7. What are the key themes that require our focus?
The evidence tells us that there are a variety of ways that digital technology can be used in our education system to positive effect. However, we know from Education Scotland's Building Society report that this positive impact on outcomes is not being experienced universally by all of our learners.
Through research and consultation, four key themes are emerging:
- Empowering leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching
- Improving access to digital technology for all learners
- Ensuring curriculum and assessment relevance in a digital context
- Extending the skills and confidence of teachers in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology
These are the essential foundations that must be in place if we are to fully realise our vision and enable digital learning and teaching to make the strongest possible contribution to the vision for education set out in the National Improvement Framework. Crucially, it is the combination of these factors that will create the optimum conditions for the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support positive learner outcomes.
Beyond formal responses to this consultation (which should be submitted as per the guidelines set out in Annex B), ongoing dialogue and discussion related to these four themes will be facilitated on the new Digital Learning Community for Scotland website at www.digilearn.scot
Consultation Question 2:
Are the four key themes identified the right ones to focus on?
Are there other themes that should be considered?
Empowering leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching
Sustainable change is most effective when supported by organisational structures and senior leader knowledge of what works best. Leadership is at its most effective when provided with the opportunities to create, share and innovate. Altering organisational models or leadership thinking are important factors in embedding change into systems.
Education leaders at a local authority and establishment level have the biggest single influence on the ethos, culture and direction of travel in our schools. As such, school leadership is recognised as one of the key drivers for improvement in the National Improvement Framework. Scotland's education leaders and decision makers at a national, local and school level need to understand how digital technology can support outcomes and help to deliver existing priorities, if they are to make positive decisions about innovation and investment.
One of the key aims of the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) is to ensure that schools are research rich organisations, where policy and decision making are based on an extensive data set. SCEL and the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) are both pivotal in supporting the development of professional networks to enable knowledge exchange. Identifying and sharing evidence from a range of classroom practice can support valid conclusions about the wider impact of digital technology and can be of tremendous value to senior leaders.
The proposed priorities for action are to:
- Support senior leader collaboration and networking in identifying what approaches to the use of digital technology work and how to achieve change.
- Ensure that innovative schools collaborate and share their practice for the benefit of the wider community.
- Identify an appropriate approach to sharing research on digital technology in learning in a way that is most accessible to senior leaders and practitioners.
- Ensure that our vision for digital technology use is adequately captured and reflected in school improvement guidance and the approach to school inspections in Scotland.
Improving access to digital technology for all learners
Where learners and teachers have a high level of access to technology and appropriate infrastructure, confidence in the use of technology improves. Where variation in infrastructure and access exists, issues around educational inequality only become more pronounced. Improving access to devices and digital online services in school will help to establish a culture and pattern of use that have implications for school education and lifelong learning.
Local authorities are responsible for the delivery of education and therefore are responsible for providing learners with devices, connectivity and access to relevant online tools and services. The Scottish Government supports local authorities through the delivery of a high speed broadband connection and access to a range of tools and services via Glow for all learners and educators. A national procurement framework provides the opportunity to purchase devices at relatively low cost.
We know that learner access to infrastructure, technology and services that support learning differs from local authority to local authority, from school to school, and within schools. These variations have contributed to inconsistencies in the ways that children and young people across Scotland experience digital learning and teaching. Improved access for all our learners will require collaboration both at a local and national level, along with a strong commitment from all sides.
Alongside improved access, consideration needs to be given to child protection, data protection, content filtering, privacy and network security. Requirements for the specific setting of education are different from those in a corporate context - it is important to balance potential risk with the need for young people to learn to use relevant digital technologies in a real world environment.
The proposed priorities for action are to:
- Collaborate with partners, including local authority education and corporate services, to develop standards and guidance around learner access to digital technology in schools.
- Facilitate the sharing across local authorities of approaches to school infrastructure that put users at the heart of the design.
- Continue investment in high speed broadband through the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN).
- Consider future arrangements for Glow, ensuring the tools and services remain relevant and useful and continue to meet the requirements of the education system.
- Continue to provide a route to market for schools and local authorities for the procurement of digital devices.
- Explore the potential for other framework agreements that provide access to, for example, digital resources, services and support.
- Work with stakeholders to establish channels through which partnerships can enhance the provision of access to digital technology.
Ensuring curriculum and assessment relevance in a digital context
We know that in the future, many of our children and young people currently in education will be employed in jobs that do not exist yet. The Digital Skills Investment Plan, published in 2014, highlighted how important the ICT and digital technologies sector is to the Scottish economy. We need a curriculum that equips all children and young people in Scotland with the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work in the 21st century. In a competitive globalised marketplace, those who do not possess these skills will find themselves at a severe disadvantage.
In today's rapidly changing social, economic and technological environment, keeping the curriculum up-to-date and relevant presents both an opportunity and a challenge - but doing so will be crucial to ensuring that digital learning and teaching is embedded in our schools.
Curriculum for Excellence sets out the totality of experiences planned for Scotland's children and young people throughout their education, across eight curriculum areas - expressive arts, health and wellbeing, languages, mathematics, religious and moral education, sciences, social studies, and technologies - as well as in the three areas that are the responsibility of all practitioners: literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing.
At present, 'ICT to enhance learning' is positioned as a strand of the technologies curriculum area, distinct from but related to other strands such as Computing Science and Technological Developments in Society. While Curriculum for Excellence guidance indicates that 'all teachers, in all sectors, in all departments and in all settings, have opportunities to apply, reinforce and extend ICT skills within and across curriculum areas', this is not formally a responsibility of all.
