Speaking about necessary competences for the 21st century, skills like creativity, communication skills, teamwork skills, emotional intelligence and media literacy are regarded as highly important. Nobody can challenge the importance of these skills and in an ideal world every citizen of the 21st century should have these skills. However, we live in a world where everyone has different skills and gains them in different ways, and an important issue in learning these skills is where to start from while learning on one's own and teaching others? And how can experts with different experiences reach an agreement about the base or the first step to start from?
The Finland's Tyovaen Academy together with partners from Latvia and Lithuania [Vidžemes Secondary Vocational School of Technologies and Design as well as Židinio Gymnasium for Adults] is working on the implementation of the Nordplus project named ,,Basic Skills of the Digital Age". In the first meeting that took place from September 23rd to September 26th 2019, in Finland the partners set quite an ambitious target - to create the framework of the educational program concerning necessary skills for the digital age and later add appropriate contents to it. All partners in this project have very different experiences in educational process, they all have different traditions whereby they themselves are active in different fields and represent various professions. As we all know, the variety of attitudes and opinions enriches discussions and creative process but this variety can also lead to challenges in an attempt to reach agreements.
The first challenge that these partners faced was to agree on what the ''basic of the basics'' has to be and what are those minimal competences of potential learners that enable them to become participants in this program. The partners shared their experiences of situations when elderly people come to classes with almost no experience in IT, in handling the computer mouse and accessing the Internet on their mobile phones. What should we do if such potential students express their wishes to take part in the program that we are working on? Is it possible to adapt the program to meet their needs? The program itself, according to our common agreement, has to enable people to actively use media in initiatives and activities, to find relevant information and use it for their personal and professional goals, to be able to use e-services like paying fees, accessing the e-healthcare systems and social services systems.
After long and productive discussions it was agreed on two essential positions: firstly, to integrate the introductory course into the program for people without sufficient skills, and secondly, to choose educational methods and materials guided by the principles of differentiation and individualization, which means taking into account and respond to the needs of every single learner. The educational program will be based on European Digital Competence Framework -DigComp.
The development of the educational course of basic skills necessary for the digital age will be based on training three competences: information and data literacy, communication and cooperation and creating of digital contents. Due to the limited duration of the course and its focus on cultivating basic competences it was agreed on defining intellectual abilities according to the Bloom's three first levels of taxonomy.
The partners faced a new challenge seeking to put important competences into a no more than 96 hours' course. How to define what is important and what is less important? Which topics should be included and which not? How deeply should particular contents be dealt with? What methods are the most effective in reaching the target? Despite all these difficulties a common agreement was reached due to several factors. Firstly, the clearly stated common goal of the program was helpful. The aim of the program is to design a modern educational course with focus on the basic skills for the digital age that should improve learners' digital competences. Knowing our goal, we have to clarify whether the key words are understood in the same way, and this goal has to be our guideline if there are any doubts about this program's priorities. Secondly, it is very important to respect and be able to understand our partners' context - to understand how they perceive the educational program, their experience with the target group, their obstacles etc. Thirdly, the variety of working methods make this process easier, there were discussions, brainstorming, case analyses, information structuring, looking for analogies etc. Fourth, improvisation and rest and relaxation are very important. While relaxing we subconsciously process discussion contents and a relaxed brain can find unexpected and rational solutions and insights. That is what exactly happened. Fifth, a friendly approach reduces the stress caused by exhaustion and different standpoints. In Finland we were happy to have the opportunity to work in our coordinator's little academic town surrounded by nature. Lots of green areas, peaceful and tidy as well as the variety of areas where we worked mobilized our intellectual energy that we needed for activities there.
We said goodbye to our project partners in good mood, slightly tired of intensive work and pleasant impressions. The first step towards the common agreement on those basic skills in the digital age has been reached in our international partnership. An interesting and meaningful almost two-year long journey lies ahead.