Friday, 16 October 2015

A Balance Between Coding and Digital Literacy

An article from EurActiv.com caught my attention this afternoon. Titled, "Computing and digital literacy education needs a unified approach" and authored by the ECDL Foundation, the piece argues that
"education programmes promoting coding need to be balanced with basic technology skills, which are too often lacking - even amongst so-called 'digital natives'."
Also highlighting that there was a danger that
"this focus on coding risks diminishing the quality of other aspects or computing and digital literacy education."
It was quite refreshing to read this article as I thought that I might be the only one who was having some concerns, especially with the media focus on educational technology at the moment is seemingly fixated on coding in schools. In my post from June I wrote about what I saw as 'skewed reporting' of the digital competence framework, from the BBC. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the introduction of coding into school. But in my opinion, it does have to be balanced along with the basic technology skills (word processing, data handling, web browsing, etc.) and other important digital literacy or competence areas such as digital citizenship, e-safety, online communication and collaboration. It will be interesting to see the final digital competence framework that the digital pioneer schools produce. I'm sure some quarters would like to see and are maybe pushing to have coding built into this. However, from my reading of the Successful Futures report, it's clear that Prof. Donaldson believes that computer science sits outside of the digital competence framework. I wonder what the BBC will think of that??

E-Skills at School - Computing and digital literacy: call for holistic approach
E-Skills at School - Brochure

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Communication Breakdown?

The last couple of months have been an extremely busy time for my consultancy. My ICT scheme seems to have had a very good reception from schools. I have met with headteachers, ICT coordinators, run Inset training days, twilight meetings or courses for well over 100 primary schools from across Wales. The majority of them having the same concerns of what the Successful Futures report might mean for their school, and wanting to 'refocus' again on ICT. For many this means looking at the basic skills pupils need to successfully and efficiently create, store and organise files (word processing, DTP, handling data, video, audio, and graphics). Alongside these basic technology aspects we also look at the elements of online communication and collaboration (through O365 or Google Apps for Edu), and digital citizenship / esafety. If you look back at my previous posts on digital competence/literacy, you'll see that these are two areas which consistently appear in existing digital competence/literacy frameworks from around the world. It's also the two areas where the Welsh Government have invested heavily in over the last three years, contracting the South West Grid for Learning to produce a digital literacy curriculum for primary and secondary schools, and the Hwb platform containing Office365, Just2Easy and Hwb+. I think it's a pretty good guess that the new digital competence framework would have to include reference to these types of tools and services, as the Welsh Government has heavily invested in them?

However, what has been very clear on my travels, is an issue that should be of concern to the Welsh Government, and that is a lack of knowledge by the overwhelming majority of these schools of Hwb. I would say for every fifteen schools I visit, only one is doing something with Hwb+ or Hwb, and to be honest there is certainly a confusion around the difference between Hwb and Hwb+. When I mention Hwb, head teachers or coordinators start talking about Hwb+, because they may have gone on the training for this product in the past. There seems to be a real lack of understanding that Hwb is the gateway through which they can access a variety of tools which include Hwb+, alongside Microsoft Office 365, Just2Easy, Encyclopaedia Britannica, etc. So, Wales is three years into the Hwb project and there is still confusion at a school leadership level, never mind the general absence of knowledge about Hwb at the classroom teacher level. There appears to be a serious communication breakdown somewhere along the line.