focussed on literacy and numeracy, with statutory frameworks supporting their integration across the whole curriculum from the foundation phase to KS3, I think some schools and teachers could easily become confused with the term "Digital Literacy” and what it means for them. For example, I’ve recently seen adverts for a couple of events being held in the UK that have a focus on Digital Literacy in the new curriculum. It was interesting to see that in each, the practical workshop sessions were mainly focussed on technology to support literacy in the classroom. I personally think that maybe they are missing the essence of what being digitally literate in a Computing PoS context is about. Have workshops on how digital skills and tools can be applied to support aspects of literacy, but equally we should also be seeing workshops on the digital skills and tools that support numeracy such as the use of spreadsheets, databases, or sessions on computer modelling and simulations - very important areas in supporting the STEM subjects for instance. The ability to use these tools appropriately is in my opinion, equally as important as the skills needed for word processing, desk-top publishing or video editing which we see commonly used to support literacy across the curriculum. If there were more examples of spreadsheets activities, or modelling and simulation at conferences, courses and seminars then maybe Estyn wouldn't feel the need to highlight these as areas of weakness in primary schools at KS2 for example. In fact, based on the Computing PoS requirements seen above, that have been interpreted as being Digital Literacy, the main focus of any event about Digital Literacy should predominantly be around the issues of e-safety, digital footprint, effective researching, and the responsible and respectful use of technology. This too appears to be overlooked in the event descriptions that I read. Anecdotally I’ve also been speaking to teaching colleagues and asking them what “Digital Literacy” means to them and get the same answer that it's about technology that supports literacy.

I therefore believe that there could be a question around the term 'Digital Literacy'. To me and possibly to others, it is ambiguous. The word 'literacy' is certainly a high profile word at the moment with all teachers, and they would naturally use it in the context of "the ability to read and write". It is therefore completely understandable why some might look at the term Digital Literacy and think that this is about technology supporting literacy, which doesn't get fully to the core of what it means to prepare someone to be 'digitally literate' for today's society.
"Digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world."
Computing in the National Curriculum. A Guide For Primary Teachers, (2013)
It also seems like literacies are the new 'buzzword', with a literacy seemingly associated with almost all areas of education. Could this become another educational term that will too soon go ‘out of fashion’? Is there a more appropriate term that could be used, that may help schools and teachers get a better grasp on what it means to prepare students to be digitally literate?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Digital Literacy: The Context for Wales & Definitions

At a time when England have introduced digital literacy elements to their new Computing PoS, and with the recommendations from the ICT Steering Group report for a digital literacy framework alongside the new subject of Computing, I’ve been attempting to look closely into what exactly is meant by the term ‘digital literacy’, and ultimately what this could mean for primary and secondary schools in Wales. I intend to put together a series of blogs on the topic, mainly as a way to help me with my understanding around some of the current thinking in this field, but hopefully it will still be of interest to teachers and others. I'd welcome any of your thoughts or comments on this topic.

The Context

In June 2012, Leighton Andrews, the then Minister for Education and Skills, announced “an additional £3m of funding over the next three years to support a range of measures to improve computer science, digital literacy and ICT in schools and colleges across Wales.” This announcement came soon after the Royal Society’s, “Shut Down or Restart?” report in January 2012, which recommended the disaggregating of ICT into clearly defined areas such as Computer Science, Information Technology and digital literacy.

Mr. Andrews then added, “we believe that every child should be expected to be ‘digitally literate’ by the end of compulsory education, in the same way that every child is expected to be able to read and write.”

In September 2013, England published their new Computing PoS for KS1 to 4, that would be taught in maintained schools in England from September 2014. The subject content of which reflected the Royal Society’s report containing statements that could be grouped together as Computer Science, Information Technology and digital literacy.
January 2013 saw the formation of an ICT Steering Group to consider the future of ICT and Computer Science for schools in Wales. In particular the group was asked to consider the following points:
• ‘ICT’ in education needs to be re-branded, re-engineered and made relevant to now and the future
• Digital Literacy is the start and not the end point - learners need to be taught to create as well as to consume
• Computer science should be introduced at primary school and developed over the course of the curriculum so that learners can progress into a career pathway in the sector
• Skills, such as creative problem-solving, should be reflected in the curriculum
• Revised qualifications need to be developed in partnership with schools, higher education and industry
In September 2013 the group published its report containing 12 recommendations.

Recommendation 1 called for the disaggregating of the subject ICT (as in the Royal Society’s report), but unlike England, only into the two areas of Computer Science and Information Technology. Recommendation 3 suggested the development and implementation of a statutory Digital Literacy Framework from Foundation Phase through to post-16 education and that this would “complement and sit alongside the current Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks.”

