Developing students digital skills through creating learning profiles

Exploring the layers of learning involved in student led learner profiles

Rosie Clayton Team Rethinking Assessment

Last year we launched our draft framework for a national learner profile and a call for change signed by leading voices from across the education and skills system.

This year, our work will be focussed on putting the concept into practice, and turning this framework above into practical usable digital tools and resources for schools and students through a series of action research pilots. 

We will be supporting schools, colleges and students to develop learner profiles in Google Sites in the first instance, which is a basic and free to access entry point for education providers, particularly those already using Google for Education, to experiment with learner profiles and E-portfolios. And to explore the kinds of the structure, content and design that works in their setting and that learners and stakeholders find most valuable.

We know that schools are already using Google Sites and tools for capturing breadth of learning and skill development – for example Golftyn Primary School in Wales, and Cheadle Hulme School in Greater Manchester. With a small group of teachers and students we’ve started to test out the range of possibilities within the Google Sites functionality, and iterate a number of demo concept sites. 

Here are some examples below showing a variety of design options – no coding or advanced tech skills required!

If you’re not familiar with Google Sites functionality, teacher Gavin O’Loughlin gives an overview in these How To youtube videos

From this early stage testing we think there could be a powerful opportunity to create a digital skills curriculum around the design and development of learner profiles.

The process is likely as important as the ‘product’, as through it every student essentially creates and curates their own personal website of their learning, strengths and achievements. For students, this learning is meaningful, relevant and feels ‘real’ as they develop a digital product which helps them to understand and communicate their achievements, knowledge and skills. 

What kinds of skills are developed through the process of creating a Google Site?

There are a number of layers of learning involved in creating a digital learner profile, which we’re keen to codify through our pilots. 

Firstly – deepening metacognition especially reflection through reflective dialogue and reflective writing, receiving and responding to feedback. Building a young person’s sense of identity, self awareness and self understanding. Structuring, organising, and understanding relationships.

Secondly – there are transferable skills and dispositions like creativity, collaboration/collaborative working, problem solving, communication and presentation to different audiences.

Thirdly – there are specific digital and creative tech skills, orientated around content creation and presentation. For example online research, video creation, animation, graphics, photography, presenting information including in a visual format, curating content, writing, digital presentation, responsive design. 

Fourthly – there are IT knowledge and skills connected to the use of digital systems commonly used in the workplace such as sheets, docs, slides, using hyperlinks, analytics, and graphs. Understanding the process of publishing, editing, and republishing a website. Online safety is also really important. 

This week, the HOUSE OF LORDS Communications and Digital Committee published their report on the creative industries and noted that Employers are increasingly calling for a blend of creative and digital skills. 

The above layers of learning encompass essential digital transferable skills for our digital lives and for the workplace. 

Connection to the national curriculum in England

We can also see an alignment between learner profile development and aspects of the national curriculum, and computing programmes of study in particular. It could map for example in the following ways: 

  • At Key Stage 1 – Using technology purposefully to create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content.
  • At Key Stage 2 – Selecting, using and combining a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information.
  • At Key Stage 3 – Undertaking creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users. Creating, reusing, revising and repurposing digital artefacts for a given audience, with attention to trustworthiness, design and usability.
  • At Key Stage 4 – All pupils must have the opportunity to study aspects of information technology and computer science at sufficient depth to allow them to progress to higher levels of study or to a professional career. Pupils should be taught to: develop their capability, creativity and knowledge in computer science, digital media and information technology; develop and apply their analytic, problem-solving, design, and computational thinking skills.

Thinking about the broader curriculum and careers and work experience, which was also highlighted in the House of Lords report, developing a learner profile in Google Sites could give students the opportunity to undertake a real world learning project, working for example in partnership with digital media or content experts, and getting inputs and feedback from external audiences. 

How could we take the digital skills curriculum idea forward?

The Government of Jersey is already thinking about this – their recent published Digital Education Strategy proposes: The Creation of a unique Young Digital Citizen (YDC) framework would enable schools to establish Digital Skills and Competencies and an annual accreditation of digital skills and knowledge for pupils, recorded via a personal, online learner portfolio.

We think there is huge value in building a digital skills and employability skills curriculum (potentially also connected to experiences of the workplace/industry encounters) to wrap around the creation of student led learner profiles. We’d love to speak with anyone who could help us progress our thinking and support us to develop this.

How the learner profile supports continuous learning and the deepening of skills and dispositions 

We’re starting to think about the various dimensions of learning and skills development involved in the compilation and curation of learner profiles. A way of both evidencing breadth of learning and strengths over time, whilst also building knowledge, metacognition and essential transferable skills and dispositions.. 

Through our pilots and consultation activities we will be looking to understand much more about this and the potential that the process holds, whilst also aiming to create a nationally recognised standard for what constitutes a quality learner profile/core structural components, that all stakeholders across the education and skills system can understand.

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