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Last updated: 12.11.13

Digital literacy 'as important as reading and writing'

Digital skills are becoming increasingly important to education, with many experts claiming they are as essential as literacy and numeracy.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced earlier this year that from September 2014, schoolchildren will be taught computer science and programming alongside basic IT skills.

According to Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, becoming literate in technology is equivalent to reading, writing and maths, and this "fourth literacy" needs to be seen as mainstream.

"Not just at the level of the very basics of operating a computer but actually understanding how the code and mechanics behind it work," he was quoted by the Telegraph as saying.

There are various programmes being rolled out across the country to improve digital literacy in educational faculties, including Code Club, a volunteer-led project that is hoping to reach 25 per cent of primary schools by the end of 2015.

Participants work their way up from the first stage - named Scratch - until they can begin learning Python, the programming language, using basic tools to create games and animations.

It is becoming more apparent that online platforms are central to kids' everyday lives, with a recent survey carried out by Pearson finding that one in six 15-year-olds use social media for careers advice, as opposed to one per cent of the same age group who prefer information from books.

Another area of great importance for the education sector is training teachers in digital literacy, as many of them want to use learning technology like video clips and tablets in lessons, but are unsure how to get the most out of them.

Mr Surman remarked that people who don't understand how the digital world functions are without the creative and innovation skills that are going to be vital to the future economy.

He said: "The ability to embed learning digital skills inside what we might think of as traditional skills, across the whole curriculum, is certainly something to think about."

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