Edtech Project work

Digital citizenship education (DCE)

I’ve discovered the title is a tongue twister, especially if I try to say it in Croatian. And I had to say it quite a few times over the last few days because I delivered a workshop on the topic at the CARNET Users’ Conference a few days ago. This is an annual edtech conference organized by my institution and it’s very well attended by Croatian standards, with over 1100 delegates this year. 

I guess I had an idea of what digital citizenship entailed prior to becoming a little more involved in the topic earlier this year and if pressed, I suspect I would have defined a digital citizen as… someone who is equipped to function in a digital society? I suppose that kind of rules out my dad, who lives in complete denial as far as the internet is concerned (except for the weather app that he uses religiously). 🙂

In April I attended a training session on DCE on behalf of my institution and tweeted about it a tiny bit – apart from generally not being very good at tweeting live from events and focusing on what people around me are saying at the same time, I wasn’t sure what the extent of our involvement in DCE promotion in Croatia was going to be. The training session was organized by the Council of Europe and was aimed at familiarizing the participants with the DCE project as well as some of the materials which had been produced therein. One of these is the Digital Citizenship Education Handbook, which you can see in the tweet.

My very recent workshop was a general one, aiming to introduce the 10 domains of digital citizenship as identified by the DCE expert group and briefly present the project, with a focus on the project outputs that the workshop participants can use in their teaching. 

In preparing the workshop I used another project output: the trainers’ pack, which had been in its final prep stage in April and is, I think, close to publication now. The materials in the trainers’ pack have been designed specifically for the purpose of running workshops to familiarize teachers and other potential participants (whole schools, parents, students) with the concept of DCE. The workshop was held in Croatian.

Because this was a workshop, a significant amount of participant input was envisaged, which is why there are relatively few slides (which also often contain references to offline materials). What you can see at a glance are the 10 DCE domains and links to the project website and the handbook (these last two are available only in English). 

On a personal note, this was the first (I think) workshop I ran entirely on my own in Croatian, so I was pretty pleased with how it went. Perhaps not surprisingly, if you present or run workshops which are ELT-related, this is usually done in English. As this was an edtech conference, there may have been expectations on the part of some of the participants that there would be greater emphasis on the digital in the title, but participant contributions were great and very useful.

I think I’ll stop here and possibly revisit this topic somewhere down the line if I do some more presenting on it or otherwise promote it in my context. Thanks to Jonathan for prompting me to write this up as I thought the slides might benefit from a bit of context (in English). 

Moodle Thoughts and reflections

CPD where you’d least expect it

Ok, so the title’s just a little bit misleading because while there are certainly settings where engaging in CPD wouldn’t be likely, meeting up with an ESP instructor to talk about online courses isn’t one of them.

I spent this Saturday morning with a colleague who is planning to introduce a blended learning component into one of his regular (traditional) courses. His institution uses Moodle, so the idea was that I would show him how some of the resources and activities work in practice, as I’ve tested quite a few of them out in my course over the past couple of semesters.

It turned out that this instructor has some experience with Moodle, so we could skip the orientation details and dive straight in. He talked me through the activity types he was familiar with, like quizzes and an interesting activity I hadn’t used before as my course is entirely online: the attendance register. (I’d actually assumed this was a resource and not an activity, but the official site says otherwise.)

He then described the course he wanted to add online features to and we brainstormed a little on how this could be done in relatively undemanding fashion because of the time constraints involved. I showed him my course and some activity types I think work well, for instance, my favorite: the peer review (workshop). The idea of dividing students into groups and assigning a forum to each group also seemed to appeal, particularly the concept of the Q&A forum in which you can’t read earlier posts until you’ve added your own.

Throughout all this we talked about our courses and students, some common issues we’ve come up against and how we deal with them, and compared our specific teaching environments. I recommended the Learn Moodle MOOC, which I felt was tremendously useful for me when I was starting out and which they’ll be running again in June.

Later on in town I spotted some people toting bags bearing the logo of a well-known ELT materials publisher and I realized this was the day they’d held their traditional one-day event. I used to attend when I was at Octopus. And it occurred to me that they would get a certificate of attendance, while I had also spent a not inconsiderable amount of time doing CPD, only this doesn’t translate into any kind of formal recognition.

