15 Mar

Digital Literacy – getting the experience.

Following on from this post, we next look at how we actually integrate ‘digital literacy’.

As discussed, the skills of digital literacy are tough to pin down precisely, but we are able to think roughly about what skills, concepts and experience we want our pupils to experience. Ask yourself some key questions:

Does the school model effective use of social media?

Is there an esafety policy which incorporates pupil voice and has some pupil led elements?

Is it integrated into the curriculum, through computing led topics?

Do teachers model the skills they expect children to be able to use, for example searching, creating, using the internet safely?

Are there any whole school projects or activities which link effectively to Digital Literacy?

Let’s take three concepts and look at what we can practically do in schools.

Keeping Safe Online

Probably the easiest just because there are so many resources out there. As a school you need to ensure your staff are up to date with issues, build in regular training and share resources frequently. This site, from e-safety adviser is choc full of recent updates and a newsletter which can be shared with staff and parents alike. You can also use various dates in the year to highlight issues, such as Internet Safety Day.

In the classroom, e-safety needs to be covered regularly, I would advise a refresh with each new topic, especially if you asking the children to research and use the internet. Ensure children are happy with the language used to describe internet safety, who they can talk to and what happens (as a school) if something that they are uncomfortable with takes place. Key discussion questions, age appropiate, are helpful and can be a shared staff discussion. Displays, posters and regular discussion are key.

More information, and a year by year breakdown can be found here: Curriculum information here.



The concept of ‘communicating responsibly, competently, confidently and creatively’ is probably the hardest one to quantify. As a school this needs to be modelled, to pupils and parents. Teachers need to ensure they too are able to navigate this and mdoel these skills. Whilst you may not be ready for class blogging projects or whole school email just yet there are lots of ideas that can give pupils these experiences.

  • Simple commenting and sharing writing can be done a number of sites which don’t require whole school log in Lend Me Your Literacy, 100 Word Challenge. Other sites encourage the sharing of ideas and resources, such as the NRich Maths Site
  • It doesn’t always have to be about writing and commenting. Skype is the perfect example of communicating digitally, the education site is a great way of getting started.
  • Communciating within the school is also a good way of modelling skills. Beyond whole school projects such as Google Drive, or a VLE, you can also ask children to collaborate on shared projects in the classroom: Haiku Decks, Padlets, Scratch – all allow a class to register and then to share the outcomes.



Accessing information online can be a minefield – and the lessons of old where resesarched and made notes need to be fine tuned to ensure that they fully understand what they are doing. Again, modelling this is key. From early on the teacher needs to be using search engines, looking at specific sites and modelling how to navigate the huge quantity of information which can be found.

This is very much linked to how networks and the internet work, which is a curriculum aim, and there are a number of resources out there. The BBC are currently putting lots of effort into this, and have some great resources. Building this into a fun topic is one of my next jobs…

Remember as well that it should not always be about ‘googling’ information. Finding different opinions, sharing what they find and examining different opinions are all key to this aspect of digital literacy. Using apps for informatiom finding, and digital books is also important – representing information in different ways!


Other resources:

Simon Haughton’s site is choc full of ideas and incredibly practical resources for all aspects of computing.

The Literacy Shed, and other Sheds! Perfect for digital media, inspiration and information.


01 Mar

What is Digital Literacy?

A recent twitter conversation on the #primedchat was discussing Digital Literacy alongside reading and writing skills. During this chat it occurred to me that some were confusing the notion of ‘Digital Literacy’ with that of using edtech for ‘ordinary’ literacy. I thought a discussion around what Digital Literacy actually is might be useful.

Schools in the new curriculum are asked to:

evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar
technologies, analytically to solve problems
 are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and
communication technology.

These aims, split across Key Stage 1 and 2 succinctly capture what Digital Literacy is all about; our pupils develop skills which allow them to navigate digital media – to make use of technology available to them creatively, carefully and confidently. Indeed there is an argument that these skills are rapidly becoming the currency of a new education. (see this article in the Daily Telegraph) However it is in schools’ interest to navigate these skills as they will support learning later in their school life (if not straight away!)

