Australia: Students struggle with digital skills because their teachers lack confidence

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Just 52% of students in year 10 are meeting the minimum standard required in ICT. from www.shutterstock.com

Australian teenagers are increasingly struggling to achieve the basic level required in information and communications technology (ICT). In 2014, only around half (52%) of students in Year 10 achieved the minimum standard of digital competence.

Examples of where students struggled include: searching for relevant resources on the internet; using a web browser history; creating tables and charts; sorting data in a spreadsheet; displaying hidden toolbars; inserting images; changing font formats and colours; and using animations and page transitions effectively.

There is a risk that a large proportion of students may be left behind, at a time when digital competence is becoming central to future employment.

Why are students struggling?

When the Australian curriculum was introduced, digital competence was seen as a skill that all teachers from Foundation to Year 10 level (not only those with an ICT specialisation) were expected to use. This includes the use of a range of digital tools, teaching digital technologies in their classes and being aware of how these technologies can be used for teaching and learning.

A digital technologies strand has since been endorsed in the curriculum, further emphasising the importance of teaching school students digital competence.

Research shows that one reason students could be falling down is actually to do with teachers’ lack of competence in this area.

Many Australian teachers feel they lack the level of digital competence envisaged to deliver the curriculum.

We need more explicit teaching of digital competence through professional development for teachers. This is also important in teacher education programs.

Not only are school leavers entering university with lower-than-desired digital competence, but if they graduate as teachers and still lack the confidence to properly incorporate ICT into their classes, the next generation is less likely to become digitally competent. There is a risk of fuelling a downward spiral.

Digital test needed for teachers?

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