Please don’t get me wrong; I love talking about my course – if anyone knows this it’s the readers of this blog – and it’s fantastic to have an opportunity to do this with someone who is interested in online learning. I also found it very useful to talk about my day-to-day teaching issues with someone in real life – I don’t get many opportunities to do this as I work in an office now and my virtual staffroom (my online PLN) is basically my only source of ELT-related news and info. It’s inspiring, motivating, supportive and generally lovely, but even someone who is really into online stuff appreciates talking to people over coffee about things of relevance in their local context.

What I’m saying is that it would be great if these less formal/completely informal forms of CPD were also somehow recognized for what they are. I haven’t been doing CPD for the certificates for ages now, but still. I have no practical suggestions re how this could be done though, for example, in terms of defining how long this CPD session lasted or which topics were covered, and I know this is important for people quantifying CPD.

What do you think? Are there countries or organizations where CPD already is defined as something beyond what you can prove has taken place with a certificate? Or do you feel this is unnecessary and would say there is no need to describe my example as anything other than a chat with a colleague?

Edtech Thoughts and reflections

How digitally competent are you?

 Oiluj Samall Zeid: Autofocus (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This might sound like a trick question but is in fact an attempt (probably lame) at a clickbaity title. It’s not entirely misleading though because this post is going to be about assessing a whole range of digital competences – before you tune out at the mention of ‘digital’ and think, “Oh God, not 21st-century skills again,” give it a chance because you might be interested in how you’d score. 😛

I’ve been teaching online – in an asynchronous environment, which I suspect is not the primary definition of ‘online’ that comes to mind for most of the ELT community – for the last 6 years. Given that over this time I’ve tried out a lot of online tools and consider myself reasonably edtech proficient, I was curious to see which level I’d be at if something like the CEFR for digital skills were ever devised.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the DigCompEdu framework, which basically works like the CEFR and will be easy to navigate for those familiar with the six-level (A2-C2) concept. This is what the European Commission website says (if you didn’t click through above):

The European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu) is a scientifically sound framework describing what it means for educators to be digitally competent. It provides a general reference frame to support the development of educator-specific digital competences in Europe. DigCompEdu is directed towards educators at all levels of education, from early childhood to higher and adult education, including general and vocational education and training, special needs education, and non-formal learning contexts. DigCompEdu details 22 competences organised in six Areas. The focus is not on technical skills. Rather, the framework aims to detail how digital technologies can be used to enhance and innovate education and training.

Apart from the random capitalization – why Areas? *groan* – I liked the idea. We used to use the CEFR a lot at Octopus, by which I mean that the school took part in piloting the ELP (the European Language Portfolio) – this was before my time – and for a time each student received their own copy and part of at least one class was dedicated to explaining how the ELP works and helping familiarize students with the concept of self-assessment (not widely known or trusted in Croatia 15 years ago, or possibly even now when it comes to trusting, but that’s another matter).

The six Areas, incidentally, for those who still haven’t clicked through are: professional engagement, digital resources, teaching and learning, assessment, empowering learners, and facilitating learners’ digital competence. 

Last week I used the self-assessment tool developed to accompany the DigCompEdu framework. Disclaimer: in a rush to get started I clicked on the first link available, whereas what I should have done was used the version developed for those in higher ed, which is my current context and which I had in mind as I was completing the assessment. This may have had an impact on my results.

What happens when you’re done assessing your skills in the six areas is you receive two pdf documents: one has the answers you picked and the other has your results and recommendations on how you could go from, say, A2 to B1 for each of the 22 competences. You’re asked at the beginning which level you’d place yourself at and then the same question comes up again at the end – before the results.

I confidently said I was at B2 before I started clicking away and then, in a sudden burst of what turned out to be delusion overconfidence, changed my mind to C1 before clicking submit.

As you can see above, my score places me at the higher end of B2 (okay, the higher end bit you can’t see but the range for B2 is 50-65). I scored best on professional engagement, teaching and learning and facilitating learners’ digital competence, and I think this is actually pretty fair and accurate. People at B2 go by the possibly presumptuous name of Expert, and while I very much hesitate to say that I am an expert in all things digital, I think I am quite comfortable with many things edtech related. People at C1 and especially C2 are what we – possibly sometimes with a degree of (misplaced?) irony – refer to as edtech gurus. They’re the people we’d ask for advice on edtech issues, who contribute to shaping the opinions of others… and I definitely don’t see myself as this type of person.

If you decide to do the self-assessment, I’d be interested in hearing what you think. Or even if you don’t, of course. 🙂