The Importance of Digital Fluency

This week, Mr Potter (Director of Digital Strategy) guest writes on the Headmistress blog, and explains how BGS is filling the digital skills gap by being at the forefront of the use of technology in education.  

In a recent article on the BBC website research by World Skills UK highlighted that UK is “heading towards [a] digital skills” shortage as schools were not investing in providing young people with the right skills for a future jobs market; the demand for skills in AI, robotics and cloud are rapidly increasing in the workplace, as identified by Accenture, however young people are not being equipped for these areas as part of their education. 

In a week where a team of Year 8 students represented BGS at the semi finals of the NCSC CyberFirst competition and two Year 11 are taking part in the Lockheed Martin CyberQuest competition, I read the article with interest, as it seems we are clearly bucking this trend!  

As a School, we have always been at the forefront of the use of technology in education; we are looking ahead to anticipate which skills our students will need as they move into an uncertain world. We were very early adopters of iPads in education and the digital literacy that our students display was recognised by last year’s ISI inspection report as ‘outstanding’ as a result of their embedded and flexible use of iPad across their learning. However, technology does not stand still and we must continue to look to the future and anticipate the next technological breakthrough which will add real value to our students.   

The extensive use of iPads across learning helps us embed technology skills discreetly and continually throughout their education ensuring that our digital fluency is keeping pace with the changing in technological advancements and that our students stay ahead of the curve, and that these skills become part of their everyday learning. Students in the Junior School use Sphero robots to see the physical results of their coding. They code elements of a Shakespearen play, enabling characters to move around the stage and recite lines using code. As they transition through to Senior School in Year 7 they learn how to apply these skills into text based programming to solve more challenging problems as well as looking at networking, computer hardware and cybersecurity. 

To further our students’ interest and understanding of robotics, we have recently invested in a humanoid robot capable of machine learning. A group of Year 11 students will be able to use the robot to investigate social robotics – how humans interact with robots with human-like characteristics. Our students are adept in collaborating  with the use of cloud technology through Google Drive being second nature to them, to give them flexibility and ownership over their work. Students in Years 10 and 11 have access to Seneca Learning which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help tailor their experience in using the platform. It works effectively to highlight areas within a task that a student is finding more challenging and present these back to them in different ways to help them work on their understanding. We also operate a ‘BGS Hackers’ Google Classroom which is a mine of information about future careers in tech, challenges and competitions (access code rflztd2 – shhhh don’t tell anyone!).

Outside of the classroom, BGS is involved in many technology competitions and challenges, run by GCHQ, Lockheed Martin and Cranfield University. These give our students an insight into what it is like to work in a major technology company and the skills that are needed to succeed. We have also hosted lunchbox lectures with industry professionals in cybersecurity and robotics, providing role models and insights into the amazing jobs that many of our Alumnae are in. This year, we have also started mentoring programs in industry with some of our students lucky enough to be mentored by staff from Cardiff Metropolitan University Robotics lab and IBM. We recognise that these links with industry are hugely important as we look to be at the forefront of giving our students the technology skills they need to thrive and succeed in whatever they decide to do.

We believe that this dual approach of teaching skills and ensuring we are building links to wider tech communities, employers and universities will give our students the confidence to tackle any opportunity when they step out into the workforce as the next generation of  innovators and problem solvers. 

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