Growing up digital

Researchers: Angela McFarlane

Project overview


This report examines how digital technologies are used in schools to enhance learning, and identifies research questions to inform better practice and policy.

The rapid growth in the use of digital technologies has had a transformational effect on our economy and society. Such technologies are now fundamental for large swathes of the workforce and people’s lives are increasingly digitalised and connected, with computers and algorithms mediating many daily activities. The acquisition and use of digital skills underpin participation in the labour market, and in consumer, social and civic life. How has the education system responded to this?

The requirement for young people to develop digital competency and fluency drove changes to the curriculum introduced in England from 2014, with Computing becoming mandatory up to age 16. Concerns have been raised about the implementation of this major curriculum reform, including a 2017 Royal Society report that highlighted challenges around the capacity of the teaching workforce to deliver on the aspirations of reforms. As such, the recent establishment of a National Centre for Computing Education, focused on improving teaching across English primary and secondary schools, is a welcome development.

We must also consider the efficacy of information and communication technologies for teaching and learning. As the Education Endowment Foundation (2019) and others have found, putting technology into schools does not in itself boost young people’s learning or enhance the skills of teachers in improving learning outcomes. The integration of technology with pedagogical approaches and a clear understanding of the purpose of technology in the classroom are essential. Overall, despite all the activity and investment, there is no shared view of what the digital education agenda is aiming to achieve and what the priorities should be for policy-makers and practitioners. In a context of relatively rapid change in what is taught, how it is taught and why, it is particularly difficult to ensure that policy and practice are informed by high quality evidence.

We commissioned this report to clear the ground, assess the existing evidence base, and identify key questions and issues for future research. Professor Angela McFarlane’s wideranging experience at the interface between policy, practice and research made her ideally placed to undertake this exercise. In producing this report, she has consulted closely with the Foundation and a range of other stakeholders with relevant expertise.

The report provides a significant contribution to the debate around computing education and digital skills, exposing challenges for a field that appears to want to move rapidly from problems to solutions. It also provides pertinent guidance for those seeking to improve the evidence base around the cornerstones of educational reform: curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and teacher supply and development.

The use and impact of digital technologies is a priority for the Nuffield Foundation in our work to advance social well-being. We hope this report will act as a stimulus for well-directed and high-quality research proposals for the Foundation and other funders, that can improve the evidence base and inform policy and practice on education in the digital society.

Team


  • Angela McFarlane

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Head of Student Programmes
    Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
New

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Competitive effects of free schools on student outcomes in neighbouring schools

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2020

Measuring the disadvantage attainment gap in 16-19 education

View project
Early years worker sitting at table with children
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Teacher supply, shortages and working conditions in England and Wales

View project
Teenage-pupil-wearing-woolly-hat-writes-on-whiteboard-The-influence-of-headteachers-on-their-schools-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The influence of headteachers on their schools

View project
Two young girls being taught fractions and decimals, learning from a school workbook together
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Teaching fractions and decimals to children aged 3 to 11

View project
New

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Early years worker sitting at table with children
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
Two young girls being taught fractions and decimals, learning from a school workbook together
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Teaching fractions and decimals to children aged 3 to 11

View project
Teenage-pupil-wearing-woolly-hat-writes-on-whiteboard-The-influence-of-headteachers-on-their-schools-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The influence of headteachers on their schools

View project
Young-child-blurred-in-background-plays-with-abacus-in-foreground-Early-years-employment-pathways-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2020

A systematic review of early years degrees and employment pathways

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Teacher supply, shortages and working conditions in England and Wales

View project
man reading picture book to baby
In progress

Education | 2019 - 2022

Do infants learn new words from educational picture books?

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
New

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
New

Justice | 2020 - 2022

Youth custody: Educational influences and labour market consequences

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Competitive effects of free schools on student outcomes in neighbouring schools

View project
Teenage-pupil-wearing-woolly-hat-writes-on-whiteboard-The-influence-of-headteachers-on-their-schools-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The influence of headteachers on their schools

View project
Two young girls being taught fractions and decimals, learning from a school workbook together
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Teaching fractions and decimals to children aged 3 to 11

View project
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2020

Measuring the disadvantage attainment gap in 16-19 education

View project
Early years worker sitting at table with children
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Teacher supply, shortages and working conditions in England and Wales

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2019 - 2020

Valuing data: foundations for data policy

View project
Maths resit students taking exam
Reported

Education | 2019 - 2020

A new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2018

GCSE and A-level results day project

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2020

Teaching reading: an integrated programme for deaf & hearing children

View project
Reported

Welfare | 2018 - 2019

Overview of the major ethical issues arising from data, algorithms and AI

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2019

Developing a sustainable intervention for disadvantaged children

View project
Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2017 - 2018

Visualising data in care proceedings

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Educational attainment of children in need & children in care

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Mathematics in Further Education Colleges (MiFEC)

View project
Reported

Education | Welfare | 2017 - 2019

Undermatch in higher education: prevalence, drivers and outcomes

View project
Teacher and young schoolgirl in classroom look at building blocks brain training game together
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2019

Trialling an executive function training intervention for preschoolers

View project
Search projects

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

Profile

COVID-19 response

Nuffield-funded social scientists are conducting COVID-19 research in real-time, to capture people’s experiences of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic.