The Education Authority in Northern Ireland aims to advance digital literacy for 390,000 students with Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is now available to all student and teachers in Northern Ireland

Digital learning has long been regarded as a critical skill for the next generation, due to technology transforming how we communicate and express ourselves. Over the past year in particular, digital has also been the primary way we as individuals and professionals collaborate with our friends, families and colleagues. Making it a critical skill for everyone, regardless of generation, demographic or ability.

Yet a recent study by the Learning and Work Institute, commissioned by WorkSkills UK, found that less than half of British employers believe students are leaving full-time education with the advanced digital skills needed to enter the workplace. The think tank has warned that the UK is heading towards a ‘catastrophic’ digital skills shortage, and that these skills are essential to economic recovery following the pandemic.

As this news came to light, we kicked off our partnership with the Education Authority in Northern Ireland to make Adobe Spark available to all learners and teachers in primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland – that’s 1,049 schools and more than 390,000 users. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to enable Creativity for All, which means working towards a mission of making digital literacy and creativity available to everyone, irrespective of their age, background, or where they live.

The Education Authority is making great strides in helping to reshape its education system to better reflect a digital world. As technology partner, Adobe Spark, which allows users to create impactful graphics, web pages and short videos in minutes, will provide young people in primary and secondary schools with a digital application they can engage with wherever they are – including both at-home and in school.

Adobe Spark will also be used by teachers across the country to further engage their students and bring to life projects across every subject, at every grade level. From infographics for Learning for Life & Work to math flashcards, the Education Authority has an ambition to ensure learning in the classroom remains engaging, relevant and relatable. Especially since up to 82 percent of young people today are using social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, which demonstrates the importance of digital when it comes to creative expression and connecting with friends, peers and networks.

Paving the way for education reform

Preparing young people to thrive in the workplace is one of the most important responsibilities of the education system. While large-scale change can’t happen overnight, Northern Ireland has developed a progressive, digital skills framework from Foundation Stage to A-level and beyond. It wants to ensure digital skills are addressed in a strategic manner, to ensure children have the tools to enable them to take part in digital aspects of society, to further their learning and to build their own digital technology.

In Northern Ireland, digital literacy is now taught as a core subject alongside numeracy and literacy, something I believe is a pioneering move that will bring many benefits to students across the country. We’ve been working closely with the Education Authority on its digital strategy with the aim of creating a generation of highly skilled, digitally literate young people who are well equipped to enter the future workplace.

C2k is a Northern Ireland-wide information and communications network operated on behalf of the Education Authority, and is responsible for providing all grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland with managed ICT services to support curriculum.

“The gap between the rising demand for digital skills and the supply of sufficiently trained people will widen over time without urgent action. It’s crucial that kids have access to effective resources, both inside and outside school, to support the development of their digital skills. Adobe Spark is a valuable tool that encourages children to handle and communicate information and will help advance their digital literacy from a young age.”

Damian Harvey, interim head of C2k

Creativity in the classroom

Our journey to support countries across the UK started with the Welsh Government in 2020, when it became the first country to roll out Adobe Spark on a national level. It has since supported 550,000 students and teachers in need of simple-to-use, but effective online tools during the pandemic. With Northern Ireland now following in its footsteps, nearly a million students are benefiting from Adobe Spark that enables users to communicate ideas via visual stories in the midst of a challenging learning environments.

By integrating creative teaching methods across the curriculum, teachers can create more enjoyable lessons, more engaged students and improve performance when it comes to exam and coursework results. Importantly, our ambition with Creativity for All is to arm teachers and students with the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed in today’s digital economy and society. In particular, supporting the digital literacy of young people and preparing them for a future where creativity is at the heart of their storytelling abilities, is a purpose we stand strong by and one that will help the next generation succeed, not only in the workplace but also a digital-first world.