The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence defines Information Communication Technologies (ICT) as “forms of technology that are used to transmit, store, create, display, share or exchange information by electronic means. This broad definition of ICT currently includes such technologies as media, telecommunications, and computer hardware and software; it also includes equipment and services associated with these technologies, such as videoconferencing, email and blogs.”
The 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy defines digital technology as “digital applications, services and resources which are used to find, analyse, create, communicate, and use information in a digital context.”
Digital learning is defined as “learning which is supported and enhanced by a range of digital technologies and approaches. It can focus on one or more particular technologies. It may focus on classroom use or anywhere-anytime access. It may include features and approaches that are used to develop independent learners.
Education Scotland’s Guide to Remote Learning defines remote learning as "learning that is directed by practitioners and undertaken by children and young people who are not physically present with the practitioner while the learning is taking place... It typically allows for a combination of ‘live’ interactions between learners and teacher/practitioner and tasks which are undertaken independently.”
Constitution and laws: The Constitution of the United Kingdom, amended in 2013, gives all citizens the right to education. Each country has a separate system under separate governments. Scotland’s system is primarily governed by the 1980 Education Act and the 2016 Education Act. Neither mention technology specifically.
Policies, plans and strategies: The 2014 ICT and Digital Technology Skills Investment Plan (SIP) aims to provide Scottish employers with a short and long-term pipeline of digital talent which they require; and wishes to equip individuals with the ability to access the many high-quality jobs which the Digital Technologies sector and wider economy can offer. One of the objectives is to focus on “developing and retaining a talent pool to support the growth of the digital technology professionals across all sectors.” This was to be done by focusing on the education sector. Key actions include supporting the delivery of ICT/digital technology-related education.
Scotland’s Refreshed Digital Strategy, Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland, published in 2017, sought to digitally transform the country through the development of digital public services, providing high levels of connectivity across the country, and focusing its education and training systems on expanding its pool of digital skills and capabilities. The digital strategy saw the launch of a digital school programme. It also aimed to increase the number of school coding clubs and provide teachers with the skills and resources required to use digital to enrich their teaching. The strategy specifically sought to address the gender gap in digital skills and careers through the education system.
The 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy showcases the Scottish government’s hope that the integration of technology in the education system can help enhance learning and teaching, equip children and young people with vital digital skills, and lead to improved educational outcomes. The strategy is comprised of four objectives: Develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching; Improve access to digital technology for all learners; Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery; and Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.
Previous policies and reports that formed the basis of current Education Technology strategies include the 1991 5-14 National Guidelines, the 2002 ICT: Into the Classroom of Tomorrow Report, the 2003 Early Learning, Forward Thinking: The policy framework for ICT in Early Years, the 2007 Improving Scottish Education: ICT in Learning and Teaching Report, a 2016 Technologies Impact Report: Building Society Young people’s experiences and outcomes in the technologies, the 2009 Building better schools: investing in Scotland's future Strategy Plan, Scotland’s 2011 Digital Strategy, and the 2011 Technologies for Learning Strategy, which was the Scottish government's first Digital Learning Strategy. This first digital learning strategy had five objectives as opposed to the four current ones: 1) A change in the culture of digital technologies in education; 2) Improved confidence in the use of digital technologies by learners, teachers, school leaders and parents; 3) The promotion of new pedagogies; 4) Increasing and strengthening parental engagement; and 5) Provision of the best possible support for hardware and associated ICT infrastructure.
The Digital Schools Award Scotland Programme, developed as a result of the 2014 ICT and Digital Technology Skills Investment Plan (SIP), gives all primary schools in Scotland the chance to work towards an accredited “digital school award.” To become a digital school, schools must have a digital technology strategy/ ICT action plan, integrate digital technology across the curriculum, have an online safety policy, have a school website, commit to ongoing professional development in ICT, and have appropriate ICT resources, including hardware, software and infrastructure.
