Digital schools: a how-to guide

Naimish Gohil, Founder & CEO at Satchel, discusses digital transformation in schools, and why digital literacy is the key to promoting STEM

With the new academic year fast-approaching, many educators, including myself, spend this time planning and preparing for the new intake and return of students. I believe, that in today’s digital-first world, one of the main focuses educators should be preparing for is the promotion of resources, lesson plans and homework that focuses on developing strong digital literacy skills.

There are a number of variables which contribute to being digitally literate, and based on the current digital climate in which we live, the more we promote and encourage digital literacy in our schools, the more prepared our students will be for their future.

The power of whole-school software

With the ‘consumerisation of technology’ taking over the workplace, traditional office spaces are no longer the same, so why are our schools?

With a host of solutions available, there is technology to cater for almost every part of the school day, from form-time, right through to lunch, detention and after-school clubs. Investing in these solutions and aligning them to a digital transformation plan will not only help to improve the school’s performance, free up teacher time, reduce staff turnover and workloads, but also to prepare students for the digital world that lies ahead.

Students in every classroom today, and even those yet to begin school, are all too familiar with technology – it is in their DNA and this passion for technology should be nurtured.

Merging home and school life

Using technology at home and at work is what it means to be digitally literate. In order for teachers to improve their digital literacy skills and understand the ways in which their students live and communicate, using technology at home is a simple way to do this. And by this, I mean, of course, exploring social media.

Social media is a great platform to understand how students communicate with their peers. In fact, many teachers have turned to Twitter as a means to collaborate with their colleagues, many of whom are already digitally literate. This group, known as ‘tweachers’, are actively sharing advice, best practice and supporting each other up and down the country.

Personally owned devices

As any technology expert will tell you, digital transformation is not just a matter of deploying new technology into school, but instead, ensuring that these new solutions are used to achieve new operational efficiencies.

BYOD strategies can help establish such efficiencies through the adoption of apps that can be used in-class to promote student autonomy, engagement and collaboration, all the while providing teachers with complete classroom transparency.

Naimish Gohil

Staying one step ahead

Technology developments are constant, and with this, schools which are digitally transforming must regularly review their guidelines in order to keep up to speed. Some of the most pertinent guidelines refer to internet use within schools, particularly around bullying and in-classroom use of mobile phones.

Unfortunately, the rise of technological advancements has also given rise to cyber-bullying which needs to be factored into any anti-bullying policy. Social media networks, camera phones and online communication mean bullying on these platforms is heightened and a strict anti-bullying policy should be written with these developments taken into consideration.

Despite the world being a digital place, and schools deploying technology within classrooms, one thing that has not changed is that students’ full attention is required to learn. As a result, restrictions on when students can use their own technology during the school day needs to be addressed. Policies relating to mobile phone use should be reviewed in order for them to remain fit for purpose for everyday life.

Promoting STEM skills through technology

With this increased focus on technology in the world, there is more focus on digital skills in the workplace, and it is the job of teachers to ensure that the shortage of STEM graduates is reduced. In order to achieve this, teachers must ensure students have the knowledge they need to continue focusing on STEM subjects in higher education and beyond. Schools ought to consider introducing and maintaining extra-curricular clubs that promote the uptake of STEM subjects and help nurture interest in these topics. These simple actions will help with the nation’s wider mission of diversifying the future STEM workforce.

In today’s technological society, digital literacy is just as pertinent as literacy and this needs to be reflected not only in the curriculum but in the way we run schools.

If we want to successfully prepare students for their future working lives, we need to emphasise the importance of technology and STEM subjects from an earlier age. This ensures that interests are sparked and we can then help foster this and ensure students are well equipped to be the future of digital Britain.

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