What are the EU and member states doing to address digital literacy?
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What are the EU and member states doing to address digital literacy?

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Authors: Kerstin Junge, Kari Hadjivassiliou. ...

Authors: Kerstin Junge, Kari Hadjivassiliou.
In 2006, EU member states set themselves an ambitious objective: to half the digital literacy gaps between ‘at risk groups’ and the average population by 2010. Having committed themselves to turning Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by the end of the decade, it became important to ensure that people were not going to be left behind and that employers have access to the skills driving the anticipated economic growth.

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What are the EU and member states doing to address digital literacy? What are the EU and member states doing to address digital literacy? Document Transcript

  • What are the EU and member states doing to address digital literacy? Kerstin Junge, Tavistock Institute Kari Hadjivassiliou, Tavistock Institute Summary In 2006, EU member states set themselves an ambitious objective: to half the digital literacy gaps between ‘at risk groups’ and the average population by 2010.1 Having committed themselves to turning Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by the end of the decade, it became important to ensure that people were not going to be left behind and that employers have access to the skills driving the anticipated economic growth. To this end, the EU and the member states began to implement a comprehensive set of policies aiming to increase the digital literacy levels among European people. By and large, the early measures reflected a functional understanding of digital literacy which simply refers to a person’s ability to use hardware and software effectively. Targeting predominantly population groups that data suggest are particularly affected by digital illiteracy (the unemployed, the disabled, women and older people), measures focuses on providing basic ICT skills and ensuring that all pupils were digitally literate upon leaving school. Increasingly, however, the discourse in the EU and the member states is moving towards an understanding of digital literacy mostly simply described as ‘media literacy’. As such, it encompasses a significant cognitive and evaluative dimension lacking from the functional understanding. The most recent initiatives undertaken by the European Commission as part of the recent i2010 programme are under this title, as well as in the member states, where media literacy was initially used only by some countries in relation to ICT training at schools. A more sophisticated understanding of digital literacy, however, requires more sophisticated approaches to measuring success. One of the key challenges for the near future is therefore to find indicators that are less broad-brush and more able to deal with the diverse subject and implementation modes required to make digital literacy policies a success. It is only when we gain a better understanding of what works and what does not that we can start to make inroads into the persistent digital illiteracy in Europe today. Key words: digital literacy, eSkills, research, eLearning, information society, i2010 1 Riga Ministerial declaration, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/ict_riga_2006/doc/declaration_riga.pdf eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 1 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • 1. Introduction Last year, EU member states set themselves an ambitious objective: to half the digital literacy gaps between ‘at risk groups’ and the average population by 2010.2 Having committed themselves to turning Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by the end of the decade, it became important to ensure that people were not going to be left behind and that employers have access to the skills driving the anticipated economic growth. However, despite five years of digital literacy policies at EU and national level nearly 40 per cent of people in the EU still do not have even basic ICT skills. Against this background, this article explores what digital literacy policies have been developed by the EU and the member states in the early 21st century and explores some basic conditions that must be met if these are to be successful at present and in future. After clarifying what is behind the basic concepts of digital literacy and eSkills and exploring the key drivers behind digital literacy measures in Europe today, we explore key policies both at EU level and in the member states before drawing some general conclusions. 2. Digital literacy versus eSkills: some clarifications Before we embark on our discussion of initiatives undertaken by the EU and its member states to address issues of digital literacy (and eSkills), it is important to surface the different meanings which are currently attached to these terms and make explicit our understanding of them. Even though ‘computer literacy’ or ‘digital literacy’ has been identified as a need since the 1960s [Martin and Grudziecki 2006, 250] there is currently no generally accepted definition or use of these terms [Jones-Kavalier, 2006]. Digital literacy as a term is polysem: it is used differently by different authors and audiences [Aviram and Eshet-Alkalai, 2006]. Moreover, words like IT literacy, computer literacy, digital skills, eSkills or digital competence often describe similar phenomena. The ambiguity surrounding the concept of digital literacy seems largely due to two reasons. As Aviram and Eshet-Alkalai point out [2006, p. 1], “the discourse on this important subject has been practice-oriented, and lacks a sound integrative framework and theoretical foundation.” Thus, even though neither the concept nor necessarily the terminology is new we are only now beginning to conceptualise digital literacy in a way that reflects the complex processes that underpin it. A second important reason is the rapidly changing and continuously evolving nature of the digital media. Devices are becoming more sophisticated, content more extensive and the creative possibilities of the new media for individuals and society are becoming more varied. Whilst, therefore, until the mid-1980s digital literacy was understood essentially as having