Digital skills need to become thoroughly embedded in all types of adult learning provision. Why? Because European democracy and our national welfare and economic development will increasingly suffer unless we ensure a functional level of digital competence for the whole population.
The Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2014, a survey undertaken by the European Commission, showed that up to almost half, 47 %, of the EU population had at that time insufficient digital competence, including almost one quarter who had no digital competence at all.
Although we can hope the figures for 2019 will be slightly better, it is obvious there is still a long way to go.
Digital competence is essential for inclusion in today’s and tomorrow’s society.
The task demands knowledgeable educators, and sadly we need to acknowledge the fact that too many of us and of our colleagues have not yet acquired a satisfactory level in an area that has become essential for 21st century citizens.
Digital competence is essential for inclusion in today’s and tomorrow’s society, and that makes it imperative to include those skills – and the competence to use them wisely – in all adult learning provision.
In addition, digital skills can provide us with tools we should no longer try to do without. Learning to use digital tools and devices can make basic learning processes more flexible, adequate and efficient – provided teachers and trainers know how to use them!
DIGITAL TOOLS WILL ONLY BE EFFECTIVE if they are used within the right frames. The development of these tools and devices has completely revolutionised our possibilities for learning, but we are far behind in the task of developing the new didactic approaches that will match these possibilities.
We should for instance understand that employing digital tools does not mean we need to constantly use them in class. The teacher needs to make sure the learners know how to use them and give them tasks that can be performed with the tools, but a digitally competent teacher knows when it is better to leave the tools aside.
We cannot afford to continue with a situation where the most experienced educators fall behind because they do not have the time, support and resources needed to engage in acquiring knowledge of the new tools.
Digital platforms have also opened up enormous possibilities for collaborative learning. Both in formal and informal learning arenas, we are seeing how learners communicate and learn from each other, with or without a discussion moderator.
And fortunately, we are also seeing this happening among teachers who are sharing in online communities of practice their experiences with the use of digital tools. We need to encourage this type of practice, create networks of networks, and identify the success criteria in the best examples.
AS IN ALL OTHER ASPECTS OF ADULT LEARNING, governance is a key element and an element that often gets ignored. We cannot afford to continue with a situation where the most experienced educators, those who have been teaching for 20 or 30 years, fall behind because they do not have the time, support and resources needed to engage in acquiring a really deep knowledge of the new tools.
All European countries are currently engaged in revising their policies to fit with the Upskilling Pathways initiative. Ensuring that the whole of the national adult education sector is digitally competent is an essential element in a well-balanced and integrated national policy.