Schools need time to prepare pupils for digital world

No shared picture in education of what effective digital skills teaching looks like, says report

phones in school

Teachers need more opportunities to develop digital skills otherwise students will be unprepared for the workplace, a report from the Nuffield Foundation states.

Today's report has described the “seductive nature and constant presence” of mobile phones among schoolchildren and states that, while some headteachers have banned them, "the techno-evangelists liken this to asking short-sighted students to leave their spectacles at the school gate". 

It says that the picture is complex but "a few things seem to be irrefutable from the evidence base", including that "the current situation in schools and homes is leaving many young people vulnerable to adverse influences and unprepared for the world of work".

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While recent research found that UK teachers are the most tech-savvy in the developed world, the report’s author, Professor Angela McFarlane, says they may not have opportunities to develop the skills they need to make effective use of technology.

She said: “We all need to know how to navigate the digital world, make sense of what we find and nurture our health and wellbeing. We need to understand how education can best prepare children and young people to be proficient users and shapers of digital technology, competent and confident. The alternative is a nation of clickbait.”

McFarlane found there is no shared picture of what effective digital skills teaching looks like, and that the current use and knowledge of computer-based technology in schools is leaving many young people vulnerable to adverse influences and unprepared for the world of work.   

The report calls for curriculum reform to cater for the “rapid growth” in digital technology which is transforming society and the economy.

And it adds that while the personal ownership of digital devices, mostly mobile phones, continues to grow among children and young people, there is relatively little use of digital technologies in schools beyond the study of computing itself as a subject.

The use of phones in schools has divided opinion among educational experts, including schools minister Nick Gibb who advocates a ban and says every hour spent on a phone is an hour lost talking to family, doing exercise or sleeping.

Yet Professor Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University says pupils should be allowed to use phones in school, and even in exams, to search for information. He believes pupils need to formally learn how to surf properly and said the internet should be made a formal subject in schools, just like chemistry and physics.

Nuffield Foundation's director of education Josh Hillman states in the report: “There is no shared view of what the digital education agenda is aiming to achieve and what the priorities should be for policymakers and practitioners.

“In a context of relatively rapid change in what is taught, how it is taught and why, it is particularly difficult to ensure that policy and practice are informed by high-quality evidence.”

Recent research by Leeds Beckett University found that pupils surviving on two hours' sleep due to phone addiction.

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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