specialised programming knowledge [Martin and Grudziecki 2006], in the age of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 there is now “awareness of the need for more critical, evaluative and reflective approaches to using IT” [Martin 2006, 6]. What is therefore clear is that the new digital media landscape therefore requires more sophisticated conceptualisations of digital literacy that encapsulate the multi-dimensionality of competencies required when interacting with the digital media in the 21st century. Nevertheless, frequently digital literacy is still understood in a purely functional way [Buckingham 2006] where it is conceptualised as “a person’s ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment” [Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan, 2006, p. 9] or a “minimal set of skills that will enable the user to operate effectively with software tools, or in performing basic information retrieval tasks” [Buckingham, 2006, 3]. A variation of ‘digital skills’ in this context is the term ‘online skills’ used, for instance, by Hargittai [2002, p. 2] to mean “the ability to efficiently and effectively find information on the Web.” Overall, these definitions seem to be pointing towards an understanding of digital literacy that encompasses a concrete (albeit not closely specified) skills set, mainly relating to the effective operation of hardware and software. 2 Riga Ministerial declaration, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/ict_riga_2006/doc/declaration_riga.pdf eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 2 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • However, conceptualisations that focus more on the broader cognitive skills involved are emerging. Some authors understand digital literacy as a “special kind of mindset that enables users to perform intuitively in digital environments, and to easily and effectively access the wide range of knowledge embedded in these environments“ [Aviram and Eshet-Alkalai, 2006, 1]. Others, such as Gilster, identify “critical thinking rather than technical competence as the core skill of digital literacy” [Martin and Grudziecki 2006, 254]. Gilster “emphasises the critical evolution of what is found on the Web, rather than the technical skills required to access it” [Martin and Grudziecki 2006, 254]. Indeed, authors are increasingly beginning to articulate what the various dimensions of digital literacy might be and incorporate these into a single concept. Aharon and Eshet-Alkalai [2006, p. 1], for instance, explain that “digital literacy is usually conceived of as a combination of technical-procedural, cognitive and emotional-social skills.” Technical-procedural skills are needed to operate hardware and software and execute tasks such as handling files and editing visuals. Cognitive skills are needed to use graphic interfaces or retrieve data from the Internet. Emotional-social skills are needed to use chat rooms effectively. The OECD-ILO PISA project’s definition succeeds in capturing some of this complexity: “ICT literacy is the interest, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate and evaluate information, construct new knowledge, and communicate with others in order to participate effectively in society” [van Joolingen 2003]. These definitions signal an evolution in thinking about digital literacy which moves beyond purely functional skills to the realisation the being digitally literate also means being able to make sense of the digital world. Eshet-Alkalai’s [2004] theoretical framework for digital literacy represents the thus for most sophisticated attempt at presenting a comprehensive and systematised conceptualisation of digital literacy. It sees digital literacy encompassing five types of literacy: Photo-visual literacy, ie the ability to understand instructions and messages represented visually in a digital environment); Digital reproduction literacy, ie the ability to create a meaningful, authentic and creative work or interpretation by integrating existing independent pieces of information; Information literacy, ie the ability of consumers to evaluate information and use it wisely; Branching literacy, ie the ability to construct knowledge from information that is accessed in a non-linear, ‘unordered’ manner; Socio-emotional literacy, ie the willingness to share data and knowledge with others, the capability of information evaluation and abstract thinking and the ability to collaboratively construct knowledge. What this conceptualisation clearly indicates is that being ‘digitally literate’ encompasses much more than simply being able to use a computer and find information on the Internet. Perhaps more importantly than these basic functional abilities are cognitive, critical and social capabilities. Indeed, what this understanding highlights is that it is only the combination of these four elements that makes a digital user a ‘digital citizen’ – a person able to participate fully in the digital society of the 21st century.3 Understanding digital literacy in this way also helps us distinguish it from the term eSkills. It highlights that digital literacy is primarily about the ICT skills of the individual lay user. eSkills, 3 In fact, Eshet-Alkalai’s understanding of digital literacy in some ways encapsulates what –at least at EU level – is a relatively recent and relatively subtle shift from using the term ‘digital literacy’ towards using the term ‘media literacy’ reflecting not only the trend of merging different media but also the unique nature of digital communication. Thus, for the European Commission, media literacy means “the ability to access, analyse and evaluate the power of images, sounds and messages which we are now being confronted with on a daily basis and are an important part of our contemporary culture, as well as to communicate competently in media available on a personal basis. Media literacy relates to all media, including television and film, radio and recorded music, print media, the Internet and other new digital communication technologies” (http://ec.europa.eu/avpolicy/media_literacy/index_en.htm) eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 3 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • by contrast, is the more generic term covering all possible user scenarios. Thus, according to the European eSkills Forum [2004] eSkills cover three main categories: ICT practitioner skills: the range of skills required by ICT professionals ICT user skills: the capabilities needed by the individual for the effective us of ICT systems and devices eBusiness skills: the capabilities needed to exploit the business opportunities provided by ICTs. In this article, we will focus on ICT user skills only and will understand the term ‘digital literacy’ as defined by Eshet-Alkalai’s [2004]. 