Why is digital education important?

Andrew Johns
14th May '13

How do we ensure that the next generation will have skills we’ll need for the future?

As technology has crept into the workplace over the last decade or two, the IT literacy expectations of employees were usually limited to basic word processing skills and data entry. Anything more complex would be expected of specialist IT roles, or considered the responsibility of the most computer-literate staff member in the department.

In recent years however, technology has become so widely used in the home that it has exposed people, particularly children, to powerful but easy to use devices, and beyond this, a global world wide web. Society is now comfortable using technology and more exists in the workplace to help us become more efficient, requiring not just a workforce that knows how to operate it, but also how to maintain it, change it and even, in some cases, make it.

This has highlighted a major problem: Despite the fact we are now expected to use technology more readily, do we really understand it? Are we using that technology to its full potential? Do we know about safety and privacy? If adults don’t, how do we ensure the children do?

You would assume that ICT has been part of school curriculum for some time, and you’d be right, but the curriculum is woefully inadequate. Many forward-thinking ICT Co-ordinators were able to spot the gaps and provide a more modern and complete education, but there are also many blindly following the set requirements. The UK government recognised this last year and suspended the curriculum while a new version was drafted.

Unlike many other subjects, the traditional ICT curriculum needs to move at a very fast pace and the teaching of IT has not kept pace with real world usage. It is not enough to teach use of specific tools, but concepts and fundamentals that can be transferred to other areas, year after year. Otherwise, by the time a student finishes their education, the specific tools have changed, leaving them unprepared for useful employment. Because of this businesses are now bemoaning the lack of IT skills in new school leavers.

First and foremost, the ICT curriculum needs to teach the ability to think logically, critically and creatively. Skills that are important not just for technology or the workplace, but for everyday life.