Each year, I conduct a little piece of research with the year 7 digital technology class. This is some 180 students from a wide range of backgrounds. In this, I try to work on what skills and experience they have with online platforms, different operating systems, hardware and exposure to programming and robotics.
This year and last, I’ve been working in selective public high school. This year, students reported a significant bump in skills, confidence and a broadening of experiences in year 6.
In 2020, the new cohort reported that around 47% had used online platforms such as Google Classroom and felt confident in navigating and submitting work without help. This year, that number bumped to 98%. When asked if they had used Google Classroom last year, over 90% said they had. 100% of students from public primary schools said they had worked online in year 6 and can complete basic documents including images and hyperlinks.
As a computer teacher of many years, I’ve been a little concerned about a downward trend in terms of computer-skills when arriving in High School. There have been many reasons for this, too many to go into here, but this years survey showed a significant increase in skills and experience – which I’d argue is due to working from home.
The variables here are many: students over-estimating their skill, seeking to impress etc., however as we start 2021, it appears this year’s students have worked with various online ‘coding’ tools and platform with almost all have completed at least an hour or code at some point.
While Covid 19 has been devastating in terms of mental health and well being, causing stress, anxiety and new problems … it seems the 2021 Year 7 cohort have had a significant ‘buff’ in their skills and experience.
Whether or not teachers build on this and continue to up-skill and refine their practice is unknown and uncertain. While it’s clear the student’s have risen to the challenge, schools still have to deal with the long tail of patchy engagement that we’ve experience when teachers see online as an add on to their practice. Very little focus seems to be given to ‘online’ as we reach the one year mark. While teachers are highly likely to things like Google Classroom to upload content and make announcements as they did last year – it’s difficult to gain any evidence towards actual practices – and indeed, there seems little interest in finding out.
I run my entry research each year because it helps me tune my classroom routines and I have unique access to students to ask them about their e-skills experience. I’m not sure that this happens at a system level, and that’s really not my ‘thing’ anymore to find out. It’s good to know that this year’s new students are significantly more confident and skilled to take on my online classes.