Writing an effective whole school Digital Literacy programme

This post was originally posted on Rachel Jone’s blog and is one in a series of posts which Rachel co-wrote with other teachers from Twitter.



Firstly there are a number of questions which should be addressed when we look at creating an effective whole school digital literacy programme:

  1. What is Digital Literacy?
  2. Why should we be teaching it?
  3. Who should be teaching it?
  4. How are we going to teach this?

If you start with these questions and ensure that the answers are relevant to your individual school, then I feel that you will be well on your way to creating an effective and personalised Digital Literacy programme.

The Answers (…or some of them!)

What is Digital Literacy?

‘Digital Literacy’ is a term that is used to combine many different skills together, all of which involve the use of IT in some way. The areas which we will be focusing on are:

  1. Internet Safety / eSafety
  2. Digital Footprint
  3. Privacy
  4. Cyberbullying
  5. Copyright
  6. Information Skills
  7. Communication
  8. Self Image

Many schools have been delivering some form of eSafety education for many years now; be that an annual Safer Internet Day assembly and lesson or perhaps more focused CEOP sessions. Digital Literacy goes much further than this, however. It covers many of the topics which eSafety has traditionally covered, such as cyberbullying, Internet Safety and Digital Footprint; but expands the topic to relate students involvement with and use of Digital Technology to their self image and communication skills. It opens up debate about copyright, ownership and protecting our data, whilst also imparting important skills in navigating the vast wealth of information that the Internet provides us all with.

Why should we be teaching it?

All students in our care are growing up in a world which is very different from the one we all grew up in. Information can be accessed anywhere, anytime; we owe it to our students to equip them the best we can to navigate through this new world as informed and responsible members of society. We would not, as educators, carers or parents, allow our children to leave our schools or homes without the basic skills for life. A school whose students leave without the ability to effectively read, write or perform the basic numeracy to get by in life will quite rightly be held to account for its failings as would a parent who puts their child’s welfare or life at risk. It therefore follows that we must also be equipping those in our care with the skills to flourish in the world of information we find ourselves in.

Who should be teaching it?

eSafety and Digital Literacy has been all too often seen as the realm of the IT teacher, with other teachers claiming “I don’t know/do/get all that IT stuff, so I couldn’t possibly teach it”. In my opinion, this has to change and has been perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the delivery of this subject. It should be delivered by the broadest possible spectrum of teachers possible and should also ensure a good mix of male and female teachers from differing subject areas. If we want our students to see this subject as an integral part of life then we cannot allow them to see teachers distancing themselves from the topic.

So, as school leaders, where does this leave us if we do not have the skills within our staff team to confidently deliver this topic? Quite simply, we owe it to all the staff within our school to provide enough training and support until they themselves have the skills and confidence to deliver. To not do so not only fails our staff members, it also fails our students.

How are we going to teach this?

So we have answered, or at least begun to think about, the “What?, Why? and Who?” of Digital Literacy. That now leads on to ‘How?’ – how exactly are we going to teach this? Where does Digital Literacy fit within the curriculum and timetable? Furthermore,  where can we get help and resources in our preparation for delivering this learning?

My answers here will of course be specific to my institution, but hopefully they will be food for thought for those reading this.

It is my firm belief that these topics belong to the SMSC / PSHE curriculum and not the Computing / ICT curriculum. We have decided to deliver this subject across all Year Groups / Key Stages (11 – 18) at our school, in small groups within the students’ own Year Group.

So where are the starting points? Help? Resources? If you do not have someone in your school who is CEOP trained (preferably to CEOP Ambassador level) I would recommend that a first port of call would be to explore arranging this training. Secondly, the SWGfL have some amazing resources and lesson plans which have been prepared in collaboration with Common Sense Media and which are freely available for anyone to download, use and adapt.

Some useful links:


Developing Digital Literacy in schools

There are three types of literacy that enable curriculum access and promote independent learning:

  1. Literacy
  2. Numeracy
  3. Digital Literacy

All three need to be habitually embedded across the curriculum and promoted and valued by all teaching staff. For example:

  1. Literacy. For example, all teachers to check SPaG and to use a common frame of correction so that students can easily identify mistakes.
  2. Numeracy. For example, promoted in non-Maths curriculum areas. This can be seen in using data in science or Infographics to make statistical data more accessible.
  3. Digital Literacy. This includes eSafety, Digital Citizenship and ICT skills that are required to utilise technology in learning.

Digital Literacy

This is a broad term but encompasses an approach to a skills acquisition based approach that is often felt to be the job of the IT and Computing teachers. In fact, its retention by students is much more effective when it is habitually reinforced in lessons by all teaching staff, and embedded throughout the curriculum rather than in isolated subject areas or PSHE. It can be divided into two sections:

1 – Approaches to using technology for learning

  •  ESafety (Staying safe online, knowing how to protect your identity, and how to report or resolve any problems pupils might encounter)
  •  Digital Citizenship (Correct and ethical use of internet resources, giving of credit)
  •  Consideration of Digital Footprint (Of how what you post online can affect your reputation long term)

2- ICT skills

  • Confident and effective use of packages equivalent to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Including formatting.
  • Confident use of email.
  • Ability to manage passwords and logins.
  • Internet research and curatorship skills.
  • Understanding of the importance of using Creative Commons images, and the system for referencing others work.
  • Ability to reference and use relevant software packages to assist with this.
  • Presentation skills and what sites/tools are appropriate.
  • An understanding of which IT tool is most suitable to complete a job, for example to distinguish between the functions of a desktop PC and an iPad.
  • Awareness of potential issues that can arise when using technology and how to resolve them.
  • Consistent use of network/cloud storage space so that work is effectively backed up.

Digital Literacy is something that all schools will have to take into account, if they are not already doing so. There are many potential sources of help and support, and teachers would do well to look beyond their own school if they need support.

Co written with @rlj1981 and http://createinnovateexplore.com

Teacher- geekness, creativity & music. #PedagooCurator. ITL Associate, GCT, MCE, #ADE2015. Huffington Post blogger. Curator #lightbulbs & author #teachergeek


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