Wales urged to focus on digital

New research says Welsh Government and schools need to raise their game if they want to deliver a truly 21st century education

A new report urges policy makers and educators to take a bold approach to digital literacy in Welsh schools. In the first report of its kind, over 2,000 Year 9 pupils from across Wales took part in the research study, which looked at their online and digital media habits and digital literacy.  

The report, Generation 2000, calls on Welsh Government and schools to prioritise digital literacy and digital citizenship education as key literacies of a 21st century curriculum. 

The new research recommends that technologically savvy children should be trusted to become partners in their own education. It also reveals the disconnect between children’s digital experiences at home and in school, and calls for high quality technology and internet access in all schools across Wales. Improved digital literacy training for teachers and pupils is also needed to avoid a digital skills divide.

Led by WISE KIDS and co-funded by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Logicalis and S4C, the research programme was undertaken earlier this year and included group interviews, one-to-one home interviews, and an online questionnaire. It presents, for the first time, benchmark data and wide-ranging findings on different aspects of young people’s online experiences in a social and educational context. 

The research found that technology provision in schools is lagging behind and needs to improve. Only 44% of children think their schools have good technology for lessons.

The report also highlighted a disconnect between pupils’ digital habits at home and in school: 31% of children undertake daily informal learning, such as looking up information on personal interests/ reading or watching the news, compared with only 17% who use the Internet daily for school related work.

Contrast this with 75% of children who use the internet daily to connect with friends. Given the wealth of high quality online resources available, pupils do not take full advantage of the opportunities to use the Internet for school work. 

They also still use a limited range of websites, and copying and pasting is a common practice in research for homework revision.  

The research highlighted that children are creative and confident in dealing with the inevitable negative aspects of the Internet, developing a range of active coping strategies.  This resilience is an important skill, considering that 42% received messages that upset them from peers and others they interacted with online. Schools need to focus on supporting pupils to build resilience so they can manage online risk. 

Dr Sangeet Bhullar, Executive Director, WISE KIDS, led the research. She said: “We are living in an exciting new digital landscape, and need to make sure no one in Wales is left behind. There is a need for schools to engage pupils and deliver digital literacy and digital citizenship education that is inspiring and takes into account pupils’ own experiences. We hope educators, policy makers and parents will work together to help deliver this transformation.” 

Keith Towler, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, added: “This is a real myth-busting piece of research. It demonstrates quite clearly the sophisticated digital skill set of pupils in Wales. I’m hoping we’ll listen to the clear messages they’re giving us and that policy makers, schools and parents embrace this opportunity for us to become world-leaders in this field by ensuring all pupils have the opportunity to hone their skills.”