The digital literacy skills schools must be teaching students

The digital literacy skills schools must be teaching students

When adults meet children for the first time, they love to ask them the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? In the past you could take it for granted that a child’s preferred profession was going to exist when they reached maturity.

Now, when you ask a child that question, chances are they aren’t going to end up in any kind of profession resembling the one they chose – or any other, for that matter. In fact, a US Labor report estimates that, in the next 10 years, 65% of secondary school-aged children will end up in jobs that don’t yet exist.

Of those jobs, The National Innovation and Science Agenda reports that ‘75% will need science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, and almost all jobs will require ICT literacy.’

To make sure our children will be able to compete in rapidly changing, highly competitive industries, we must make sure we arm them with the tools they may need to enter the workforce confidently. So what are the skills that the workforce of the future is going to need?

How is digital literacy defined?

Digital literacy is described by a report produced by Deakin University as the ability to ‘find, use and disseminate information in a digital world.’ The report argues the information that is digitally available is so overwhelming that it is about providing students with a range of abilities to navigate and manage that material. Developing these skills isn’t as straight-forward as teaching students coding or learning how to use a specific program. Teaching students how to thrive in a new environment means that you need to equip them to be analytical and lateral thinkers. In short, schools need to be thinking about how they can teach their students a whole new way of learning for a largely unknown terrain.

Enterprise skills

The Foundation of Young Australians (FYA) released a report titled: Enterprise skills and careers education in schools. In their research they discovered that it’s not enough to pump STEM-related learning into our children; rather, we must help them to be adaptable, fluid jacks-of-all-trades that can rapidly develop skill-sets as demand calls for them. The report uncovered that:

It has been predicted that the average young person will have 17 different jobs across five different industries throughout their lifetime. They may also piece their income together from a range of [different] sources at the same time in the future.’

Enterprise skills are defined by such values as:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Confidence
  • Agency
  • Financial literacy
  • Global citizenship

To make sure our children have these skills it’s not necessarily about ditching old curriculum areas for new ones, it’s about using both so that students can be tech-savvy, but also balanced, empathetic and verbal.

Traditional education still has a place

Therefore, schools must be balancing their curriculum. It’s important to note that schools that rank highly with digital literacy also tend to rank highly across the board as well. Traditional subjects like English, Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) and PE won’t disappear, rather the opposite. In fact, Dr Stefan Hajkowicz in his CeBIT Australia 2016 talk Global Megatrends discussed that as we wade further into the virtual world we are going to need people that can think outside the box: ‘The types of skills that become more valued are those related to complexity, creativity, social interaction, fuzziness — those less easily done by machines.’ He also projects that, as our lives become more digitised and as technologies like virtual reality become more sophisticated, there’s going to be a backlash as we become overwhelmed by the digital world, leading people to crave authentic, natural real-world experiences. Getting that balance right is integral in making sure students a rounded, happy humans.

What can we do to make sure our students aren’t left behind

The countries that are appearing at the top of the rankings aren’t just investing in technology for their school, they are investing in their national education systems and making education a top priority. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report puts Australia as 14th in terms of Education quality, which isn’t bad. However, if we want to hold our own with our neighbours, we must ensure that we are continuing to invest in our education system. This investment includes:

  • upskilling teachers
  • making teaching an attractive career path
  • ensuring that good quality education is widely available for urban and regional areas
  • cultivating a wider culture where learning is valued.

Digital literacy isn’t just about investing in the latest technology, it’s about making education a top priority and ensuring that priority is upheld by every strand of government and community. If we want our children, and our future to flourish then we need to make sure that we’re planting the seeds today.

Would you like to know more about how technology is going to affect government in the upcoming years? Then download our eGovernment 2017 @ CeBIT program today.

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