A New Digital Identity for Schools

How will schools meet the needs and demands of the modern, always connected world?

Published: 6 April 2013

A worker's skill set has always determined his or her ability to access the labour market. In many ways, the skill set or the vocation of that particular individual defined or gave identity to that person. In today's world, students who graduate from mainstream education will need to demonstrate their ability to operate and function in new and emerging industries; many of which require higher order technical competencies. These students will define themselves or give identity to themselves through their education and by the many jobs that they will hold during the course of their lives. Their identities will evolve as they become active participants within their respective industries. We are also discovering that mainstream definitions of digital literacy no longer suffice, they have all too often become outdated by the rapid and accelerating pace of technological change. This has been highlighted in recent reports which state that there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the high-tech sector that remain unfilled. [1]

These reports highlight a mismatch between the education sector and those industries that require a highly qualified, specialised and experienced workforce. We know that skillsets change and evolve as society and technology change. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of the modern working environment, the 21st century demands that individuals possess a wide range of abilities and competencies. 'These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups.' [2]

As society and technology change, so does our notion of
personal and institutional

Digital literacy as a cultural attribute contributes to and defines personal and institutional identity. For a given individual the ability to operate within a technologically advanced society defines their very identity. Traditionally, sociologists would have defined identity by an individual's role within the wider society; and in today's society these roles or identities are very different from those of only a decade ago. As identity is, in part, shaped and defined by educational institutions, their role in defining who we are and how we engage with the wider society should not be ignored. [3] However, are these institutions digitally literate, are they technology advocates and, more so, do they have the resources and political support to shape the next generation of learners as they enter a world were technological progress is accelerating at an exponential rate?

Schools across the globe will need to do more than just offer the prescribed curriculum that is mandated by their national governments. They will need to define a new identity for themselves. They will need to define a new set of roles, responsibilities and relationships that are very different from what they have been used to. These new identities will enable each school to meet the needs and demands of their local communities and more importantly; these new roles or identities will redefine how their local communities perceive them and how each community comes to engage with their local school.

These new identities will entail the provision of ubiquitous computing for all students, a broader vocational curriculum that reflects the needs and demands of new and emerging industries, a school workforce that leverages available talent in local and regional industries to support the delivery of new vocational pathways; and a qualification and an examination system that reflects the skill set that is required by local, regional, national and international organisations operating in the digital and knowledge economies of the globe.


Mainstream definitions of digital literacy no longer suffice, they have all too often become outdated by the rapid and accelerating pace of technological change

The education sector has only started to adjust to the rapid technological advances that have occurred at the turn of this new century. On a rather sad note, Clare Sutcliffe from Code Club argues that the education sector has already failed a generation of learners who have missed out on the opportunity to acquire the skillset that would have enabled them to enter the high tech sector and the creative industries. [4]

Nevertheless, the education sector is beginning to respond to advocacy and industry lobby groups and schools should be praised and acknowledged for the progress that they have made towards investing in ICT infrastructures that can support the new generation of devices and services, for adopting ubiquitous computing models, for enabling their staff and students to access numerous online services to support teaching and learning; and for developing financial models that can sustain long term investment strategies in learning technologies. But have they done enough to realise a higher level of digital literacy and have they; as educational establishments, acquired a new digital identity that is capable of meeting the needs and demands of the modern, always connected world?

Schools are seeking to define new identities for themselves

The complex nature of modern educational establishments and the growing demands placed upon them by new and emerging industries necessitates the need for schools to work with a broader range of partners than they have been used to in the past. The rise of the networked school signals a move to more complex inter school relationships and affiliations. Successfull networked schools will be characterised by their extensive and wide ranging connections with other schools, businesses, further and higher education establishments, education ICT partners and other non-profit organisations. Successful school networks are those that increase the ability of the main actors and organisations within the network to effectively deliver key education objectives of the network and the schools that make up that network. A successful education network generates new possibilities and opportunities for teachers, learners and the communities who make up those connected and networked schools. The convergence of organisational requirements and recent technological advances has enabled the modern form of the education network to be established. Evidence suggests that the growth in education networks will continue at a pace if countries are to meet the skills demand from rapidly expanding sectors such as aerospace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, information technology, electrical engineering, nanotechnology, robotics, telecommunications and the creative industries. [5]


Code Club founder Clare Sutcliffe presents the case for teaching computer programming in schools. [4]

Code Club is a nationwide network of free volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. The projects that the clubs run are designed to inspire children how to programme by showing them how to make computer games, animations and websites. Clare Sutcliffe wishes to have a Code Club in every single primary school in the UK. Click here for a selection of Code Clubs videos. [6]

There is a growing advocacy movement in the United States and in the UK to promote computer programming in schools. If you want to learn about their work, then click on any of the following links: Code.org, Code Club, Raspberry Pi Foundation and the BCS Academy of Computing.


The promotion of digital literacy skills is not restricted to computer programming. All industries require well trained and qualified professionals. In this short video, Catherine Large, the joint CEO of CCSkills, states the need to lay down the foundations for the next generation of talent who will be entering the creative and cultural industries. She goes onto argue that these foundations are best laid in our schools and wishes to see a greater interplay between the creative subjects and the more technical subjects such as ICT and Design and Technology. CCSkills believes that this is crucial to support the creative industries moving forward. [7]

Advocacy groups in creative industries include TIGA which represents the UK's games industry, Creative Skill Set, Creative and Cultural Skills and the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network.




This report from the BBC dates back to 2011, but its message is still very relevant. [8] The Next Gen Report by Ian Livingstone is an important mention in this video. The Next Gen report states that 'industries such as the video gaming sector suffer from an education system that doesn’t understand their needs. This is reinforced by a school curriculum that focuses in ICT on office skills rather than the more rigorous computer science and programming skills which high-tech industries like video games and visual effects need'. [9]

TIGA, the trade association that represents the UK's games industry, is working with Train2Game to help address the skills shortage in the gaming industry in the UK. TIGA acts as the awarding and examination body for the courses that Train2Game delivers. These courses aim to develop a skills base in games design, art, testing, quality assurance and development. Course titles include diplomas in Games Art and Animation; Games Design; Games Development; Games QA Tester and QA and Level Designer.



  1. News Sources: BBC, The Verge, NBC News, San Francisco Chronicle
  2. NCTE: Context for 21st Century Literacies Framework
  3. Manuel Castells: The Power of Identity
  4. Clare Sutcliffe, TEDxTalks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ng7sf2_peFg#!
  5. The Rise of the Networked School: http://www.aftabhussain.com/networkedschools.html
  6. CodeClub's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/CodeClubUK?feature=watch
  7. Catherine Large: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gqgJXN8hlk&list=PL7EDBFC20309D77FE
  8. BBC Newsnight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqqCoWa2FXg
  9. The Next Gen Report: http://www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/NextGenv32.pdf