Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

How can digital learning improve 'character skills?'

Research from Techknowledge for Schools explores how the daily use of tech in schools can prepare students for future employment

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | December 13, 2015 | Primary

By Mary Palmer, Director, Techknowledge for Schools

The new Future Skills research explores how the daily use of technology in schools can prepare students for future employment through the development of key characteristics, including resilience, curiosity, creativity, self-control, confidence, determination, ambition and emotional intelligence. 

The recent Government focus on developing ‘character skills’ aims to encourage children to be resilient, determined, resourceful, curious and tenacious. According to employers such skills are sorely lacking in an alarming number of school-leavers.

Cynics might say that the infiltration of technology into almost every aspect of our lives causes complacency and laziness in even the most capable of students. Maybe over-reliance on technology leads them away from the very skills, attitudes and approach they need. Turn that coin over, however, and we find that the very same technology, specifically digital learning in schools can also have a transformative impact on the development of the character skills employers are crying out for. 

At Techknowledge for Schools, as part of our rolling research programme with schools who have been using 1:1 mobile devices since at least 2013 (some since 2011), we set out to find out how their use and integration into daily learning contributes to the development of ‘character skills’.  One of the important findings in the qualitative Transforming Learning research that preceded this latest Future Skills study is that students are becoming extremely adept at self-paced learning, searching for robust evidence related to their subject and are working collaboratively with peers.

80% believe technology can help students ‘work independently and be solutions-focused’ (grit, resilience and tenacity). A similar number also believe the technology can help students to ‘identify and develop new ideas’

Indeed, educationalists and policymakers emphasise repeatedly now that tomorrow’s young employees and entrepreneurs require advanced collaboration skills, sophisticated communication skills and problem-solving skills.  In 2012, the employer body, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) recommended that in addition to a new curriculum, schools should be asked to deliver against a wider framework which includes the development of key characteristics, including resilience, curiosity, creativity, self-control, confidence, determination, ambition and emotional intelligence. 

Using this CBI framework, and building on qualitative research earlier this year, our new study aimed to quantify how the use of technology in teaching and learning is helping students to develop or improve character skills that will enhance their prospects for future employment.

Almost 90% of teachers believe that learning with technology can help students to ‘be eager to explore new things’ and 60% agree that it helps students to ‘ask and answer questions to deepen understanding’ (curiosity).

80% believe technology can help students ‘work independently and be solutions-focused’ (grit, resilience and tenacity). A similar number also believe the technology can help students to ‘identify and develop new ideas’ (creativity).

62% of teachers believe that technology can encourage students to inspire others and 78% say that one-to-one mobile technology can help students to ‘actively participate’ and the same proportion to ‘show enthusiasm’.

It was also believed in the qualitative (Transforming Learning) research that many students engage more with the subject if they are asked to research it themselves. Technology was described as offering students a way of ‘seeing the world’. Two thirds of the teachers surveyed in this new study believe that learning with technology can help students to ‘be aware of pressing global issues’.

The majority of teachers believe that the use of  technology in learning has many benefits and can have a positive impact on the development of a range of skills for students, in particular attributes that enable them to be more ‘determined’ and ‘optimistic’.

Managing the potential for distraction, however, is a concern, and many of the teachers we interviewed believe that schools and parents have a responsibility to ensure that young people learn valuable self-control skills, since they will be faced with these same challenges throughout their adult life.

It is also clear that some teachers need much more ongoing training and support than they currently have access to:

In Stage 1 of the research, while new teachers request training to be included in their induction period, more experienced teachers wish to have ongoing support

Less confident teachers request training and support on all aspects of technology integration:

  • technically (63%)
  • pedagogically (67%)
  • in classroom management techniques (48%)

To learn more about benefits and concerns, download the full report. 

Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Review roundtable: James Silcock

Durham top for on-campus wi-fi

E-learning makes new gains in the higher education sector

Market place - view all

Prodisplay

Pro Display was born to innovate, changing the face of visual displ...

Listen technologies

Listen Technologies brings power and clarity to the sounds that enr...

UTAX (UK)

UTAX is fast becoming a name synonymous with quality and reliability....