Digital Education Brighton (DEB)
Predicated on action

‘Digital literacy’ is quite a broad term commonly used to describe a range of skills and experience of digital hardware and software that taken together represent a certain competency and understanding of the digital landscape.

In respect of young people the term is often used alongside the term ‘digital natives’ used to describe the fact that young people who have been brought up with and are regular users of digital technology are therefore naturally ‘digitally literate’.

This is a misnomer.

It is true that young people these days who are brought up with digital technology, know how to text, to access YouTube, Flickr, to film videos, take photographs, use a range of ‘games’ and ‘apps‘, Tweet and lead Facebook lives (interestingly often with a corresponding reluctance to make actual telephone calls, preferring to text or Tweet, or Facebook).

All of that is ‘using’ technology that is available to them. What they too often do not know about is how to ‘organise’ and present themselves digitally.

It is increasingly becoming recognised that for young people the development of a digital portfolio of them and their work are an important resource as they continue their education and move into the world of work.

It is certainly the case, also, that fast growing numbers of potential employers will demand the essentials of digital literacy as a given, before even considering any other skills that may pertain to particular jobs.

Yet, the basic digital skills needed to create digital portfolio’s, to be digitally organised and aware, to be able to operate confidently in a digital environment are too often sadly lacking.

These are skills such as file naming, directory structures, visual presentation (incl. navigation), using search terms, evaluating information, editing and presenting information, communication through emails and texts (other than with friends), the building blocks of digital literacy and the core skills that most young people will be expected to have when they enter the world of work.

Unfortunately it is alarmingly common for the development of these skills to be wholly neglected at school, not least because many teachers themselves are not confident in these matters. There are schools that are on top of this, that are embedding digital literacy into what they do, right from infant and primary, but they are, unfortunately, in the minority.

(I should just interject that I do not lay blame for this. We live in a fast moving world where digital technology is developing exponentially and keeping up is difficult. I do, though, believe that we do need to recognise the issue and take urgent steps to deal with it).

The upshot of this, apart from the obvious fact that it means that many young people are ill prepared for the 21st century world of work is that when young people go on to produce digital portfolios at secondary school or college, or when they undertake tasks that involve digital technology within apprenticeships, as they inevitably will, the result can be rather poor because of their lack of the basics of digital literacy.

A couple of examples (of which there are many):

I very recently participated in a pilot project in a junior school working with a number of Year 6 pupils developing presentation materials within some software that museums use for their interactive displays. The pilot was to ascertain how to best work with the pupils to produce the interactive displays that could then be displayed in museums, thus creating a link between school and the world outside school.

We were fortunate that for this project the pupils had a rich source of resources to work with because they had recently run a very successful festival at the school during which very many (dozens if not hundreds) videos and photographs were taken and audio interviews undertaken.

However, when we came to work with the pupils in identifying appropriate videos, photographs, interviews to accompany the texts they had produced we discovered that none of these resources had meaningful filenames, or were organised into meaningful folders, but were simply stored in one place with numerical filenames i.e. 001, 002, 003, 004 etc..

This meant that the task of identifying appropriate resources entailed the very long winded (and tedious) process of reviewing all the videos, photographs and interviews, one by one, with all the pupils. Because of the importance of the pilot to us and to the pupils we did spend the time doing this. However, during normal school time this would be wholly impractical.

The upshot of this is a sort of misunderstanding around the implementation of digital technology in education.

On one hand the use of digital devices (including cameras. smartphones, tablet devices etc,) to produce fantastically valuable digital resources is to be applauded.

On the other hand, without properly organising these resources they become effectively inaccessible, tantalisingly sitting there, but unlikely to be utilised.

The school in question, in my view, missed a huge opportunity to work with the pupils on the back of the excitement of the Festival to catalogue the digital results so that they were properly accessible as a great resource.

A similar pilot in another school that did not have the advantage of such potentially readily available digital resources made greater use of Wikipedia as a source of information.

It quickly became clear that the pupils were employing a cut and paste methodology, simply making a few changes to the texts to make them appear as original writing. Characteristically the pupils did not fully understand the Wikipedia texts so the edits that they applied (sometimes just removing a whole paragraph or sentence) often rendered the texts meaningless.

In my view, if we are to prepare our young people for life in the 21st century we must give them the building blocks they will need to survive and thrive in a world where digital technology is prevalent.

By year 6 they should be a lot savvier around this, and at least have some basic sense of how to manage information, how to organise themselves and their work in a digital environment, and how to communicate effectively with the very powerful digital tools and facilities that are available.

Then when they move to secondary education, to college, undertake apprenticeships everything they do will be properly underpinned. However, whilst steps should be taken to introduce these basics in the younger years it also should be recognised that for many pupils moving into secondary, higher education or apprenticeships these basics may be lacking.

