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Help for pupils to cross the digital divide

There is little doubt that ICT, integrated into learning skilfully and effectively, by good teachers, will motivate most learners, accelerate learning, and raise achievement. But the continued existence of a "digital divide" should be of concern to every school as we move towards greater personalisation, the use of virtual workspaces, managed learning environments and out-of-hours access to school networks, the internet and learning resources.

Nationally, more than 90 per cent of homes in the highest income bracket have a computer, falling to 25 per cent of homes in the lowest incomes. In the UK, 62 per cent of households have a computer and 52 per cent have the internet. In London, where ownership is highest, the respective figures are 68 per cent and 58 per cent. However, Scotland, at 58 per cent and 49 per cent, lags behind most English regions.

How can Scottish schools begin to address the very real, and possibly increasing, disadvantages caused by the digital divide? We believe we can help through e-Learning Foundation pump-priming grants. We recognise that sustainability is not achieved through one-off grants, but by working in close collaboration with parents, the ultimate stakeholders, and other bodies.

Schools with an e-Learning Foundation are using technology to improve learning support when pupils are away from school.

So far Scotland has not allocated any pump-priming funding to schools wishing to start an e-Learning Foundation, but there is some good news. We recently announced a three-year long collaboration between the e-Learning Foundation charity and DSGi, Europe's leading specialist electrical retailer, as part of its "Switched on Communities" initiative.

There is now an opportunity for a limited number of Scottish schools to obtain financial support from DSGi as they set-up an e-Learning Foundation initiative, and we would be pleased to hear from anyone who is interested in finding out more.

Ray Moore

development director, e-Learning Foundation

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