Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland Moray House School of Education Response

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1 H T O F U D N N V 16th December 2015 B R U S R T Y H G Moray House School of ducation Moray House School of ducation The University of dinburgh Old Moray House Holyrood Road dinburgh H8 8AQ Tel xt Digital Learning and Teaching Team Scottish Government 2A South Victoria Quay dinburgh H6 6QQ Dear Sir / Madam, Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland Moray House School of ducation Response The Moray House School of ducation welcomes the development of a strategy for digital learning and teaching in Scotland. As the consultation document acknowledges, there are opportunities for improvement in the way that technology is viewed and used within Scottish schools. The process of developing the strategy is an opportunity to critically examine the use of digital technology in schools, and ensure that our approaches have sound pedagogical underpinnings. This document records our responses to the consultation questions; we hope that this dialogue will continue as the strategy unfolds. Lack of ambition regarding computational thinking One of our main concerns with the strategy as a whole is that it misses the ambition and innovation of computer science as an intellectual endeavour. The document refers to digital technology use throughout: we propose this should be broadened to encompass computational thinking. Scotland has a rich history of scientific and engineering breakthroughs. n the future many such scientific breakthroughs will rely on underpinning computer science, as did the Mars Rover, the Large Hadron Collider and the Human Genome project. To support scientific and medical advancements, we will need a generation of learners with powerful, creative computational approaches to problem solving. This calls for learners to have opportunities to learn not only how to use digital technology to support their learning, but also to master the core concepts in computational thinking. These include: Abstractions and pattern generalizations (including models and simulations), systematic processing of information, symbol systems and representations, algorithmic notions of flow of control, structured problem decomposition (modularizing), iterative, recursive, and parallel thinking, conditional logic, efficiency and performance constraints; and debugging and systematic error detection. 1 1

2 t is striking that the proposed strategy does not directly address computational thinking because a) internationally many countries are now including it in their curricula, most obviously ngland and b) the Scottish Government funded PLAN-C project has shown how effective teacher professional learning networks can be in introducing computational thinking to schools. We therefore call for the inclusion of computational thinking as a core component in the digital strategy. Question 1: s the strategy focussed on the right principles? Are there other principles which should be considered? Local leadership, national support We agree that approaches to the development of digital learning and teaching work best where they adapt to the contexts in which they are being applied. We feel it would be beneficial to explicitly acknowledge the existing knowledge of students, teachers, parents, industrial stakeholders and non-profits such as Computing at Schools Scotland, and Codeclub. ducation Scotland could have a valuable role in facilitating such groups to exchange knowledge and updating resources and guidance to reflect innovations within this wider network. Perhaps ducation Scotland should compile an annual report of What we learned from our partners this year. Question 2: Are the four key themes the right ones to focus on? Are there other themes which should be considered? t is important that we should build upon and share our knowledge base. This would include continued professional learning between teachers and with industrial and community stakeholders and parent. We should recognise and leverage informal education activities in this area. Research evidence should also be commissioned, gathered and disseminated regarding the impact of new and existing initiatives. The strategy should take into account known enablers and barriers such as technical support and assessment, with the aim of sharing experiences of schools and local authorities where such barriers have been overcome. We recommend that the strategy should emphasise the importance of creativity and play on the grounds that while it is important to equip children with skills for the future, their current enjoyment with learning is also valuable. Through pleasure and play, children today create their own digital futures. We recommend that learners and teachers have opportunity to play with technology and use it in enjoyable and creative ways. This is particularly important in the early years. Question 3: Do you agree with the priorities for action in the leaders theme? We suggest that this would be helpful to provide exemplars of good practice to inspire leaders and to provide short formalised Digital Leadership CPL for leaders. While we recognize the importance of leadership, we believe the strategy should recognize the value of the innovation and development which occurs in classrooms. The experiences and skills of teachers who work with children every day should be recognized. t would be helpful to have a plan in place to nurture and share emerging promising ideas and practices. n reference to our recommendation that computational thinking should be embedded in the strategy, it follows that leader should be made aware of the distinction between the use of technological tools for learning, and the intellectual skills of computational thinking. This is particularly important for secondary school leaders who are considering whether to offer national qualifications in computer science. Providing a technology rich learning environment in other subjects does not obviate the need for computer science to be taught as a specialist subject. 2

