Tech-savvy teaching in the age of coronavirus
Technology is an integral part of Scottish society, and teachers are at the forefront of educating the next generation how to use it responsibly. Two teachers share in what way they have incorporated digital learning into their classrooms.
Technology often gets a bad name in schools, being hailed as a distraction or a substitute for useful learning.
But, digital education can be a valuable learning tool for teachers and pupils alike. As the classroom adapts post-COVID, technology could be a look to the future of education, too.
The Digital Schools Awards (DSA) is a national award scheme that aims to promote the use of technology in schools, and encourage classes to take innovative approaches to digital learning.
Since the initial launch for primary schools in 2016 and secondary schools in 2017, over half of all Scottish schools (51 per cent) have signed up to the Digital Schools Awards Scotland.
To become a Digital School, schools have to register online for free, where they go through a self-evaluation of their current digital practices.
Once this has been completed and a score of over 70 per cent has been achieved, the school will go through a validation visit from an independent education technology expert.
Schools who are successful gain the nationally recognised status of Digital Schools Award, as well as becoming part of a like-minded and growing community of other schools using technology to their advantage in the classroom.
“The programme aims to create the next generation of informed, responsible and resilient digital citizens by providing schools with a roadmap for teaching with, and about digital technology,” explains Anna Doody, programme manager of the DSA in Scotland.
“A strength of the programme is its collaboration between government, education and the technology industry.
The programme’s industry-informed framework is designed to help teachers adopt best-practice models of digital pedagogy, enhance learning, and develop higher levels of digital skills.”
As digital technology becomes more important and integrated into daily life, it’s vital that pupils are set up correctly to utilise it safely.
Ian Vosser is the faculty head of digital literacy and enterprise at Larkhall Academy. He became involved with the Digital Schools Awards as a way of enhancing the school’s digital transformation.
“I was excited by the idea of a national awards programme that promotes, recognises and encourages creative use of digital technology,” Ian explains.
“I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to self-evaluate our digital transformation journey, as well as help us shape our future vision.”
The Royal High School in Edinburgh has also stepped up to encourage their pupils to learn more about the digital landscape, through involvement with the DSA. Kate Fraser is the depute rector and leads the school’s IT learning.
“We engaged a key group of pupils who talked enthusiastically and honestly about the impact of digital technology,” Kate says.
“However, I also think they found it almost a little odd in the sense that, to them, digital learning was such an integral part of their learning experiences: it was almost unusual to single it out, which I think reflects how far we have come on our digital journey.”
Young people today are more tech savvy than ever before, with a rise in social media, online gaming and streaming taking place outside the classroom.
Despite this, it’s vital that Scotland’s young people are prepared to tackle the digital world head-on, in a responsible manner.
“Technology is now an important aspect of life and society, which we have to prepare our pupils for,” Kate continues.
“Much of our focus is on the safe and appropriate use of technology – the positive and negative benefits.”
Larkhall Academy and The Royal High School aren’t the only schools to take on the challenge of becoming a Digital School. Earlier this year, Glasgow City Council joined forces with IT firm, CGI, to begin supplying almost 50,000 of the city’s pupils with iPads, as part of the digital learning strategy in schools.
They join the number of local authorities who have already pledged to give secondary pupils free iPads to aid their learning, including Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders, and Perth and Kinross.
All of the iPads issued are monitored and managed by the council, and can be locked, erased or rendered unusable remotely.
Students can access the internet, but not social media sites, and a firewall is in place to block inappropriate websites. The full rollout will be completed in 2021.
The introduction of technology to the classroom can be intimidating; particularly if you don’t feel confident using it yourself. It’s a good idea to introduce some digital boundaries in the classroom, to ensure you’re comfortable utilising it with your pupils.
“My top tip would be to only use technology when it is going to add value to the learning,” Ian advises.
“We should avoid the technology becoming a distraction or a simple substitution for what we have done before, or a gimmick to say that it has been done.
“Reimagining the learning outcome and finding a way to enhance that with digital technology is going to produce the best results.”
With Scotland’s digital future in the hands of the next generation, there has never been a better time to introduce technology and online learning into your classroom.
“Students love using technology. It allows students the chance to openly gain confidence and participate in far more fulsome ways than before. Digital learning allows students to be creative, resilient and encourages development,”
Kate concludes, offering one final piece of advice: “And don’t be afraid of the expertise of pupils.”
It’s time to get digital in the classroom, and support is available at all corners. Discover how your school can become a Scottish Digital School here.