By Russell Dwyer, Head Teacher, St Thomas Community Primary School, Swansea
We are a Digital Pioneer school. That may mean teachers from other schools think we know all the answers relating to the DCF. That is not the case – we feel we are very much on a journey like everyone else. However, having held a recent open event for teachers, focusing on digital competency, it was clear by the number that turned up that a lot of people may still be unsure as to what that journey is!
For that reason, I’ve been asked to write a blog to share our views on the DCF and by doing so, hopefully help you develop your thoughts around its implementation.
The DCF is the first step towards our vision for a new curriculum in Wales. It has been developed by teachers with knowledge and experience in the field and is designed to be resilient to the many changes that take place in the world of technology. It is a key feature of an education system that must prepare our young learners for the technologically advancing world in which they are growing up. For that reason, we as leaders need to embrace it and recognise the need to develop it across the whole school community. At St Thomas, we have done so by auditing staff DCF skills, introducing DCF skills trackers, leading tailored CPD, engaging parents and the wider community and generally supporting each other to embrace what lies ahead.
Much of the DCF is not rocket science. A lot of the DCF skills have been there for many years now and as a result, schools do not need to panic and go out to buy as much hardware and software as budgets allow. In fact we are in a better position than ever now to address IT at low cost. For example, Hwb provides free access to Office 365 and free online apps and websites help children to engage in a wealth of activities. Also, it’s fair to say, a number of skills can be addressed in an ‘unplugged’ manner; introductions to computational thinking and addressing online safety issues can just as easily be covered with pen and paper and through discussion. What is new, is the progressive nature of these skills and the fact they should permeate across the curriculum and therefore each child’s learning experiences in a purposeful way. That’s not to say IT and the DCF must be referenced in every single lesson plan. Indeed, I still strongly believe that technology should only be included if it serves a valid purpose to enhance the learning. A school can have hundreds of ipads but unless children are using them purposefully to move their learning forward there is little point to them. What we do need is purposeful, creative engagement to develop DCF skills, so that they become second nature to our learners.
We need to dispel any of the fears that may remain within our schools around digital competency and IT and recognise that we are all learning and moving forward together. In doing so, we need to accept that many of our learners are already advanced in digital competency and have skills they can share with us. I remember being amazed when I attended our coding club to see that one of our pupils had, outside school, developed his own app and hosted it online for the world to see. Now, I consider myself fairly tech savvy (although not as much as I was!) but I couldn’t just go and do what this year six pupil had done. That’s just one example but there are numerous tales as to how children and young adults are leading the way in using technology to advance learning. We need to accept that, particularly in the world of IT, we as teachers are not holders of all knowledge; our role is to be facilitators and encouragers, providing the gateway to developing essential skills and knowledge that will propel our learners forward.
In conclusion, we have a real opportunity to support, challenge and learn from each other now. Yes, digital pioneers are leading the way but I’m sure there are many other schools out there who are doing fantastic things to promote digital competency. We need to share this and embrace what we can do to secure our learners’ ‘successful futures’ in a modern and ever changing technological world.