3. What is the relevance of digital literacy in the 21st century? There can be little doubt that digital literacy is still a ‘hot topic’ in the EU. Numerous initiatives have been launched since the early 2000s with the aim of raising the levels of digital literacy among the EU population. This section briefly outlines the broader policy context in which the initiatives carried out by the EU and its 27 member states sit. It then progresses to explain why, despite nearly a decade of interventions digital literacy is still an issue in the EU. 3.1 The key drivers behind digital literacy initiatives in the EU Two key drivers motivate initiatives to tackle digital literacy in today’s Europe: the knowledge economy and – increasingly - the aim to ensure equal participation by all people. In 2000, EU member states committed themselves to turning the EU intoquot; the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesionquot;4 by the end of the decade. ICTs are awarded a key role in realising this vision: they are seen as central levers for allowing the EU to capitalise on the economic and social opportunities opened up by the post-industrialised Information Society. The reasons for this are essentially twofold. Numerous studies have shown that ICTs can support economic growth and productivity gains.5 According to the European Commission, “the ICT sector contributes to (…) around 45% of our productivity growth. Internet or other computer networks sales represented 8.5 % of total enterprises' sales according to the Community 2004 survey.”6 Further, ICTs are seen as a significant source of innovation, one of the other key components of international competitiveness. Secondlly, ICTs are increasingly seen as valuable tools to support people that are traditionally regarded as disadvantaged groups (such as older people disabled people or people in remote geographical locations) to participate in economic and social life.7 Assisted independent living, personal emergency services or remote working are just some of the options that open up with the help of ICTs. Beyond this, ICTs can also facilitate political and social participation, for instance by bringing government services closer to their users through eGovernment or facilitating political engagement through social networking technologies. Neither of these visions, however, will become reality unless European people are digitally literate in Eshet-Alkalai’s sense. Not only must they have the functional abilities allowing them to operate computers and basic software packages, they must also know what to make of the information they find online. As we will show in the section below, still to this date this cannot be taken for granted. 4 http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/knowledge_society/index_en.htm 5 Ecotec (2005) Preliminary analysis of the contribution of EU Information Society Policies and Programmese to the Lisbon and Sustainable Development Agendas, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/information_society/evaluation/data/pdf/studies/2005_lisbon_final.pdf 6 http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/ict_and_lisbon/index_en.htm 7 http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/ict_riga_2006/doc/declaration_riga.pdf eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 4 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • 3.2 Lack of digital literacy: an ongoing challenge Perhaps one of the more interesting findings of recent years is the fact that, despite almost a decade of investments in initiatives aimed at improving both the access to computers and the knowledge of how to use them, there is still a significant base of people in the EU who have no basic ICT skills. The figure below illustrates levels of digital illiteracy across Europe.8 It shows that in the EU on average 36 per cent of people do not have basic Internet skills. Moreover, low digital literacy levels are particularly evident among women and older people. In the case of older people, this does not only refer to basic ICT literacy but also to their general ability to complete tasks and the speed with which tasks are completed [Hargittai 2002]. Individuals without basic computer skills (2005) 100 80 60 40 20 0 th a ia Hu rg y s S w ia Es y xe nia Sl a l Po d en us k De U e ly a UK ria i an ar nd ar n ec ni en tv ak u E Ita g la pr ed st ng rtu ua nm to bo La m la re ov ov Po Au Cy er er m G Sl th G Li Ne Lu All Women (16 to 74) Older people of working age (55 to 64) Older people not working age (65-74) Source: Eurostat (October 2007) In addition to gender and age, some basic socio-economic factors also seem to influence a person’s digital skills levels. As the figure below shows, the better a person’s education the more likely they are to have more than just basic ICT skills. Across the EU, 60 per cent of people with low formal education only have basic ICT skills, compared with 6 per cent of people with high formal education. Further, a significant proportion of unemployed people in the EU also tend to have no basic ICT skills. These very simple figures therefore indicate that as Europe is undertaking concerted efforts to realise a knowledge based society, it is at risk of perpetuating current exclusions. 8 This is defined as people who have not used a mouse to launch programs such as an Internet browser or word processor. eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 5 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • No basic digital skills: the relevance of educational background and employment status (2005) 100 80 60 40 20 0 th a ia Hu rg er y Es y s S w ia xe nia Sl a l Po d en us G ark De U e ly a UK ria i an ar nd n ec en ni tv ak u E Ita g la pr ed st ng rtu ua nm bo to La m la re ov ov Po Au Cy er m G Sl th Li Ne Lu Low formal education High formal education Unemployed Source: Eurostat (October 2007) 4. What initiatives are the EU and member states implementing to address gaps in digital literacy? 