Designing assessments for a digitalised world

by Claudia Bickford-Smith, 10 November 2016
Claudia Bickford-Smith explores how we can equip children for the digital world and create a 'walled-garden' for children to learn and play safely. 

What should our responsibilities be when it comes to designing curricula and assessments in an increasingly digitalised world? The Westminster Forum's conference on Technology, Child Development, iRights and Policy last week helped to clarify key issues around this question for me. What are the rules and how are we equipping children for the real world? How do we empower children to navigate their digital world and what do we think Children's Rights should be in a Digital World? 

I was particularly interested in the discussion about the responsibilities of service providers in drawing up a social contract with parents and their children. Uppermost in my mind was the role we have to play in ensuring that the positive aspects of online resources are recognised and developed so that our learners benefit from well designed, enriched and enhanced learning and assessment experiences and, ultimately, improved educational outcomes. 

Some service providers are leading the way by turning on parental controls by default and designing a 'walled garden' of age-appropriate content for children. Design principles are carefully set out with user interfaces, designed with children, including a built-in bed-time mode and robust search functionality which only throws up the right content. They include automatic switch-offs between 11pm and 6am of services aimed at young children. Digital Leaders' Programmes in UK schools are teaching learners to be responsible via modular online programmes with badges for achievement. 

The immediacy and effectiveness of enhanced and enriched learning is being researched, with Durham and Edinburgh Universities reporting that 0-2 year olds are learning by watching other children learning online, and 3-5 year olds using educational apps (letters and numbers). Play, creativity and learning online can and should include opportunities for learning literacy and numeracy. 

There is no doubt that we could have a positive role to play in encouraging children to take the lead in engaging safely and positively with technology in the light of the new Children's Digital Manifesto. In a 'post truth' world where 'fake news' abounds online, how do we teach our learners how to deconstruct what they are confronted with? Our curricula could focus on how to be a good Digital Citizen with a strong sense of self and agency in the world. Media Literacy and confident critical thinking should go hand in hand, after all. 

Claudia Bickford-Smith 
Director, Development, Cambridge International Examinations

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