The Tech Partnership

we can focus on what really matters – giving teachers the skills and confidence they need to do in computing what they do in every other area: inspire, excite, lead, direct and motivate students.

Teachers, tech literacy and tomorrow’s training

by Karen Price, CEO, the Tech Partnership

07.12.2016

Teachers, tech literacy and tomorrow’s training

by Karen Price, CEO, the Tech Partnership

07.12.2016

I spent some time last week in the BT Tower – always an inspirational venue – contributing to the second in BT’s series of industry roundtables on tech literacy. Just as at the first roundtable, a year ago, there was a tremendous turn out from interested parties: employers, educationalists, government, stakeholders of all sorts. There was also the same level of commitment and energy: a profound sense of engagement with the very real issue of ensuring tech literacy is built into every citizen’s life.

At this roundtable, BT chose to focus on Primary education, taking us through some new and bespoke research into teachers’ and pupils’ attitudes to tech in the classroom. As someone who’s spent a fair proportion of her career thinking about the way education and technology work together, there was so much that was encouraging in the results.

There’s absolute understanding among teachers of the importance of technology: 78% say tech literacy is as important as reading and writing; the same percentage say it supports social mobility, and 96% recognise that it’ll be a prerequisite for virtually any career their pupils want to pursue in the future. And teachers know how important they are themselves: 97% say it’s their job to prepare kids for the digital world.

What was a little less encouraging was their confidence in delivering these vital skills. Only 25% strongly agree that they are able to fulfil this role of preparing pupils for the digital future. Perversely, though, I was given hope by a point brought out later on in the report: it’s not about the hardware any longer.

Most teachers, most of the time, have access to the devices they need, and although there are concerns about internet access or technical support, they use tech regularly (51% of them ‘all the time’), know that pupils enjoy it, and believe it fosters creativity and engagement.

Why should this be a hopeful sign? In the past, I often used to hear that lack of hardware was the problem. “If only we had a computer in each classroom (fifteen years ago), a computer suite (ten years ago), tablets for everyone (five years ago), the problem would be solved.”

As that particular problem has now gone away, we can focus on what really matters – giving teachers the skills and confidence they need to do in computing what they do in every other area: inspire, excite, lead, direct and motivate students. That’s what tomorrow’s training in computing for teachers should deliver.

BT’s research report talks a lot about the need to build teachers’ and pupils’ confidence in computational thinking, and while I have some issues with the language and its resonance with young people, employers would certainly endorse the principle.

If we’re to see a truly tech literate generation coming out of education ready to take up creative, interesting and rewarding tech roles, we need to start early, and embed these skills at the youngest possible age. BT is making a sustained, well-evidenced and impassioned case for this, and is genuinely contributing to improved life chances for children. That’s definitely cause for congratulation.

See more about BT’s work, and download the research, at www.techliteracy.co.uk

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