Focus on Digital Competence.

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As early as 2000, European officials recognized the need to respond to globalization and a movement towards a knowledge-based society. In order to achieve that, the need was identified for a framework of basic skills that would function both as a measure of the level of proficiency in different areas pertinent to European citizens as well as a tool for setting goals for continuous personal development and lifelong learning.

This tool[i] was called “European Reference Framework on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning” and identified eight competences that are essential for personal achievement and growth, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment.

In particular, these were: communication in a mother tongue, communication in a foreign language, digital competence, mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology, learning to learn, social and civic competences, sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and expression.

In the process, the same recommendation developed a definition of two fundamental terms: competence and key competence. The former was defined as a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes whereas the latter was defined as those which all individuals need to perform and progress within the contexts of society, citizenship and employment. Furthermore, a set of four competences were considered essential for their direct impact on learning. These were: language, literacy, numeracy and information, and communication technologies.

Digital Competence (DigiComp) was further defined as “the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure, learning and communication”. [ii]

Digital competence is a transversal key competence which, as such, enables us to acquire other key competences (e.g., language, mathematics, learning to learn, cultural awareness). It is related to many of the 21st Century Skills which should be acquired by all citizens, to ensure their active participation in society and the economy.” [iii]

Another dimension of many of these competences was that they are transferable or transversal competences[iv]. More specifically, they are “independent of subjects” and are rather based on “cross-curricular objectives“. These competences relate to better management of one’s own learning, social and interpersonal relations and communication. From an educational point of view “they reflect a general shift of emphasis from teaching to learning.”

What research[v] into the nature and function of transversal competences indicated was a change in emphasis from knowledge to skills and attitudes, from curriculum input to output for learners. This change in focus requires a pedagogical transformation to sustain it as well as supportive assessment of key features in order to foster progress and development.

Further research[vi] recognized that, despite the development in the understanding of transversal key competences, two major challenges remained. First, “the need for a more strategic approach in supporting the key competences approach at school.” Secondly “the need to enhance the status of the transversal competences (digital, civic and entrepreneurship) as compared to the traditional subject-based competences.”

Digital Competence is considered as a human right[vii]. More specifically, “Digital Competence is both a requirement and a right of citizens, if they are to be functional in today’s society. However, it has been shown that citizens are not necessarily keeping up with the evolving needs derived from rapid technological change and uptake.” In other words, despite the obligation and need to exercise this right, citizens, regardless of their age and professional development, seem content with the level of development of the digital competence they have reached. Technological development progresses faster than the social, professional or educational environment responds in terms of requirements for the development of digital competence.

In terms of knowledge[viii], DigiComp requires and involves an understanding of the nature, role and opportunities of ICT in all contexts. In particular, this understanding refers to the use of key computer applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases, data storage and management, as well as the opportunities and risks offered by the internet and electronic communication.

In terms of skills[ix], DigiComp includes the ability to search, collect, process and use information and data in a critical and systematic way. In particular, this ability refers to the use of digital tools to produce, present and understand complex information as well as to access, search and use internet-based services.

In terms of attitudes[x], DigiComp requires a critical and reflective attitude towards available information and a responsible use of the interactive media. An interest in engaging in communities and networks for cultural, social and/or professional purposes also supports this competence.

From a technical perspective, the areas of digital competence that have been acknowledged are categorised as follows[xi]:

  1. Information: identify, locate, access, retrieve, store, organise and analyse digital information, judging its relevance and purpose.
  2. Communication: communicate in a digital environment, share resources through online tools, link with others and collaborate through digital tools, interact with and participate in communities and networks.
  3. Content-creation: Creation and editing of new content (from word processing to images and video); integration and re-elaboration of previous knowledge and content, creative expression, media outputs and programming.
  4. Safety: personal data protection, security measures, safe and sustainable use.
  5. Problem-solving: identify digital needs and resources, informed decisions on most appropriate digital tools according to the purpose or need, solve digital problems, update own and other’s competence.

One might argue that areas 1-3 are more local, i.e., they relate to specific activities or uses whereas 4-5 are more transversal, i.e., they apply to any digital activity. In order to assist learners realise their own level of digital competence, a self-assessment grid[xii] was developed utilising the 5 areas of digital competence described above along three proficiency levels, going from A (foundation level), to B (intermediate level) to C (advanced level).

In particular, “the five areas were used as the basis of the two main outputs of the project: the self-assessment grid and the detailed framework. According to the description of the areas, three proficiency levels were developed for each area, in an attempt to give a general overview of the area content, summarising the model at a more abstract, general level as in the CEFR for Languages[xiii]”.

