Introduction: modern teachers need digital competences
We are living in a digital era, where the advancement of technology has become an integral part and radically transformed every aspect of our everyday life: the way we communicate, the way we work, the way we enjoy our leisure time, the way we organize our lives, and the way we source knowledge and information. It has also changed how we think and how we behave. Therefore, when we are talking about the digital competence of teachers, it is not only addressing the digital transformation in education.
In a broader sense, education is obliged to become more strongly a part of a digitized world. As Professor Eva Cendon (the Institute of Educational Science and Media Research at FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany) said:
“This is not only about developing digital skills. It rather goes to the foundation of how education in the 21st century can look like.”
As the digital world is here to last and evolve, there are strong initiatives and considerable interest at an international, European, national, and regional level in equipping teachers with the necessary competencies to fully exploit the potential of digital technologies for enhancing teaching and learning, and for adequately preparing young people for life and work in a digital society.
Teachers who are digitally competent are able to open up many opportunities for our young people to develop their skills for living, working, and thriving in the digital society and the innovative economy.
What are the areas of teachers’ digital competence?
If you aspire to integrate digital technologies to enhance teaching and learning, as well as to support our young people in becoming digitally competent citizens in the future, your professional digital competence as a teacher is far more than the operational or technical skills of using digital tools.
Then what are the digital skills that, as a teacher, you will need to develop?
Here, DigCompEdu–the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (2018) has a comprehensive answer for you.
DigCompEdu: the European framework
So, what is DigCompEdu?
- DigCompEdu is the most comprehensive framework that guides teachers’ professional development of digital competence;
- DigCompEdu supports the development of teachers’ professional and pedagogical competencies and the students’ digital competencies;
- DigCompEdu offers self-assessment tools and training programs to guide teachers step-by-step to develop their competence;
- DigCompEdu provides teachers with a common language and logic that can help the discussion and exchange of best practices across borders.
The 6 areas of teachers’ digital competence
DigCompEdu distinguishes 22 professional digital competencies of educators organized in 6 areas, with 6 proficiency levels.
1) Professional engagement
Using digital technologies for communication, collaboration, and professional development:
1.1 Organizational communication
1.2 Professional collaboration
1.3 Reflective practice
1.4 Digital continuous professional development
2) Digital resources
Sourcing, creating, and sharing digital resources:
2.2 Creating & modifying
2.3 Managing, protecting, sharing
3) Teaching and learning
Managing and orchestrating the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning:
3.3 Collaborative learning
3.4 Self-regulated learning
Using digital technologies and strategies to enhance assessment:
4.1 Assessment strategies
4.2 Analysis evidence
4.3 Feedback & planning
5) Empowering learners:
Using digital technologies to enhance inclusion, personalization, and learners’ active engagement:
5.1 Accessibility & inclusion
5.2 Differentiation & personalization
5.3 Actively engaging learners
6) Facilitating learners’ digital competence
Enabling learners to creatively and responsibly use digital technologies for information, communication, content creation, well-being, and problem-solving:
6.1 Information & media literacy
6.3 Content creation
6.4 Responsible use
The 6 areas with 22 professional digital competence of teachers in DigCompEdu broaden and deepen the understanding of the skills that teachers need in this digital era.
5 tips to become a digitally competent teacher
Now that you have an overview of what digital competencies are needed for teachers, you may start wondering where to start and what you can do to enhance different areas of digital competence. Here are 5 tips for those who are looking forward to strengthening their professional digital competence.
1) Find out your strengths and areas for improvement
“DigCompEdu has 6 areas and 22 competencies, where should I start?”
Rest assured, DigCompEdu will guide you step-by-step to identify your learning needs and define your learning goals so as to analyze and select the resources and activities that best suit you. Just like any other training, you need to know your current conditions to plan the next steps.
DigCompEdu has developed effective self-assessment tools for teachers to help you find out your current level of digital competence proficiency, your strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, and receive personalized feedback with practical suggestions for further development.
SELFIE for teachers (Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational Technologies) is an online tool that helps primary and secondary teachers reflect on how they are using digital technologies in their professional practices. Every individual teacher can access this tool by themselves.
