In January the European Commission launched their Digital Education Action Plan. The plan has 3 main priorities, which are outlined below:
- Making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning
- Developing relevant digital competences and skills for the digital transformation
- Improving education through better data analysis and foresight
The Commission recognises that there is a need to make better use of digital technology for teaching and learning and this is to be applauded. However, for this to occur will require education systems to engage in more transformational change. We are inundated with reports that provide a rationale for why we need our schools to design new learning experiences for learners, that incorporate digital technologies. Yet, all too often, systems are slow to make such changes and hence many systems are still very traditional, with teachers ‘delivering’ information to their learners, using traditional modes of delivery such as textbooks.
What we need is greater experimentation in this area so schools and key constituents, such as teachers, students and parents, can witness what these transformations look like. H2 Learning has been lucky to participate in some of these experiments in recent years through our involvement in projects such as EUFolio and ATS2020.
At a recent dissemination event in the Killashee House Hotel I heard from Irish teachers and students from the ATS2020 project about their experiences of using digital technology to transform teaching and learning. The project has created a range of resources that schools can use to embed Key Skills or 21st Century Skills into their teaching and learning practices.
While the Digital Education Action Plan has 3 priorities I think the first one, Making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning, is key. Teachers engage in teaching and learning activities on a daily basis and we need to enable them to make the changes that policy makers and papers are calling for. The evidence is there that we need change, but still many schools are slow to change and we need to ask, why is this is the case?
The Digital Education Action Plan is learning has identified 3 actions to move things forward in relation to this priority:
Making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning
- Tackle the connectivity divide between EU Member States regarding the uptake of very high capacity broadband in all European schools by: (i) raising awareness of the benefits for schools and available funding opportunities; (ii) supporting connectivity i.e. through a voucher scheme focusing on disadvantaged areas and ensuring full implementation of the toolkit for rural areas; (iii) publishing data about progress.
- Support the digital readiness of both general and vocational schools by strengthening their digital capacity and by making the SELFIE self-assessment tool reach one million teachers, trainers and learners by end of 2019 in all EU Member States and the Western Balkans; promote a mentoring scheme at national/regional level, supported by an EU-level awareness-raising platform.
- Provide a framework for issuing digitally-certified qualifications and validating digitally-acquired skills that are trusted, multilingual and can be stored in professional profiles (CVs) such as Europass. The framework will be fully aligned with the European, Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF) and the European Classification of Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO).
While all of these are very valid, surely, we also need to see greater change in terms of education and training policies across Europe, so schools and teachers are empowered and supported to embed digital technology in their educational practices. This requires leadership and buy-in from across the system and educational strategies, such as the Digital Strategy for Schools, to underpin this change. The Commission recognises the strides Ireland is making in this regard and stated the following in a recent report.
Indeed, several Member States (MS) have developed digital strategies for schools to support educational organisation to improve their use of digital technology. For instance, the Irish Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 underscores the need for a Digital Learning Framework that can be used by school leaders, subject departments and individual teachers to guide and review progress in the embedding of digital technologies in all aspects of teaching and learning
More recent strategies, such as the STEM Education Policy Statement and the Action Plan for Education, have built on the digital strategy. However, we still need more experimentation to take place within the system so teachers are empowered to embed digital technologies in their practices. Action plans, such as the EU Digital Education Action Plan, can provide the impetus for the Department and others to continue to experiment and be innovative so our children are prepared to live and work in today’s digitally connected world.