3 Question 4: Do you agree with the priorities for action in the access theme? We agree that we should improve technological access to all learners. However, there are massive challenges associated with reducing inequalities: recent work suggests that this is not just a matter of providing access, and waiting for inequalities to wash away 2. ncreasing the provision of - and by corollary dependence on - technology might well increase the divide unless steps are taken beyond providing access alone. Access to technology is only part of the story. We suggest the strategy should reflect the importance of open-ness. By this we mean open-ness in consumption and production of digital material in schools as well as open-ness to the use of personal and mobile technologies in school. Conversations and policy are urgently needed that can frame the risks of internet use and safety in ways that demonstrate trust in teachers, pupils and families, rather than relying on filtering and banning usage. n committing Scotland to become irights compliant, the First Minister said: Digital technology is increasingly a key part of our everyday lives and it s vital that young people develop their digital skills, learn to use technology responsibly and understand the risks, as well as the opportunities, of being online 3. This will require a rethink of over-protective internet safety policies in schools: children will require the help and guidance of teachers to negotiate this territory as a routine part of their learning online. Similarly we need to move beyond the contradiction of acknowledging the "positive impact of mobile devices" when in practice they often are banned at the school gate. The strategy should consider how mobile learning at home in the community could be used beneficially in classrooms while facing the challenges for inclusion that this will bring. Furthermore, while we welcome the intention to make access more equitable, we note there are currently bureaucratic barriers to this. n some cases local authority management systems/ contracts hinder access to multi-media and also regular updates and refresh. We often hear of instances where access to free software and apps which have the potential to contribute to teaching and learning are not permitted by central T services. n technical subjects, local council management systems contracts need to be more responsive, and T support staff should appreciate the teacher requests are for the purposes of learning and teaching and as such need to be handled positively and quickly. From the perspective of our design and technology specialist staff, the scene across the country is indeed one of 'haves' and 'have nots'. At present there are schools with all facilities of digital design and manufacture (3d modelling software, laser cutters, digital CAD/CAM mills, 3-d printers, 3d scanners, colour printers). Those schools have benefited from capital outlay, and are also supported with the revenue costs for related resources and consumables, while there are schools with nothing at all. On a related note, there is serious concern about the extent to which Glow is used. t need to be fit for purpose, and its use actively promoted. 3

4 Question 5: Do you agree with the priorities for action in the curriculum and assessment theme? The consultation document asks are the existing provisions for digital learning in the Curriculum for xcellence consistent with our ambitions? We say no: they are currently not. We recommend at the very least a rewrite of the expectations and outcomes for the technologies area of the curriculum which are dated, confusing and insubstantial. The strategy appears to stop short of calling for digital learning to be the responsibility of all (in the way that literacy, numeracy, and health and well-being are) (p 18). This should certainly be considered as part of the priority actions, and it should be borne in mind that if all teachers become responsible for digital learning, then they should be supported to do so in terms of technology resources, time and professional learning opportunities. The proposed priority to review Curriculum for xcellence with respect to digital technology should be extended to consider computational thinking. There should be a clear progression from the beginning of Cf (aged 3) upwards to articulate with the national qualifications at the other end. t should be noted that computational thinking concepts can be taught with reference to real world experiences and processes, and activities away from the computer as well as with digital tools. There is a lot to be learned from research in other STM fields, early mathematics education and emerging research in computational thinking internationally. We believe that the digital learning curriculum should be relevant to young people s interests and experiences and intertwined with other curricular areas such as design, numeracy and science. We applaud the intention to embed the use of digital assessment and would encourage experimentation with innovative assessment forms particularly those which enable students to play a greater role in their own assessment. Making this work in practice will require the SQA to become much more agile and responsive to the needs of teachers. Further research is required into the way people, children especially, engage with digital assessment. Validity should be established before considering using digital assessment. Question 6: Do you agree with the priorities for action in the teachers theme? We are pleased that the consultation document and the literature review underline the importance of teachers in supporting learning with digital technology. t is not the technology by itself which will improve learning; the skill and imagination of the teacher is required to unlock the potential. At Moray House, we are developing a Technology nhanced ducation strategy which addresses initial teacher education and high quality continued professional learning courses for teachers. We therefore welcome further dialogues on these topics. Question 7: Sharing expertise We are happy to discuss these or other issues further. Our staff on the initial teacher education programmes, and in the Digital ducation Research Centre, have combined expertise in Digital Learning, teaching and assessment, Computer Science, and Design and Technology. Our research themes include Children and Technology, Digital Cultures and ducation, Learning Analytics and Digital ducation Policy and Social Justice. 4

5 Question 8 other comments 1. Parents are noticeable by their absence in later parts of the document parental engagement is mentioned on page 14, but this is not followed through subsequently. Parents main role seems to be seen as improving learning outcomes (p.10), with no mention of the crucial activities they share with their children that help learning (online and offline) to flourish: sharing experiences, communication, and play. Furthermore, new technologies and practices may allow teachers to engage productively with parents, but will this be resourced, and will teachers be trained, to take the time necessary to engage in this way? There may be tensions here with the proposed goals of efficiency. 2. n section 9, the consultation document considers how we will know if the strategy is succeeding. We strongly support the gathering of research evidence to be accessed by teachers and leaders and hope that it will be funded appropriately. An important aspect of using inspection letters as evidence will be ensuring that those writing the letters are well grounded in a range of effective practices with technology and have the insight to identify and celebrate innovation and creativity. am most grateful to my colleague Prof. Judy Robertson (Chair in Digital Learning) who undertook the lead role in formulating and compiling the above report. Yours sincerely, Dr Rowena Arshad OB Head of the School Moray House School of ducation University of dinburgh 5

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