In each row, several items can be recognised that correspond to the same competence. The example below focuses on the third area of digital competence for reasons that will be explained later.

 
  1. Foundation
 2. Intermediate  3. Advanced
Content creation I can produce simple digital content (e.g., text, tables, images, audio, etc.). I can make basic changes to the content that others have produced. I can modify some simple function of software and applications (apply basic settings). I know that some of the content I find can be covered by copyright. I can produce digital content in different formats (e.g., text, tables, images, audio, etc.). I can edit, refine and modify the content I or others have produced. I have basic knowledge of the differences between copyright, copy theft and creative commons and I can apply some licenses to the content I create. I can apply several modifications to software and applications (advanced settings, basic programme modifications). I can produce digital content in different formats, platforms and environments. I can use a variety of digital tools for creating original multimedia outputs. I can mash-up existing items of content to create new ones. I know how different types of licenses apply to the information and resources I use and create. I can interfere with (open) programmes, modify, change or write source code, I can code and programme in several languages, I understand the systems and functions that are behind programmes.

The skills associated with Digital Competence according to Bawden (2001) are as follows[xiv]:

  • the ability to make informed judgments about what is found online, which he equates to ‘the art of critical thinking’, the key to which is ‘forming a balanced assessment by distinguishing between content and its presentation’;
  • skills of reading and understanding in a dynamic and non-sequential hypertext environment;
  • knowledge assembly skills; building a ‘reliable information horde’ from diverse sources, with ‘the ability to collect and evaluate both fact and opinion, ideally without bias’;
  • searching skills, essentially based on Internet search engines;
  • managing the ‘multimedia flow’, using information filters and agents;
  • understanding of backing up traditional forms of content with networked tools;
  • wariness in judging validity and completeness of material referenced by hypertext links.
  • creating a ‘personal information strategy’ with selection of sources and delivery mechanisms;
  • an awareness of other people and our expanded ability [through networks] to contact them to discuss issues and get help;
  • being able to understand a problem and develop a set of questions that will solve that information need;

Content Creation [xv] is of particular interest to educators and employers as well as trainees and employees in that it “describes the ability to create and edit new content (from word processing to images and video); to integrate and re-elaborate previous knowledge and content; to produce creative expressions, media outputs and programming; to deal with and apply intellectual property rights and licenses.”[xvi]

It is also an area where systematic training, assessment and feedback can be provided within a broad range of educational and/or professional environments.

Competence areas Dimension 1 Competences Dimension 2
  1. Content creation
3.1 Developing content To create content in different formats including multimedia, to edit and improve content that s/he has created or that others have created, to express creatively through digital media and technologies
3.2 Integrating and re-elaborating To modify, refine and mash-up existing resources to create new, original and relevant content and knowledge
3.3 Copyright and Licences To understand how copyright and licences apply to information and content
3.4 Programming To apply settings, programme modification, programme applications, software, devices, to understand the principles of programming, to understand what is behind a programme

The same study lists the following examples in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes[xvii] for content creation:

Knowledge examples
  • Knows that digital content can be produced in a variety of forms
  • Knows which software/application fits better the kind of content s/he wants to create
  • Understands how meaning is produced through multimedia (text, images, audio, video)
Skills examples
  • Is able to use basic packages to create content in different forms (text, audio, numeric, images)
  • Is able to create knowledge representations (e.g., mind maps, diagrams) using digital media.
  • Is able to use a variety of media to express him/herself creatively (text, images, audio and movie).
  • Is able to edit the content in order to enhance the final output
Attitude examples
  • Is not content with commonly used forms of content creation but explores new ways and formats
  • Sees the potential of technologies and media for self-expression and knowledge creation
  • Appreciates the added value of new media for cognitive and creative processes
  • Is critical about knowledge production and consumption with media and technologies
  • Creates media content and expressions with confidence
  • Engages with creative content

Competences Map[xviii] For Greek Translations

Although not necessarily in this sequence, these are the main steps an educational organization needs to take in order to successfully prepare to deliver functional skills[xix]:

  • STEP 1 Develop a strategy and policy
  • STEP 2 Raise awareness
  • STEP 3 Conduct a skills audit
  • STEP 4 Consider the best delivery model
  • STEP 5 Review resources
  • STEP 6 Examine approaches to teaching, learning and assessment
  • STEP 7 Decide on an awarding organisation (AO)
  • STEP 8 Gain learner engagement

In terms of sequence, mother tongue, foreign language, Mathematics and ICT skills, it may be useful to consider the following: “Tackling mother tongue first helps to develop a learner’s confidence. Learners also have the opportunity to acquire the research, analytical and problem solving skills that are required by all three functional skills.

