Digital Participation – A National Inquiry by The Royal Society of Edinburgh


I recently attended the Royal Society launch of an inquiry into digital participation across Scotland. The inquiry is independent and is focussed on “Spreading the Benefits of Digital Participation”. The inquiry is being chaired by Professor Michael Fourman and Professor Alan Alexander, with valued input from experts in the field. The aim is to explore how Scotland can exploit the societal and economic benefits of digital technology.

I am very interested in how the inquiry will measure the participation of our children and young people – and the extent to which education will feature.

The digital classroom is evolving. Our children and young people are exposed to emerging technologies which are becoming increasingly popular in supporting education. As social determinism is influenced by today’s learners, evidence suggests that media networking, collaboration and online course delivery will shape tomorrow’s classroom. Those engaged in learning through the use of portable devices tend to learn faster than their peers, and attainment results can be improved as a consequence. Children have access to smartphones and tablet computers at home, and there is growing appetite to allow personal devices to be used within schools. In a connected world, it is essential that we provide the next generation with the skills and expertise needed to capitalise opportunity and enter employment. As facilitators of learning, it is now the teacher’s role to introduce technological context to students and the very definition of educational technology is transforming. The emphasis in teaching with technology has shifted to learning with technology. Student-centred approaches to teaching and the rapid introduction of wireless technology has created a fertile landscape for the growth of innovative pedagogy and practice. Government and educational organisations are taking note of this brave new world and as curricula is reformed, new policies are being developed to promote creativity and anticipate the future needs and aspirations of our children and young people.

The inquiry will remain focussed on three key questions:

  • How can digital technologies benefit our communities?
  • What do communities, businesses and organisations need, to be able to participate in this changing society?
  • How can we ensure that digital technologies help to narrow the social divide, rather than widen it, and the economic opportunities they provide are best realised to support sustainable, flourishing communities across Scotland?

Broadly speaking, the inquiry outcome will make recommendations on how to enagage and support people to the benefit of society. It will do this via 6 strands:

  • Study data and identify barriers to participation;
  • Assess the role that digital technologies play in enterprise and business;
  • Evaluate public services and explore the risks and challenges;
  • Consider the role that digital technologies play within the third sector;
  • Examine and evaluate motivators and levers that influence behaviour;
  • Consider how to mitigate the risks and communicate opportunities.

The inquiry will also comment on the future strategic development of Scotland’s information infrastructure.

Sources: Inquiry Launch Event and Press Release. Further information can be sought from http://www.rse.org.uk/ 

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