The 'drip, drip, drip' of digital literacy

Matt HuntBy Matt Hunt, Assistant Head Teacher KS4, Wyvern College

Digital literacy is part of everyday life, but we’ve got to make sure we keep digital literacy at the forefront of teachers’ and pupils’ minds.

It helps that our Head is forward thinking and has an active interest in e-safety. We’re all aware that we have to prepare the boys for adult life and make sure they’re being safe online.

Apart from the Computing curriculum, we run regular initiatives aimed at the whole school as well as year groups. For example, during our ‘collapsed timetable’ days, the whole school goes ‘off timetable’ to learn new skills for the day.  It lends itself nicely to teaching digital literacy.

This year, we held an Apprenticeship-style day focusing on staying safe online. The Police came in and gave a talk, then the students were set the task of devising a creative awareness campaign on sexting aimed at younger students.

Nothing but engaged

The school has a password-protected website aimed at Key Stage 3 students that allows them and their parents or carers to access lessons, presentations, homework and other helpful resources. Within the site there are e-safety resources and links to specialist websites like https://www.ceop.police.uk and https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk.

One of the homework tasks we set is to sit with a parent or carer and have a conversation about online safety at home. They can do screenshot or signature to show they’ve completed the task.

Students know how to use devices almost instinctively from a young age, but not necessarily how to do the tasks. They learn that through the digital literacy part of the Computing curriculum. In Year 7, as part of Computing, we run six lessons asking the question ‘are you being safe online?’ We discuss a range of subjects, like phishing and passwords. They discuss their experiences of talking to people on online chat rooms or games. They talk to me outside lessons too.

The boys are nothing but engaged. They recognise we’re learning about stuff that’s really relevant to their life.

Memorable days

You have to vary it, but getting the messages around digital literacy across comes down to providing memorable days. You don’t remember a geography lesson on a cold, dark, rainy Wednesday, but you remember a field trip. As teachers, we’ve got to create these memorable moments.

The messages sink in when students are actively engaged in activities. I think of the proverb: ‘tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, let me do it and I’ll understand.’

We’ll also revisit our digital literacy peer group assemblies, including during Safer Internet Week. We need to constantly mention it - not to scare people, but to make sure people keep thinking about it.

Teaching the teachers

You can’t presume what works one year will be the same the next year. Technology doesn’t stand still. You have to stay ahead of the game.

The main challenge is making sure staff are up to speed. They all need to be on board. We educate our staff with training every three months on subjects including child protection, so that we stay aware of local and national initiatives and the latest best practice.

We also teach BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT’s ECDL level 2 qualification for Key Stage 4. It’s really good at improving productivity using everyday tools like Word and spreadsheets and mail merges. I’d be happy if staff did the qualification too. Little boosts in productivity could add up and make a big difference to teachers.

We can’t stand still. To keep on improving digital literacy, you need a constant, day-to-day, ‘drip, drip, drip’ approach.

Three e-safety tips (for students, teachers and parents)
  1. Educate on digital literacy little and often. What you do every day has more impact than what you do every three months.
  2. Encourage people to have a go and not to be afraid to log on and explore. The computer won’t explode!
  3. If you’re stuck, ask. We can't know everything.

     
    About Matt Hunt
    Assistant Head Teacher Matt Hunt teaches KS3 Computing, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT ECDL qualification and Geography GCSE.

    About Wyvern College
    Wyvern College
    is a Church of England technology secondary school that teaches around 300 boys in Wiltshire. The school aims to ‘prepare young people for success in a fast changing world.’ According to Head Teacher Paul German, the school “prides itself on enabling youngsters to think for themselves, to think deeply and to think about others.” The school’s ethos is based on the values of courage, compassion and commitment.

    Twitter: @wyvernsalisbury