By Esam Baboukhan
THE Digital Divide between teachers has been blown open in the last 18 months despite more of us using technology than ever before.
Teachers and lecturers have been forced to pivot at record-breaking speed to deliver all or part of their lessons online, often with very little training.
The Digital Divide was a term coined in a report during President Clinton’s Commission on Information Technology in 1997.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, it is still relevant as it defines the disparity and inequality between people who have the skills, knowledge, access, and time to successfully benefit from the Internet and all that it brings, and those that do not.
In my multiple roles, including delivering training on behalf of Microsoft Edu and Transform Education Ltd, I delivered training to thousands of educators across the UK.
Demand for my type of training accelerated during the early stages of the pandemic.
What dawned on me early on was the realisation that a significant number of teachers required basic digital skills training for them to meaningfully deliver a decent online experience.
Many teachers struggled to utilise shortcuts, snap Windows, or even to use Task Manager to terminate unresponsive programs. This lack of digital skills and confidence in using computers and navigating the online environment led to many frustrations for both learners and teachers.
Many problems were exacerbated because of underpowered, low spec devices, compounded by the lack of training in using the different digital delivery platforms.
This resulted in hair-tearing experiences by both teachers and learners. Three factors: poor resources, lack of adequate digital skills and lack of online pedagogy knowledge meant that it was always a struggle to deliver outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (TLA).
Do not get me wrong. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our teachers – I am a teacher myself – for the sacrifices they made in carrying on “as normal”. It was a very tough period and teachers were thrown in the deep end, with many showing exemplary resilience, innovation, and leadership during that unprecedented period.
We now owe it to our teachers and learners to provide them with decent resources coupled with the skills and training for them to deliver outstanding TLA.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to accelerate our delivery of digital skills training, something that should have happened a long time ago. We can’t afford to go backwards on all that we have achieved.
We must make a serious investment in our teachers and learners, and in resources, if we are to deliver a first-class experience.
We also should take this important point in time in Further Education to look at innovative ways of delivering the curriculum.
There is a serious trend happening in the workforce and employees are demanding a hybrid form of working.
In some cases, this has resulted in the ‘Great Resignation’. Our learners will be demanding a hybrid form of learning – a form of learning that is flexible and delivered innovatively by well-resourced and well-trained educators.
If not, we will be grappling with a new term called the ‘Great Escape’ as learners flee the classrooms.
We need to cater for a new generation of learners that will grow up in what some are calling the next stage of the Internet, the Metaverse. Whatever the latest Silicon Valley buzzword or trend maybe, we are already witnessing the fourth Industrial Revolution and our educational system was designed for the first industrial revolution. It is time we innovate and meet the 21st century learning needs of our learners.
Esam Baboukan is the eLearning Manager of City of Westminster College and a member of the Bett Advisory Board.
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