Our latest working paper presents the research results focusing on the educational ecosystem. This report summarises the results of our research from Estonia, Germany, Greece, Norway and Romania. The intention of this work package was to develop an understanding of how children and young people view their teachers’ and school’s capacity and readiness to support them in preparing for their future in a digital age.
Along with eight sub-research questions, this report elaborates upon the commonalities and differences between the five countries involved in this work. Further, country-specific results are addressed in a detailed section for each country or, in cases where there are major differences between the countries, are explicitly stated. The eight sub-questions are:
- How is ICT used in different settings before and after transition into a new formal educational phase, and which children and young people, taking into account socioeconomic characteristics and cultural backgrounds, profit from which kind of setting?
- How do children and young people at different ages rate and assess the value of their education in terms of preparing them for future life in the digital age, and are there any differences in the way that children and young people from different backgrounds assess their education and the extent to which the latter influences their perspectives?
- What do children and young people in different transition phases consider to be threats (risks) in terms of their own ICT use, and how can schools address these threats?
- What do children and young people consider the main potential of ICT use in different transition phases and do their schools contribute to that?
- How do children and young people evaluate their teachers’ and schools’ views and their capacity and readiness to support the younger generation in preparing them adequately for the digital age?
- What are the long-term effects of the availability of digital media, specifically including the Internet, on cognitive skills?
- How do other school actors, e.g. teachers and relevant stakeholders, evaluate and rate school education and its capacity to prepare young people for the digital age at relevant phases and transitions?
- To what extent do the relevant actors take into account differences in children and young people’s backgrounds and characteristics?
The findings in this report reveal various conditions contributing to children and young people benefitting from and being negatively impacted by ICT use. It considers the inequalities in background characteristics and, particularly, characteristics at both the teacher and school levels. Thus, conditions can be identified on three different levels: the children and young people level, the teacher level and the school level.
At the level of children and young people, beneficial aspects include the great potential of Internet use to learn more, get answers beyond textbooks and discover new things. Another benefit is the frequently mentioned ease of not having to carry heavy materials. In the context of social inclusion, ICT use enables children and young people to network with each other and with teachers.
One harmful aspect at the level of children and young people is that there are differences in each individual’s access to digital devices that are available at home to do homework, engage in school networks or participate in (pandemic-induced) distance learning formats. Inequality in access associated with educational inequality is related to differences in the children and young people’s socioeconomic backgrounds, sometimes resulting in circumstances that limit their access to ICT.
Another risk relates to the possibility of an online virus, becoming a victim of a hacker attack and data protection, especially in relation to the use of social media. Many children and young people are also either simply aware of the possible physical effects of using ICT or have personally experienced how excessive ICT use and screen time can lead to fatigue or even eye pain and headaches. Lack of digital skills can prevent children and young people from using the full array of the various ICTs available. The availability of the Internet or leisure apps on digital devices is also perceived as a challenge, as it creates great potential for distraction on digital devices, which can be challenging for learning. Further, children and young people do not appreciate when too many (and different) digital solutions are used. Instead of helping them, an excess of digital solutions creates confusion and unnecessary stress.
At the teacher level, a beneficial aspect of ICT is the opportunity to work with a variety of appealing materials and methods in the classroom through ICT use. Teachers’ organisation and classroom management were also mentioned as a strength of ICT, as lesson plans and results can be documented and stored for easy access for years to come.
However, various harmful and problematic factors can be identified at this level. These include differences in understanding and being open to ICT use in school, both between individuals and between generations and subjects. In addition to attitudes, digital skills and confidence also differ between teachers, making teaching with and about ICT more difficult. This affects children and young people’s preparation for the digital age. In this context, reluctance to use the ICT because of a lack of necessary know-how, especially in relation to data protection, makes teachers vulnerable in this area, and limits their willingness and ability to use the potential that ICT can garner in school and the classroom.
At the school level, the effort and strategies to provide schools with ICT infrastructure, especially in the context of COVID-19-related distance learning formats, can be highlighted as a benefit. Digitally advanced schools – where every teacher, child and young person is equipped with school devices and ICT is an integral part of daily teaching and learning, thereby promoting ICT inclusion – emerge as being particularly beneficial. Further ways of continuous professional development in terms of integrating ICT in teaching and learning, supported and organised at the school level, are considered beneficial, although findings indicate differences within and between countries as such concepts of continuous professional development at school level are applied to different extents.
Differences in IT equipment and infrastructure can be highlighted as being harmful at the school level. This can result in teachers not having the same opportunities to teach with and about ICT, and thus not having the same opportunities for children and young people to work digitally, learn about ICT and develop digital skills. Also, administrative barriers are mentioned when it comes to support strategies reaching the classroom.
The full paper can be accessed here.