The Circuit: Digital Skills

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Digital skills (and a cautionary tale of giving a two-year old access to your Amazon account)

Last week I shared a video with our staff of my two-year-old son asking Alexa to play his favourite song (Paw Patrol, Pup Pup Boogie for anyone interested). It was meant as an illustration of the role technology, and in particular AI, is playing in the lives of students even before they come through our doors. What I didn’t tell them was that he had also used voice commands to upgrade my subscription to Amazon’s premium family plan for £17.99 a month, or £215 a year. Now, I do like Pup Pup Boogie, but not that much. You can of course put in parental controls to stop this and, yes, I should have known better. But it made me think about when we should start educating children about digital literacy. With that in mind I wanted to share the approach we take in Junior School, right from when they join us in Nursery.

What is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information using digital technologies. It goes beyond knowing how to use a computer or tablet, but also how to use them effectively, ethically, and creatively. Digital literacy is essential for learners in today’s digital world, as it can help them improve their learning outcomes, discern misinformation, access diverse resources, and prepare for future careers. In the World Economic Forum’s annual report, it identifies multiple aspects of digital learning that are key requirements in future careers:

So how do we teach it?

We combine weekly specialist computing lessons which focus on how the technology works, with opportunities for teaching digital literacy skills planned across the curriculum.

Digital literacy itself can be divided into three core areas: using technology, innovation & creating content, and being safe and responsible online.

Using technology means handling different devices and apps, and finding and organising information online. This can help learners learn more, research better, and understand deeper.

Innovation & Creating content is making and sharing original ideas, using digital media such as text, images, audio, or video. This can help learners develop skills, creativity, and expression. It can also be collaborative, as learners can share and get feedback.

Being safe and responsible online means knowing the risks and opportunities of the digital world, such as cyberbullying, privacy, security, and digital citizenship. It also means acting ethically, respectfully, and critically online, such as avoiding plagiarism, respecting intellectual property, and verifying information. This can help learners protect themselves, respect others, and contribute positively.

One of the ways to develop digital literacy in the junior school classroom is to use iPads for content creation. iPads are a source of innovation and creativity for learners, as they can use them to explore, experiment, and express themselves in new and exciting ways. Students can use iPads to make music, art, videos, or other digital products, using apps like GarageBand, iMovie, or Clips. Students can also use iPads to learn coding, programming, or robotics, using apps like Swift Playgrounds, ScratchJr, or Sphero Edu. They can also use iPads to collaborate with their peers, teachers, and parents, and showcase their work to a wider audience.

Digital Literacy at home

Digital literacy is a key life skill for learners in the 21st century, as it can help them thrive in a rapidly changing and interconnected world. By developing digital literacy skills, learners can enhance their learning, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. They can also foster their curiosity, confidence, and independence, and increase their motivation, engagement, and enjoyment.

Parents can play an important role in supporting their children’s digital literacy development at home. Here are some tips and resources for parents to do so:

  • Encourage your children to use digital tools for learning and fun, such as educational apps, games, and websites. You can also join them in their digital activities and learn together.
  • Discuss online issues and experiences with your children, such as what they see, hear, and do online, and how they feel about it. You can also help them develop critical thinking and media literacy skills, such as how to evaluate and verify information, and how to recognise and avoid misinformation.
  • Set boundaries and rules for online use, such as when, where, and how long your children can use digital devices, and what kind of content they can access and share. You can also monitor and guide their online behaviour, and teach them how to be safe and responsible online, such as how to protect their personal information, how to deal with cyberbullying, and how to respect others’ rights and feelings.

You can find more information and resources about digital literacy on these websites:

And if you would like to know how to add parental controls to Amazon Alexa, click here.

Mr Stevens, Head of Computing & Digital Learning, Junior School

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