The Federal Ministry for Education and Women’s Affairs (BMBF) details how new digital technologies are transforming classrooms across Austria
Information and communication technologies transform teaching and learning. New teaching and learning methods such as the flipped classroom or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are opening up the classroom: learning takes place not only during the instruction period but also during the break, in the corridor, on field trips or during leisure time. Technologies support the formation of new learning communities, flexible and class-wide collaborations, individual learning paths, as well as research-based and student-centred learning. The pupils are the focus: they assume an active role in an autonomous learning process.
With the “efit21 – digital literacy” strategy, the Federal Ministry for Education and Women’s Affairs has set focused targets for the sustainable use of digital technologies and media in Austrian educational institutions. “efit21” focuses on international developments and key concepts, bringing together all relevant initiatives and projects of the Ministry under its umbrella and pursues strategic objectives:
- Systematically improve the quality of teaching and learning and integrate innovative learning scenarios into the educational process;
- Provide digital skills for personal and professional success to youth and adults;
- Convey skills relevant to the labour market through professional training and professional eSkills;
- Sustainably improve the efficiency of educational administration by the use of IT;
- Improve access to digital technologies and media, dismantle barriers to use and support better participation;
- Promote digital education institutions.
Attention to gender perspectives, participation in international projects and cooperation with different institutions and disciplines such as science and research and the economy are important principles in the implementation of the strategy.
Digital technologies and media are integrated with binding effect across the board in the curricula of all schools via the “eLearning/application of technology in the classroom” and “Media education” teaching principles, as well as partly via their own subject matter.
No child should leave school without digital skills
Children and young people grow up with technology. The world they live in should also be actively integrated into the school. Studies have shown that as “digital natives”, students can often use only a narrow range of technologies competently. Therefore, it is important to provide them with a reflected approach to digital media and the Internet and lead them to be able to use the technology responsibly on their own.
Under “Digikomp8”, a group of experts has brought the digital skills 1 together which students should possess by the end of grade 8 (age 14). The rollout is based on digital classroom examples relating to the educational topic. Digital skills were also defined and classroom examples were developed for primary level (age 6 to 10) and secondary level II (age 15 to 18). The saferinternet.at coordination point provides information and services for schools and school partners on various aspects of the safe use of ICT and the Internet.
Educators play a key role in conveying these skills. The “digiCHECK” tool allows teachers to check their digital literacy and skills on the basis of self-assessment questions and receive feedback on recommended measures to be taken to improve qualifications. Training modules and eEducation courses are available to the teachers. Virtual Pedagogical University offers new training models such as collaborative online seminars and introductory units in the form of eLectures.
Taking advantage of technology potential for teaching and learning
The educational potential of ICT for education and training is still not fully being used. One of the core statements of the OECD report on the connections between technology use and student performance is that 21st-century technologies should be linked with modern educational models.2
A large number of Austrian schools have integrated ICT well into their daily routine and the development of the school; they link the technologies with educational concepts and use creative potential for the learning process. eLearning networks have established themselves in innovative schools. Mobile devices are used in notebook and tablet classes as learning tools. Learning platforms and learning-management systems are available as a central service to all schools. The “Mobile Learning” project follows a cross-school peer-learning approach and aims to contribute to further dissemination: An eLearning-savvy school supports 2 newly joined schools on their way to digital teaching and learning with tablets. They network and implement a jointly developed educational concept at their sites. BMBF thereby also pursues a new approach to training educators (learning from colleagues through practice).
Increased use of digital educational media
Well-prepared digital educational content offers the opportunity for effective educational use of technologies. Content portals with digital teaching materials have been established. An important milestone has now been reached in the area of digital textbooks: Through the textbook initiative, beginning in 2016 eBooks will be used for the first time in secondary level II. At another stage of expansion, interactive supplementary materials will also be included. Open Educational Resources are moving into the Austrian classroom too: In a pilot project, teachers developed OER materials, which are currently being tested in e-learning networks and assessed for quality.
Improving access to digital media for schools and learners
Access to digital media will be improved for schools and learners. The challenge for those operating educational institutions is to create the best possible framework conditions in terms of infrastructure, for example, for using ICT in teaching and learning. The expansion of Internet connections and Wi-Fi in schools is an important area for action.
BMBF follows the approach of reducing the administrative burden on federal schools via centrally provided services (e.g. centrally maintained and hosted learning platforms) and standardised applications. More favourable conditions can be achieved by concluding framework agreements (e.g. general licenses for standard software products).
For more information please visit www.efit21.at
1 Skills include not only user knowledge, but also awareness-raising-and action-oriented aspects as well as concepts in information technology.
2 OECD report “Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection”.
Federal Ministry for Education and Women’s Affairs (BMBF)