Building digital competence holistically

Technology is a tool. It can create endless opportunities, dramatically improve people’s everyday lives and improve effectiveness of their work. Or it can create barriers and limit citizens’ chances for achieving personal and professional success. A lack of knowledge and skills on how to effectively apply digital technologies leads to a “digital gap” – between generations, social or gender groups and even, in some cases, between students and teachers or between children and parents, which may cause social or professional exclusion.

Digital competences are success factors in the modern world. They need to be constantly updated during our lifetime - to follow the rapid development of digital technologies, and broadly – economic, social and political changes - and increase our adaptability to these changes. There are many elements to improving digital competences beyond the use of technology.

Digital is one of the eight key competences of the lifelong learning targets for European citizens, along with such critical competences as entrepreneurial, literacy competence, multilingual competence, mathematical competence and competence in science, technology and engineering, personal, social and learning to learn competence, citizenship competence, entrepreneurship competence, as well as cultural awareness and expression competence. Key competences comprise knowledge, skills and attitudes and could – and should - be learned throughout our lives, both through formal education and informally, in various life situations. They are mutually reinforcing.

During the Covid-19 emergency many employees, teachers and learners were put into the situation of remote work or online teaching and learning, which required a combination of digital, entrepreneurial and learning-to-learn competences. If we consider the ability to communicate effectively online, this will often require learning new applications and online collaboration tools, an open and positive attitude, a sense of initiative, and good time management skills – which all illustrate the interdependency of the key competences and the onus on citizens to master them.

The European Digital Competence Framework (DigComp) has been developed by experts to serve as a reference tool for teachers and designers of curricula, as well as for self-guided learning and inspiration. Teacher development is supported by the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu). Due to the overall demand for the competence frameworks and tools, the European Commission launched new frameworks supporting the entrepreneurship key competence (EntreComp), and more recently, the competence framework for personal, social and learning to learn key competence (LifEComp), as well as GreenComp - a reference framework for sustainability competences.

ETF has been actively engaged in developing, applying and improving key competence frameworks and tools. To learn from the experience of ETF partner countries applying the EU competence frameworks while embedding key competences into their education and training systems, see our publication The key competence lighthouse: Key-competence-driven reforms in Ukraine and Georgia.

To support teachers in overcoming the digital gap and “boosting” their creative talent and innovative capacity, the ETF has partnered with the European Commission’s Joint research Centre (JRC) to launch the "Teacher Booster" – a series of eight learning videos featuring excellent educators sharing their experiences and insights on how digital and entrepreneurial competences can be supported.

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