Scotland’s 2017 STEM Strategy seeks to build a “strong base of STEM skills and knowledge for everyone and enthusing and encouraging people to develop more specialised STEM skills and capabilities.” This can be done by encouraging children, young people and adults to develop an interest in and enthusiasm for STEM. The education system should have the right number of staff who have the appropriate STEM capability to be able to deliver excellent learning and teaching. The system should be able to equip graduates with the skills that employers need but also give them the flexibility required to respond to the inevitable changes in labour market demand. The plan also tackles the gender imbalance and other inequities in the STEM field by tackling targeted action to improve participation in STEM.
More recently, Scotland’s 2021 digital strategy, A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world, enables a shared vision of a modern, digital and collaborative government, designed around people. Within digital education and skills, the strategy aims to 1. ensure digital knowledge and skills have a place in education; 2. build a skilled digital workforce; 3. support upskilling and reskilling opportunities; 4. increase diversity in the digital skills pool; 5. establish the Scottish Digital Academy as the skills provider of choice; 6. establish a resource of digital and data experts that the public sector can call upon; and 7. create a Data Science Competency Centre.
Digital competency frameworks: The 2018 Essential Digital Skills Framework defines the skills that individuals need in order to safely benefit from, participate in and contribute to the digital world of today and the future. The framework is intended to be used by everyone in the UK and supports adults to enhance their essential digital skills. Foundational skills typically required by those not currently using digital technology include being able to complete tasks such as connecting to Wi-Fi and knowing that passwords must be kept safe. In addition to these basic foundational skills, there are five categories of essential digital skills for life and work: communicating, handling information and content, transacting, problem-solving, and being safe and legal online. Each category then includes examples of skills for life and skills for work. For example, in “communicating,” skills for life includes posting on social media while skills for work include using digital collaboration tools to work with colleagues. In “being safe and legal online” life and work skills include using privacy settings on social media and understanding copyright and intellectual property legislation.
Scotland defines Digital literacy as “the capabilities required for living, learning and working in a digital society. It includes the skills, knowledge, capabilities and attributes around the use of digital technology which enable individuals to develop to their full potential in relation to learning, life and work. It encompasses the skills to use technology to engage in learning through managing information, communicating and collaborating, problem-solving and being creative, and the appropriate and responsible use of technology.” While digital skills “embrace a spectrum of skills in the use and creation of digital material, from basic digital literacy, through problem solving and computational thinking to the application of more specialist computing science knowledge and skills”.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: Several guidance documents in regard to remote learning have since been published by Education Scotland. This includes one on learning and teaching online, features of highly effective digital learning, teaching and assessment in schools, and a guide to remote learning. The government has also since developed the Teacher Digital Literacy Framework and the National Framework For Digital Literacies In Initial Teacher Education. Scotland also updated all five different professional standards for teachers.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: Electricity in the UK is governed by the 1989 Electricity Act which reorganized and allowed for the privatization of the sector. Additionally, the Government’s 2022 Energy Relief Scheme (updated in 2023), made schools eligible for a discount on school gas and electricity unit prices. This scheme is scheduled to end in March 2023.
Computers and devices: Objective two in the 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy is to “Improve access to digital technology for all learners.” The Scottish government promises to “offer a suite of national procurement frameworks that allow public sector education establishments and local authorities to buy digital devices.” For example, in Edinburgh, the education strategy, Empowered Learning provided every school pupil with a digital device.
Internet connectivity: Objective two in the 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy also includes infrastructure action plans such as “funding broadband for education to a central point in all local authorities through the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN).” SWAN was launched in 2012 through Scotland's 2012 Digital Future: Delivery of Public Services Strategy and Action Plan. The Network is a public sector ICT initiative programme set up to “establish a single shared network and common ICT infrastructure across Scotland’s entire public sector.” Scotland’s newest 2021 government digital strategy, A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world, promises to provide broadband for all as a continuation of its Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Scotland was one of the first countries to develop a national intranet (Glow) in 2006 for all teachers and learners. Glow now functions as a national digital learning platform and knowledge hub. It is a one-stop-shop that supports learning across the whole curriculum through services such as Microsoft M365, Google Workspace for Education and WordPress blogs. Teachers can choose from a variety of lessons such as Online Safety and Digital Wellbeing.