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills responded to ICT Steering Group’s report in March 2014, and stated that “initial scoping work towards the development of a framework for the teaching and learning of digital literacy skills has already taken place”, but that digital literacy is “a key theme under under ‘Wider Skills’, with the intention of placing these on a statutory footing in the curriculum in Wales.” Therefore there appears to be no separate digital literacy framework, but it’s inclusion in a Wider Skills Framework which comprises of:

  • critical thinking and problem solving 
  • planning and organising 
  • creativity and innovation 
  • personal effectiveness 
  • digital literacy
However, it should be noted that the Welsh Government has recently tasked Professor Graham Donaldson with putting forward recommendations for a clear vision of education in Wales, from Foundation Phase to KS4, and part of his remit is to look at the reports from a variety of stakeholders, including the ICT Steering Group report. He is due to report his findings at the end of the year (2014). It will be very interesting to see what Prof Donaldson recommends.

Coincidentally, Dr. Tom Crick who was a co-chair of the ICT Steering Group, tweeted this yesterday.

Tweet from Dr. Tom Crick, 24th April 2014

What Is Digital Literacy?

Well let’s take both words separately before looking at numerous definitions of the term itself.

Digital - one of the definitions of which is “Involving or relating to the use of computer technology” or “Characterized by widespread use of computers”. I think most of us would be happy with that simple definition in this particular context.

Literacy - “the ability to read and write” or the broader definition of being “knowledgable or educated in a particular field or fields”. Both quite straight-forward and explanatory definitions.

Therefore if I was to put the two definitions together then it could give me a definition something along the lines of, “a persons knowledge in using computer technology”. Let’s have a look at some more formal and detailed definitions from various organisations. This is certainly by no means an exhaustive list.

The Royal Society

I’ll start with this definition from the Royal Society, it comes from the influential “Shut down and restart?” (2012) report which is very much at the heart of the curriculum changes in England and the ICT Steering Group in Wales recommendations.
"Digital literacy should be understood to mean the basic skill or ability to use a computer confidently, safely and effectively, including: the ability to use office software such as word processors, email and presentation software, the ability to create and edit images, audio and video, and the ability to use a web browser and internet search engines. These are the skills that teachers of other subjects at secondary school should be able to assume that their pupils have, as an analogue of being able to read and write. 
Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools, January 2012, Page 17 
What I find particularly interesting about this definition is that in my opinion this is basically what schools should have been (or are) carrying out under the ‘belittled’ subject of ICT. It looks like all we are doing is changing the terminology ("re-branding, re-engineered") from ICT to Digital Literacy. I do however particularly like the final sentence about “teachers of other subjects at secondary school should be able to assume that their pupils have, as an analogue of being able to read and write.” I hope to come back to this in a further post.


I thought I go back and have a look at how Becta defined digital literacy.
"Digital literacy is the combination of skills, knowledge and understanding that young people need to learn in order to participate fully and safely in an increasingly digital world.
This array of skills, knowledge and understanding is a key component of the primary and secondary curriculum and should be incorporated in the teaching of all subjects at all levels."
Digital Literacy. Teaching critical thinking for our digital world, March 2010, Page 3
In my opinion this definition is actually pretty closely matched to the Royal Society’s version. It too talks about an array of skills, but unlike the Royal Society it is not expanded upon. It also mentions that this is done safely, and that the skills, knowledge, and understanding should be incorporated into the teaching of all subjects. Perhaps the only difference I can pick up in this is the reference to “an increasingly digital world” which we don't find in the Royal Society's definition.

"To be digitally literate is to have access to a broad range of practices and cultural resources that you are able to apply to digital tools. It is the ability to make and share meaning in different modes and formats; to create, collaborate and communicate effectively and to understand how and when digital technologies can best be used to support these processes."
"Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum", 2010, Page 4
This is the first definition where we see the words “collaborate and communicate” being used. Futurelab do elaborate further on this definition and break down digital literacy into eight areas:

  • functional skills 
  • critical thinking and evaluation 
  • creativity 
  • e-safety 
  • effective communication 
  • the ability to find and select information 
  • collaboration 
  • cultural and social understanding 
Contrast this with the Royal Society definition. Their definition seems focussed only on functional skills (basic skill or ability to use a computer), e-safety (confidently, safely and effectively), effective communication (email) and the ability to find and select information (the ability to use...internet search engines). Futurelab are now introducing creativity, critical thinking and evaluating, cultural and social understanding and collaboration into the digital literacy mix. Interestingly if you look back to the Welsh Government's proposal for the Wider Skills Framework you will see critical thinking and creativity elements included but in a broader context, not necessarily only from a digital perspective.

