“Digital literacy is about developing identities towards competent and accountable digital citizenship,” said Kristiina Kumpulainen, a Professor of Education at the Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki.
She highlighted the participation of kids and young people in the production of digital content. Kumpulainen’s research covers children, media and digital literacy. She gave a lecture on digital education at the World Press Freedom Day conference.
Though children and young people are often seen as ‘digital natives’, Kumpulainen questions the presumption. Not all kids know how to produce content to the Web and use it as a tool for learning.
She says schools need to pay attention to teaching children how to take control over technology and not let the technology take control over them. Kumpulainen stresses that accountable digital citizenship is about producing, not only consuming digital products like YouTube videos.
“We know that young people use technology, media and digital worlds in a surprisingly passive way on their free-time.”
For children, digital competence is a way to express themselves. The question is, how to turn the passive consumption into an active way to use those tools to reach one’s goals.
Fighting the digital divide
With digital age come digital challenges. Teachers find themselves facing a task of decreasing the so-called digital divide, the gap between the privileged kids with the equipment and an Internet connection, and those not owning any.
Kumpulainen stresses that integrating digital technology, social media and media to be a natural part of students’ learning, not just a separate section used occasionally.
Educating accountable digital citizens does not always require a non-stop use of technology, says the professor. It is also important to talk and discuss about the Web and to consider different ways of using it.
When asked about the biggest challenges the teachers face in digital education in Finland, Kumpulainen raises two concerns: equipment and peer-support. She tells schools in Finland have equipment for digital education, but it is not equally divided.
However, an effort is being made to reach the goal of distributing resources to all schools and public kindergartens.
Teachers may long for peer-support. It is important to hear thoughts of what kind of conventions have worked in educating children in the use of digital tools. That way, the professor says, they can adopt and develop those practices.
“Pedagogical support and exchange of ideas is very important to many teachers.”
Kumpulainen says peer learning and sharing are important in increasing the support for teachers in growing to be digital citizens and to support their students in that as well. Both regional and school leaders can support this.
“It is a collective task. No one should be left alone.”
Text: Elise Tamminen
Phtoto: Jenni Toivonen