The Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA) has highlighted the necessity of digital support for teachers in its white paper published today. The DPA has been actively working towards reducing digital poverty after donating 1,750 laptops through its Tech4Teachers scheme since its inception.
The Tech4Teachers project, backed by Intel and a donation from the Barclays COVID-19 Community Aid Package, has supplied laptops to schools with high pupil premium numbers. This has been coupled with continual professional development (CPD) training on digital skills for teachers, aimed at reducing digital exclusion.
A survey carried out by the DPA across 200 schools involving approximately 700 teachers underscored high levels of digital exclusion among teaching staff. Strikingly, 47% of the teachers surveyed lacked the technology necessary for teaching remotely, indicating a widespread unmet need for accessible devices to support students' education.
Digital technology can significantly enhance student engagement, offering multimedia content, gamified learning platforms, and online discussion spaces, thus creating greater interest and participation in learning. Furthermore, it addresses varied learning needs by introducing adaptive platforms and assistive technologies that ensure inclusivity for students with disabilities.
Yet for these benefits to be fully utilised, teachers require additional support to embed digital learning into their curricula. To this end, the recently launched white paper by the charity calls for the integration of digital skills into teacher training.
The Tech4Teachers scheme has been successful in addressing the lack of digital devices in education, thus narrowing the digital divide among teachers and ensuring equal access to technological skills and tools in all schools. The scheme has had a significant impact, with 85% of teachers seeing a substantial boost in their teaching capabilities and 80% acknowledging a considerable improvement in their digital skills. The project's effectiveness was evaluated and acknowledged by the University of Wolverhampton.
Elizabeth Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the DPA, commented on the current situation: "There is currently a significant unmet need among teachers to access devices for student support in education. Teachers feel insufficiently supported in integrating technology into the curriculum, due to limited time in the working day for engaging with tech skills."
Anderson stressed the urgency of increased focus on integrating digital competence in education, including teacher training programmes and ongoing professional development. She believes that exploring ways for Ofsted and teacher training providers to accentuate these skills would be crucial in addressing these challenges.
She further added: "Currently, there is limited opportunity for teachers to enhance their digital skills or engage in continued professional development, largely due to lack of time. The current reality is that, for teachers aspiring to incorporate digital teaching methods, the responsibility falls on them to pursue this learning independently, often sacrificing personal, unpaid time outside of regular work hours."