On the follow up of the Gothenburg summit, on January 18, 2018, the European Commission has adopted new initiatives to improve key competences and digital skills of European citizens to promote pupil’s awareness of the functioning of the European Union.

The new proposals come only two months after European Heads of State and Government discussion on education, training and culture at the Gothenburg Summit in November 2017. They are intended to reduce socio-economic inequalities, whilst sustaining competitiveness in order to build more united, stronger and more democratic Europe.

Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the Commission for Jobs, Growth Investment and competitiveness, said: “Today’s initiatives aim at empowering individuals so that they can make the most of their lives and so that we can build fair, resilient economies and societies. We need to ensure education delivers for all across Europe, and so that everybody can adapt to and benefit from change. It is vital for Europe’s sustainable growth and competitiveness and will be even more so in the future. We are ready to support and work together with Member States to make this happen.”

Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Europe’s education and training systems need to give people from all backgrounds the right competences to progress and prosper professionally, but also enable them to be engaged citizens. We need to harness the potential of education to foster social cohesion and a sense of belonging. To do so, we have to build on our common values and make sure that education enables pupils to experience their European identity in all its diversity, learn more about Europe, about other European countries and about themselves.”

Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society added: “The digital age is expanding into all of our lives, and it is not just those who work in IT that will need to be alert of the digital transformation. The digital skills gap is real. While already 90% of future jobs require some level of digital literacy, 44% of Europeans lack basic digital skills. The digital Education Action Plan we propose today will help Europeans, educational institutions and education systems to better adapt to life and world in increasingly digital societies.”

On the European Education Summit which Commissioner Navaracsics hosted in Brussels on 25 January, with the theme of “Laying the foundations of the European Education Area: for an innovative, inclusive and values based education”, three initiatives were proposed.

A Counsil Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong learning: Built on the Recommendation on Key Competences adapted in 2006, this proposal brings forward updates reflecting the rapid evolution of teaching and learning since then. It aims to improve the development of key competences of people of all ages throughout their lives and to provide guidance to Member States on how to achieve this objective. A particular focus is placed on promoting entrepreneurial drive and innovation- oriented mindsets in order to unlock personal potential, creativity and self- initiative. Moreover, the Commission is recommending steps to foster competences in these fields. The proposals made today should also be seen as part of the answer to urgently improve European education systems to face the many challenges highlighted in the latest PISA survey. More generally, the measures will support Member States in better preparing learners tor changing labor markets and for active citizenship in more diverse, mobile and digital and global societies.

A Digital Education Plan that outlines how the EU can help people, educational institutions and education systems to better adapt to life and work in an age of rapid digital change by:
- making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning:
- developing the digital competences and skills needed for living and working in an age of digital transformation; and
- improving education through better data analysis and foresight.

Initiatives include supporting high- schools with high-speed broadband connections, scaling a new self- assessment tool for schools on the use of technology for teaching and learning (SELFIE) and a public awareness campaign on online safety, media literacy and cyber hygiene.

A Council Recommendation on common values, inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching: This initiative proposes ways in which education can help young people to understand the importance of and adhere to common values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. It aims at strengthening social cohesion and contributing to fight the rise of populism, xenophobia, divisive nationalism and the spreading of fake news. The proposal also strengthens inclusive education to promote, quality education for all pupils as well as a good understanding of the EU. To support these aims, the Commission will take steps to increase virtual exchanges among schools, notably through the successful e-Twinning network, and boost school mobility through the Erasmus+ program.

After we’re through the main updated guidelines and regulations from the EU, for improving the digital skills and competences of the citizens, lets now see what are the terms that we use in the EU, and what are the more particular set of skills we might want to develop on all the levels – from beginner to intermediate to advanced, for us to be able to say with our heads up, that we possess such skills. We will cite these from the DigComp 2.0, or what is the Digital Competence Framework for citizens 2.0, by the European Commission. They are split in five different areas, which are summarized below.

1) Information and data literacy: To articulate information needs, to locate and retrieve digital data, information and content. To judge the relevance of the source and its content. To store, manage, and organize digital data, information and content.

2) Communication and collaboration: To interact, communicate and collaborate through digital technologies while being aware of cultural and generational diversity. To participate in society through public and private digital services and participatory citizenship. To manage one’s digital identity and reputation.

3) Digital content creation: To create and edit digital content To improve and integrate information and content into an existing body of knowledge while understanding how copyright and licenses are to be applied. To know how to give understandable instructions for a computer system.

4) Safety: To protect devices, content, personal data and privacy in digital environments. To protect physical and psychological health, and to be aware of digital technologies for social well-being and social inclusion. To be aware of the environmental impact of digital technologies and their use.

