Expanding the Pedagogy of the Digital

Digitalization is an important topic of European policy. Adult Education has a crucial role to play in accompanying the transformation.

Expanding the Pedagogy of the Digital

The impact of the current policy developments in the field of digital transformation on European level cannot be underestimated. The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act will determine what platforms are (still) allowed to do and how the rules of the game of digital capitalism will work. The Circular Economy Action Plan suggests a right to repair. With the way rules for Artificial Intelligence are developed and implemented a market for data-sensitive and democratic innovation is emerging, a European way of dealing with AI or a European-dressed American way. How Europe defines and enforces the Next Generation Internet influences how free, decentralized, competitive, accessible the Internet and digital single market in Europe and if not beyond our continent will be.

These examples show that dealing with digitalization is about more than addressing media literacy: It is always also about active participation in the digital transformation and helping to shape its "broad lines."

Many, among them also educators, say that it's all too complex, too technical or too economical. But, one can counter them, isn't the focus wrong? For instance, we also understand that car companies are not allowed to install fraud software, although we don’t know exactly what programming language the on-board computer was programmed in. Would that have really helped us to draw consequences from the Diesel scandal?

Statistics: What Europeans think about Big Data

About Digitalization: Conditions, Assumptions, Impact

In this sense, civic adult education can reflect on the technology’s economic, social, cultural, and technology policy conditions, assumptions and impact: Learning about Digitalization. How do certain concepts of digitalization work and act? What alternatives are there? Who benefits from which variant and how?

Learning for, with and about digitalisation.

In the DIGIT-AL project, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to separate the several approaches to digitalization somewhat:

  • Learning for digitalization: co-determining the digital transformation in society.
  • Learning about digitalization: social, cultural, economic impact of digitalisation in society.
  • Learning through digitalization: digital learning (spaces), digital tools and services.

Adult Education as a Holistic Learning Space

Adults participate in digitally mediated economic, social, and cultural activities in many roles and contexts. This affects them in different social roles as digital customers, digital activists, digital employees, digital citizens or learners. If digital competence is understood as a key competence, training and further education in adult education should look closely at the competence biography of concrete learners in all roles and contexts. Perhaps some schematic basic assumptions need to be reconsidered here, especially in relation to older learners? Since the current PISA findings on 21st century readers show that digital literacy is by far not the privilege of young groups.

Some Ideas for an Expanded Pedagogy of the Digital

During the last decades we increased our understanding of the role of media pedagogy and of digital competences, like it is represented in the DigComp framework. Now, under the condition of accelerating digital transformation, it might be time to expand it further.


Digital infrastructures shifted the way work and services are organised or infrastructures are managed. A more systematic and critical understanding of platforms, platform power and platformisation impact could help lifelong learners in their choices.


Measuring, data flows, and tracking are playing an increasingly important role in all areas of life, starting with one's own body, in one's own four walls, at work or in public. We might speak from a digital-self competence, the ability to control and create the individual representation in the digital sphere.

Learn to understand the technical concepts

Regarding the methodology behind these aspects gains relevance – better common knowledge about artificial intelligence or big data competence is becoming obligatory.

Digital Rights as Extension of Offline Rights

What are my rights online? Many discussions revolve around legal issues and efforts to extend fundamental rights and democratic principles to the digital sphere (or to consistently enforce them in this sphere). Education needs to broaden the understanding of relevant rights in the digital context, while it often reduces them to safety or privacy. We should also teach the other rights aspects clearer, for instance what is behind inclusivity, non-discrimination, freedom from norms, surveillance, access, freedom of speech, autonomy, integrity (of services and devices), property (not only copyrights but also individual property rights related to data), or customer rights.

Data-Economic and Network-Cultural Knowledge

Under the heading of platform regulation, there is a debate on competition and technology policy about which form of digital economy is socially desirable and how the future internet should be structured and developed (data-economic knowledge). It includes also the ability to co-creating network-cultures since these are social and cultural constructions.

Global Competence

Global interdependencies play a crucial role for digitalization and are shaped by digitalization- raw materials, value chains, energy needs, access, data colonialism.

Website of the DIGIT_Al project.

More about Digital Transformation in Adult Learning for Active Citizenship

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