4.1 Initiatives by the EU Against the background of the significant number of people with low digital literacy on the one hand and the need to ensure that member states are able to exploit both the economic and the social benefits of the Information Society, the EU since the early 2000s has launched a number of important initiatives that aim to increase the level of digital literacy in the member states. Overall, three key milestones frame EU initiatives on digital literacy: the Lisbon strategy, the i2010 initiative and the 2006 Riga declaration. Digital literacy policies in the EU were sparked by the commitment made by the EU member states in 2000 to make Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world (the Lisbon Agenda), focusing, as it does, on ICTs as key drivers of future economic growth and competitiveness in Europe. As part of this objective, member states committed themselves to a number of broad objectives, including preparing the transition to a knowledge-based economy and society by better policies for the information society and R&D. They also set themselves concrete goals, such as an employment rate of 70 per cent (60 per cent for women). When progress towards the agreed goals proved slower than anticipated by the mid-2000s [European Commission, 2004], the European Commission proposed to inject a new impetus to the process. The revised Lisbon Agenda of 2004 contains three key goals9: • Investment in networks and knowledge; • Strengthening competitiveness in industry and services; • Increasing labour market participation of older people. With this clear commitment to ICT driven economic growth and innovation, it is only logical that in the tail of the two Lisbon strategies came some important initiatives which directly aimed at increasing the digital literacy of the European people. Most immediately, these were the eEurope initiative (and its two Action Plans) and the eLearning Programme. The 2002 eEurope initiative, followed by two eEurope Action Plans in 2002 and 2005 to implement the initiative, had as one of its three high level objectives the aim to create a digitally 9 http://www.euractiv.com/en/future-eu/lisbon-agenda/article-117510 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 6 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • literate Europe. As a result, the eEurope Action Plans emphasised the importance of ICT related training if EU citizens were to reap the benefits of the Information Society and fully participate in it. An important objective of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan [European Commission 2000] was therefore the investment in people and ICT skills, focusing in particular on pupils with an action line on ‘European Youth into the Digital Age’. The Action Plan set member states the objective that, by 2003, all pupils should be digitally literate by the time they leave school. Digital literacy was also one of the specific priority areas of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan [European Commission 2002]. The Action Plan in particular mentioned the unemployed and women returning to the labour market as target groups for skills measures and encouraged member states to launch initiatives to this effect by 2003. Moreover, in this Action Plan, eLearning became a priority and the Commission announced a specific eLearning Programme to run from 2004-2006. This eLearning Programme, adopted by the member states in 2003, also aimed at addressing the issue of digital literacy as the first of its four strands. The aim here was to promote the acquisition of new skills and knowledge that individuals need for personal and professional development and for the active participation in an information-driven society. Actions in this area related to the contribution of ICT to learning, particularly for people who, owing to their geographical location, social situation or special needs, could not benefit from conventional education and training. The aim was to identify good examples and build synergies between the many national and European projects for these target groups. As a result of the eLearning Programme, a number of projects aimed at promoting digital literacy among key target groups. These included, for instance, immigrants10, the disabled11 and children. The eLearning Programme has not been renewed as a sectoral programme, but its objectives have been integrated into the Lifelong Learning Programme (2007-2013) . In 2005 the European Commission launched its successor to the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. ‘i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and employment’ [European Commission 2005] is a five-year strategic framework closely aligned with the revised Lisbon Strategy and, as such, focused on those parts of ICTs deemed vital to the overall objective of boosting innovation and jobs. i2010 is therefore essentially a strategic response to the need identified by the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy for a new IS strategy linked to the Lisbon growth and jobs objectives. i2010 captures the issue of digital literacy in two out of its three priorities. Priority 2 ‘to strengthen investment in innovation and research in ICT’ deals with the issue of eSkills as a factor influencing innovation and research in ICT. One of the manifestations of this priority is the recent Commission Communication on eSkills for the 21st century [European Commission 2007] which sets out the main challenges and develops a long-term eSkills agenda for the EU. The key five components of this agenda are shown in Table 1 below. Table 1: Key Components of the Long-Term e-Skills Agenda for the EU Longer term cooperation Strengthening cooperation between public authorities and the private sector, academia, unions and associations through the promotion of multi- stakeholder partnerships and joint initiatives including monitoring supply and demand, anticipating change, adapting curricula, attracting foreign students and highly-skilled ICT workers and promoting ICT education on a long-term basis Human resources Ensuring sufficient public and private investment in human resources and e- investment skills and appropriate financial support and fiscal incentives, in full respect of State aid rules, as well as developing an e-competence framework and tools facilitating mobility, transparency of qualifications, and promoting recognition 10 For instance, @lf@-bet@ - Le donne migranti verso le TIC attraverso le reti territoriali; XenoCLIPSe - Digital Video Clips by ethnic minorities; eMigra - Promouvoir la culture numérique des immigrants 11 For instance, e-ability - eLearning and social inclusion for people with disability; DEA - Digital literacy open to impairments; etc eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 7 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • and credit transfer between formal, non-formal and industry ICT education and certifications Attractiveness Promoting science, maths, ICT, e-skills, job profiles, role models, and career perspectives with a particular focus on young people, especially girls, and providing parents, teachers and pupils, with an accurate understanding of opportunities arising from an ICT education and an ICT career to counter the alarming decline in young people’s interest for science and technology careers in Europe Employability and Developing digital literacy and e-competence actions tailored to the needs of e-inclusion the workforce both in the public and the private sector, with a particular emphasis on SMEs and also to the needs of the unemployed, elderly people, people with low education levels, people with disabilities and marginalised young people Lifelong acquisition of e- Ensuring that workers can regularly update their e-skills and encouraging skills better and more user-centric ICT-enhanced learning and training approaches (e-learning). Government should promote good practices for the training of employees using e-learning, with a particular emphasis on SMEs, and should publicise successful solutions and business models Source: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/policy/ict-skills.htm Priority 3 of the i2010 initiative aims “to foster inclusion, better public services and quality of life through the use of ICT.” Digital literacy is mentioned here as one of the issues to be addressed. European Commission activities currently include formulating a media literacy policy to empower Europe's citizens in a world surrounded by multimedia messages, and wants to encourage more women to pursue an IT career as a force for change and a major boost for the ICT sector. This priority also links in with the 2006 Ministerial Riga Declaration which recognises the importance of digital literacy and, among others, calls for the digital literacy gaps between groups particularly at risk of social and digital exclusion (such as the disabled, elderly, unemployed, people with low education levels, immigrants etc) and the average population to be halved by 2010. This is a reaction not only to the significant share of people in the EU today who do not have even basic ICT skills but also to the fact that some population groups are less likely than others to acquire these. Since 2000, therefore, the EU has been setting the broad policy framework for digital skills policies in the member states. Whilst in the first half of the decade the focus of attention seemed to have been primarily on ensuring that all people have functional digital literacy skills, we can now begin to observe an expanding scope of EU policies towards ‘media competence’ embedded in a more systematic framework for addressing eSkills in general. EU policies on digital literacy and eSkills are consolidating. 4.2 Initiatives in the member states National policies on digital literacy mirror EU polices to a large extent, both in terms of motivation and focus [Cullen et al, 2007]. Reflecting agreements made at the EU level, they tend to be embedded in a discourse of economic competitiveness and tend to focus on those target groups highlighted in relevant EU documents. Within this broad context, national measures aimed at improving digital literacy can be grouped under two broad headings: addressing today’s ICT skills gaps and securing ICT skills for tomorrow. 4.2.1 Addressing today’s digital literacy gaps National policies which address today’s digital literacy skills deficits are aimed at adults – both of working age and beyond – who do not have sufficiently developed ICT knowledge to participate in the information society, either economically or socially. While some countries have invested eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 8 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • in general computer literacy programmes covering the whole population indiscriminately12, it is more common that activities are tailored to specific target groups, in particular, older people, women and people with disabilities. Such specific digital literacy schemes fall into three broad categories: Introductory sessions to the Internet. One example for this is the Spanish ‘Everybody Online’ Programme (Todos en Internet) which provides 45-minute introductory sessions on the use of the Internet in particular for older people or women and makes available case studies and testimonials of people who developed their digital literacy skills and had their lives changed by this. Training programmes for basic ICT literacy. These aim at providing women, older people, the disabled and occasionally ethnic minorities with basic ICT skills. The Maltese myWeb programme, for instance, announced (free) ICT training for a range of other target groups, including women and older people.13 The Cybersoek centre in Amsterdam offers programmes, courses and coaching to improve digital skills, targeting specifically different ethnic minority groups and tailoring their offer to particular demographics, for instance women, elderly, children, people with no digital skills or more advanced digital skills. Occasionally, ICT training activities are implemented in an innovative way. For instance, a number of projects in the Member States promote inter- generational learning: ICT training for older people is delivered by young people in community centres. ICT training for the purpose of labour market integration. Frequently, the provision of ICT training has the wider objective of helping participants into the labour market. Thus, several Member States run national ICT training programmes especially for the unemployed. At a project level, the Latvian EQUAL project ‘Training in Computer and internet Usage of Unemployed’, aims to help the unemployed overcome digital exclusion and to motivate this group to join the labour market and lead more active social lives. To this end, the project has developed a validated training course for computer and Internet skills. This has been piloted with unemployed people in the cities and rural areas of Kraslava, Preili, Valmiera and Ventspils districts. After completing these ICT courses, the unemployed will be able to use computers and Internet resources for job searching, independent work on developing basic skills required for the labour market, writing CVs and covering letters, and using e-services. 