5) Problem solving: To identify needs and problems, and to resolve conceptual problems and problem situations in digital environments. To use digital tools to innovate processes and products. To keep up-to-date with the digital evolution.

These areas are described in greater detail in the DIgComp Conceptual reference model, listed in the same document. To save time and space we will only go for the citation, but we would invite our fellow reader to read the entire Framework, as every area is explained to a greater detail, and the particular factors that are summarized in each of these five areas.

We could also take a look at what are the new terms, that have to be defined, on the EU governmental level, due to the ever growing and expanding technocracy, in the private corporate, and public domain, and the need for new regulations that regard this process.

Content in different formats
e.g. text document, graphics, images, video, music, multimedia, web-pages stored using a standard file format, 3-D printing.
See more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_format
File formats can be proprietary, free and/or open.

Data
a sequence of one or more symbols given meaning by specific act(s) of interpretation. Data can be analysed or used in an effort to gain knowledge or make decisions. Digital data is represented using the binary number system of ones (1) and zeros (0) as opposed to its analogue representation.
Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_%28computing%29
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/data

Digital communication
Communication using digital technology. Various modes of communication exist, e.g. synchronous communication (real time communication, e.g. using Skype or video chat or Bluetooth) and asynchronous ones (not concurrent communication, e.g. email, forum to send a message, SMS) using for example, one to one, one to many, or many to many modes.

Digital environment
a context, or a "place", that is enabled by technology and digital devices, often transmitted over the internet, or other digital means, e.g. mobile phone network. Records and evidence of an individual's interaction with a digital environment constitute their digital footprint. In DigComp, the term digital environment is used as a backdrop for digital actions without naming a specific technology or tool.

Digital services (public or private)
services that can be delivered through digital communication, e.g. internet, mobile phone network that might include delivery of digital information (e.g. data, content) and/or transactional services. They can be either public or private, e.g. e-government, digital banking services, e-commerce, music services (e.g. Spotify), film/tv services (e.g. Netflix).

Digital technology
any product that can be used to create, view, distribute, modify, store, retrieve, transmit and receive information electronically in a digital form. For example, personal computers and devices (e.g. a desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet computer, smart phones, PDA with mobile phone facilities, games consoles, media players, e-book readers), digital television, robots.
Modified from source: http://www.tutor2u.net/business/ict/intro_what_is_ict.htm

Digital tools
digital technologies (see: digital technology) used for a given purpose or for carrying out a particular function of information processing, communication, content creation, safety or problem solving.

Privacy policy
the term related to the protection of personal data, for example, how a service provider collects, stores, protects, discloses, transfers and uses information (data) about its users, what data are collected, etc.

Problem solving
“an individual’s capacity to engage in cognitive processing to understand and resolve problem situations where a method of solution is not immediately obvious. It includes the willingness to engage with such situations in order to achieve one’s potential as a constructive and reflective citizen” (OECD, 2014).

Well-being
the term is related to the WHO definition of good health as a state of complete physical, social and mental well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Social well-being refers to the sense of involvement with others and with the communities (e.g. access and use of social capital, social trust, social connectedness and social networks).

Social inclusion
the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society (by the World Bank). Social inclusion aims to empower poor and marginalized people to take advantage of burgeoning global opportunities. It ensures that people have a voice in decisions which affect their lives and that they enjoy equal access to markets, services and political, social and physical spaces.

Structured environment
where data resides in a fixed field within a record or file, e.g. relational databases and spreadsheets.

Technological response/solution
refers to the attempt to use technology (and/or engineering) to solve a problem.

As mentioned in DigComp, all these terms are to be considered as official and can be cited, when discussing digital issues, or in our case competences, on the official governmental or private sector sets of regulative norms and measures. By simply learning and knowing these terms, and what they are about, already increased our digital competence by a non-insignificant margin.

According to the Digital Skills Toolkit of the International Telecommunications Union, the digital skills are divided into three groups and these are as follows:

Basic skills
Basic digital skills enable us to function at a minimum level in society. They are foundational skills for performing basic tasks, and there is growing consensus that basic digital functioning corresponds to a foundational literacy, taking its place alongside traditional literacy and numeracy (see 21st century skills figure below). Basic skills cover hardware (for example using a keyboard and operating touch-screen technology), software (for example word processing, managing files on laptops, managing privacy settings on mobile phones), and basic online operations (for example email, search, or completing an online form). Basic skills enrich our lives, enabling us to interact with others and access government, commercial and financial services.  

