Tutors: How To Do Your ‘Digital Duty’

The future of work is digital, yet we have some catching up to do if we want a digitally capable workforce fit to navigate this future.

That was the predominant message emanating from the Digital Poverty and Inequalities Summit hosted last week*.

It is estimated that the pandemic has upskilled more than 5.6 million people with foundational digital skills, but according to Lloyds Bank, 36% (11.8 million) of the workforce still lack essential digital skills for the world of work.

This digital poverty is compounded by the fact the digital workforce is not a static entity; it has accelerated more rapidly following the Covid-19 pandemic than before, thus rendering many attempts to upskill people as obsolete before we even get going! The CBI predicts that, at current rates of digital growth and development, 90% of the UK workforce will need to reskill by 2030.

With these staggering statistics in mind, it is no surprise that education pathways for tomorrow’s workforce are woefully inadequate. Formal education needs a much stronger focus on digital skills across the whole curriculum, not just left at the door of Computer Science. If all educators do not face facts, then we are going to let our students down.

In trying to hit such an ever moving digital target, it may seem overwhelming and futile to hope that our world of tuition can make a difference to students.

However, since the pandemic, I believe the shift to online learning, seized and continued by tutors, like myself, have helped the tuition sector to become adaptable, and digitally able to infuse our pedagogy and learning material more successfully than many cash-strapped, systemically impotent schools.

Think about how you teach, communicate and organise learning for your students. Already the vast majority of that will be generated digitally – unlike in schools, where learning still largely resembles the Victorian linear education system of 150 years ago.

So, how can I help to upskill my students?

To become better at doing our ‘digital duty’, perhaps firstly audit your own digital skills as a tutor and educator. 

  • What teaching and learning resources do you use in your sessions? How digitally varied are they?
  • How adapted is your pedagogy to digital learning? 
  • What digital, online products and links do you use?
  • Are there other digital strategies and products that could serve you and your students better?
  • Digital skills appear to make good bedfellows with creative, asynchronous and critical learning. How much do you encourage that within your own planning and teaching?
  • Offer creative and research based strategies for students to learn, both within and outside of your sessions. 

Students thrive on using digital skills and are wonderfully adept at navigating technology when given the opportunity to do so. A 15-year-old student in my tutor group at my current school has effortlessly muscled his way into organising and displaying all the myriad of activities and information we have to get through in our short twenty minute tutor time every morning. He’s my ‘digital wingman’ and can sort glitches faster than any elusive IT technician! I am far more awestruck when I learn something from a student than anyone else. The value that comes from being taught a useful ‘tech tip’ by these ‘digi-teens’ is inspiring.

A continual audit of our own practice also needs to be matched by how we then bring digitally compatible thinking and learning skills to our students. 

  • Metacognitive thinking – challenge students’ stuck points and help them to identify patterns in their own positive and negative thinking. I find this incredibly helpful with students pushing for examinations. Often a series of metacognitive questions and answers can help students to find their own (digital) solutions to learning issues they may have.
  • Growth mindset – goes hand in hand with metacognition but also builds the resilience of how to deal with the relentless onslaught of digital media our young people face. How can we support them by modelling situations where we, ourselves, manage overwhelm and learning blocks? 
  • Self-regulation – If you hear a student’s phone pinging during a session, politely ask them to put it on aeroplane mode for the duration of the session (something we all need to do more of!). Then, perhaps suggest this as a strategy for independent working. Share info graphics and strategies you use to achieve balance and regulation in your life: digital detox is just as important as digital immersion.

As tutors, we may not be able to move and upskill the educational Leviathon that is the school system, but in our own tutoring world, we have the freedom and tools to embrace change. Tuition is a growing sector: its flexibility and personalisation are two of its main strengths. As the decade continues, let’s make managing digitalisation a central feature as well.

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*Stats and information taken from www.digitalpovertyalliance.org report on DPIS 16th November 2021: Dr Kira Allman

** Information also taken from Sir John Jones on the future of education:

 

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Want more advice and tips on how to upskill students through tuition? Check out our range of training courses and our upcoming one-off CPD-Accredited Workshops sessions at the Love Tutoring Festival 2

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