Digital Literacy involves some key areas – many of which will be familiar to schools already:

  • keeping safe online

Which would include keeping details private online – looking at your internet footprint – thinking about your image and identity. 

  • communication

Including etiquette online, adding comments to blogs (creating blogs with an audience in mind) 

  • Information

Also linked to how networks work (which is listed as a curriculum aim) – but also examines the use of search engines and how to get information from the internet in general.  

Interestingly these skills were being discussed long before the New Curriculum was finally introduced. The old ICT curriculum demanded that many programmes were used specifically for skill development – e.g. Powerpoint for presentations. The limitations of this can be seen, and as technologies changed the curriculum became obviously out-of-date. The skills became about adaptability and problem solving. Attempting to teach to technologies that we do not yet know. Equipping children to ‘try out’ ideas, to use what they know and to know where to find more information safely is what being digitally literate is about. FutureLab produced this document in 2010 which is jam packed with ideas!

How we do this could be a whole new discussion – but it is clear that teachers and schools have to be confident technology users first!

I would love to hear your thoughts about this!

25 Jan

Planning for the future…

Recent posts about development plans (like this one) has made me think about mine. As part of ours, a digital strategy is key.

Some thoughts on long term digital strategy:

  • It’s impossible to plan too far in advance, a 3 yr development is not really a long time, but lately it feels as though everything in schools is changing on an almost monthly basis. For tech, this is no different.
  • Consider staff implications and CPD – would time be better spent investing in training that changing the provision?
  • What are the curriculum needs (now that it’s here!) – will other subject areas require tech?
  • What will really become obselete? Will companies stop supporting their ‘free’ services?

What will be on my long term plan?

  • A pause! There has been lots of change recently, once the IT infrastructure works to my satisfaction we will pause!
  • A mix of devices, with a mixture of operating system. Whilst the bulk of pupil use is through google drive and google apps I think it’s important that children experience a range of operating systems.
  • Free services, such as google, will be important.
  • Regular tech support and advice will be budgeted for.
  • A mixture of android tablets (cheap and accesible) with iPads (quality of apps and intuitive)
  • Windows in the classroom, ubuntu in shared areas, chromebooks and some laptops. – This is in part to get rid of Windows XP.
  • Robots / beebots / lego – and CPD to use them correctly.


I will upload the development plan once done – but would love to know what is going into your long term strategy!


27 Oct

Why we are teaching our pupils to code…

This question is asked with increasing frequency as more and more schools begin to get to grips with the new curriculum. The emphasis on understanding algorithms, creating and then debugging these creations, has opened up a whole new conversation about why we are asking all children to understand these concepts.


What is coding?

Communciation. Through an app, a programme and with a variety of devices.

This debate will rumble on – the catch all term ‘coding’ has definitely ruffled a few feathers – from a secondary (and therefore arguably more specialised) computer science perspective as well as those who work in the industry. However in it’s simplest form ‘coding’ lets you create a story using a language your device, programme and computer will understand. It’s about communicating ideas and manipulating language to create.

Why are we teaching our pupils to code?

There is a recognition that children will need to understand more fully the digital devices that they are growing up with. They will need to recognise that it is not some sort of ‘magic’ but a programmable device that people manipulate to get what they want.

However, when our pupils will leave school they will not be using the devices that we give them in primary school. The chances are they will never have to manipulate a dinosaur across a field using only directions, or come against a visual language such as Scratch – it is not about a specific language or a specific programme. It is about logic, about creativity and about problem solving. There is a place for some languages to be used so they can be recognised e.g. Java or Python, however the aim is for children to be resilient about searching for the answer and finding a way to manipulate the programme put in front of them.


Computer Science or Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy skills are still fundamental – these include the ability to find information; sift, sort and select what is useful; be safe online and to understand how the internet works.

