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Jim Knight: 'Let's give all students their own domain name – and watch the digital learning that follows'

Former schools minister, and TES Global's chief education adviser, Jim Knight, considers stealing an innovative idea from the US

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Former schools minister, and TES Global's chief education adviser, Jim Knight, considers stealing an innovative idea from the US

This week the CBI yet again published an employer survey that warned of the perils of the UK skills gap. This follows the Treasury’s Productivity Plan and the Education Select Committee in the UK Parliament agreeing a major enquiry into productivity.  Much of the concern is about digital skills, as highlighted in a House of Lords report earlier this year.

Meanwhile I spent a small part of last weekend wrestling with my own digital skills and using Wordpress to create a new website.

So I was delighted to have found this great article by Audrey Watters on A Domain of One’s Own.

Starting at the University of Mary Washington, a number of US schools are giving students their own domain name.  As Audrey says:

The importance of giving students responsibility for their own domain cannot be overstated. This can be a way to track growth and demonstrate new learning over the course of a student’s school career — something that they themselves can reflect upon, not simply grades and assignments that are locked away in a proprietary system controlled by the school.

It is also a great way to build digital skills. 

Students choose their own domain name, register it, and then work out how to attach it to a site. Along with the name come a bundle of tools and help to design what they want their domain to be. It can be a portfolio of work, an aid to literacy through blogging, a way to use coding skills and so on. And then there is learning how to build an audience, a great introduction to digital marketing.

Last year I was at a Tech London Advocates event where a couple of hundred employers in the tech sector were asked what skills they were struggling to hire. It wasn’t just developers. It was digital marketeers, designers, and project managers.

So lets steal that idea from the States and link it to a great announcement last week from the BBC. We should give every one who is being given a BBC Micro:bit a domain name. 

From Year 7, young people could then build their own web presence and digital confidence, whilst learning the technology skills from coding the micro:bit. They could present and archive their work and open their own window into the world wide web.

I have suggested it to Nominet UK, and their charitable trust.  I hope they will pick this up and give young people this fantastic opportunity.  But I would also love to hear from others whether it could work in helping our digital skills problem and how teachers could use every child having their own domain.

What do you think?

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