Vikki Liogier is National Head of EdTech & Digital Skills at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

What does it mean for learners with special educational needs and disabilities (#SEND) to develop their digital skills? 

For most, it is likely to mean the skills to use assistive technology in some shape or form. But what about basic digital skills for life and work as defined in the new national standards?

Skills such as:

  • Using devices and handling information – using devices, finding and evaluating information, managing and storing information, identifying and solving technical problems
  • Creating and editing – creating and editing documents and digital media, processing numerical data
  • Communicating – communicating, sharing and managing traceable online activities
  • Transacting – using online services, buying securely online
  • Being safe and responsible online – protecting privacy and data, being responsible online, digital wellbeing.

Qualifications are now free-of-charge for those aged 19+ with no or low digital skills under the new digital entitlement. Funding has recently been extended to those aged 16-19. Are these new Essential Digital Skills (EDS) qualifications at entry and Level 1 relevant to learners with SEND and should they be benefiting from the new entitlement?

These are the questions which we are addressing in the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) Essential Digital Skills CPD programme. Our remit is to support teachers and trainers to teach EDS, particularly in challenging settings.

We know that in the context of SEND teaching, CPD around digital skills for educators usually focuses on making learning as accessible as possible and this is part of what we cover. Not all of the new qualifications will be manageable for some learners with SEND, but there are valuable aspects which can enhance learners’ lives and prospects for working. We are looking at some of the specific challenges of how to teach topics such as transacting online or digital identity for learners with SEND, working with specialists in the sector. We are also looking at the pedagogy of teaching digital skills in this context, especially in the current situation supporting learners remotely.

Our aim is to provide practical support and to build an inclusive community of practice for those supporting learners with SEND. The next meetup for digital skills practitioners in this context is coming around shortly, as part of a series of free CPD activities - Effective Practice Meetup, 4pm on 10 February.

A flavour of some of the issues raised so far can be gained throught booking onto our free broadcast webinar recording.

The webinar features:

  • University student Will Simon, who has been supported by Derby College’s Centre for Excellence in SEND, with Peter Benyon, Project and Delivery Manager for the Centre
  • Clare Carmichael, a DSA specialist advisor with AbilityNet
  • Jaspal Dhaliwal, Head of LDD, Maths, English and Digital Skills, at Westminster Education Service (WES), who has been leading the WES development of Essential Digital Skills, including a pilot at E3 in the summer and delivery of a blended programme at L1
  • Lorraine Godkin, High Needs, Learning Support and Safeguarding Manager at Manchester Adult Education Service

The ETF’s wider EDS programme has practical skills development sessions with topics like teaching across a range of devices, teaching how to use online services and teaching digital skills online or blended - How to teach Essential Digital Skills course

We have recently launched a new range of 30-minute ‘grab-and-go’ sessions on useful tools such as apps for remote teaching - Exploring tools for teaching Essential Digital Skills.

In addition, the online Community of Practice on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform features a range of resources contributed by practitioners. You will need to register on the platform to access it, but the process is very easy. Visit the ETF website, for an overview of the Essential Digital Skills CPD programme. The Enhance Digital Teaching Platform provides access to a wide range of free online resources, and offers the full list of upcoming EDS events on the new Essential Digital Skills Events page.

Vikki Liogier is National Head of EdTech & Digital Skills at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

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