Digital Literacy in Primary Schools

What does digital literacy look like in Primary Schools?

Digital literacy is a hot topic in Primary Schools at the minute. Up and down the country we are focusing on maths, english and grammar and SATS and all of the new curriculum challenges. Meanwhile, in technology we are being told that tablets are no longer the way forward, and that coding and computing is the focus. ICT as a subject looks to be marginalised whilst the use of ‘standard’ office type programmes is seemingly non existant.

I was recently asked to write a quick summary about the differences at ks2 for ks3 teachers. This summary was tricky to do because there was just so much I wanted to say. The computing / ICT section was frightfully short purely out of space considerations. The fact is that we now expect more from our children with technology than ever before. Looking at digital literacy is now more important than ever. Parents often ask me why schools introduce certain technologies, or certain skills. I hope this list will help.

Five things schools will introduce to children when using technology.

Their own space to develop their digital literacy
Every child at school will, eventually, be responsible for their own email address and their own online space. How young this starts depends on the primary school. This online space should be open to teachers at any time of course, but parents need to get used to children being responsible for this. At primary something as simple as a custom virtual learning space, or as recognisable as Google Drive. Either way, accessing homework or saving school work with passwords and email addresses will be down to the child. Eventually.

Opening the internet!
Schools will teach children to navigate websites and external online resources. Key skills for digital literacy in primary school. I have had a few dealings over the years with parents, and teachers, who just cannot understand why you might need to go on to the ‘outside’ internet and are worried about what their child might see. Schools have to teach children to navigate websites safely, and keeping themselves safe online is part of the curriculum. The fact remains that if children don’t begin to deal with the internet early on they will find it particularly open (and scary) as they get older. Hiding away from online safety issues won’t make your child immune to them, I’m sorry to say. Ways in which you can help this at home can be found here. 

Games and online working
School will use online and electronic games. Some don’t like this but it is a great way to engage children. It’s not the only way of course. But, be prepared for children to enjoy these educational games and want to replicate this at home.

Social Media.
Schools will model the use of technology that is not always appropriate for children. The easiest example of this is schools with a Twitter or Facebook account. Parents have asked me why schools have these accounts if the children can’t have them, and of course I explain, schools are not operating in a vacuum and we need to use as many methods of communication as possible. In the same way teachers drive and pupils do not. Teachers also need to model sensible use of sites such as You Tube, which pupils may not be using by themselves but will still see.  You can see examples of this here. 

Be creators
Children will be encouraged to create and share online. In essence publishing their work and commenting on the work of authors. They will be collaborating with their classmates on work which others can see. This may be closed within a school intranet or cloud service, or it may be on an online and therefore much more open, blog. There are many, many educational upsides to this, and, properly monitored very few downsides.

These are the main areas that spring to mind when discussing technology with parents. I would love to hear of any concerns, or surprises, people have come across with school expectations of technology.

Further reading?

Digital Literacy  –  What do children need to know? 

Nuffield Research all about the limitations of technology when encouraging digital literacy.

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