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Digital task force wants to see progress on Grid

THE Scottish Executive will publish annual progress reports on the implementation of its National Grid for Learning in schools and colleges if ministers accept the recommendations of the Digital Scotland Task Force.

The proposals, designed to ensure Scotland gains full advantage from the digital technologies, were issued this week in a wide-ranging report from the 24-strong group whose members are drawn from the private sector, local government and education under the chairmanship of Peter Peacock, Deputy Children and Education Minister.

The report says there should be greater collaboration in applying information and communications technology (ICT) to education, both within public agencies and between public and private sectors. It makes clear the task force envisages the nature of education and learning changing under the influence of ICT.

"We believe these changes are irresistible not least because the reach of the Internet will enable students, pupils and adult learners to choose ICT-enabled learning materials and styles which suit them," the report states. "But positive change won't happen by itself. Change must be managed and led to ensure that we achieve esirable outcomes."

The Executive's "programme for Government" has already declared an ambition to ensure that every school-leaver will have an understanding of information technology by 2003.

These themes have already been touched on by Donald Dewar, the First Minister, in his speech to the Scottish Labour Party in March. Mr Dewar foresaw ICT-induced change in teaching methods, course content, teacher training and the "watertight compartmentalisation" between subjects.

The task force calls on the Executive to initiate collaboration among education authorities on ICT developments, commissioning software and delivering learning outwith schools.

Its report also cautions that the various bodies operating in the field, such as the combined educational technology and curriculum councils, the Scottish University for Industry (now rebranded as learndirect scotland) and the National Grid for Learning, should have a distinctive focus so they do not confuse or duplicate.

The appointment of a key national figure, inevitably likely to be dubbed a "digital czar", is also recommended to stimulate action across all fronts, educational and non-educational.

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