Developing their reading and comprehension skills means they are better prepared to cope with questions in the mathematics and ICT assessments”[xx].

In terms of trainers’ level of ability, we can paraphrase from the above study. At present there is no requirement for digital competence teachers to hold specific qualifications in teaching functional skills, although qualifications in teaching literacy, ESOL or numeracy would be relevant. It’s up to the organisation to satisfy themselves that teachers have a suitable level of competence[xxi].

Table 2: Available indicators for measuring digital competence[xxii]
Competence area: Indicator
   
  1. Content creation
  • Creating websites or blogs
  • Writing a computer programme using a specialised programming language
  • Using copy and paste tools to duplicate or move information within a document
  • Creating electronic presentations with presentation software (e.g., slides), including e.g., images, sound, video or charts
  • Using basic arithmetic formulae to add, subtract, multiply or divide figures in a spread sheet

In order for any research to be valid in its findings and reliable in its recommendations, it needs to make reference to as large a population specimen as possible and specify actions and uses as closely as possible. In particular, the need to measure digital skills was identified as a fundamental requirement. The indicators used cover elements of a number of the competences described under content creation. They measured:

Table 3: Indicators and aggregation method used
Content creation
  • Using copy and paste tools to duplicate or move information within a document [Basic]
  • Using basic arithmetical formulae to add, subtract, multiply or divide figures in a spread sheet [Basic]
  • Creating electronic presentations with presentation software (e.g., slides), including e.g., images, sound, video or charts [Above basic]
  • Creating websites or blogs [Above, basic]
  • Writing a computer programme using a specialised programming language [Above basic]
None (if individuals have done none of the listed items)Basic (if one or more “basic” items but none of the “above basic” items have been tackled)Above basic (if at least one of the “above basic” items have been tackled)

It is interesting to notice that the creation of electronic presentations was one of the indicators used. Furthermore, it was one of the three items identified as ‘above basic’ in the difficulty scale.

Additional measurements are available from Eurostat. More specifically, the Eurostat Community Survey[xxiii] on ICT Usage asks questions related to either 6 different internet or computer related skills. Individuals who have performed 1 or 2 of these tasks are considered to be low skilled; those with 3-4 are medium skilled and those with 5-6 are high skilled.

As this year’s (2012) survey contained a special module on ICT skills, this year the survey also contained questions for both internet and computer related skills. Instead of the usual 6 questions on either computer or internet related activities, this year there were 10 computer related activities and 8 internet related activities. The extra questions related to:

  • Transferring files between computer and other devices
  • Modifying or verifying the configuration parameters of software applications
  • Creating electronic presentations with presentation software (e.g., slides)
  • Installing a new or replacing an old operating system

Table 9

Computer skills Average % of individualsin EU27 Level of difficulty
Copy or move a file or folder 63% Low
Use copy and paste tools to duplicate or move information within a document 61% Low
Transfer files between computer and other devices 51% Low
Use basic arithmetical formulas in a spreadsheet 43% Medium
Compress (zip) files 37% Medium
Connect and install new devices, e.g., a modem 43% Medium
Create electronic presentations with presentation software (e.g., slides) 31% Medium
Modify or verify the configuration parameters of software applications 26% Medium/High
Write a computer program using a specialised programming language 10% High
Install a new or replace an old operating system 21% High

Source: Eurostat

A further study of the use of ICT in schools [xxiv] in February 2012, concluded the following:

  1. Teachers’ self-declared confidence levels in ICT skills such as word processing, using email, preparing a multimedia presentation and downloading and installing software have increased in most cases.
  2. However, there is no overall relationship between high levels of ICT provision and student and teacher confidence, use and attitudes. (p. 155)
  3. Additionally, there is a need or opportunity to harness high levels of use of personally-owned mobile phones.
  4. Students’ use of ICT for learning during lessons is related to teachers’ confidence level in their own ICT competences, their opinion about the relevance of ICT use for Teaching & Learning and their access to ICT at school.

The same study also mentioned that “Operational ICT skills are the fundamental skills needed to use generic ICT tools (e.g., Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) to function in the information society and in working life. They therefore include key computer and internet skills”.

For the purposes of this survey, teachers’ and students’ operational ICT skills comprise the following: “production of text using a word processing programme; capturing and editing digital photos, movies or other graphics; editing online text containing internet links and images; creating a database; editing a questionnaire online; emailing a file to someone/another student or teacher; organizing computer files in folders and sub-folders; using a spreadsheet; using a spreadsheet to plot a graph; creating a presentation with simple animation functions; creating a presentation with video or audio clips; and downloading and installing software onto a computer”.