It might also be useful to look at the Common Sense Media's digital literacy & citizenship curriculum which broadens out the themes of e-safety, finding and selecting information, and cultural and social understanding into headings such as:
  • internet safety
  • privacy & security
  • digital footprint & reputation
  • information literacy
  • creative credit & copyright 
which one could certainly argue as being equally as important features of being a digitally literate citizen. Suddenly the simple Royal Society comment of using the computer "safely" becomes a larger and important area. But how much of this is taught in Computing lessons, and how much of this is a whole school issue?

"We simply define digital literacies as the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society."
"Developing Students' Digital Literacies", 2014
A very simple definition from Jisc. But in my opinion the key to this definition is unpacking the word ‘capabilities’. Both Becta and Futurelab mention skills, knowledge, understanding and practices to be digitally literate. Only in the Royal Society definition do we really get a description of those skills and abilities that they believe are needed to be digitally literate. I should add that Jisc do elaborate on their definition breaking digital literacy down into some similar areas to the Futurelab model.

A couple of questions for me to think about:

What are those capabilities and skills that someone would need to live, learn and work in a digital society? Remember Leighton Andrews said, "“we believe that every child should be expected to be ‘digitally literate’ by the end of compulsory education, in the same way that every child is expected to be able to read and write.”

What are the digital literacy skills that a secondary school teacher would assume their pupils to have when they enter his or hers class? Are these a different skill set from the question above?

Are digital literacy skills different for each curriculum subject? What's common to every subject?

Where does digital literacy get taught? Is it only in ICT Computing lessons?

At a time when there seems to be a wide variety of 'literacies' in education - physical literacy, emotional literacy, musical literacy, information literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, cultural literacy, functional literacy, financial literacy, social literacy….the list is endless, I particularly liked this humorous tweet from @edtechhulk on this literacy terminology ‘overload’.


It is also perhaps worth noting that in the European Commission they refer to digital literacy as digital competence, which I personally quite like :-)

In my next series of blog postings I hope to look at a couple of existing digital literacy frameworks, what digital literacy looks like in the new English Computing PoS and possibly how a new statutory digital literacy (or wider skills framework) could work alongside a new Computing curriculum for Wales.

Some of My Background Reading

£3M investment in computer science and digital literacy in Wales -

Common Sense Media - Digital Literacy and Citizenship Classroom Curriculum -

Developing students’ digital literacies -

DigiLit Leicester Framework -

Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks -

Digital literacy across the curriculum handbook -

Digital literacy and the new curriculum -

Digital literacy. Teaching critical thinking for our digital world -

Digital Literacy: My curated links to all things related to the topic -

Good lord! Where’s the digital literacy? -

ICT Steering Group’s Report to Welsh Government and Welsh Government Response -

Jisc Infonet: Developing digital literacies -

MediaSmarts - Digital Literacy Fundamentals -

National curriculum in England: computing programmes of study -

Review of Curriculum in Wales -

Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools. -
South West Grid for Learning Digital Literacy -

SQA Digital Literacy Competence Framework -

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies -

The Open University: Digital and information literacy framework -

Wikipedia definition of digital literacy-

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

British Pathe YouTube Channel

Some really good news, British Pathe have now launched a YouTube channel. Users now have access to 85,000 historical films, about 3,500 hours of historical footage. Definitely an excellent resource for supporting history in the primary and secondary school. Hopefully your local authority hasn't blocked YouTube for use in school!! I've just been Chromecasting the videos to my TV, but they can obviously be embedded and shared in the usual ways.

They also have separate channels focussing on War, Vintage Fashions and Sporting History. British Pathe have created some playlists under different themes to help you explore some topics. A couple fo examples are shown below.

World War I

Greatest Sporting Moments

Vintage Fashions

Friday, 28 March 2014

Digital Literacy, Fakebook & Twister

For the last couple of weeks I've been trawling through the internet looking for resources, articles and research around the topic of digital literacy (or should it be digital literacies?) Lots of good things out there and I now just need the time to sit down and go through what I've gathered. Much of what I find is being curated on this page which maybe useful for those of you wanting to find out a little more about this area. This morning I landed upon a page titled A Guide for Social Media in the Classroom. What particularly caught my attention was a link to Fakebook and Twister. In my opinion these look like a good opportunity to talk to pupils about issues around e-safety and the use of social media. But it also looks like another useful literacy tool to help pupils communicate information about a class topic or area of research. Watch the 90 sec video showing the making of a Fakebook page for John Lennon. The Twister page also includes many examples of Tweets (Twists?) from famous people in history. Here are a couple of history examples I've just quickly made.

Fakebook Example

Twister Example