Back in November, we attended one of the face to face events for the Development of a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland Consultation. The government was looking to canvass views on the need for a national digital strategy for education, and what should be included in such a strategy.
As well as a series of these face to face events, there was an online/written consultation, a consultation of older children via Young Scot, and a consultation of primary children aged 8-11, carried out under the auspices of the Children’s Parliament.
The results of the face to face and online consultations make for interesting reading. There is a clear feeling that investment in infrastructure is essential to ensure equity of opportunity for all learners, alongside appropriate professional learning opportunities and effective leadership. There was an identified need for a benchmark of digital competency for teachers, as at the moment many practitioners don’t know where to begin and what is expected of them as far as digital learning and teaching is concerned. This ties in to the feeling expressed by respondents that initial teacher education should outline clear expectations in this area, supporting student teachers to reach an acceptable standard, backed up with a change to the GTCS standard for full registration, making it clear that engaging with digital learning and teaching is not optional.
Of course, we agree with this wholeheartedly, but we do wonder how representative the consultation findings are of the views of the wider teaching community. Nationwide, there were 139 responses to the online/written consultation (76 groups and 63 individuals) which seems less than representative. There were 11 face to face events across the country, the Young Scot 2-part consultation gathered 358 responses in total, and the Children’s Parliament consultation only worked with 5 schools in 3 authorities. While it’s not a bad overall response, when it comes to the adults taking part we do wonder how much those who are less than engaged with digital learning and teaching would feel represented by the findings. There is the danger of an echo-chamber effect in Scottish education. The same people repeatedly talk to like-minded people and self-validate, coming to believe that what we feel must be right, because everyone around us agrees, perhaps not realising that this is because we are only engaging with others who are invested and interested in the topic in the same way we are. We don’t have a solution to the problem of how to engage those for whom this is not a main area of focus, but it does make us look on the results of consultations such as these with more than a pinch of salt. We worry that, when the strategy is published, those who weren’t involved might feel defensive, overlooked and overruled, hindering any attempts to make significant changes. We wonder if there might have been a missed opportunity somewhere to raise the profile of the consultation and gather a wider range of responses. After all, how many teachers and other practitioners even knew of the existence of the consultation?
If you haven’t read the consultation findings and would like to, you can find them here:
The proposed digital strategy itself is scheduled for release this summer, lining up nicely with the switchover from HGIOS 3 to the more digitally aligned HGIOS 4.
If the prospect of wading through a hefty document doesn’t appeal this fine Friday evening, we heartily recommend reading the responses of the 8-11 age group – you’ll especially enjoy the illustrations of the future classroom. We’ve reproduced one of our favourites below – nice to see teachers won’t be obsolete in the digital future!
We’ll return to the consultation responses next week, with a closer look at what the children had to say.