Digital revolution bypassing UK education

June 18, 2012, Economic & Social Research Council

Teaching and learning in the 21st century needs to be 'turbo-charged' by educational technology rather than using technologies designed for other purposes, according to a new report developed by the Technology-Enhanced Learning Research Programme (TEL) - a five-year research programme funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The report System Upgrade: Realising the vision for UK Education is the work of academics, industry and practitioners from across the UK. They warn that to prosper in the 21st century, people need to be confident digital collaborators and communicators, discerning users of the internet, and equipped with computational such as understanding how to use and write the computer programs that underpin emails, searches and maps.

Enhancing learning through digital technology can make this happen and should be seen as an investment, not a cost, the researchers say. Without more support, UK schools will be left offering a largely analogue education in a digital world.

"The world is becoming increasingly digital. These technologies have transformed the way we work, communicate, bank, shop and play. But they have not yet transformed our ," says Professor Richard Noss, director of the TEL Programme at the Institute of Education. "Education needs to catch up. The system needs to be upgraded. If it isn't, our children and our country will fall seriously behind in the . And when that happens we will find computers shaping us rather than us using them to shape the world," says Noss.

System Upgrade (available at makes 12 recommendations with the potential to transform education's use of technology. They include developing virtual worlds to help , using to personalise learning, and putting computational thinking at the heart of the curriculum. Digital 'power tools' to help teachers create and share lessons are also on the TEL agenda.

"Schools need to engage the Xbox generation. They need to be able to take advantage of the innovative teaching methods and flexible learning environments that technology enhanced learning offers. Only then will they be able to teach their pupils the skills to enable them to succeed in the globalised, digital workplace," says Professor Noss.

System Upgrade will be launched by Lord Knight of Weymouth, a former Labour schools minister who has long been frustrated by the failure of digital technologies to transform education.

Explore further: Help is at hand for teachers struggling with technology

Related Stories

Help is at hand for teachers struggling with technology

December 6, 2011

Innovative software to help teachers stay at the forefront of the digital revolution in education has been developed by researchers funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical ...

Arizona should explore its digital learning potential

February 6, 2012

Like most states Arizona still has a “digital divide” to close, but it also boasts an overall hospitable environment for digital learning, according to a new report co-produced by the Center for the Future of Arizona ...

New report examines the use of digital technology in education

November 9, 2011

A key issue facing the UK is how to inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians on which our future well-being and economy depends. A new report, published yesterday [8 Nov], examines ...

Digital revolution is happening outside the classroom

September 23, 2009

( -- The way we learn is changing, but schools are having trouble keeping up. While technology dominates daily life and work, it still plays a limited role in public schools filled with students who are increasingly ...

Israeli high-tech is improving US education

July 28, 2011

For years, teachers have been complaining about large class sizes, an old-fashioned learning environment and a lack of support for students with different learning styles. Now Dovi Weiss, a Ph.D. student from Tel Aviv University's ...

Recommended for you

Modern humans interbred with Denisovans twice in history

March 15, 2018

Modern humans co-existed and interbred not only with Neanderthals, but also with another species of archaic humans, the mysterious Denisovans. While developing a new genome-analysis method for comparing whole genomes between ...

Are palaeontologists naming too many species?

March 14, 2018

A comprehensive new study looking at variations in Ichthyosaurus, a common British Jurassic ichthyosaur (sea-going reptile) also known as 'Sea Dragons', has provided important information into recognizing new fossil species.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
Very wrong headed. "equipped with computational thinking skills such as understanding how to use and write the computer programs that underpin emails". No. No. Computers are a tool as much as a car, airplane, or TV remote. Apart from engineers it is best we know nothing about they work--in the case of computers technology is dating fast--email is getting replaced by twitter, Skype and so on. What is needed is ability to use technology--computer and noncomputer--in imaginative and productive new ways--whether that be paper and pencils or pixels and icons.
3 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2012
No. No. Computers are a tool as much as a car, airplane, or TV remote. Apart from engineers it is best we know nothing about they work

That's the Steve Jobs "Computers are appliances" school of thought.

In reality, computers are not appliances. The less you know about how they work, and how the programs work, the less you can do with them. If you don't even know how to write a simple script, or a basic HTML website, then you'll be reduced to doing only what is given to you through an "appstore", and the whole point of a computer is lost.

If you need an "app" for it, you're already doing it wrong.
not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
And seriously? Email being replaced by Twitter?

I'd like you to send in your job application, 160 letters max.
not rated yet Jun 18, 2012
I lived in Oxford for three years recently and got to know the people and the culture there pretty well. I lived in a house owned by a retired Oxford professor. From what I saw the English are overly hung up on physical books. They were really hung up on the fact that books will no longer be printed and will all be online or other electronic media. They would argue against books being electronic religiously. I think this thinking may be behind the resultant issues with computers in schools there, despite the obvious advantages of electronic information.

To me England is stuck in thinking of their long past glory days.

Then they have a very definite smarter than others attitude, at least the academics at Oxford did, even when they had no clue what they were talking about.

England is definitely headed down in the world order, from what I saw. Other truly knowledgeable people I met in England feel the same way. They are very concern for the country's future.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.