Building Digital Capacity in Higher Education

Some takeaways for Primary and Post-Primary

Dispelling Myths

Report coverLast week, the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education published its extended roadmap – A Roadmap for Enhancement in a Digital World 2015-2017 – which aims at building digital capacity in Irish higher education.

This is a comprehensive document that places the challenge of developing digital capacity in higher education (HE) across the entire school system. I particularly like the section where myths about digital technology in any education setting, are investigated. These myths include:

  • The myth of diminishing costs (if we use digital technology)
  • The myth of the disappearing teacher
  • The myth of the digital native (student and teacher)
  • The myth of technology as benefactor
  • The myth of insignificance
  • The myth of imminent revolution

I am sure there are other myths out there, but the investigation is a good start. The National Forum can explore further and add to this list over time.

The roadmap is a product of in an on-going debate around the Modernisation of Higher Education. Most importantly, it links this modernisation discussion to current reforms in primary and post-primary and in particular, The Digital Strategy for Schools . On page 14 the roadmap’s writers state:

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Some Takeaways

But what might the takeaways be for primary and post-primary education and in particular for the Department of Education and Skills and the agencies that are tasked with assisting schools to integrate and enhance teaching, learning and assessment practices using digital technology? The Roadmap sets out 4 Recommendations on page 25 and they are as follows:

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What I particularly like is the way each recommendation is developed.

· Firstly, each recommendation has a set of related Priorities for Success and then each priority is unpacked by using a series of questions for institutions to consider.

· The Roadmap then outlines the System-led Actions to be Addressed and how The National Forum will Support Each Recommendation.

· Finally, each recommendation concludes with a section entitled What Might Success Look Like?

This format could potentially be adopted in future sector-specific roadmaps in the education system because the format and style work well.

In particular, I like the notion of developing questions to assist institutions to reflect on where they are in relation to each priority and how they might move forward. Clearly, HE institutions are larger than schools and they have bigger budgets but many of the issues in relation to “technology-enhanced learning” are the same. As an aside, I will come back to the term technology-enhanced learning in a future post.

For example consider the questions developed around Recommendation 1 on page 29:

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These questions highlight the issues that institutions need to reflect on and ultimately take action on. While the language would need to be tweaked for primary and post-primary schools, many of the issues are relevant and I particularly like the way the document articulates What Success Might Look Like as illustrated below.

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Imagine if we had a similar description of what success might look for ICT Integration in primary and post-primary schools then it might further assist schools and support services in achieving this goal. We always need to consider what success might look like so we can monitor if we are achieving our goals. While clearly this document is focused on HE, it appears it can also inform how the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and its associated agencies can work with schools to achieve ICT integration over the lifetime of the Digital Strategy for Schools.

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