They also include using and manipulating digital technology to create and store information e.g. Presentations, spreadsheets and cloud computing. These skills would be more about the old ‘ICT’ curriculum and, barring the odd area such as online safety, will be done through other areas of the curriculum. The key here is choice – can pupils choose what programmes to use? Can they choose how best to find information? Are they making good choices when communicating online?

Schools can do this because we can give our pupils a safe email address, we can give them cloud saving and give them responsibility over their work. We can show them how nothing is ever really deleted, so that silly comment you wrote from home can be shared with your teacher and parents. It’s probably the only chance they will get to make these mistakes and it be safe.

And the future?

The aims must be simple:

  • confident children who understand logic and approach problem solving in a logical fashion.
  • It must not be about specific devices, or specific programmes.
  • Schools need to take lead and give pupils choice, independence and the chance to make mistakes with a safe digital environment.

Further reading:

Made With Code




27 May

Are we teaching the skills for ‘screen reading’?

Does reading on a screen require different skills to reading on paper?


I have been thinking about this as part of our rethink of the curriculum, mainly because of recent news articles which suggested that iPads and other tech in the classroom might interfere with the concentration span of pupils (no conclusive evidence) – and a chat I heard on Radio 4 concerning how memory could be improved by the physical nature of handwriting your notes.

This led me to wonder if the skills we use when reading from a screen are different to reading from a book.

Of course, a discussion around Digital Literacy is not new – and teaching children to sift through information, search safely, reflect on what they read and identify what is useful is something that should be built into both e-safety lessons and research/literacy lessons.

But are we missing something by not teaching children that reading on a screen takes different skills?

Readathon.org – the site for the annual ‘Readathon’ cites their own research:

With reading via the internet (72%) now more likely to be listed than newspapers (70%), teachers recognise the positive attributes of digital media. Almost two thirds of respondents approved of digital reading devices and 72% are expecting digital books to become more important in the future.

Other companies now also offer an ‘online’ element to their reading schemes and resources – 2Simple’s Purple Mash now offers a ‘Serial Mash’  which aims to deliver books in chapter size chunks to get children reading.  The advantages of these types of online reading materials seem obvious; easy to access; easy to share; possible cheaper; and children seem to enjoy accessing them.

Questions remain however about their usefulness as teaching tools, and the way in which children use them…

Bartleby's Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

What skills do I think we need to teach children to be able to read from a screen successfully? 

The art of sitting comfortably at a desk..sounds obvious right? But actually, we spend lots of time getting children to sit ‘properly’ – encourage them to be comfortable reading in book corners – at a computer desk? Not so straightforward.. Can they sit comfortably? Have you checked the screen distance?

Avoiding distraction... tricky this one. On tablets and laptops it is probably easy to ensure that they turn off any wifi connection (put it in do not disturb mode etc.) – but have we discussed with our pupils why you might want to do this?

Bookmarking – apps and schemes and online books all have quirky ways of saving where you are up to or ‘bookmarking’ a place.  Needed of course because they may not have traditional ‘pages’ which could be discouraging for children just beginning to read and to count progress in pages.

Saving for offline reading… Have you ever modelled to the class how you might save an article you find to read later? Or used a service such as Evernote to save and then share what you want to read? Important skills for those who regularly access information online. Even following hyperlinks can break concentration – are we modelling a ‘read then click’ habit?

Recognise symptoms of eye strain… interestingly time will tell if this will be a huge problem for us all, or if our eyes can adapt – but there is no doubt that we need to have a discussion about what eye strain feels like and how we can minimize it.. Is the screen too bright? Are you blinking enough? Is the room well lit? There are some great tips here for minimising eye strain. 

Making use of the technology.. can they enlarge text when they need to? Are they able to use functions such as ‘high contrast’ to support them if they need it? Have they used built in dictionaries to support their reading? Again, as we model using a thesaurus in writing, should we also model how to zoom in on text?


I would love to know if this has been discussed at your school… Have you modelled new skills to support children reading on a screen?

Further reading:

Bryan Goodwin – Research Says/ The Reading Skills Digital Brains Need 

How does electronic reading affect comprehension?