There’s an old Chinese proverb that says: give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime. The idea is if you teach people a skill, it helps them become self-sufficient. Even centuries ago, the proverb applied to reading, writing and mathematics which are still mandatory parts of developed education. Now digital skills are being thrown into the mix.
The UK recently overhauled its national curriculum and made computer science a mandatory course for high school students. They believe that teaching digital and code literacy – the ability to understand and evaluate information through digital technology – promotes long-term economic growth, prepares students for the job market and shows them how exciting the subject is. They also think digital skills have the potential to help everyone, especially people with low incomes, low marks and bleak job prospects.
While not mandatory in Ontario, our province does offer early digital literacy high school courses. Students can elect to take Introduction to Information Technology in Business (BTT10/20) as early as grade 9 and 10. Specialized computer science courses are also available.
Digital skills and education is one of the themes at this year’s World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT). Up to 3,000 delegates from more than 80 countries will meet at WCIT in Montreal to develop a Global Digital Society Action Plan that will not only shape the future of information technologies (IT) but also the future of humanity.
As a partner of WCIT, we are holding the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam this spring - a fun month of school events, online activities, contests and prizes designed to get you dreaming of a future where digital technologies help solve some of the world’s greatest issues. As part of the Jam, we’re looking for your ideas on how digital skills and education can have a global impact.
Do you think Canada and other countries should follow the UK’s lead and make computer science a mandatory course?
Read on for some other ways digital technologies impact education. Add your ideas to the discussion below.
Virtual High School
Resources such as Ontario’s Virtual High School allow students to complete their secondary diplomas at their own pace online, as long as courses are completed within 18 months of registration. It gives students access to education they may otherwise be unable to attain, and provides individualized education plans (IEDs) for students with special needs. As a recognized private school, courses cost an average of approximately $500 each. What are your thoughts on distance education at a high school level?
Digitizing textbooks and course materials
In our interview with WCIT director Anthony Williams, he encouraged students to think of ideas such as “convincing your college, university or high school to put their educational course materials online to help aspiring students in low-income countries gain access to world-class educational resources.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched MIT OpenCourseWare over a decade ago. It provides teaching materials used in MIT undergrad and graduate programs on the web for free to users anywhere in the world. There’s over 2,000 courses in technology, engineering, humanitarian studies, women’s studies, history, game design and more. But these are only the course materials and since they’re free, MIT doesn’t grade your efforts they way they do when you’re a registered student. What do you think are the advantages of shared, free learning? What impact could it have on local and international communities?
Government supported skill development
Last week the Canadian government announced it is investing more than $1.6 million to develop and pilot a training model for digital skills in New Brunswick. They want to increase digital literacy among adults already working in the province to provide tools that help these individuals maximize their potential and support their families. Do you think increasing adult digital literacy is as significant as increasing language literacy?
Also, check out these reports by the Canadian government on digital skills and learning.
The UN recently recognized the need to increase women and girls’ interest in digital skills and careers in technology with the launch of an online Girls In ICT Portal. They hope to inspire women on an international level – from here in Canada to the Arab Nation. Why do you think it is important for international organizations such as the United Nations to focus on women and digital skills?
Technology and Autism
Although this could also fall under the WCIT theme of healthcare and medical research, which we blogged about last week, it’s important to recognize how digital technologies are helping people with developmental conditions such as autism improve their social communication skills. The Centre for Autism Research and Technology Education is developing software to help children create content, recognize emotions and respond to social scenarios under the guise of tablet games. What can be done to transition these skills into education and careers for these people?
What other ways do you think digital technologies can impact global digital skills and education?