Teaching English in a Digital World

Dec 10, 2018

The digital world that we now find ourselves teaching in has been developing and changing at an exponential rate, showing no signs of slowing down. The majority of children now live out a large proportion of their lives across a range of social medias. They watch television through apps on their phones, rather than gathering around the rectangular black thing in the corner (or on the wall, if you’re fancy) of the living room. Outside of school, children aren’t writing with pen and paper, but typing with on-screen keyboards and via voice recognition. Failure to acknowledge this reality, and thus develop our teaching alongside these advancements, is a disservice to our pupils. We need to offer all the necessary skills required to meet the objectives and criteria set out by the National Curriculum, as well as facilitating successful communication in this technologically advancing world.


To accomplish this does not require massive upheaval to our current teaching and learning. Rather, small adjustments to context is what is required. The skills and objectives that our children need to acquire are laid out in the National Curriculum, but how we convey these skills and encourage children to master them is down to us as teaching professionals. Making our teaching more relatable to the lives of our pupils can only be empowering, engaging and beneficial to them. A large percentage of the reading and writing that children undertake is on device or incorporates technology. As a result of exposure to an ever-increasing myriad of websites, computer games and social media, children want to become Instagramers and YouTubers when they grow up. This is not something to be scared of or to shy away from. This is something that can be embraced and utilised to engage them with the English curriculum. Making it relatable and placing learning in a meaningful context. Instead of saying ‘You need to learn to read and write to get a job or go to university,’ we can say, ‘Okay, so you want to be a YouTuber. To do this, you need this set of skills.’


Reading, writing, SPaG and spoken language are intrinsic to everything we do in life. They are the cornerstones of how we interact with each other and the world around us. And, in this digital world, it could be argued that they are more important than ever before. So how do we look to connect the dots between the English curriculum and digital technology? When our focus is reading, let’s use iPads, ebooks and websites as a resource. If we need to create a piece of writing, then this can be done digitally, using iPads and laptops – and not just on Microsoft Word. Spoken language, performances, presenting ideas and debates can all be done as before, but why not film it? Why not use a microphone to record it? You’ve then got a recording you can watch back or listen to. This can then be critiqued by peers and, most importantly of all (!) can be evidenced to show a pupil’s understanding of a topic.


For most teachers, I think these digital alterations to lessons and activities will come with ease, and many of you will be making these connections already. But what about the technophobes of the world? . There is an increasing array of resources to support your melding of Computing and English. Websites such as Purple Mash provide digital writing structures, complete with word banks and support videos. Apps such as Splice, iMovie and Adobe Spark Video make video creation and editing so easy a child (or even a teacher) could do it. Plus, there are brilliant initiatives such as A Tale Unfolds, offering ready made resources that combine your teaching of Literacy objectives alongside Computing skills. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. With developments in technology, we have also seen a growth in resources and software to make our lives as teachers easier. Don’t be afraid of the digital world. Embrace it and see how your pupils flourish.     

Written by Ian Pyne, Curriculum Consultant, hi-impact