At the first meeting of the APPG for Digital Skills, Tim Scratcherd, operations director, presented on Digital Skills. Here is a summary:

What are digital skills?

Digital skills are skills with digital tools.  Having them means being able to use digital tools to get things done.

Digital tools are simply applications or apps.  The core generic tools remain word processors/desktop publishers for all forms of written expression, spreadsheets for arithmetic, visual representations and data analysis, and web browsers for finding things out and communicating.  Graphics and presentation tools are also very important.

Why are they important?

Someone with digital skills and access to digital tools is vastly more effective in getting things done than someone without them.   Indeed most if not all jobs require some digital skills.

It is a common misconception that digital skills can just be picked up by playing with tools.   While this is true for naive uses, all powerful digital tools need to be learned, and learned to be used safely.   Indeed the core tools are more like toolboxes, where many diverse skills are required to get the most out of them.

What else do you need?

Digital skills by themselves are not enough, when it comes to actually getting things done.    Tasks and problems are always in contexts, and knowledge within these contexts is always required.  Being able to use digital skills and contextual knowledge to get things done can be called digital capability.

Where are we now?

The teaching and learning of digital capability is vastly underdeveloped in formal education.   It is a common misconception that the study of Computing as a subject meets this learning need.   In practice the vast majority of children learn only programming in their study of Computing, and while this is a really worthwhile object of study, the vast majority of children are not going to be programmers.

We are not preparing our children for life in a digital age.  It is not enough to tinker with the current offering, which will simply add to the current burden on schools. A radical rethink of the whole formal learning experience is needed.