The World Economic Forum recently published a report that was prepared for the digital revolution. Focusing globally on the digital skills of students, the results put more ‘salt in the wounds’ of the educators of Australia. Last year, the National Assessment Program ICT literacy results for 2014 were released with a dim outlook for the digital skills of Australian students. Stating that despite the efforts of teachers in schools students’ ICT capability levels were decreasing. Once again global surveys have indicated a poor outlook for Australian students in terms of their ICT capability.
A total of 1000 Australians between the ages of 16-25 were surveyed in relation to their STEM prospects in jobs.
Whilst being amongst the most aware of the need to continuously learn new things through life Australian students were falling behind in their ability to stay relevant in a digital economy. Figures for coding, data science and mobile app development were amongst the lowest. Commenting on this, Matt Garbutt (chief of staff from Business Council of Australia) pointed out a very relevant and important point that “it is vital young people are equipped with a broad base of skills – both technical skills and cognitive skills such as communication and the ability to work in a team - to enable them to be flexible and resilient.”
It is imperative that teachers in schools understand that exposure to technology does not lead to high levels of student ICT capability. In order for this to occur, cognitive skills must be a key component of students’ learning when it comes to using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the classroom. Students must learn to develop technical skills and knowledge alongside their ability to use higher order conceptual skills.
Research has also shown that effective professional ICT development is needed for teachers in order for them to begin the integration of ICT in their classrooms. The Australian Federal government have yet to realise that along with rolling out technology in the classrooms in Australia schools need funding to provide teachers with opportunities to attend these events.
Teachers can also help in the formation of a digital economy by doing their part in the classroom to help students articulate their thoughts on the opportunities and constraints they experience with ICT. Encouragement by teachers in the use of ICT will also go a long way in developing students' confidence in ICT as well as helping them develop ICT capability for an ICT-integrated society.