Education Scotland published 2021 Learning and Teaching Online: Advice for Practitioners and the 2021 Guide to Remote Learning which education practitioners could use for their specific contexts. The guidance document includes information on remote learning and provides key principles for remote learning such as “continued endeavours to tackle digital exclusion, including the provision of devices and connectivity solutions to support learning”. According to the guidance document, children and young people are entitled to learning opportunities following the curriculum, physical and online resources, regular high-quality interactive learning and teaching using technology or other remote methods, a balance of live learning and independent activity, ongoing reflection and feedback with their teachers, daily check-ins, and opportunities to engage with other pupils. Support is offered through the National e-Learning Offer which provides a combination of live sessions via e-Sgoil, recorded lessons on West OS, and further resources. Other recommended resources include Scotland Learns and Digilearn.scot.
Technologies is its own area of learning in Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. Progression is indicated through curriculum levels. Technologies is organized into six themes including technological developments in society, ICT to enhance learning, business, computing science, food and textiles, and craft, design, engineering and graphics. The last four themes provide contexts for developing technological skills. Through this learning area, learners learn curiosity and problem-solving skills as well as a capacity to work with others and take initiative. They can gain skills in planning, organisation, creativity, and innovation. They must know how to use various tools, equipment, software and materials. They also should be able to search and retrieve information to help them make informed decisions within diverse learning contexts. Topics include: Awareness of technological developments (Past, Present and Future), including how they work; Impact, contribution, and relationship of technologies on business, the economy, politics, and the environment; Using digital products and services in a variety of contexts to achieve a purposeful outcome; Searching, processing and managing information responsibly; Cyber resilience and internet safety; Understanding the world through computational thinking; Understanding and analysing computing technology; Designing, building and testing computing solutions; Representing ideas, concepts and products through a variety of graphic media; and more.
The curriculum also contains a Digital Literacy Framework for learners which is made up of the topics in the curriculum and separated into five different levels of mastery. For example, in “Searching, processing and managing information Responsibly," learners at the Early level can explore using technologies to search and find information. At the fourth (and final) level, learners are able to “use digital technologies to process and manage information responsibly and can reference sources accordingly.”
The 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy also seeks to integrate the use of digital technology into all other curriculum areas. Teachers are encouraged to use ICT in their classrooms and within assignments, regardless of the class.
The 2014 ICT and Digital Technology Skills Investment Plan (SIP) called for the development of ICT and digital technology Career-Long Professional Learning opportunities for teachers at the primary and secondary level that would help them to embed ICT/digital technology into their classrooms and improve their digital skills. The five-year 2015 Safe, Secure and Prosperous: a Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland calls for embedding cyber resilience into teacher training. One of the main objectives of the 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy is to “develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching”. The strategy sets several goals related to the training of educators. The first is to ensure that the Professional Standards for Registration and Career Long Professional Learning reflect the importance of digital technology and skills. Secondly, Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers are encouraged to instil the benefits of digital technology to enhance learning and teaching in their learners. The Scottish government also has the responsibility to ensure that a range of formal and informal professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise digital technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) Standards.
The GTCS sets five different professional standards for teachers in Scotland: the standard for provisional registration for initial teacher training, the standard for full registration as the benchmark of competence required of all registered teachers, the Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning which is the aspirational developmental framework for teachers, the standard for middle leadership, and the standard for headship. All were updated and enacted in 2021. In the standard for provisional registration for initial teacher training, provisional teachers are expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of digital technologies to support learning. They are also asked to gain teacher digital literacy skills and competencies and know how to embed digital technologies into teaching and learning. Provisional teachers are expected to employ teaching strategies and resources, including digital approaches, to meet the needs and abilities of every learner; they also must encourage digital literacy among their learners and enable learners to make use of well-chosen resources such as digital technologies. The standard for full registration functionally shares the same expectations. In the Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning, teachers are additionally asked to explore and adopt a wide variety of technologies and learning spaces within and beyond the classroom. They also have the responsibility to ensure that every learner has “access to and is enabled to select from well-chosen/designed resources including digital technologies.”
