Why I want to help teachers deliver Essential Digital Skills

In #GetOnlineWeek, a digital inclusion campaign run by Good Things Foundation, Sally Betts from Ideas4Learning and a trainer on the ETF’s Essential Digital Skills Programme, talks about the ‘How to Teach Essential Digital Skills’ CPD series and why it matters.

This week is the annual #GetOnlineWeek, a digital inclusion campaign run by Good Things Foundation which has helped to shine a light on the millions of people who are still unable to take advantage of the social and economic opportunities that technology brings.

Every year, thanks to #GetOnlineWeek, thousands of events take place in communities across the UK to give everyone the chance to get the help they need to improve their digital skills. Last year, over 400 community organisations in the UK held events for people with low digital skills, reaching over 20,000 people.

The Get Online Campaign is based on the view that everyone deserves the opportunity to safely participate in our digital world and no one should be left behind. Sadly, the Lloyds Essential Digital Skills report published in September of this year shows that many are still being left behind. On the positive side, the report finds that “1.9 million fewer people are digitally excluded than before the pandemic” thanks to amazing efforts by individuals and community-focused organisations – many of them learning providers. Yet I was struck by the startling statistics that around 11 million people in the UK lack the digital skills needed for everyday life and 36% of working adults in the UK lack the digital skills needed for work! According to the report, “these are workers aged 55–64, individuals working part-time, those in the service sector, and those with no formal qualifications”. The data also flags up that women are not making the same gains at work as men in terms of their digital skills.

This is undoubtedly where the FE and Training sector can make a real difference, especially now that there is a digital entitlement for 16–19-year-olds and adults aged 19+. It has been encouraging to see so many providers looking to set up Essential Digital Skills courses, but it needs teachers and trainers who can deliver and there are aspects of the Essential Digital Skills standards that are hard to teach – even for ICT specialists. We also know from many colleagues charged with organising EDS provision that it can be challenging to find staff in a position to teach the courses, especially where EDS is being embedded in existing provision. Ideally teachers on those courses would also cover EDS curriculum but may lack the digital skills and confidence to do so.

That’s why I wanted to be involved in the ETF’s CPD Programme for Essential Digital Skills and, in particular, the ‘How to Teach EDS’ courses. These practically focused courses are there to provide ideas and resources for curriculum leaders, tutors and assessors faced with the challenges of how to deliver the new EDS qualifications at Entry 3 and Level 1 in practice – as well as the courses at Entry 1 and 2 needed to scaffold many learners up to the Entry 3 qualification.

I work with my colleague Barbara Nance and together we always start with the question, “What is going to be useful for teachers?”. That’s what led us to develop two sessions on fun ways to teach digital terminology online. Then, because of the practical realities of teaching EDS in the prison service and many community settings, we realised we also needed to develop a second session on how to teach digital terminology without using online resources.

One of my favourite sessions so far has been ‘How to teach managing your online identity’ which always gets people thinking. During the lockdowns, some of the most popular were ‘How to teach EDS online or in blended mode’ and ‘Working with a range of digital devices’, delivered by James Kieft from Activate Learning, and I notice people are still watching those recordings. The session that I think has helped a lot of people struggling with aspects of teaching EDS has been ‘How to teach processing numerical data’.

I know that it’s currently a struggle for teachers and trainers to book onto CPD sessions with the start of a new academic year, the return to face-to-face teaching, the disruptions caused by Covid, and often the need to juggle hybrid and blended learning as well. That’s why all the ‘How to Teach EDS’ sessions are also made available as recordings. It’s best if you can participate in the live sessions, but the on-demand recordings provide a convenient, flexible way to still benefit from the CPD.

All the ‘How to Teach EDS’ sessions are available on the EDS website – both the live sessions and the bookable recordings.

I’m delighted to say that the feedback from the ‘How to teach Essential Digital Skills’ sessions has been really positive. Above all, those who’ve attended have affirmed how enjoyable it can be teach digital skills.

Further information

For those who want to find out more about the overall ETF CPD programme for Essential Digital Skills, I can recommend this blog by Vikki Liogier, National Head of EdTech and Digital Skills at ETF. If you have any queries about the programme, please get in touch by emailing EDS@sero.co.uk.