From internet users to digital citizens: Digital literacy definitions and models continue to evolve

Safer Internet Armenia was actively involved in the recent EuroDIG session "From internet users to digital citizens" held in Tallinn, Estonia, on 7 June 2017. The session, co-organised by the Internet Society European Affairs Bureau, gathered experts from business, government, academia and civil society to discuss what digital literacy means in today's internet environment and how the existing skill sets can be upgraded. Successful examples of digital literacy initiatives were examined and best digital skills strategies at community level were debated.

Date 2017-06-28 Author Safer Internet Armenia (safe.am)
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Stephen Wyber, expert at the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), told about the work libraries are doing to help people become empowered digital citizens and presented digital literacy education good practices. Vitor Tome (PhD), in-service teacher trainer and researcher, told about the work of the Council of Europe's Digital Citizenship Working Group and Educational Policy Division of the Council of Europe. Kristel Rillo, a representative of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, presented her experience related to Estonia's digital education policy, 21st century curriculum and skills, bringing up examples of the use of technology in the classroom and throughout lifelong learning. She also discussed how to ensure that digital literacy skills are adequately promoted in the curriculum, in teacher development, and in learning content. Clara Sommier, an analyst in the Public Policy and Government Relations team at Google in Brussels, focused on how to strengthen the positive impact of the web and ensure that it remains a safe place. Dr Signe Bāliņa, Counsellor to the Minister for Regional Development of Latvia, discussed what type of skill development policies are needed to reduce the risk of increased unemployment and the role of different actors: government, private sector and the community. The workshop was moderated by Narine Khachatryan, Safer Internet Armenia Coordinator. Fiorella Belciu, from the Digital Citizenship team at European Schoolnet, contributed to discussions from the audience.

The participants came to an understanding that digital literacy means much more than mastering ICT skills. Digitally savvy citizens are empowered to improve their education, and subsequently their economic and social wellbeing; they participate actively in the political and cultural lives of their countries. Information and media literacy competence is essential to navigate in the abundance of information, critically evaluate and analyse it. Communication and collaboration skills enable people to engage in citizenship, value human rights and democracy, and cultural and generational diversity. Participation skills help to create and co-create digital content. While safety competence enables people to protect themselves from cybercrime, digital emotional intelligence gives the ability to build positive relationships online. Emphasising the importance of problem-solving capacity, the participants concluded that all above-mentioned skills should be viewed in aggregate and acquired integrally.

The workshop concluded that recent developments in data science, information visualisations, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics necessitate rethinking of traditional approaches to learning and education, and that the notion of digital literacy may incorporate new skills, such as data analysis and coding. Education institutions and public-private partnerships can play a crucial role in providing necessary tools and opportunities for that, while cross-institution collaboration, massive teacher training, and a comprehensive plan of action involving all stakeholders are also required. Hence, it is important to acknowledge that digital literacy definitions and models will continue to evolve and the concept of digital literacy must be viewed in the light of development of the internet, ICT and Big Data — the evolution of which is still difficult to forecast. The video recording of the session can be found here.

Safer Internet Armenia is a public-private partnership supported by !UCOM, National Center of Educational Technologies of the RA Ministry of Education and Science, Yerevan City Municipality. Activities are coordinated by the Armenian Safer Internet Committee. More information about Safer Internet Armenia can be found at http://safe.am.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.

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