Tech-friendly teens overtaking schools, says Microsoft

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

  • Published
Computer screens
Image caption,
Teenagers are growing up immersed in technology - with 82% using Facebook daily, says Microsoft

Many teenagers are immersed in technology at home - but are failing to translate this into learning technology skills at school, claims Microsoft.

A survey from Microsoft found 82% of 16 to 18 year olds in education use the Facebook website every day.

But Microsoft's director of education, Steve Beswick, says within school there remains much "untapped potential" in how teenagers use technology.

Such a skills gap is a "major concern" for employers, says Mr Beswick.

He warns that pupils need to be able to leave school with "appropriate skills" in information technology that will be needed for the jobs market.

Pervasive technology

Speaking at the BETT Show for educational technology in London, Mr Beswick says teenagers' level of engagement with information technology at home is not being matched within school.

Although the survey suggests that one in five pupils use social networking to collaborate on school work, Microsoft says interest in technology at home is not being harnessed by schools.

The survey claims that 71% of teenagers believe they learn more about information technology outside of school than in formal ICT lessons.

"Rather than pushing back something like Facebook, it's a matter of finding out how it can work for learning," said Mr Beswick.

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Microsoft's Steve Beswick says school leavers need the IT skills wanted by employers

Social networking requires skills that would be useful to employers, he says, such as collaborating and interacting in a creative way.

It could also be used to develop communities of interest groups - and he suggests that it could be useful for teachers in subject areas to share ideas.

"Technology isn't the answer to everything. But it can be a useful tool, it can light up a subject," he says.

Earlier this week, head teachers complained that parents were using social networking websites to attack and bully their children's teachers.

There have been long standing concerns about pupils and teachers being "cyberbullied" through websites.

A survey for last year's National Family Week illustrated the significance of social networking for young people - particularly teenage girls.

It found that social networking was rated as one of the most influential things in the lives of teenage girls - an importance that was often underestimated by parents.

Microsoft points to research from last year showing how pervasive computers have become in young people's lives.

There are about 2.5 million computers in schools, 97% of 15 and 16 year olds have a computer and internet access at home and one in three has a computer in their bedroom.

Schools, facing tightening budgets, will also face tough choices about funding technology, with research last autumn suggesting that there are 365,000 "ineffective" computers in schools.

In terms of the next phase in educational technology, Mr Beswick suggests an expansion in "cloud computing" - in which schools would buy online services and support from a central provider, rather than holding their own servers and software.

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