Digital Skills for Teachers– more important than ever! - Goethe-Institut Bulgaria

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Digital Skills for Teachers– more important than ever!

Digital Skills for Teachers– more important than ever! © Goethe-Institut von Nicola Würffel & Natallia Baliuk

The Corona pandemic has gifted teachers of German as a Foreign Language in many places experiences in digital teaching from a standing start to flat out: they often have had to completely reconfigure their face-to-face teaching to completely digital teaching within a very short time, usually without appropriate prior knowledge of how to. They had to master many new tasks and were often over-challenged. Difficulties were caused by technical problems, but the greatest challenges were primarily in the field of (social ) interaction, activating and motivating the learners and the digital skills of the teacher.

How will it continue after the pandemic restrictions can be lifted, or have been lifted? Should we return as quickly as possible, and completely, to face-to-face teaching since digital teaching proved to be so challenging? That would appear neither desirable nor conceivable in a time of worldwide digitalisation of all areas of public and private life. The more sensible way would be to train teachers for the challenges, but primarily the potential of digital teaching and provide them not just with the necessary technology, but with the necessary tools to design digital teaching of German as a Foreign Language together with their learners successfully and in a way that is motivating for all. Fortunately, there is a sufficient body of knowledge from 30 years of research into e-learning, including in the area of  foreign languages and thus there are also suggestions for the design of further training opportunities for teachers (see Rösler & Würffel, 2020) and catalogues of skills for developing the digital skills of learners.

What digital skills do teachers need?

What do teachers need to be able to teach successfully online? One model that is well-suited to the  conception of training and further training measure for teachers in digital teaching is the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu). This was developed as a flexible guideline and as a basis for the development of further models and concept descriptions of all stakeholders (for example the relevant national and regional training institutions). The framework is aimed at teachers at all levels of education (from infant to adult education) and can be adapted to every specific education context (see Redecker & Punie, 2017: pages 9–13).

The DigComEdu describes a total of 22 digital skills of teachers categorised into six areas. Since the  areas and skills are very well described in the DigComEdu, we will look only at three areas of the skills framework that appear central to us.
Figure 1 Figure 1: DigCompEdu – Overview of the skills areas (Redecker & Punie, 2019: Page 6) | © Redecker & Punie

Digitalised Teaching

The main task of teachers is teaching and supporting the learning of learners. They should therefor (also) have skills to allow them to design their teaching using digital media, i.e., digitalise their teaching. This encompasses teachers planning the use of media in the teaching and learning process, using digital media appropriately and effectively and trying out new digital formats and methods. While this skills area has been imparted for many years in ongoing training in the use of digital media, the DigComEdu brings into focus digital partial competences in the three other areas “supporting learning”, “collaborative learning” and “self-managed learning”, that have up to now often been too little considered in teacher qualifications. Teachers should have skills for using digital media to support individual, self-managed and collaborative formats; they should also be able to design their digital teaching so that media help the learners in completing joint tasks, in interacting and in joint knowledge generation within and beyond lessons (see Redecker & Punie, 2017: page 20 et seq.).

Empower learners through digital teaching

Teachers should be aware that digital teaching offers greater potential for orientation towards learners The DigComEdu calls this “empowerment” of the learners which is a much more plastic description of potential (see Figure 2). Thus, digital media can help to make lessons more accessible and inclusive, they can be used for individualisation and differentiation of teaching and learning– if the teachers have the necessary skills.
Figure 2 Figure 2: DigCompEdu – Details on the skills areas ”Learner empowerment“ (Redecker & Punie, 2017: Page 22) | © Redecker & Punie

How can teachers (further) extend their digital skills?

Before the corona pandemic, there was often a lot further training on offer aimed at beginners and somewhat less for teachers with a higher level of digital competence. After the corona pandemic, that no longer appears adequate; teachers now have much more experience and thus new skills – but in vastly different areas. (Further) development of skills in the area of digital competence must therefore be much more differentiated than previously. DigCompEdu can help here, too, to a certain extent – it is not just a reference framework, it is also a progression model for self-assessment of digital skills. The competency framework can thus help teachers to both determine their current digital skills and identify their desired skills gains through, for example, further training events or assess them after further training actions.
Figure 3 Figure 3: Progression model of DigCompEdu (Redecker & Punie, 2019: Page 23) | © Redecker & Punie

How can skills building be supported at the school level?

The promotion of digital skills of teachers in the context of schools can be undertaken at various levels. On the micro-level, teachers can, with the support of school leaders, take organise regular exchanges of subject-specific experiences (including between different schools ) in relation to digital media. Another good route could be independent further training of teachers by providing the necessary digital resources and support (for example by experiences colleagues). On the macro-level, the development of a media concept or a media education concept is recommended. Such a concept should be worked out in discussion with all teachers and contain specific aims and actions, take subject-specific and school circumstances into account and enable sustainable promotion of digital skills.

Bibliography / Internet sources

Redecker, Christine; Punie, Yves (2017): European framework for the digital competence of educators. DigCompEdu, Publications Office (EUR, Scientific and technical research series), Luxembourg 

Redecker, Christine; Punie, Yves (2019): Europäischer Rahmen für die Digitale Kompetenz Lehrender. DigCompEdu, deutsche Übersetzung durch das Goethe‑Institut, Publications Office, Luxembourg 

Rösler, Dietmar & Würffel, Nicola (2020): DLL 05: Lehr- und Lernmedien, Neubearbeitung, Klett/Langenscheidt, München