The 2023 Teacher Digital Literacy Framework outlines the digital literacy skills, knowledge and understanding a teacher needs to be able to deliver high-quality learning experiences for their students. The framework is based on the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp2). Core skills are divided into cyber resilience and internet safety, information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, pedagogy in a digitally enabled learning environment, and career-long professional learning and leadership. Sample skills include being able to plan, deliver, and assess learning using technology; sharing data through technology; searching, managing, and developing digital content; and protecting data and privacy.
The 2020 National Framework For Digital Literacies In Initial Teacher Education is made up of six themes that form the basis for a solid foundation for career-long professional learning. These include digital skills development (such as capturing, creating, editing and combining images, text, sound, animation, video, data and code); pedagogy in the digital domain; computing science; digital safety and resilience; research-informed practice; and career-long professional learning.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Data protection in all of the United Kingdom is regulated by the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the 2018 Data Protection Act (DPA). The UK GDPR is a version of the EU GDPR that went into effect after the UK left the EU. Functionally, they both act the same. It states that children need special protections of their data which “apply to the use of personal data of children for marketing or creating personality or user profiles and the collection of personal data concerning children when using services offered directly to a child”. The DPA “sits alongside and supplements the UK GDPR” by for example making exceptions and establishing different data protection rules for law enforcement. Schools, as a data controller, are required to register with the Information Commissioner's Office ('ICO') which oversees data protection in the UK.
The Information Commissioner's Office ('ICO') released the Age Appropriate Design: A Code of Practice for Online Services (also known as the Children’s Code) in late 2020. The code aims to support compliance with the DPA and the GDPR specifically to ensure that online services appropriately safeguard children's data. There are fifteen standards that make up the code. Organizations should consider the best interest of the child, undertake data protection impact assessments, ensure age appropriateness, be transparent, prohibit detrimental use of children’s data, uphold their policies and standards, have high privacy settings as a default, minimize the amount of data collected and retained, prohibit sharing of children’s data, have geolocation settings off by default, provide parental controls, prohibit nudge techniques that encourage use, ensure connected toys and devices follow the code, and provide online tools to help children exercise their data protection rights.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
In Scotland, harassing or threatening behaviour through communications technology may be punishable under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act and the 2003 Communications Act. The first of which protects individuals from harassment. The second prohibits the improper use of public electronic communications to send a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or to send false or persistent messages for causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety. The 1998 Civic Government (Scotland) Act makes it a criminal offence to “make, print or keep any obscene material which includes a computer disc and any form of recording of a digital image.” The legislation also includes prohibiting indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a child.
Respect for All – The National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People, published in 2017, is a comprehensive guide to anti-bullying strategies for Scotland. Schools should develop their own anti-bullying policy which includes the organization’s stance on bullying, a code of behaviour, a range of strategies to prevent bullying, and recording and monitoring methods. The five-year 2015 Safe, Secure and Prosperous: a Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland, calls for training teachers and learners in cyber safety. For learners, a 12-week course on cyber security, the Cyber Badge, developed with Police Scotland and Scottish Universities, focused on topics such as password security, online bullying, grooming, computer crime, and social networking. Scotland’s anti-bullying resource is Respectme.org. Children and youth can find support and resources on the Respectme website. Respectme also helps with the development and implementation of anti-bullying policies.
According to the 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the use of Digital Technology Strategy, the Scottish government and national bodies such as Education Scotland have the responsibility of developing and managing the professional standards for teachers and the curriculum for learners. They also improve access and digital infrastructure. Local governments are responsible for teacher training, developing and implementing local strategies regarding the use of digital technology in education, and supporting education establishments in delivering the curriculum and devices.
Schools and preschool centres have the responsibility to devise their policies for the use of ICT in learning and teaching. Schools are responsible for delivering devices to learners, integrating digital skills into the curriculum, and ensuring that cyber resilience and internet safety is central to all digital technology use in the establishment. The 2016 Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Digital Technology Strategy highlights a Council that focused on providing internet at schools and then developed an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) arrangement to deliver “anytime, anywhere learning.”