The way to address this, in my view, is not to hold separate basic digital literacy classes in isolation from other activities but to embed elements of it within the programmes of work and study that students are already participating in. This makes the need for basic digital literacy skills ‘real’ rather than being taught in isolation (which could be mind numbingly boring).

Mick Landmann


As per the the two previous summaries I have posted today, I urge you to read this article by Thom Markham (Thom contributes to a blog called Mind/Shift which is really worth having a look at). Once again the issues raised will be familiar to all DEBsters from a point of view of inquiry-based learning. Here is a flavour of what Thom says:

REDEFINE RIGOR. As the Google-age fully blossoms, the fundamental shift is from information to attitude. The instant, ubiquitous availability of knowledge puts enormous responsibility on the individual, as they try to sift through, discern, apply, and share information.

BLEND CRITICAL THINKING, SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING, AND OTHER VALUABLE SKILLS. In the search for better inquiry methods, the gaming industry has much to teach education.

TEACH INQUIRY SKILLS. Creativity, problem-solving, design thinking, and critical analysis are learnable skills that benefit from intentional instruction. The options are many, starting with exercises in creativity and brainstorming, regular use of protocols to practice sharing and giving feedback on divergent ideas.

MAKE COHORTS AND TEAMS THE PRACTICE, NOT THE EXCEPTION. Probably the most deeply embedded norm of industrial education, originating from the 15th century, is the ideal of the individual scholar. The default mode is to aim teaching at a single student, and assess and recognize accomplishments gained through individual performance. But we must shift this towards team learning.

SEE THE BALANCE BETWEEN INQUIRY AND CONTENT AS A DYNAMIC. Knowing when to teach directly, or allow for problem solving, is a high art. But that is what inquiry-based education demands.

THE CIRCLE OF CONTROL. The chief obstacle to an inquiry-based system is us. To give up a content-based curriculum, with its deep traditions, proven techniques for controlling behavior and outcomes, and dominating, standardized regimen, feels like giving a 14-year old the keys to the car and a full tank of gas. It’s scary.

Here is another great article by Marc Prensky that I picked up on (the “Connected Learning” feed in the sidebar is a great resource for ideas in education – through by Stephanie Sandifer). Again it focuses on some of the things that we have been talking about at DEB specifically in relation to a new curriculum. He asks how could we rethink this

for the 21st century, symbiotically combining human strengths with the most powerful technology strengths?  We might begin by eliminating as separate classes all the subjects we now teach: math, English, science, social studies. All those subjects have become bloated and outdated and—far more important—are the wrong way to focus our kids’ education in the 21st century.

He goes on to mention 3 subjects that would be replacements. I summarise these below, but suggest you read the whole article

Subject 1: Effective Thinking

Effective Thinking would start in the early grades with simple mathematical and logical thinking and a focus on obvious flaws (such as assuming something is always true because you’ve seen a few examples). Young kids would use illustrative stories (like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”) and well-designed games (like The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis) as a basis for learning strategic and logical thinking. Technology would be introduced from the start as a “thinking extender” through tools like simulation that show students the consequences of their actions in a variety of contexts and circumstances.

Subject 2: Effective Action

Effective Action would begin by fostering Steven Covey’s seven (now eight) habits of highly effective people—Be proactive, Begin with the end in mind, Put first things first, and so on—from the earliest grades. It would include increasingly complex challenges in persistence, entrepreneurship, and project management and focus on creative ways to break down barriers and get things done.

Subject 3: Effective Relationships

Effective Relationships would foster students’ high-level communication skills: one-on-one, in teams, in peer groups, in communities, and in work groups. It would focus on relationships in both the real and virtual worlds and teach students to negotiate a modern world in which both real and virtual are equally important. This subject would also include ethics, citizenship, and politics.

He then goes on to talk about:

Culminating Work: Effective Accomplishment

Effective Accomplishment, taken every year by all students, would enable each one to establish a growing portfolio of completed individual and group projects.

We have been looking at the above as objectives, but looking more how this might fit into personalised learning and less about a current system of following a curriculum. The end result would hopefully be the same.

Came across this great article by David Nagel which summarises many of the ideas that we have been discussing recently at DEB. The 6 challenges he mentions comes from a report from the New Media Consortium as part of the Horizon Project. Read the article but if you don’t, here is a summary of the summary!

Challenge 1: professional development = lack of ongoing professional development for teachers.
Challenge 2: resistance to change. = comfort with the status quo.
Challenge 3: MOOCs and other new models for schooling = new models for teaching /learning are providing  competition to traditional models of schooling.
Challenge 4: delivering informal learning = rigid lecture-and-test models of learning failing to challenge students to experiment.
Challenge 5: failures of personalized learning = a gap between the vision of delivering personalized, differentiated instruction and the technologies available to make this possible.
Challenge 6: failure to use technology to deliver effective formative assessments. And the rest

Dr StrangeGove take note.