4.2.2 Securing digital literacy for tomorrow: building digital capacity among children and young people In addition to addressing the digital literacy gaps amongst key demographics of working age, digital literacy measures in the member states also tend to focus on children and thus ensure that basic ICT skills are present in the workforce of tomorrow. The UK government even made eSkills one of the three life skills (along with literacy and numeracy). Thus, whilst young people in the EU tend to be most highly digitally literate, the importance attributed to ensuring children and young people are ICT literate reflects the goal of European countries to become knowledge-based economies and the realisation that this requires a (future) workforce able to use – and develop – respective skills. National policies aiming at building digital skills among children and young people have five main aspects: • Raising the general level of ICT literacy by including digital skills into school curricula and that of other educational institutions. For instance, the Belgian ‘national plan to combat the digital divide’ foresees that schools and national VET programmes are to 12 This includes, for instance, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Luxembourg Internet for All [Internet pour Tous] initiative, for instance, includes training paths for everybody (the so-called 'Internetführerschäin' or Internet driving license) which intend to introduce ICT-newcomers to the use of a PC (4 classes lasting 2 hours each) and to the basic functions of the Internet (3 classes lasting 2 hours each). The Programme also contains measures to train ICT trainers. 13 This includes, for instance, offenders and drug addicts. eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 9 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • integrate specific curricula for digital literacy and eSkills. Occasionally, this can also involve preparing students or teachers for the ECDL (for instance under the Austrian eFit strategy). In some countries, this training extends beyond ICT skills to include a broader ‘media competence’ training. This normally aims at giving pupils the confidence to navigate the web safely and tends to include issues such as security. “Mature and effective use” of ICTs is, for instance, an objective of the Portuguese ‘Ligar Portugal’ programme. • Using ICTs as pedagogical tools. ICTs are frequently seen as pedagogical tools to supplement and expand conventional teaching methods. This is shown by the effort many Member States put into the production of e-learning material, the development of didactical guidelines on how to use the material in class. In the UK ICTs are also seen as providing opportunities for engaging ‘hard to reach learners’. This is spelled out in the e-strategy where ICTs are seen as offering the opportunity for more personalised course delivered at greater flexibility (for instance in terms of location and time of study). An innovative example of e-learning content development comes from the UK where the national TV broadcasting company BBC has developed e-learning instruments to accompany the national curriculum. • At the same time, ICTs are also being used to help young people towards raising achievements and further qualifications. The UK e-strategy, for instance, announces that, for those not sure whether they are interested in further study, there will be online access to informal tasters, linked to leisure or domestic activities, enabling students to progress to the next stage by means of highly motivating short modules. The German programme ‘Strengthening competencies – vocational qualifications for disadvantaged people’ funds projects that uses e-Learning to help disadvantaged young people gain a vocational qualification. The UK e-Learning and mobility project (E-LAMP) sets out to give traveller children laptops and access to the Internet through GPRS datacards so that they can keep in contact with their school and teachers, get their work marked and stay in touch with their peers. Children are also encouraged to make use of CD-ROMs, recommended websites and other electronic resources to enhance their learning. • ICT training for teachers. Measures to improve ICT skills frequently go beyond young people to also include teachers. In Lithuania, for instance, a Teachers’ Computer Driving License standard (based on the European Computer Driving License Programme) was developed which defines the minimum level of ICT literacy needed by teachers to use ICTs in class (e.g. teaching software, Internet services, video materials) and research. It is an integral part of the teacher’s training and continuing professional development. The UK’s e-strategy also foresees improving the ICT skills of teachers as does the Austrian eFit Strategy. The Finnish Opinpolku project networks teachers of vocational education not only to train them in the use of e-learning tools, but also equips them to jointly develop material for shared use. • Combining skills training with promoting ICT careers. Member States also make an effort to interest children and young people in ICT in careers or science and technology in general. The focus is not only on promoting digital literacy underpinned by basic ICT user skills but also on increasing the awareness and attractiveness of a career in the ICT sector among young people. Depending on the country, the methods employed differ. In Portugal, this is about creating better training opportunities for young people in general. A number of other countries have made concerted efforts to attract young girls to the ICT sector in order to address the gender divide that currently exists. In Germany, for instance, the Initiative D21, a public private partnership which aims to improve the environment for a successful move into the information and knowledge society in Germany, runs an annual ‘girls’ day’. This is an open day when high-tech companies, universities and