In conclusion, presentation skills within the area of content creation and digital competence in general, are fundamental. As such they need to be acknowledged and incorporated within a framework of transversal skills development and training. It is also the obligation of society to provide opportunities for the exercise of this human right both with the provision of specific frameworks and the recognition of precise levels of competence development.

In terms of training this is a classic case of “thinking globally and acting locally”! The European Commission [xxv] has identified the following as a need for the enhancement of digital skills: “Action 59: Prioritise digital literacy and skills in the ‘New skills for jobs’ flagship.” Why? Well, because the labour market is changing and because IT training is crucial, especially in terms of lifelong-learning. This situation is aggravated by the lack of competent ICT practitioners and competence validation tools. There is a need to educate European citizens in digital media and attract youngsters to ICT education. Skills should be benchmarked on an equal footing across Europe.


[i] RECOMMENDATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL, of 18 December 2006, on key competences for lifelong learning, (2006/962/EC) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:394:0010:0018:en:PDF

[ii] Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks, Anusca Ferrari, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, 2012

[iii] DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, Author: Anusca Ferrari, Editors: Yves Punie and Barbara N. Brečko, 2013, Report EUR 26035 EN, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, preface

[iv] Transversal competences and school involvement: Learning to Learn Research in Schools in the UK, Steven Higgins

Professor of Education, University of Durham, http://www.indire.it/lucabas/lkmw_file/scuola_europa/seminari/3_Transversal_competences.pdf

[v] Transversal competences and school involvement: Learning to Learn Research in Schools in the UK, Steven Higgins

Professor of Education, University of Durham, http://www.indire.it/lucabas/lkmw_file/scuola_europa/seminari/3_Transversal_competences.pdf

[vi] European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2012. Developing Key Competences at School in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities for Policy. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

[vii] Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks, Anusca Ferrari, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, 2012

[viii] Measuring Digital Skills across the EU: EU wide indicators of Digital Competence, May 2014

[ix] Measuring Digital Skills across the EU: EU wide indicators of Digital Competence, May 2014

[x] Measuring Digital Skills across the EU: EU wide indicators of Digital Competence, May 2014

[xi] DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, Author: Anusca Ferrari, Editors: Yves Punie and Barbara N. Brečko, 2013, Report EUR 26035 EN, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

[xii] DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, Author: Anusca Ferrari, Editors: Yves Punie and Barbara N. Brečko, 2013, Report EUR 26035 EN, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

[xiii] DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, Author: Anusca Ferrari, Editors: Yves Punie and Barbara N. Brečko, 2013, Report EUR 26035 EN, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

[xiv] Mapping Digital Competence: Towards a Conceptual Understanding, Kirsti Ala-Mutka, JRC67075 – 2011, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, European Union, 2011

[xv] Measuring Digital Skills across the EU: EU wide indicators of Digital Competence, May 2014

[xvi] DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, Author: Anusca Ferrari, Editors: Yves Punie and Barbara N. Brečko, 2013, Report EUR 26035 EN, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

[xvii] DIGCOMP: A Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe, Author: Anusca Ferrari, Editors: Yves Punie and Barbara N. Brečko, 2013, Report EUR 26035 EN, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies

[xviii] Road to excellence in the training Quality process. Key competences of the trainer tutor in the teaching-learning process (ROQET), Leonardo DA Vinci Project Reference: 2010-1-ES1-LEO05-21238

[xix] Moving from Key Skills to Functional Skills: A step by step guide for independent training providers, Learning and Skills Improvement Service, 2012

[xx] Moving from Key Skills to Functional Skills: A step by step guide for independent training providers, Learning and Skills Improvement Service, 2012

[xxi] Moving from Key Skills to Functional Skills: A step by step guide for independent training providers, Learning and Skills Improvement Service, 2012

[xxii] Measuring Digital Skills across the EU: EU wide indicators of Digital Competence, May 2014

[xxiii] Digital Agenda for Europe Scoreboard 2012, EUROPEAN COMMISSION Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology (CONNECT), June 2012

[xxiv] Survey of Schools: ICT in Education, Final Study Report BENCHMARKING ACCESS, USE AND ATTITUDES TO TECHNOLOGY IN EUROPE’S SCHOOLS, European Commission, February 2013

[xxv] Digital Agenda for Europe, A Europe 2020 Initiative, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/pillar-vi-enhancing-digital-literacy-skills-and-inclusion/action-59-prioritise-digital-literacy-and