The next stage of the Cherokee Nation digital exchange project (see posts below for progress so far) is for MA students from University of Brighton, the two participating Brighton Schools (Blatchington Mill School and Cardinal Newman Catholic School), the Cherokee Nation schools (Fort Gibson Public Schools  and Maryetta Public School), and Same Sky to co-produce some digital art and display this at the Brighton Festival Children’s Parade in May 2013 that Same Sky organise..

This is thanks to having obtained some CUPP (Community University Partnership Programme) funding which will enable Digital Arts MA students from the University of Brighton to work with Wired Sussex, Same Sky and the Brighton schools to expand the project. The partners will be working with the school students to create a piece of collaborative art which will be paraded through Brighton where the theme of the children’s parade this year is the Alphabet.   The children will be using the Cherokee Syllabary as inspiration to ultimately produce a shared piece of artwork for the wider community to engage with.

To this end the MA students will provide direct support to pupils and teachers as part of an existing course module in social media ‘Virtual Culture & Network Practices’.  They would link with Same Sky who would offer the support of artists and access to bespoke workshops for the schools. A wider aim is to develop links beneficial to Same Sky that will help them include use of digital media into the workshops they offer.

The University of Brighton will help guide the school students and teachers in the use of digital media in subject areas outside of ICT.  It will also provide new opportunities for schools and the University to work together and learn how technology can be effectively used in the classroom to generate creative learning practices.

Caroline Morris


February 9th, 2013 by adam


Last year, Pearson ran the first ever Innov8 competition, giving tech startups a chance to make their own innovative new product/project. The grand prize was £5,000 towards building the product.

Most of the teams were adults (even: real companies), but a team of students from Blatchington Mill School won, with their idea for an iPhone/iPad app: “My Science Lab”.

Team: Quantum Games

The three students named themselves “Quantum Games”: Jon, Nick, and Oli. All three of them have been studying for their GCSE’s in parallel with this project.

They’ve been supported by Mark Leighton, Assistant Head / ICT Director at the school.

For mentoring and game-development expertise, they had me – Adam Martin – previously CTO at MindCandy and NCsoft Europe, now an iPhone/Android developer


The students chose to focus on a game that would help other students revise the “Momentum” part of GCSE Physics.

In summer/autumn 2012, they learnt the basics of game design and development. We didn’t do any formal teaching – they simply had to pick up the skills they needed as we went along. YouTube videos, and “trial and error”, were our primary techniques…

In particular, they learnt 3D-modelling and texturing (using Wings3D and Photoshop) and game-programming (using Unity3D and Javascript).

By the end of 2012, they’d written their own physics engine, some basic gameplay, and a simple simulation of an exercise/problem in Momentum.

Last month

The big thing this month has been BETT. Pearson had a large stand, and asked the students along to talk about the project. They gave an excellent presentation to an audience of approx 30 people at BETT, covering the background and some of the things that went well, that didn’t, and what they’d learnt from it.

Leading up to BETT, they worked hard to squeeze in a new build of the game, with a rethink on the interactive sections and how they hang together. Unfortunately, we hit what seemed to be a major bug in Unity’s camera-handling, and none of us could fix it in time (nor could we get an answer from Unity support in time). But the students managed to invent a workaround at the last minute which worked fine for demoing at BETT.

The game isn’t finished yet – GCSE’s and schoolwork left too little time to complete it before BETT – but we’re very close now. The students are aiming to finish it off this month and next, and I’m hoping I might even be able to take a copy to the GDC conference in March (taking place in San Francisco, GDC is the commercial games industry’s main annual conference).

In the meantime … you can sign up now on the Quantum Games website (, and we’ll email you as soon as the game is ready – or sooner, with a private beta-test!

At the February 2013 meeting of Digital Education Brighton Andrew Sleigh outlined what Brighton Mini Maker Faire is with some further info about the general global Mini Maker Faire movement.

 Below is some further detail about this and if you are interested in becoming involved or knowing more please do contact Andrew at

What is Brighton Mini Maker Faire?

It’s a 2 day exhibition, workshop and education event, with follow-on activity, in Brighton, where Makers come together to show off their creations, teach, and inspire creativity. Projects cover a huge range, from traditional crafts, smart fabrics, to computer games, electronics, robotics, and novel crossovers of all of the above. Visitors can meet the makers, learn, be inspired and get hands on with craft and technology.

