Children could switch off from learning if schools neglect digital technology, report says

Government criticises use of technology in schools, as it launches new digital strategy

Henry Hepburn

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Scotland’s pupils will switch off from education and be left incapable of navigating the modern world if schools do not improve their use of digital technology, according to a landmark government publication.

Many pupils claim to use digital technology never or rarely in class, while teachers are frustrated by struggles to get online at all, finds the research, which was used as the basis for the Scottish government’s new “digital strategy” for schools.

The strategy does not blame schools entirely and demands that everyone improves their approach to technology, including school inspectors, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, teacher-training universities and those who are responsible for building new schools.

However, when surveyed, more than one-in-10 secondary pupils claimed never to use digital technology at school, while many others only did so in subjects such as the sciences. Nearly a third said that teachers did not encourage the use of technology at school, even though most pupils (85 per cent) used it for learning at home.

The government has published more than 40 action points, including measures to increase teachers’ confidence. A “digital leaders group”, involving all 32 local authorities, will meet for the first time early in 2017, while a new awards scheme will highlight outstanding practice in primary schools.

When TESS asked teachers for their views, they highlighted technical problems that get in the way of using digital technology. One teacher tweeted: “Being able to access wi-fi in my classroom would be a start!”

Secondary pupils suggested that schools’ lack of resources, rather than teachers’ abilities, were the main problem, with nearly three-quarters in a survey saying that they considered teachers to be confident in using what digital technology they do have. However, in another survey, many primary pupils raised concerns about teachers' “limitations” with technology.

The strategy acknowledges that “the digital infrastructure in Scotland’s education establishments remains inconsistent”. As a result, “educators often lose confidence that the available digital technology will work and, as such, they choose not to incorporate it into their teaching”.

It quotes Andreas Schleicher, education director at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, who said: “Investing in education technology is no longer an option, but a necessity… students unable to navigate through a complex digital landscape will no longer be able to participate fully in economic, social and cultural life around them.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 30 September edition of TESS. Subscribers can view the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. TESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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