Policy

Local Government IT is the Biggest Impediment to Technology Education in Scotland

The biggest roadblock to world class Scottish digital education is ... a poor implementation of technology.

Scotland has an inspiring Digital Strategy and ambition.

It defines how Scotland will thrive in a digital world and sets out:

“how the Scottish Government would make sure that digital was at the heart of everything we were doing including delivering economic growth, reforming our public services, and preparing our children for the workplace of the future.”

Produced by the Scottish Government digital team and COSLA, there’s no doubt that it states exactly the right mission and vision for Scotland to pursue. We now live in an entirely digital age and everything from economic growth to workplace skills are dependent upon it.

However Scotland’s core challenge is not one of vision but of execution, of how we make progress from where we currently are to realizing this ambition.

Most notably it doesn’t reference Scotland’s Computer Science crisis, detail any plans for addressing it or tackle the practical realities that prevent it’s effective teaching. Obviously this is a skill set central to the ambition but enrolment numbers have collapsed, and as you can see below the infrastructure required to inspire students to take it up is woefully inadequate.

Local Government IT

From an initial sample of teacher engagement it quickly became clear that the biggest challenge to their effective tutoring was the IT they rely upon provided by their relevant local council.

This is a painfully ironic statement that illustrates the reality we refer to above: Scotland’s primary impediment to delivering the best quality technology education is … a poor implementation of technology.

As we describe in a previous blog we are well equipped with inspiring vision, such as utilizing tools like Minecraft to involve more young students into technology and learning about coding.

However the paradox of our vision / reality comparison is that while we boast the technology entrepreneurs who brought the game to the world, we cannot even provide access to it for our own schoolchildren.

A number of teachers comment on the challenges they face in doing so:

IT Equipment and Support Services

This is symptomatic of a general issue with the IT services they are provided, and how they inhibit their ability to engage students into technology learning:

The champion for Computer Science in Scotland shares this video that summarizes the situation teachers are trying to deal with.

Conclusion

Scotland has got half the equation right: We have a clear vision for where we want to get to, it’s the second half of the practical implementation to get there that is failing.

Clearly we cannot “prepare our children for the workplace of the future” if the teachers supporting them to get there are themselves not equipped with such a workplace. Craig sums up how likely we are to attract students into a digital career:

The primary issue would seem to be the inconsistency of delivery across local councils. For example Jim highlights how Aberdeen have successfully enabled access to Minecraft:

So it would seem the ideal solution approach would be to define this as a central best practice and encourage all local councils to implement it.

The Scottish Digital Office exists to define and share this kind of best practice standardization so perhaps their involvement could help remedy the situation and empower Scottish teachers to realize our ambition to achieve a world class digital nation.

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