Scottish education: Digital skills are now as important for school children as literacy and numeracy – Martin Ennis and Ryan Carter

While we need to reflect and learn from what has been a challenging year for everyone in education, we also need to look forward and take whatever positives we can into the future.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 12:30 pm

It’s hard to imagine the speed at which we all had to adapt to remote and online learning just over a year ago. But it’s also a credit to not just our staff but also our young people and their parents and carers for the hard work, effort and willingness to adjust to our new situation.

Thankfully for Forrester High School, as with many schools across Scotland the use of technology in our classrooms was not new. We had been on a digital journey for more than ten years.

In 2018, we were the first secondary school in Edinburgh and the second secondary school in the country, to achieve the Digital School’s Scotland Award. However, the use of technology across the school has certainly accelerated in the last year.

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We have had iPads on a one-to-one basis for our S3-S6 pupils for about eight years. A year ago, we increased that to S2-S6 as a result of the pandemic, as well as issuing iPads to some S1 pupils who had difficulties accessing a device at home.

A number of our staff had training from the Apple professional learning programme and this, together with a range of internal professional development opportunities delivered by our own staff, has enabled us to ensure technology is more integrated across all aspects of our curriculum.

To support digital literacy through the pandemic, we created video tutorials for staff, young people and parents. It was important for us to remember that every household had its unique challenges, and during both lockdown periods, we tried to keep that in mind when setting work remotely.

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The Covid pandemic forced increased use of technology and demonstrated how it can enhance and complement traditional education (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA)

What has been amazing to see is, where engagement with technology for some staff wasn’t a strength previously, all are now able to say they have made significant steps forward, making the future for digital learning and teaching much more exciting.

We believe that digital literacy should be considered as important now as numeracy and literacy and ensuring that our pupils gain this essential life skill is a challenge we readily accept.

We see better use of group teaching, innovative ways of sharing ideas and information, more collaborative ways of working between teachers, and young people themselves. We’ve seen our young people and teachers become more accepting of change, and resilient to challenge.

We know that Forrester does not stand alone, or above other schools, when it comes to digital learning. There will be countless examples across Scotland where digital teaching and learning have revolutionised classrooms.

Another positive from last year is that it has brought about better levels of connection and involvement for those who perhaps found a traditional education setting daunting or too challenging.

Be brave, be curious. While the pandemic has been cruel to so many parts of our society, it has taught us that technology can enhance and complement education and create opportunities for everyone.

Martin Ennis is depute head teacher at Forrester High School in Edinburgh; Ryan Carter is curriculum leader with whole school responsibility for digital learning

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