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21 October 2015

Cracking the tech literacy challenge

Tech literacy challenge

With experts claiming that digital technology could boost the nation’s productivity up to eight times more than any other form of investment - tech literacy has become big news.

There is growing recognition that the next generation of employees needs to have the right tech skills to make the most of the economic opportunity.

But new research carried out by BT revealed that the UK is facing a very real tech literacy challenge which could threaten our digital future.

The research findings have exposed a tangible lack of confidence and knowledge among teachers in their ability to ‘bring alive’ the real world relevance of classroom computing.

Lack of access

Results also showed that technology remains an isolated subject divorced from the rest of the curriculum and that the majority of schools lack access to the right technology and support to get the best from it.

What’s more, according to the study, teachers believe that technology is more often a disruptor than an enabler of teaching and learning in the classroom due to old software, and children, especially girls, find computing lessons dull and difficult.

In response to the findings, BT has announced new plans designed to improve tech literacy skills of 400,000 primary school children in 2015/16.

These included a doubling of its commitment to the Barefoot Programme.

The Barefoot scheme led by BT in partnership with the Department of Education, the British Computer Society (BCS), and the Chartered Institute for IT, aims to help primary school teachers implement the new curriculum.

Getting to grips

Through the provision of training and resources, it enables the teachers to gain an understanding of a range of science and technology related ideas and concepts.

For example, it explains algorithms, abstraction and data structures. It explores how they occur naturally in many other teaching disciplines they teach, and, critically, how they can be made alluring and accessible to children as young as five years old.

By boosting its commitment to the scheme BT will, during the coming year, extend into Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, delivering training to more than 15,000 school teachers. By doing so the initiative will reach over 400,000 school children in the UK during 2015-16.

There’s more too. BT said it would provide new teaching resources to continue to bring alive tech concepts in computing lessons and across the curriculum.

And the company will work closely with schools to see how technology can be applied to improve school life. For instance, using BT Tute, a digital tutorial platform to extend classroom support for teachers.

Reaching five million

All of this forms part of a long-term commitment by BT, unveiled in March 2015, to help build a culture of tech literacy for the nation, reaching five million young people by 2020.

As BT’s chief executive, Gavin Patterson, explained:

“The UK's future as a technology leader hinges on young people getting the skills, support and training they need to create successful careers in science, engineering and IT. There won't only be more demand for specialist tech skills; many jobs, in different sectors, will require some level of tech literacy.”

He added: “If we're to have a dynamic economy, we need a society where people understand the basics behind how tech works, and have the knowledge to create and develop it, not just consume it. A generation of young people who are tech literate is fundamental. Bringing computing into primary school classrooms was a landmark step, but we need to do more to enable teachers to teach it."