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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


Promoting digital skills – a mission for adult education

by EPALE Österreich
Language: EN
Document available also in: DE

For a long time, the digital transformation of society has ceased to be a thing of the future and has progressively become a reality. In relation to this, the development of digital skills has become essential, especially for adults. Digital skills are also required in the field of adult education so that the field can participate in the digital transformation. During the Global Media and Information Literacy Week, which took place from 24 to 31 October 2018, we considered how adult education can contribute to the promotion of digital literacy.

Digital literacy – the goals behind the buzzword

There are many different definitions and explanations doing the rounds in the field of (adult) education for the much-used buzzword ‘digital literacy’.

The European Commission defines ‘digital competence’ in the revision of the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning published in 2018 as follows: “Digital competence involves the confident, critical and responsible use of, and engagement with, digital technologies for learning, at work, and for participation in society.” Digital competence therefore includes aspects such as information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation (including programming), safety (including digital well-being and competences related to cybersecurity) and problem solving.

The Austrian ‘Digital Roadmap’ emphasises that as well as technical skills and knowledge about technology, a critical and reflective approach towards technology within the framework of media literacy also needs to be promoted. Awareness of data protection and responsible data handling also play an important role.

So, there is no shortage of target definitions for what we are aiming to achieve with regard to digitisation. But what specific action is required for these definitions, what does this mean for adult education and how can it promote the development and expansion of digital skills?

The need for digital learning is real

Studies such as PIAAC provide evidence of a widespread need for digital learning among adults. For adult education, this has resulted in an extensive educational mission, as educational scientist Birgit Aschemann explains. “For one thing, because people who are forty and above are not ‘digital natives’, training needs primarily relate to people who will have to work for another twenty to twenty-five years.” Furthermore, digital literacy is a permanent area of learning as digital opportunities and technologies are constantly changing. “Digital literacy is quite simply THE skill area for lifelong learning. Adult education needs to keep its finger on the pulse in this regard,” says Aschemann. Adult education needs to enable digital participation and teach the skills and abilities adults require on the labour market.

We need digitally competent adult educators

In order to complete this educational mission, the most important resource we need is appropriately qualified teaching personnel. The success of the open online course EBmooc, attended by more than 6,000 adult educators since April 2017, highlights the need for digital further education courses for digital skills.

Since June 2018, the Academy of Continuing Education (Weiterbildungsakademie, wba), as an accreditation body for adult educators, has defined a new ‘basics of media literacy’ competence area and requires appropriate evidence from adult educators in this area. The wba descriptor emphasises that both applicable knowledge and the ability to reflect critically are required. “In the future, there will be a growing demand for skills in media design, basic technical knowledge as well as a professional approach towards digital and analogue media in the teaching, learning and guidance process,” summarises Director of wba Karin Reisinger in a news article on Adult educators will need a critical and reflective attitude to achieve this.

Outlook: Austrian activities with regard to digitisation and adult education

The fact that the digital transformation is now a major part of adult education is also evident in the numerous events and initiatives in Austrian adult education. Before the summer, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digitisation and Business Location announced the ‘Fit4Internet’ initiative to develop the digital skills of its citizens – the first training courses for trainers will be starting soon.

Both technical and specific didactic skills are needed in adult education – but what else is required for adult education to play a positive and active role in the digital transformation? Experts will be discussing this issue during an online discussion (wEBtalk) on 6 November 2018. And at the Federal Institute for Adult Education (Bundesinstitut für Erwachsenenbildung), a BarCamp event on the topic of ‘Digitisation in Adult Education’ will take place from 5 to 6 December 2018.

More information:

Text/Author of original article in German: Karin Kulmer/CONEDU

Redaktion/Editing of original article in German: Lucia Paar/CONEDU

Titelbild: CC0 Public Domain,

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