other research organisations invite girls aged 11 to 16 at school age onto their premises in order to give them an insight into careers that they may not have considered previously. eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 10 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • 4.2.3 What makes a successful digital literacy measure? Member states are therefore implementing a wide range of digital literacy measures aimed at an increasingly diverse audience. However, not all are equally well designed and successful. Indeed, we would argue that unless measures are grounded in the social and economic realities of the individual and the locality, improving skills is more a ‘tinkering with symptoms’ of digital exclusion (and economic inactivity) rather than addressing its root causes. Two examples illustrate particularly well how important for the success of an initiative it is to pay attention to context. In Britain, the Computer Clubs for Girls project (www.cc4g.net), run now at 3,500 schools with a participation of 52,000 pupils, aims not only at improving girls’ ICT skills but also to interest them in careers in ICT. The computer clubs aim to get girls interested in careers in technology and equip them with ICT skills relevant for jobs in all sectors, but do this in a way that is relevant to them – through music, fashion and design. The clubs are run voluntarily by schools outside school hours. Girls aged between 10 and 14 enjoy a range of tailored e-learning activities which are written specifically to interest and motivate them. Initial anecdotal evidence suggests that this strategy is successful. Schools are reporting that girls in CC4G are out-performing non- members - not only in ICT, but also in other curriculum areas such as English, Maths and Science [www.cc4g.net]. A slightly different approach in terms of linking initiatives to the local context is taken by the Digital Playgrounds projects in the Netherlands. In community-based Internet and computer centres, ethnic minorities are being trained in ICT skills in different groups differentiated by age, gender and ICT skills. Available in many large cities, the projects do not stop at simply enhancing immigrants’ ICT skills but in addition have a socialisation function. They are integrated in the neighbourhood where people gather to connect with and learn from each other. At the same time it is clear that without an appropriate delivery mode – be this participating organisations or technologies chosen –digital literacy measure are unlikely to be able to perform to the best their ability. Two examples where this has been achieved serve to illustrate this point. An integral part of the British CC4G project is employer involvement. “An important component part of CC4G is creating lasting connections between employers and schools through CC4G Clubs, to ensure that the skills needs of industry are met and that girls understand the career opportunities open to them.” A number of companies, including several large multinationals, have committed themselves to working with the clubs, thus creating conditions for improved employment perspectives among participating girls. By engaging employers, the Computer Clubs for Girls initiative is a good example for an effective us of PPPs where each partner contributes according to their own expertise, thereby creating synergies and benefits that would not have come about without this partnership approach.14 The second example to be cited here refers to an appropriate choice of technology in a German eLearning project targeting illiterate people. www.ich-will-schreiben-lernen.de is an e-learning portal for adults who have difficulties with reading and writing. Upon logging in, the visitor is assigned a virtual tutor who guides him or her through the site. Having completed an assessment to determine the learner’s level of literacy, the site automatically assembles a set of suitable exercises which the learner can complete online. The site also contains an entertainment section with longer texts, audio books and news as well as a diary function and a forum to meet other learners. This example shows the power of tailoring the content of eInclusion initiatives to the needs of the target groups. In this case, the use of symbols, audio 14 It is, however, also clear that the understanding of where PPPs are most appropriately used seems to differ from country to country. In France, for instance, they are predominantly used for promotion campaigns, whereas in Finland PPPs are used for the delivery of eInclusion measures. eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 11 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • and online tutors (represented with a photograph) helps users of this website navigate and use it as a learning tool. 5. Conclusions and some remaining challenges “Media literacy is as central to active and full citizenship as literacy was at the beginning of the 19th century.” Vivian Reding, Information Society and Media Commissioner (2006) 15 Decisions made at European level have had a paramount impact on framing digital literacy policies in the EU member states in the first decade of the 21st century. Against the background of ambitious aims to fully exploit the potential benefits of the knowledge economy, the EU and its member states have in the last years worked more or less in synch to support people improving their digital skills. In the process of implementing these various measures introduced in the last years, the conceptualisation of digital literacy changed from a purely functional understanding to the recent discourse of ‘media literary’ (see quote above). This wider focus including cognitive and evaluative skills can only be welcomed as it is likely to result in more holistic policies. However, this will bring with itself a new set of challenges. We will, for instance, need more sophisticated indicators to measure digital literacy achievements. Current indicators seem poorly equipped to handle a concept like ‘media literacy, let alone the finesse of Eshet-Alkalai’s multi-dimensional interpretation of digital literacy. As digital literacy initiatives are becoming more sophisticated (as basic needs are met) it is exactly granular knowledge we need in order to ensure that policies remain fit for purpose and are impactful. Moreover, as we begin to understand digital literacy more broadly the