SELFIE for schools is for self-assessment and reflection initiated by a school. This tool helps schools to assess where they stand with learning in the digital age from wider perspectives, including school strategies, teaching practices, infrastructure, curriculum, and experience of students. SELFIE for schools is customizable: schools can select, and even edit their own questions or statements to suit their particular situation. School leaders, teachers, and students can express their views on how technology is used in teaching and learning.
Both self-assessment tools are available in all the 24 official languages of the EU. Sign up and get a snapshot of your current digital competence. You will also gain a participation certificate and a digital badge after the self-assessment.
2) Understand the principles of digital pedagogies
Digitally competent teachers will always employ pedagogical considerations to guide the choices of digital tools and resources, not the other way round because they know that it is not about the tools, it’s about teaching and learning.
The abundance of digital tools available on the Internet is sometimes making it difficult for teachers to choose. Teachers need to be clear that, when it comes to integrating digital tools in teaching and learning, it is not the more the merrier, but always about pedagogical considerations. As the Digital pedagogy Lab defines:
“Digital Pedagogy is precisely not about using digital technologies for teaching and, rather, about approaching those tools from a critical pedagogical perspective. So, it is as much about using digital tools thoughtfully as it is about deciding when not to use digital tools, and about paying attention to the impact of digital tools on learning.”
Therefore, understanding the principles of digital pedagogy is the cornerstone for teachers to effectively integrate digital technologies in teaching and learning.
There are different types of digital pedagogy that are getting popular around the world, such as hybrid learning, distance learning, as well as various types of blended learning. Among others, Katherine D. Harris (2012) claims that the key components of all these kinds of digital pedagogy should be “collaboration, playfulness/tinkering, focus on process, and building”.
Understanding these principles will surely deepen teachers’ digital competence in teaching and learning.
3) Transform teachers’ and students’ roles
There are two significant elements that are particularly affected by the paradigm shifts in the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning: the roles and the instructional methodology.
In this digitized world, knowledge and information are abundant and easy to access. The roles of teachers need to switch from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side, meaning that teachers are facilitators of learning instead of being the authority of knowledge. Students are no longer passive recipients, but active participants.
This fundamental change of roles will transform your teaching practices with digital technologies. Harnessing digital technology and strengthening information and media literacy will surely be an essential competence for you and your students.
In the online learning environment, the way teachers interact with students and give instructions is different. It is a common worry for teachers to feel like we are lacking human connection with students when we are in an online environment. However, research shows that students in online learning environments perceive teaching presence and connection in a much stronger way than we think.
The research discovers that students view teaching presence through the lens of all interactions they had with their teacher – from emails to announcements and assignments, to much subtler interactions. It means instructional methodology is much broader than our usual, direct or face-to-face instructions in an online learning environment.
Does this understanding help you see your online presence with the students through a new lens?
4) Participate in professional development activities
Knowing that you are not alone in this professional development journey is important: sometimes experiences shared by a colleague or fellow educators will give you some tremendous inspiration.
Try out various formal and informal professional learning activities involving the use of digital technologies in education to develop your digital competency. For example, consider having a go at hands-on training or webinars on innovative pedagogical approaches supported by digital technologies, online learning approaches and distance learning, or digital assessment; you can also try establishing or searching for online/face-to-face networks, a learning community, or a professional community of practice, etc.
There are a lot of passionate educators generously sharing their expertise, experience, and reflections that may stimulate and motivate you to challenge yourself for the professional development of digital competence.
5) Be agile, adaptive, and ready for changes
Last but not the least, digitally competent teachers need to be agile, adaptable, and ready for changes.
Changes are accelerating in the 21st century, particularly with rapid technological advancement. Tools and methods that are the best today are prone to becoming outdated and being replaced by new ones in a short time. Agile and adaptable teachers are those who learn continuously and with curiosity, treasure collaboration, and are flexible and open to new ideas.
Are you one of them?
Teachers are one of the keys to a successful digitization for quality education. As George Couros, an innovative educator, said:
“Technology will not replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.”
Are you ready to strengthen your digital competence? What are your strategies? Share with us your thoughts, experience, and questions in the comments! We are happy to hear your stories and learn together!
If you want to know more about DigCompEdu, check out our one-week Erasmus+ course “Pathways to Become a Digitally Competent Educators“, and many other courses on digital pedagogies and digital media!