Over the past number of years many commentators have used a range of terms and concepts to try to explain the relationship that our children and young people have with the digital world. The critical examination of contested terms and concepts such as Digital Natives and Generation Z, is central to our ITE programmes and it can be expected that any emerging or future terms and concepts of this nature would be examined across all ITE providers in a similarly critical manner. However, this is just a start in the necessary acknowledgement and critical exploration of the impact that the digital world has had, and is having, on our children and young people. It is vitally important that our programmes ensure that learning with digital tools and spaces is not only seen through the frame of the school. In doing this they must acknowledge that Scotland’s children and young people do not come into our schools from a digital vacuum. On the contrary, the digital world has increasingly become a permeative and immersive cultural phenomenon to the extent that many children and young people are occupying digital spaces and harnessing digital tools in such a way that their levels of digital skills, networking and creativity are flourishing in a world of little adult intervention.
Of course, ITE programmes must also explore the dangers that children and young people can be exposed to if they are left unsupervised, and even when they are supervised by adults in the digital world. Developing an understanding of strategies and resources to address this very important issue must be central to all ITE teacher education programmes.
ITE programmes must acknowledge the variability of access to digital resources in the homes of many of our children and young people. A critical exploration of this variability of access will be explored through a social justice frame and through the practicalities of planning for home learning, particularly in a post COVID-19 world. However, our ITE programmes must also be aware that the digital world, and in particular the world of the computer game, social media and other technologies, has become part of our children and young people’s everyday reiterated experiences. It is not an uncommon occurrence for school aged children to use an Elgato™ capture card to prepare video tutorial materials for their YouTube™ sites, to live stream their game-playing to a global audience via Twitch™ or to use Redstone to wire up a lighting circuit to illuminate a world in Minecraft™.
The challenge for Scotland’s ITE programmes is to ensure that they acknowledge the spectrum of digital skills and experiences that many children and young people bring to the table before they are taught in school. Such an acknowledgement can help ITE providers blend the formal with the informal to help develop a growing appreciation and understanding of how we can harness the emancipatory and motivational power that digital tools and spaces can have on teaching and learning.