At BSD, we believe that all students should learn digital skills and be able to apply them to a range of contexts. That is why we advocate for these skills to be taught across subject areas, topics, and age groups. Even though younger students may not be able to label that they are learning digital skills, technology is now second nature.
During the early years, the educational focus is less on cultivating particular technical skills and more about creating digital familiarity, developing ways of thinking (such as computational thinking and design thinking), and building a foundation for fluency. This can be done in all manner of ways and it is never too young for students to start on the journey of creating with digital tools and skills.
The move to virtual teaching and learning this year is therefore a real opportunity for younger students to start this journey earlier as it has forced educators to introduce various technologies and digital skills from a very young age, which was not always the case.
As we all know, because children are growing up as digital natives, they are often familiar with a multitude of technologies and digital media from a very early age. However, prior to the recent implementation of virtual learning, early years education was not always aligned with children’s experience with technology in the ‘outside world’.
Whilst many students had excellent experiences, the prevalence of technology and opportunities to learn digital skills were hugely variable and depended on a range of factors, which are nicely summarised by Kate Gilchrist in a blog for LSE: ‘teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards the value of digital technology as part of learning was found to strongly relate to whether they used it or not in their teaching. Early years’ practitioners were also found to lack not only the IT skills but also the confidence and knowledge of how to employ such skills, relevant to the subject being taught. There is also a lack of adequate training, professional development, and technical and administrative support for teachers. Many of the curriculums investigated also did not include any provision for developing digital literacy.’
Historically, these factors have meant that not all students were exposed to this important learning from an early age, which can mean that when the more technical skills are introduced at a later age-students’ skill levels are at very different starting points.
Virtual teaching and learning, however, has shifted this. For educators to work with their students during this time, many of the barriers outlined above have had to be overcome. Educators have had to find a way to digitize their curriculum, and with trial and error comes confidence and knowledge. Whilst teaching young children virtually has its challenges, this educational experience is positive for the development of children’s digital fluency and foundation.