Intermediate skills
Intermediate skills enable us to use digital technologies in even more meaningful and beneficial ways, including the ability to critically evaluate technology or create content.2 These are effectively job-ready skills since they encompass those skills needed to perform work-related functions such as desktop publishing, digital graphic design and digital marketing. For the most part, these skills are generic, meaning their mastery prepares individuals for a wide range of digital tasks needed to participate as engaged citizens and productive workers. However, such skills are not set in stone. Indeed, one of the characteristics of intermediate skills in particular is that they expand to account for changes in technology. For instance, data skills feature more prominently as the data revolution gains further momentum, generating demand for skills needed to produce, analyze, interpret, and visualize large amounts of data.

Advanced skills
Advanced skills are those needed by specialists in ICT professions such as computer programming and network management. Globally, there will be tens of millions of jobs requiring advanced digital skills in the coming years. These include artificial intelligence (AI), big data, coding, cyber security, Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile app development, with some economies predicting a talent gap for workers with advanced digital skills and others, ranking ICT specialists among their fastest-growing roles.3 Many employers claim they cannot find staff with the requisite skills. Jobs requiring advanced digital skills also generally pay much more than jobs requiring basic digital skills or none at all. Advanced skills are typically acquired through advanced formal education, though this toolkit describes other channels for learning, such as coding boot camps, that are viable options for many countries.

We have to stress here, that the more advanced skills you want or need to possess, the higher amounts of time you would have to spare for learning them. Reading would become more and more needed, for mastering the more advanced skills, especially if you would like to become an engineer or a programmer for example. Some, such as engineering, would require actual formal education to acquire, if we want of course our skills to be recognized,  which is again, to tell us how important is to think about the future and strategize about what it is exactly, that we want to do - “when we grow up”, as we like to say. The same would be true for any learning curve; the more interested you are in certain matter, the more you would have to research and learn.

We currently live the rise of what is known as Industry 4.0: the incorporation of digital technologies into production processes. This means that workers performing mechanical tasks will be less demanded; and on the contrary, those who can interact with the existing technology will be essential for the work market.

It is estimated that by 2020, 90% of jobs will require that the person who performs them have digital skills.By that time, there will be 1 million vacancies that the market will not be able to satisfy, if we do not educate our students in these skills.

In cases of countries – such as Spain, Greece or Portugal – seriously affected by the economic crisis, they all suffer a high volume of unemployment amongst youngsters. Training in digital skills becomes a great opportunity of professional development for this group with special difficulties to entry the labor market.

It should be clear up until now, that the online and digital skills and competences are already a very important part of every skill set, that a young person should have to be up- to-date and successful, that’s why here at Youth Informational Centre Info Sega, we have decided to start an initiative to promote and raise the awareness towards the digitalization of the modern world and the need for improved access to information for the younger representatives of the local demography and beyond. As you can see basically everything that is out there online and could help us develop such digital skills could be of great use for the youth, and that is why we will start a series of workshops/ open discussions, thematically prepared, to improve the basic digital and online skills and competences of the local youth.

The titles of the workshops. To exclude the introduction, would be in the fields of:
1. Up in the cloud, free and secure sharing services: Google drive.
2. Microsoft office/ Google documents. How to use document editing applications to help keep our documents arranged, and to help us organize our everyday work, studies in a better way.
3. Image editing/ Video Editing/ Sound editing applications. What is available for free out there?
4. Coding – what coding is, and why it is so important part to create algorithms in our modern, gradually digitalized world.
5. Banking apps/ card usage/ ATM’s etc. How can we organize and monitor our finances online and using the internet.
6. Creating and curating digital content and branding it. What are the possibilities to start our own creative, or service oriented endeavor on the internet.

The topics of the discussions may vary, as we meet the particular needs and/ or interests of our participants. Also, we would like to underline here, that these will not be lectures or classes, rather open discussions/ workshops on a thematically set topics that will regard the improvement of the basic digital and online skills and competences of our young participants. Further details about the free workshops/ open discussions will be soon available of the official http://www.infosega.org.mk/ online page, and on the SNS pages of the organization. People from the local high schools students and others, between the ages of 18 and 30 will be invited to join our gatherings.

So, if you are interested about what exactly are digital and online, skills and competences, and how we can we acquire and improve them,  we would invite you to join our thematic open discussions/ workshops, here at Info Sega in Prilep. And again expect further details in the very near future on our online sites.

As we are about get introduced to the world of ever- expanding and growing technocracy and digitalization of basically everything. We wish you fare well, at least for the time being. In the meantime improve and acquire skills, even if they are not digital or online – oriented. Take care, and prosper!

Written and summarized by: Velin Nedkov

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