Competence in the Digital Age

DISRUPTIVE MODE (November 2, 2019) SUNSTAR BACOLOD

Are you competent in the digital age? This is a question that is probably challenging to answer in the Philippines considering that we do not have a clear and unified national digital competence framework for citizens. The ITU Digital Skills Insights 2019 cites reference frameworks for digital competence create an agreed vision of what is needed in terms of competences to overcome the challenges that arise from digitization in almost all aspects of our lives. Examples at the global level is the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) and the UNESCO media literacy (ML) and information literacy (IL) framework.

I share the aim of ITU to constantly hammer along these lines in order to assist policymakers and stakeholders to understand various uses of reference frameworks, especially for teachers, for educational organizations such as schools, and for citizens to cope with digital marketplaces.

ITU considers reference frameworks as platforms to create a common understanding through agreed definitions and set vocabulary that can be consistently applied in all tasks from policy formulation, target setting and monitoring, instructional planning including curriculum reforms and teacher education, and assessment and certification.

A good framework helps in identifying specific competences that should be addressed and foresees learning outcomes and proficiency levels and serves as a tool to create valid and reliable measurement and assessment instruments as to how the digital skills of a country’s talent pool improves through time.

DigComp 2013 defined digital competence as a combination of 21 competences that can be grouped in five main areas: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration; digital content creation; safety; and problem solving.

Primary citizens’ skills include browsing, searching and filtering data, information and digital content; evaluating data, information and digital content; and managing data, information and digital content. The second level includes interacting, sharing information, engaging in citizenship and collaborating through digital technologies, observing netiquette and managing digital identity. The third level includes developing digital content, integrating and re-elaborating digital content, securing copyright and licenses, and programming. The fourth level includes protecting devices, personal data and privacy, as well as protecting health and well-being and the environment. The fifth level includes solving technical problems, identifying needs and technological responses, creatively using digital technologies and identifying digital competence gaps.

The UNESCO elements of media literacy (ML) include the ability to acquire and use skills (including ICTs) needed to produce user-generated content, critically evaluate media content in the light of media functions, engage with media for self-expression, intercultural dialogue and democratic participation. The elements of information literacy (IL) include the skills to define and articulate information needs, locate and access information, assess information, organize information, use ICT skills for information processing, communicate information, and make ethical use of information.

These frameworks facilitate messaging to citizens by simplifying things. For instance, as to agreed terminology, DigComp has adopted a device-agnostic wording of “digital technologies” so that it is not necessary to name a specific technology, software or application when further discussing the knowledge, skills and attitudes associated with each of the competences. The term “digital technologies” encompasses not only the use of personal computers such as desktop, laptop, netbook or tablet computer but also other hand-held devices such as  smart phones, wearable devices with mobile networking facilities, games consoles, media players or e-book readers which, more often than not, are also networked or connected to the Internet.

This allows for “future proofing” the framework against the fast speed of change in the field of technologies, while at the same time remaining device and application neutral, and only focusing on high-level competences that are deemed important (rather than being device-or application-specific). (Source: ITU Digital Skills Insights 2019)

I envy young people today for having so much time and resources in their hands to learn new skills. Knowledge today is so ubiquitous and accessible. We just need to get our acts together. We need digital strategy and a digital reference framework for citizens as soon as possible.

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