question will also become more urgent how we deal with digital demotivation. Addressing the ‘won’t’ as well as the ‘can’t’ will become increasingly important if self-exclusion from the information society is to be avoided. The question of how far a wider understanding of digital literacy in the sense of media competence can and should also include issues of trust and relevance literacy policies is therefore how far they can also address issues of trust and relevance – both conventionally regarded as important factors for the take-up of new technologies – will therefore need to be addressed. In the years to come, it will be paramount for politicians and practitioners across the EU to begin tackle these challenges if real progress is to be made and the full participation of all members of society in the knowledge economy is to be secured. References Aviram, A. and Eshet-Alkala, Y. (2006) Towards a theory of digital literacy: three scenarios for the next steps” European Journal of Open, Distance and eLearning, 2006 / I, http://www.eurodl.org/ Buckingham, D. (2006) “Defining digital literacy. What do young people need to know about digital media?” Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy 4 Cullen, J. et al. (2007) Status of e-Inclusion measurement, analysis and approaches for improvement. Topic report 4: recommendations for future action, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/studies/revised_topic_report_4_synthesis_re commendations_final.pdf 15 Vivian Reading, 6 October 2006 http://www.euractiv.com/en/culture/eu-citizens-input-sought-media- literacy/article-158592 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 12 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • Cullen, J et al. (2007) Status of e-Inclusion measurement, analysis and approaches for improvement. eInclusion Handbook, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/studies/e_inclusion_handbook_final_submitt ed_0307.pdf Dewan, S. (2005) “The Digital Divide: Current and Future Research Directions” Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Volume 6 Issue 12, Article 13 Ecotec (2005) Preliminary analysis of the contribution of EU Information Society Policies and Programmese to the Lisbon and Sustainable Development Agendas, http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/information_society/evaluation/data/pdf/studies/2005_lisbon_final.pdf Eshet-Alkalai, Y (2004) “Digital literacy: a conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era” Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp 93-106 European Commission (2007) E-Skills for the 21st centrury: fostering competitiveness, growth and jobs. Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, COM(2007) 496 final, http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/policy/doc/COMM_PDF_COM_2007_0496_F_EN_ACTE.pdf European Commission (2005) i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and employment, COM (2005) 229 fin, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/what_is_i2010/index_en.htm European Commission (2004) Report to the Spring European Council: Delivering Lisbon - Reforms for the enlarged Union, COM(2004)29 European Commission (2002) eEurope 2005: An information society for all. An Action Plan to be presented in view of the Sevilla European Council, 21/22 June 2002, http://eur- lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/com/2002/com2002_0263en01.pdf European Commission (2000) eEurope 2002. An Information Society for All. Action Plan – Prepared by the Council and the European Commission for the Feira Council 19-20 June 2000. Brussels, 16.6.2000, European Parliament and European Council (2003) Decision No 2318/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 December 2003 adopting a multiannual programme (2004 to 2006) for the effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems in Europe (eLearning Programme), http://eur- lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2003/l_345/l_34520031231en00090016.pdf Jones-Kavalier, B.R. (2006) “Connectng the digital dots: literacy of the 21st century” Educause Quarterly, No. 2, 8-10 Martin, A. and Grudziecki, J. (2006) “DigEuLit: Concepts and tools for digital literacy development” Italics, Vol. 5 No 4, http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/italics/vol5iss4/martin-grudziecki.pdf Martin, A (2006) A Framework for Digital Literacy, DigEuLit project, version 2.4, http://www.digeulit.ec/docs/public.asp?id=3334 Martin, A. (2005) “DigEuLit – a European Framework for Digital literacy: a Progress Report” Journal of eLiteracy, Vol. 2, pp. 130-136 OECD (2003) Seizing the Benefits of ICT in a digital economy, Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level, URL Reding, V. (2006) “Making sense of today's media content”, http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/1326&format=HTML&aged=0&language =EN&guiLanguage=en The European Skills Forum (2004) eSkills for Europe: towards 2010 and beyond, Synthesis Report, http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/policy/doc/e-skills-forum-2004-09-fsr.pdf Van Joolingen, W. (2003) The PISA framework for assessment of ICT literacy, www.ictliteracy.info/rf.pdf/PISA%20framework.ppt eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 13 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • Authors Kerstin Junge Researcher and Consultant Tavistock Institute k.junge@tavinstitute.org Kari Hadjivassiliou Senior Researcher and Consultant Tavistock Institute k.hadjivassiliou@tavinstitute.org Citation instruction Junge, Kerstin & Hadjivassiliou, Kari (2007). What are the EU and member states doing to address digital literacy? eLearning Papers, no. 6. ISSN 1887-1542. Copyrights The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 2.5 licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast provided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. The full licence can be consulted on http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc- nd/2.5/ Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers ISSN: 1887-1542 Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. Postal address: C/ Muntaner 262, 3º, 08021 Barcelona, Spain Telephone: +34 933 670 400 Email: editorial@elearningeuropa.info Internet: www.elearningpapers.eu eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • 14 Nº 6 • November 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542