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Developing skills in Digital Literacy

This blog has been written to give classroom leaders a deeper understanding of Digital Literacy and advise how to incorporate Digital Literacy skills into learning.

A recent report from the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee, ‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’, highlighted the following key development points, among others, for schools and further education:

  • Digital Literacy to be the third core skill in schools alongside English (Literacy) and Maths (Numeracy)
  • Training to give teachers the skills to deliver Digital Literacy
  • Stronger careers guidance, especially for 16 to 19 year olds
  • A digital element in all further education courses
  • Short, flexible courses and apprenticeships with digital skills elements that qualify for skills funding

The idea is to ensure citizens of the UK are ready for the work and life effects of the digital era. Schools and colleges therefore need to be in a position to supply this need.

Of particular interest is the suggestion that Digital Literacy should become a third core skill. In my view, all leaders of learning need to focus on Literacy and Numeracy within any subject they teach. If we can agree on that statement then we would also have to treat Digital Literacy in the same manner and deliver it through our own subject. I believe this can be done easily and I would like to take this opportunity to explore further the idea of Digital Literacy becoming the third core skill.

What is Digital Literacy? Although this is not an exhaustive list, the essential elements would include developing skills in:

  • being creative using digital resources
  • thinking critically (including evaluation)
  • collaborating online
  • finding and selecting appropriate digital information
  • communicating effectively in a digital world
  • staying safe online and when using digital applications (e-safety)

Leaders of learning who educate young people aged 11-19 will be expected to change their curriculum to meet this need.

Policy-makers, schools and colleges will need to have a mind-set shift towards new pedagogical approaches that support skills development and personalised learning. There have been many calls from business leaders recently for young people and prospective employees to be equipped with basic ‘soft skills’: thinking skills, learning how to learn, having flexibility, being creative or innovative and problem solving. Activities based around Digital Literacy should provide an opportunity to develop many of these skills.

As a starting point to help leaders of learning, I would like to focus on two Digital Literacy skills – e-safety and identifying appropriate information – and explain how these could be learnt through any subject or personal development session

The ability to find and select appropriate digital information (research skills)
When working on developing skills, it is important that your approach allows the learner to concentrate on the process of learning rather than simply the end result. I have found that following a Plan, Do, Review methodology is a brilliant way of focusing the learner on the process and helping them to develop independent learning skills. It also provides them with the opportunity to make decisions about their own learning.

In practice it could look something like this. Firstly, provide a brief hand-out which covers key principles of research (e.g. plagiarism, what counts as legitimate digital research, primary and secondary research, research techniques and anything else you think is useful). Learners should choose a topic they want to research from within your subject area. Encourage originality by helping them to personalise their research. Students then plan their individual response to the research where they identify how they intend to carry this out digitally. The learner then carries out the research (‘Do’), identifying any changes they make and re-planning as they go along. Finally, once the research has been completed, they could present their findings to peers and the teacher. All participants would provide feedback that would contribute to their review. The review will highlight areas they could improve for next time. The Plan, Do, Review process also helps to demonstrate progress in skills development – from the starting point in the Plan, to where they moved to and what they improved upon in the Review.

The ability to be safe online and through digital applications (e-safety)
This could be managed in the same way through the Plan, Do, Review process. Learning challenges could be developed around keeping personal things private, thinking about what to say and do online, blocking people who send upsetting messages, not opening unknown links and attachments, or telling trusted people when things upset you or when someone you don’t know wants to meet you offline.

ASDAN has developed qualifications, programmes and other accreditation to suit all learners from pre-Entry to Levels 3 and 4. All programmes and qualifications are based around the Plan, Do, Review model. These programmes and qualifications are flexible and allow personal effectiveness to be developed through any subject and, importantly, around Digital Literacy.

Author: Gareth Lewis, Former ASDAN National Development Co-ordinator


Kath Grant, ASDAN

4.04pm, 1 May 2015

Thanks for giving some practical ways for teachers to get started in class; I feel as if lots of people in education are circling a bucket labelled Digital Literacy and saying "Hmm we really must do something about this" or "But I don't know very much about digital stuff either" so starting with one of the CoPE skills allows staff to start from what they know.

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