Education Scotland's recent report on the technologies area of Curriculum for Excellence, Building Society, highlighted the challenge that we face in ensuring the curriculum is kept relevant in the 21st century:
We can be proud of what Scotland's technologies have achieved. However, that pride cannot lead to any sense of complacency when faced with the accelerating progress in the technologies around the world. Scotland's young people and communities need to be able to compete, thrive and provide leadership in that challenging environment.
The report concluded that "ICT has not yet had enough impact on young people's learning" and that "inclusion of advice on ICT with the other technologies, whilst logical in one sense, has diminished its influence and impact across the curriculum." Further, the report found that "developments in the digital technologies have accelerated since the original guidance on ICT was issued for Curriculum for Excellence. These developments have left 'ICT to enhance learning' looking like a dated concept, a product of its time which fails to promote an ambitious, accurate, forward-looking and creative role for the digital technologies."
Across the UK, careful consideration is being given to the position of digital skills within the curriculum. The recent review of the Welsh curriculum by Professor Graham Donaldson (Successful Futures, 2015) highlights that 'full participation in modern society and the workplace already demands increasingly high levels of digital competence and that process can only continue into a future that we cannot imagine'. The review calls for the development of a new 'digital competence framework' for Welsh learners, and proposes that 'literacy, numeracy and digital competence should be the responsibility of all teachers … these are so fundamental to thinking, learning and life that they should be developed and reinforced across the curriculum as a whole'.
Similarly, a recent House of Lords select committee report on digital skills (Make or Break: the UK's Digital Future, 2015) stresses that for young people, 'digital literacy is an essential tool that underpins other subjects and almost all jobs', and recommends that 'digital literacy is taught as a core subject alongside numeracy and literacy, embedded across all subjects and throughout the curriculum'.
In light of Education Scotland's Building Society report and other developments within the UK and elsewhere, the question needs to be asked: Are the existing provisions for digital learning within Curriculum for Excellence consistent with our ambitions? And if the answer is 'no', what should be done to redress that?
Like the curriculum, assessment is integral to learning and teaching. It helps to build a picture of young person's progress and achievements, and to identify next steps in learning.
Approaches to assessment can be supported by the use of digital technology in a range of innovative and powerful ways, such as: collecting and submitting evidence in a variety of digital formats; enabling the assessment of valuable skills that are otherwise difficult to capture; or providing opportunities for learners to undertake assessment at times and locations of their choice, thereby helping to personalise learning and widen access. We must ensure that assessment practices make full use of these opportunities to help to deliver positive outcomes for our learners.
The proposed priorities for action are to:
- Work with stakeholders to review the aspects of Curriculum for Excellence relating to the use of digital technology, considering their place within the curriculum structure and ensuring that they are relevant, ambitious and forward-looking.
- Work with SQA and other key partners to support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make full use of digital technology.
- Explore ways in which digital technology can support the individual needs and capabilities of learners, and provide feedback to practitioners that is specific to the individual learner.
Extending the skills and confidence of teachers in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology
Excellent teaching is at the heart of improving outcomes for learners; digital technology can support this but it cannot replace it. In order to unlock the full potential of digital technology to enrich learning in Scotland's schools, it is vital to ensure that the teaching profession has the skills and confidence to use digital technology appropriately and effectively across the curriculum.
Teacher professionalism is highlighted as a key driver for improvement in the National Improvement Framework, and Teaching Scotland's Future aims to improve professional learning for all parts of the teaching profession, from initial teacher education through to senior leadership. It recognises the pivotal importance of digital technology.
Twenty-first century Scots require high levels of skill and resilience if they are to thrive in a highly competitive, technologically sophisticated and interdependent world. Ensuring our education system anticipates and addresses the rapidly changing and variable needs of learners is a central professional and policy concern. The role of educators in preparing learners to engage successfully in this environment is of huge significance.
The GTCS Standards for Registration and for Career Long Professional Learning make clear that teachers must know how to use digital technology competently to support learning. To meet these standards, it is imperative that those entering the profession acquire a solid foundation in the use of digital technology through Initial Teacher Education. Teaching Scotland's Future stresses that 'this vital early phase in the development of new teachers must be relevant, coherent and of high quality'. Similarly, there must be learning and development opportunities for teachers at all career stages to ensure their skills remain relevant, appropriate and up-to-date.
Digital technologies hold vast potential not just for enriching learning and teaching, but also for supporting teacher education and professional learning in a variety of ways. Professional dialogue and collaborative learning, for example - both key elements of professional learning - can be enhanced through professional learning communities and collaborative online spaces. Similarly, tools like Insight - the senior phase benchmarking tool made available by the Scottish Government - can support practitioners to identify areas of success and drive improvement. Digital technologies such as these can provide real opportunities for teachers to progress, enrich, develop and enhance their knowledge and practice. This is reflected in the importance placed on data literacy skills for teachers by the National Improvement Framework.
The proposed priorities for action are to:
- Open a dialogue with Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers to agree an approach for embedding digital learning and teaching in ITE, in line with the GTCS Standards for Registration.
- Work with key partners to ensure a range of professional learning opportunities are available to teachers at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to use technology effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.
- Liaise with relevant stakeholders to promote greater use of national online learning spaces and professional learning communities to support teacher networking and dialogue.
- Ensure there are stronger links with relevant European and global networks to improve the two-way sharing of information, advice and dialogue between educators on a global scale.
Consultation Question 3:
Do you agree with the proposed priorities for action outlined in the 'leaders' theme? Are there other actions that should be considered?
Consultation Question 4:
Do you agree with the proposed priorities for action outlined in the 'access' theme? Are there other actions that should be considered?
Consultation Question 5:
Do you agree with the proposed priorities for action outlined in the 'curriculum and assessment' theme? Are there other actions that should be considered?
Consultation Question 6:
Do you agree with the proposed priorities for action outlined in the 'teachers' theme? Are there other actions that should be considered?