#TheFeed – Digital Literacy in 21st Century, by Sonia Blanford

The following post features in the most recent issue of #TheFeed, our online magazine bringing you the best stories from Microsoft Showcase Schools and #MIEExperts, thought leadership, and news from the Microsoft in Education team. This piece is written Sonia Blanford – a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and Founder & CEO at Achievement for All - and explores the upcoming changes in Education and the continuing effects this will have on society as a whole.

Head over to SlideShare to browse all the latest stories from this edition of #TheFeed:

#TheFeed - Digital Literacy in 21st Century, by Sonia Blanford

The wider deployment and effective use of ICT is pivotal in the changing global world of the future. This is reflected in the following words of Lynton (1989) in the USA:

“Education is receiving increasing pressure from changing global economic circumstances and complex social needs… simply knowing how to use tools and knowledge in a single domain is not sufficient to remain competitive as either individuals or companies. People must learn to apply tools and knowledge in new domains and different situations.”

By the time the primary school children of today start work, 40% of them will be in jobs which have not yet been invented. In 2011, Wagner highlighted emerging job titles for the future- astro-teacher, astro-banker, robotician, global system architect and unmanned cargo vehicle operator- to cite but a few. Perhaps, her future is already with us; by 2016 the first unmanned taxi drove solo.


“A teacher’s job is that of preparing the learners and citizens of the future; to get it right tomorrow, today’s job involves imagining the world that will exist at these points in time.”

A 22- year old starting teaching in 2010 could work until retirement in 2055. The last children/young people that he/she would encounter are likely to live to 80 or more, that is until 2135 and beyond. A teacher’s job is that of preparing the learners and citizens of the future; to get it right tomorrow, today’sjob involves imagining the world that will exist at these points in time. Technology in schools is not simply about replacing tasks, it is about opening new frontiers in terms of enhanced learning, creativity and innovation.

Digital awareness is as important as literacy and numeracy and at the same time enhances pupil outcomes in these and other areas of learning. Teachers need to plan carefully to support the growing autonomy ceded to children and young people through technology; this is effectively achieved by placing greater emphasis on the deployment of cognitive knowledge (understanding) and metacognitive skills (i.e. understanding through self-reflection and understanding the ‘how’ of learning).

Jedeskog and Nissen (2004) investigated features of technology practice in Swedish schools. Their research examined the growing moves in education, from content to form and the dissolution of educational boundaries in terms of room, time and activity (i.e. learning which uses face-to-face teaching and e-learning, referred to as ‘blended learning’, thus dispensing with the need for a fixed room, time and activity). Their findings, presented in the paper- “Is doing more important than knowing?”, suggested that the shift in many Swedish classrooms to placing greater emphasis on the development of pupil autonomy carried with it an inherent danger, that pupil understanding would fail to develop.

In England, Becta (2003) analysed Ofsted’s findings of 2,582 schools inspected in 2000-01 and considered pupil achievement in the context of ICT use. The findings suggested, among other things that the presence of ICT resources alone was less important than the combination of good resources and effective ICT teaching. The report identified key ‘ICT enablers’ which taken together are crucial in the development of good learning opportunities in ICT: ICT resourcing, ICT leadership and ICT teaching together with, general school leadership and general teaching standards. By 2011, Ofsted found that the effectiveness of ICT was considered good or outstanding in two thirds of primary school in England; the situation in secondary schools was less promising, where limitations in teaching, resourcing and use of assessment were found to reduce the effectiveness of ICT.


Since this time, Microsoft has gone some way in the UK and beyond in supporting schools to transform their technology environment and approach to digital literacy. And taking this further, Achievement for All are delighted to be working in partnership with them to develop the Microsoft Educator Community. This will provide a free digital environment to transform teacher and tutor CPD. Based on the three-fold model of developing: a digital literacy curriculum (what the school does); a digital literacy pedagogy (what the teacher does) and digital literacy ability (building digital literacy of teachers to enhance pupil outcomes), the on-line environment will include tools and resources to support schools and other educational settings in enhancing all areas of ICT.

Achievement for All, established in 2011, to transform lives through improved educational opportunities and outcomes for children and young people vulnerable to underachievement, has worked with over 3000 schools and settings (children and young people aged, 2-19 years) in England and Wales, along with schools in Norway, the USA, Lithuania and Latvia. Recent data from an independent evaluation by PwC (2016) in England showed that identified pupils (those from socio-economic disadvantage, those with SEND and others vulnerable to underachievement) in Achievement for All (AfA) schools made more progress on an annual basis than similar pupils in other schools, which averages at 3 Average Point Score) (APS).

In AfA primary schools (5-11 years) pupils made 4.7 APS of progress per annum between 2011 and 2015 in reading; 4.4. APS in writing and 4.4 APS in maths (in England the expected level of progress is 3.0 APS). Results were similar for identified pupils in secondary schools (11-16 years), where pupils made 5.4 APS of progress in reading per annum between 2011 and 2015, 5.4 APS of progress in writing and 4.1 APS of progress in maths (expected progress per annum for pupils at secondary schools is 3.6 APS). By the summer, Achievement for All will publish a simple competency framework that lays out progressive criteria for personal digital literacy that will help teachers and their pupils to place digital literacy into a bigger picture, one of Achieving Employability. Over the next twelve months, Achievement for All will gather case studies, stories, top tips and advice/guidance from leading education settings with which they work, that illustrate powerful and effective approaches to developing digital literacy across a community of learners, staff pupils and families. Watch this space: www.afaeducation.org.

Follow Sonia Blanford on Twitter @SoniaAFA3AS

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