Shining a light on digital talent

The professional nature of my EdD gives an opportunity to reflect on learning theory with planning for FDC maker education programmes and collaborations with teachers in schools. This semester in particular has made me think a lot about what education and curriculum means to different stakeholders, as I’ve completed a study centred on the philosophical framework to underpin my research.

I’ve drawn parallels with this so called Fourth Industrial Revolution and John Dewey’s observations and contribution towards pragmatism. From a personal perspective I’m usually looking to see if a light is shining on students themselves, as a learner-focused education system, or if motivations from outside instead become key influences.

Indeed, as Dewey indicated that children were educated to become workers for capitalists during the first industrial revolution, today’s digital world is often cited as a time to equip children with the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of tomorrow. But there’s a difference here, one that I’ve been threading though my work, and that’s a focus on thinking.

Supported by an understanding of computational thinking, maker education and computing can encourage children to understand and critically analyse digital technologies in the world around them. It’s a way to promote pupil voice and emancipation by fostering new forms of social participation, and that’s very different to educational experiences and intended outcomes during that first industrial revolution. Children to think?

Modern thinking emphasises the significance of non-cognitive skills to support young people with choices and vocational pathways, and it’s this focus that’s made me consider the modern strengths and conflicts observed when industry links with education to enhance learning outcomes.

Every child has a right to study computing as a foundation subject in school, and we know that changes to the curriculum over recent years have made implementation difficult. We also know that an approach based on pedagogy is effective, one that can take outstanding teaching and relevant learning into more schools and sustain that intention. However, changes to the formal curriculum in 2014 was the policy route chosen by government and five years on I’m still focused on where that light is shining on digital talent:

Are more students recognising their own talents and have considered a formal qualification or career that applies their knowledge and skills?

Are more senior leaders teachers supported to invest in the subject, through professional development and a commitment to the timetable in addition to resources?

Careers guidance and information is one of the powerful links with industry that can help schools to support students to make well informed decisions about education and employment next steps. To promote diversity in the subject at KS4 and beyond, children also need to recognise that computing is relevant and meaningful to them rather than it be a discipline dismissed from an earlier starting point. At that stage they’ll be able to consider options and further routes to learning and employment.

With the Leeds Digital Festival approaching and data telling a story of the city being a ‘Digital Capital’ in terms of events and collaboration over the next couple of weeks, is now the time to build on that capital theme for everyone?

Can we take ‘digital capital’ to relate to every child in the city and equip them with all that’s needed to consider themselves in a digital vocational capacity?

Shining a light on the digital talents of all young people to show them, teachers, families and wider society the potential of outstanding teaching to boost diversity in the digital talent pipeline.

Science Capital has been used to measure engagement with the subject and as a toolkit to help make connections with young people, and summarised on the link below. Get used to the language as ‘cultural capital’ has become a discussion point after its inclusion in the Ofsted Inspection Framework consultation.

Pierre Bourdieu first shared the concept of social capital and this science-themed programme has been derived from the French sociologist’s work. From my own observations, I really do believe this approach can make a difference to the perceptions of students about computing or digital programmes ‘being for me’.

Shining a light on the potential of digital inclusion for all young people can facilitate change and address the stats post-KS3. Another post will reference the amazing programmes that are making an impact as industry partners support education leaders and teachers to promote diversity in the digital talent pipeline and students have the opportunities to be able to recognise if computing can be ‘for them’.

To give them that choice, and the chance to make an informed decision, I’d love to see digital capital taken across the formal curriculum for every child. Let students make the choice and nurture the opportunities in timetables for them to be able to recognise their own talents. It’s not a desired route for everyone, but let’s make it a decision based on outstanding teaching and effective collaboration to make it relevant.

Image by Sven Rutsatz

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