Developing Digital Skills for Citizenship

I recently read Stepping into a Virtual Reality Classroom for Teacher Training (columbia.edu) and I was intrigued to see the situation in Myanmar pre-pandemic described in very similar terms to how I have previously described the situation here in Scotland today: 

...teachers often lack not only digital skills themselves, but also the pedagogical breadth to meaningfully engage students in inquiry-based activities that make the most of access to technology

The Myanmar: Connect to Learn project site details the issues faced by their schools when it came to developing digital pedagogies:


It was clear that knowledge, skills and infrastructure were all lacking. The same concerns raised in Scotland. Having just supported an authority with upskilling teaching staff and deploying thousands of devices into the hands of staff and students alike, I feel I have a good understanding of how these three factors impact on education here.

The ongoing work being undertaken by a number of organisations, not least council education departments and the Scottish Government's Digital Citizenship Unit, all focus on equity of access and equity of opportunity. The pandemic brought under the spotlight the negative impact caused by poverty when it came to citizens accessing information (health information, financial services, education).

In both countries, lots has been done. During Covid we saw WiFi provision for the poorest students prioritised, devices deployed and upskilling supported. In schools, we saw teachers engage head-on with developing the digital skills they needed to continue to support their learners, at least in so far as managing a work flow solution to pass work back and forth. But on return to in-person learning, the momentum was lost and many practitioners returned to their tried and trusted ways, eschewing the new digital tools.

Perhaps, most surprising though was the range of solutions proposed. While we recently upgraded the network connectivity of every school, Myanmar was deploying 3G and 4G enabled devices. They, like us, were introducing a development programs both for teaching staff focusing on the use of ICT in the classroom. And while we deliver inputs on SAMR and digital skills, and planned to develop curricular pathways around Computing Science, Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety, the Myanmar project was building a Virtual Reality sandbox where teachers could "gain additional confidence to integrate the use of advanced mobile technologies in the classroom".

  • Are we doing enough in Scotland to build teachers' skills, knowledge and confidence around digital to help them better prepare our young people for the world around us? 

  • Are our young people (and their communities) being provided with the tools they require to be successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens in an increasingly digital world?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then who is responsible for making Digital a national education priority?

We are in the midst of a mammoth review of all things Scottish Education, perhaps now is time to put pressure on ministers to renew their ambition to provide devices for every learner (and, subsequently, ensure a device in the home of much of our population). With Education Scotland and the SQA under the spotlight, perhaps we can also seek opportunities to enhance the digital landscape across the nation, build our own digital sandbox, create safe spaces to share, collaborate and question. Extricate our schools from the digital fiefdoms where big tech companies have rieved them and cut them off.



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