At BSD, we believe that all students should have a digital education, learn digital skills and 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 label that they are learning digital skills, technology is now second nature.
The educational focus is less on cultivating particular technical skills and more about creating digital familiarity during the early years. This includes developing ways of thinking (such as computational thinking and design thinking), and building a foundation for fluency. Teachers can do this in many ways, and students are never too young to start creating digitally.
The move to virtual teaching and learning was a real opportunity for younger students to start a digital education earlier. In addition, it has enabled educators to introduce technologies and digital skills from a very young age, which was not always the case.
Children are growing up as digital natives, so they are often familiar with digital media earlier than ever. However, virtual learning did not always align early years education with children’s experience with technology in the ‘outside world.’
While many students had excellent experiences, the prevalence of technology and opportunities to learn digital skills were hugely variable. These opportunities depended on a range of factors. Kate Gilchrist nicely summarises this 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 educators often lacked the IT skills, confidence, and knowledge of implementing 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 critical learning from an early age. As a result, when more technical skills are introduced later, students’ skill levels are at very different starting points.
Virtual teaching and learning, however, have shifted this. This meant that many of the barriers outlined above have had to be overcome in the classroom. Educators have had to find a way to digitize their curriculum, and with trial and error comes confidence and knowledge.
While teaching young children virtually has its challenges, this educational experience is positive for developing children’s digital fluency and foundation.