Charlie Love, Education Support Officer (Learning Technologies), Aberdeen City Council

Written by Alan Robertson on 23 October 2015 in Feature

For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland

Charlie Love (@charlie_love)

Job Title/Organisation: Education Support Officer (Learning Technologies), Aberdeen City Council and Co-Chair of the Technical and Operational Advisory Group for the Digital Learning and Teaching Programme at Scottish Government

What does your role involve?

Supporting schools to make the best use of digital technology for learning and teaching. With our team at Aberdeen City we are establishing a vision for 21st century learning and teaching and the connected technology rich environment to support that. We are also focused on developing digital skills effectively with both our learners and educators.

I’m also co-chair of the Technical and Operational Advisory group providing guidance to the Scottish Government's Digital Learning and Teaching programme. 

What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?

Changing the culture and mindset around the use of digital tools for learning and teaching. We have to stop seeing the use of digital technologies as a bolt on - it has to become embedded in the practice of our educators. Every child should be able to use great digital tools for learning and be supported by his/her teacher, in and out of school. 

The updated inspection framework for schools, How Good Is Our School, has a significant emphasis on digital tools, digital innovation and digital literacy. This raises the importance of digital technologies in school and local authority improvement plans. It’s never been more important that our young people and educators have access to appropriate digital technologies - hardware, software and services - and the skills to use them.

The challenge is to make the most appropriate technologies available: simplifying workflow, enabling creativity and ensuring that every child has the technology and skills they need to progress, while ensuring our staff are empowered to lead learning in the digital space effectively. We can only achieve that by changing the culture.

What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?

There are so many to choose from but most recently the deployment of Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to a number of schools within Aberdeen City has been of significant benefit. GAFE tools have had a positive impact on the experience of pupils and teachers: simplifying the management of tasks, the sharing of teaching resources, assessment and feedback to pupils while also embracing the best the cloud can offer. 

Classroom works the way teachers do and provides pupils with a space where they can focus on their learning, accessible from just about any mobile or computing device. It really is moving learning and teaching firmly into the digital space in a way that is equitable and accessible for all. This, partnered with the use of Chromebooks - low-cost laptop computers linked to the Google services - provides an efficient, cost-effective platform for learning.

How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?

Curriculum for Excellence was a good start but we need to revisit the technologies area of the curriculum and re-balance it towards digital skills and especially computing science. Learners in our schools need significant time to experience and develop digital skills and particularly coding. We need to do this in a way that retains the creativity and engagement inherent in this area.

I’m a committee member of Computing At School (Scotland), which has been highlighting the significant decline in Computing Science teachers in our schools over the last few years. Twelve per cent of secondary schools do not have a Computing Science teacher so we’ve got to address that issue if we want to develop digital and computational skills for the future.

Which new technology excites you the most?

Minecraft because I think it exemplifies where we need to be to encourage young people into careers in the digital industries. It’s that creative environment where you can build anything and you can do it with others or on your own. There are just so many ways to engage with it. 

Projects such as that led by CultureTECH in Northern Ireland or the Dundee Waterfront Project (lead by Derek Robertson of the University of Dundee) are great examples of the use of Minecraft that we could replicate across Scotland.

What's your favourite app and why?

Zite. I use it to collate all the news feeds, research, blogs etc that I’m interested in.

What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?

I’m hoping it will be the year Scotland regains its position as a world leader in digital learning and teaching. We need to re-establish the sector leading curricular practice we had in areas such as games-based learning and coding.

As a nation we were so far ahead of others with the Consolarium project and the initial vision for Glow. I’m very much hoping the current consultation on a Digital Learning and Teach Strategy for Scotland, together with the focus on digital technology in How Good is Our School, will make 2016 the year we take big steps towards regaining our position as innovators at the forefront of technology for learning.

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