Create or consume? Digital competency in schools.


Having worked in and with a full range of schools over the last few years I have seen some outstanding practice in the use of technology in the classroom.  There does seem to be however, some misconceptions by some over how to best use the technology in the classroom.

I am not by any means professing to know the golden solution to how to embed this in schools but I have been able to see the best impact in my own practice and that of others, so I thought that insight might be of value to others.

To start with lets look at the title of the post.  Create or Consume?

For many years lots of ICT outside of specific ICT sessions have concentrated on the consumption of content to support students, this could be through using the internet or by interacting with games etc.  This is a valid use of the technology but by no means does it even scratch the surface of developing 21st Century skills.  Give a mobile device to any child under 7 these days and they will probably be able to navigate around the web (they may have no idea what they are looking at but the navigation is intuitive)

So to really develop digital competency you need to approach this from a different angle. What skills are needed by students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that help them and are appropriate to the content being shared and most importantly, the audience (we will discuss this later)

Using technology to create information is a really powerful way to ensure all learners have the ability to demonstrate their understanding.  Literacy and numeracy are both extremely important tools but if you only ever judge a student by their ability to write, you may be missing a real depth to their knowledge of something.  For example some things are just visual, you need to demonstrate them practically, but if you ask someone to write it down it can get lost in translation and seem confused.  See the growth of instructional videos n YouTube as an example of this.

There are lots of apps out there that will enable students to demonstrate understanding but digital competency should not just be training on a whole load of apps either, yes you will need to know the basics of how to use some of them, but competency is using them at the correct time, for the correct purpose.

I recently had the chance to help my son and his friends with a homework project, they are both in Year 2 in school and had to create some sort of advertising product to promote tourism in our local area.  We decided to make an eBook as it was a bit different and we had the half term to make it so why not spend a bit of time.

As we started to put the images and video together it was apparent that this method actually helped them to share their stories without the fear of spelling things wrong.  (spelling is obviously important but in this project they wanted to create a product that was of value)

As we developed these books you could see the excitement in the children as they added in their voice to the books, explaining the pictures they had taken, even adding in videos as if they were tour guides.  This then also leads me on to the aspect of audience.

These books are now live on the Bookstore, anyone can download them, this aspect really developed a sense of excitement in the children as their work now had purpose, no mythical account of ‘we could share this with….”  we actually have shared tis, if you are ever visiting Chepstow you may want to take a look yourself.

Audience is powerful because these two 7 year olds now want to make more books (so therefore need the literacy, so therefore understand the purpose) One is making a comic about “Sportsman” and the other already has a set of David Walliams inspire books lined up.

In conclusion, it is important to look at what the technology allows the students to create for themselves, these are the skills needed in the world, the chance to tell your own story, that could be an actually story as an author but could also be sharing research, a how to guide, marketing a business, the list is endless.  Allow your students to be creative and the literacy and numeracy elements will become real.  The classroom content has more context and the excitement level increases.

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