In this third opinion piece from NDLF members, Jo Bell shares her views on the impact digital technology can make to the learners experience, the Digital Learning and Teaching strategy for Scotland, the strategic development and implementation of the school improvement plan at Kinross Primary and the importance of joined-up working across departments within schools and further afield.
Jo Bell is Depute Head Teacher at Kinross Primary School, Perth and Kinross. She has previous experience being a Class Teacher in Dundee City Council. She also has experience as a Principal Teacher and a Local Authority ICT Staff Tutor, supporting and advising the implementation of digital learning in Dundee City Council.
As Depute Head Teacher at Kinross Primary School, Perth and Kinross, I am committed to quality learning experiences for pupils. As a classroom practitioner and in my former role as ICT Staff Tutor for Dundee City Council, I observed first-hand the impact digital technology could have on engaging the most disengaged pupils with the learning experience. Digital technologies are potentially powerful learning tools for all students that can engage, enthuse and inspire the children at our school to achieve greater things. In my own practice, technology became an integral part of learning and teaching in my classroom, raising standards of creativity, content and overall learner experience, whilst developing pupils’ skills for learning, life and work.
The Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland – Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through The Use of Digital Technology – has placed digital technology at the heart of learning in Scotland, importantly emphasising that children need digital skills and technologies to be given a central role in the learning process. Key to reflecting an ever-changing digital landscape, the strategy stresses that educators in Scotland need to develop their use of digital learning to enhance learning, motivate learners and promote creativity.
The priorities identified with our School Improvement Plan at Kinross Primary focus on skills development to grow the workforce of the future. Central to this is embedding digital literacy and computer science within the curriculum through links to the following key national education agendas:
- Digital learning and teaching
- Digital Schools Award Scotland
- Developing the Young Workforce (Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy)
- Raising attainment for all
- Quality indicators in HGIOS 4; 1.2 Leadership of Learning; 2.2 Curriculum; 2.3 Learning, Teaching and Assessment; 2.5 Family Learning; 3.2 Raising Attainment and Achievement; 3.3 Increasing Creativity and Employability
As with any of the strategic development/ implementation of priorities in our School Improvement Plan, we have focused on building staff capacity. Our reviewed school Digital Learning and Teaching Policy puts teaching pedagogy at the heart of it, and we are committed to investing in upskilling staff. It states:
- Staff will be supported to develop the skills, confidence and knowledge to know when and how digital technology can be deployed effectively through school, cluster, local authority and national CPD opportunities
- Staff’s commitment to developing their skills in the use of digital technology should be reflected in their GTCS Professional Update
- Staff will be encouraged to share examples of effective practice using digital technologies
- Teachers have a responsibility to use digital technology across all curriculum areas to enrich both learning and teaching digital learning, building on staff capacity every year
This is reflected and supported by the Scottish Government, with the recent release of the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy.
Launched this year by the Scottish Government, Kinross Primary are working towards their Digital Schools Award Scotland, which recognises the commitment to the development of digital learning. Using the self-evaluation tool within the award, which mirrors the priorities of the strategy, our areas for development have already been identified for focus over coming months and years. Notably, upskilling and building confidence in staff as well as working with IT departments to develop and provide an infrastructure which is conducive to quality delivery of digital learning and teaching, continues to be a challenge.
The joined-up approach of schools, Local Authorities, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government is crucial for the successful delivery of the strategy, and the National Digital Learning Forum (NDLF) is an important vehicle to facilitate this. With a variety of representatives from a range of educational establishments, the NDLF will work to put digital learning at the heart of the curriculum. The publication of the strategy this year is a crucial step towards this. It gathers views and practices across a range of local authorities and sectors helping to ascertain how the principles of the strategy are being delivered in practice.
As someone who is passionate about the impact digital technology can have on the learning experience, I am excited about the possibilities that Scotland’s Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy brings. It adds much needed weight from the Scottish Government to help persuade others to feel the same.