Brighton Mini Maker Faire exists to inspire and enable people to use technology creatively. We’re particularly interested in the fertile crossover between disciplines like fabric crafts and electronics, robotics and gameplay, and the spectrum of making and fabrication, from traditional techniques like glass and pottery to new technologies like 3D printing and laser cutting. Our aim is to inspire and provide opportunities for visitors to try their hand at making things and leave with a new confidence in their own ability to be creative.

BMMF is part of a growing global maker movement (, with over 80 Mini Maker Faires planned for 2013, explosive growth in community workshops (‘hackspaces’) and exciting developments in maker tech appearing every day (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printing, etc).

Here’s a video of our 2012 event, which attracted 7000 visitors:

BMMF and young people/schools

A large part of the enjoyment of making is learning new skills. And likewise, one of the benefits of making is discovering that self-directed, explorative learning is rewarding. We believe that everyone can benefit from this, and it can be a useful complement to other types of learning – especially the kind of learning young people get in schools and FE/HE.

What we want

1. More young people, classes or schools to submit maker applications (these open in May). Or just to come to the event. (Can be tricky as it is usually in the first weekend of September)

2. How do we provide opportunities for kids to learn to make beyond the weekend itself?

e.g. Bringing workshops to schools, running weekend workshops at the community hackspace (, getting makers into schools to do talks and demos, running after-school clubs, etc.

And how do we do that in a sustainable, manageable way, given that we already have a ‘free job’ (putting on BMMF), and that many makers are hobbyists, not professionals (not to mention all the constraints of working with schools and young people).

We feel there’s an opportunity here for something really exciting, but we’re not sure how to make it work. We’d love to work with people who can help make it a reality.



Dan Meyer writes:

Here are five quotes, some of which are from edtech startups in 2012 while others are from an advertorial for “Individually Prescribed Instruction” published in ASCD in 1972. Can you tell them apart?

  1. Educators and parents across the country seem to agree that a system of individualized instruction is much needed in our schools today. This has been evident to any parent who has raised more than one child and to every teacher who has stood in front of a class.

  2. [This product] allows the teacher to monitor the child’s progress but more important it allows each child to monitor his own behavior in a particular subject.

  3. The objectives of the system are to permit student mastery of instructional content at individual learning rates and ensure active student involvement in the learning process.

  4. This is a step towards the superior classroom, because the system includes material that can be used independently, allowing each child to learn at his own rate and realize success.

  5. The technology, training program, and management technique give the teacher tools for assessment, mastery measurement, and specified management techniques.

Find out which is which on Meyer’s blog here. And while you are there, check out some of the other blogs too – v. interesting.

We had a fantastic trip to the Brighton & Hove Albion AMEX stadium on Thursday 15th November 2012 as part of the Cherokee Nation Project. We had 33 year 8’s from Blatchington Mill School many of whom had taken part in the launch event in September. The Cardinal Newman students are having a separate visit as the numbers would have been too large for both schools together.

We split into two groups: one group went on a stadium tour to collect photographs on 10 ipads to create short films. The remaining 15 students Skyped 15 Maryetta students using 3 iPads in groups of 5. Similarly, the Maryetta kids had 3 MacBooks with 5 children around each. Each Maryetta student had prepared two questions to ask the Blatch kids and we let them loose! It’s probably fair to say they loved it – the number of kids meant there were no awkward silences and they would have gone on for longer than the 15 minutes we allowed if they could have. The portability of iPads allowed the kids to show off the football pitch and the stadium out of the window and for them all to have a chance to show their faces.

We had intended to use FaceTime instead of Skype but this required having an iTunes ID (need to set up with a credit card) for each MacBook and iPad which Maryetta didn’t have. The Albion iPads did as they use FaceTime a lot. But Skype was fine on both sides of the Atlantic and worked without any technical hitches.

After the Skype session that group had a slightly shorter tour and collected photos for the short films, again on 10 iPads.

The two groups came back together to make the films using iMovie (which the teachers had been trained in at the Albion training session on 25 Oct) which they found very easy to use. They added voiceovers, titles and music and then they showed their movies to each other. It was easy for them to share the 20 iPads between 33 students as they had been working collaboratively anyway to take the photos and ensure everyone was included. The films are being uploaded to the Albion secure YouTube channel and I’ll upload them to Edmodo (the platform we are using to communicate between kids and teachers) as well to share with the Cherokee schools.

To keep the momentum going with the Skyping and to allow the other group to participate we are trying to arrange for Blatch to use the end of their Wednesday ICT lesson (between 2-3pm) to Skype from school hopefully every week. This is being facilitated with Maryetta.


 (and how to correct them)

Saw this on the Edudemic Blog

Over the last few years K-12 schools and districts across the country have been investing heavily in iPads for classroom use. EdTechTeacher has been leading iPad professional development at many of these schools and we’ve seen firsthand how they approach iPad integration.

Read it in full here.