A report by a House of Lords committee has called for a stronger focus on developing digital literacy in schools and equipping teachers to deliver the new computing curriculum, which launched this academic year.
The aim is to better prepare young people for the world beyond education, to boost the opportunities for women in digital careers, and to ensure that the UK doesn’t fall behind in the new digital era. The report says that 35% of current jobs in the UK could be automated within 20 years, but that this ‘tech-world’ is very much ‘male-dominated.’
According to the report, at present, the UK has a significant ‘digital divide,’ with ‘six million citizens never having used the internet and 9.5 million lacking adequate digital skills.’ It also sites that, aside from not being able to afford computers or other digital devices at home, these individuals and families may not have received sufficient training or computer access in school.
It highlights the fact that digital businesses can locate anywhere in the world, and that the UK needs to create an attractive environment for these businesses to flourish – this may include the availability of the latest hardware and software, as well as a leading, tech-savvy workforce and labour pool. Some suggest that we are seeing a major shift in the importance of basic skills in the workplace and in schools, and that digital competence should be viewed on a par with numeracy and literacy – some say it’s now more important.
But with such radical changes taking place I technology over the past two decades, one of the major problems in schools is the proficiency of teachers and their ability to deliver it the new curriculum.
The government pledge £1.1m to the British Computing Society (BCS) to help train and prepare teachers for the new curriculum, as well as a further £500,000 to attract businesses who can train teachers in skills specialist skills such as coding. Some teachers, however, still feel left behind:
“When it comes to modern digital technology, I feel that many students know more than me – Apps, iPads, iPhones, cloud storage and online presentation programs barely scratch the surface. I often have to ask students to assist with technical blips or operate new technology, when I should be the one teaching them.”
“As well as the government’s 2013 boost, we need is on-going training for teachers, as well as in-school tech-savvy experts to coach us. Technology changes so quickly, that one-off training is no good; it needs to be on-going and accompanied by more time to practice, experiment and develop our new skills, so that we can become the experts.”
New Tutors Needed
While implementing these changes can be tricky and uptake may be slow, the shift is inevitable. This creates significant opportunities for tutors, whether it means existing tutors offering additional one-to-one tutoring sessions in computer competency, or new tutors and coding experts offering their services as employers.
Parents who are concerned that their child needs further coaching in basic skills, or is aware their talent needs further stretch and challenge may be interested in appointing digital technology tutors for one-to-one home tutoring sessions. Schools may be looking to employ part-time tutors to coach both students and teachers, and adults may be looking to develop new skills for job applications and promotions.