Having first started work on issues relating to digital literacy in 2008-9 I’ve tended to focus at a national (and mainly schools-related) policy level. When I completed a review on digital literacy for Becta in 2009 I had no idea that the EU was about to start a two year project to investigate what they call ‘digital competence’.
I’m chuffed to have been invited to Seville at the end of this month to talk to the EU project officers. In preparing for this I’m learning a lot about the EU’s perspective on digital literacy. I thought it might be handy to blog some of this, not least because it’s helped me to get to grips with all the policy and acronyms!
EU policy, digital literacy, and the eight key competences
In 2000 the EU Council concluded that a European framework should define the new basic skills to be provided through lifelong learning, as a key measure in Europe’s response to globalisation and the shift to knowledge-based economies. They emphasised the need for us all to realise that now – and for the foreseeable future – “people are Europe’s biggest asset”.
Member states developed the idea of ‘key competences’ as part of their lifelong learning strategies. They envisaged that such competences, once identified, could become embedded within the educational policy of all member states – both within initial school-based education, teacher-training, adult and work-based learning, and in support for the disadvantaged.
In 2006, after what I can only imagine to be hundreds of hours of meetings (!) they identified 8 key competences which “all individuals need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment”. The 8 competences are as follows:
1. Communication in the mother tongue
2. Communication in foreign languages
3. Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology
4. Digital competence
5. Learning to learn
6. Social and civic competences
7. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship
8. Cultural awareness and expression
It is the fourth of these – digital competence – which encompasses what we call ‘digital literacy’. They broadly define digital competence as “the confident, critical and creative use of ICT to achieve goals related to work, employability, learning, leisure, inclusion and/or participation in society“.
Once identified, the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) were tasked with completing work packages to clarify the issues relating to each competence. Digital Competence was given to the JRC’s ‘Institute for Prospective Technological Studies’ (aka the JRC-IPTS!). Specifically, the JRC-IPTS have been asked to identify and validate a Europe-wide definition, a key components ‘framework’, and implementation roadmap for digital competency.
Phew! OK, so where do I come in? Because in 2009-10 I completed a very similar (smaller!) project for Becta…
The Becta v EU project structure
The Becta (2008-10) and EU (2010-12) projects were/are very similar: both started with an international review of current thinking (links here to summary, full review, catalogue of evidence), and both wanted to create a framework/model that describes how to teach people to become digitally literate.
There are some slight differences between the projects: Becta’s focus was to then create resources for schools, developed mainly by Sarah Payton and her team from Futurelab – for example see their “Digital Literacy across the Curriculum” handbook and Professional Development resource page. I also created a couple of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 introductory packs for teachers and students (see separate blog post).
The EU project is instead focussing at a policy level; aiming to identify how to implement this framework into formal and informal education in practice – hence why they have organised a consultation between digital literacy folk and policy holders.
Do you have anything you want to say about the EU Digital Competence findings so far?
It’s this EU consultation that I’ve been invited to at the end of this month. I’m currently trying to review the UK’s current status in this regard, for example by talking to the Jisc team about their ‘Developing Digital Literacies’ project, and Sarah Payton about her British Library ‘Digital Pathways’ work.
I would be really interested to hear any thoughts you might have about the EU Digital Competence work. My aim is to act as a facilitator, and I hope to create links between the EU project and initiatives/people here in the UK.
(To ease any furrowed brows, I hear-by publicly promise not to nick any ideas and pass them off as mine own – this is an altruistic process!)