Primary Computing and Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy in Primary Schools

Digital Literacy

Teaching Digital Literacy

Now that Computing has been statutory in primary schools since the introduction of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 in 2014, many schools feel that they have got to grips with the objectives and have a view, if not a plan, of how to meet them.  With computer science being at the core of the curriculum, its perhaps easy for schools to neglect the other aspects of it – including digital literacy.

The National Curriculum states – “Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.” (DfE, 2014).  Computing in and of itself cannot achieve this, it needs to be planned for, facilitated and developed.  I’ve long claimed that computing is not just about code (see this previous post) but I’m increasingly concerned that this is pretty much all that’s being covered in many primary schools.  To equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and understanding that will enable them to become confident digital citizens and participate fully in the modern digital world, schools need to address how they are covering all aspects of the computing curriculum.

Much is made of children today being digital natives, but possessing the skills to use a wide range of technology is not the same as being digitally literate.  Many pupils struggle to use digital resources critically, analytically and purposefully.  So, what is digital literacy?  There are a number definitions, but I believe that it is the ability to creatively and critically use digital tools and technologies to express yourself, research, communicate, collaborate and share.  Becoming digitally literate does not come naturally to children, it needs to be guided, nurtured and taught.  This became apparent recently when teaching a new unit from our scheme for Year 2 pupils (aged 6-7) for developing digital literacy by creating interactive eBooks with Book Creator.  It involves internet research and I was struck by the children’s implicit trust in the first returned search result and desire to copy, verbatim, the information given without attempting to make meaning from it.  I adapted the unit to add further support materials and explicitly address the need to critically analyse the source as well as the information itself.

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Schools need to ensure that the computing schemes of work; computing learning journeys or computing planning they use are placing emphasis on, not just coding, but in helping pupils develop the understanding, knowledge and skills that will set them on a path towards becoming confident, creative, competent digital citizens.  We have a duty in England to deliver pupil’s computing entitlement and, as (Hague and Payton) state “…if formal education seeks to prepare young people to make sense of the world and to thrive socially, intellectually and economically, then it cannot afford to ignore the social and cultural practices of digital literacy that enable people to make the most of their multiple interactions with digital technology and media.”.


Hague, C. and S. Payton (2010) Digital literacy across the curriculum. Bristol: Futurelab.

O’Kane, L (2016) iCompute for Primary Schools – A Whole School Primary Computing Scheme of Work. iCompute Teaching Ltd.



About Liane O'Kane

Liane is a Computer Scientist (BSc (Hons)), Software Engineer & author of iCompute which supports schools with a computing curriculum and resources for teaching computing in the EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. ERA Awards Finalist 2016-2021, BETT Awards 2014-2018. Featured on BBC Bitesize for Primary Computing and The Hour of Code (
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