The European Commission (EC) has unveiled plans to reinvigorate the use of ICT in European schools, including providing more free and open digital learning platforms to educational institutions across the European Union.
According to EC-conducted research, up to 80 percent of students never use digital resources such as e-textbooks, learning games and podcasts, which the Commission says is "hampering" efforts to create a digitally literate set of future workers. It also says that 70 percent of EU teachers are looking for better ICT training.
Vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the the EC's Digital Agenda, said it was her "dream" to make every classroom digital by 2020. She said: "Education must be connected to real life; it cannot be a parallel universe. Young people want to use digital technology in every aspect of life. They need digital skills to get jobs. All of our schools and universities, not just some of them, must reflect that reality."
In a bid to tackle the issue, the EC has laid out plans for a scheme it calls "Opening up Education", which would make a wide range of resources available to institutions ranging from primary schools to universities. The new policies focus on three areas:
- Creating opportunities for organisations, teachers and learners to innovate.
- Increased use of Open Educational Resources (OER), ensuring that educational materials produced with public funding are available to all.
- Better ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools.
In simple terms, the EC will provide help and funding to schools and teachers in order for them to be able to reinvigorate their current teaching practices, assisting in the setting up of "communities of practice" in which teachers can work together to create more innovative curricula.
Furthermore, the increased use of open educational resources will see more funding heading in the direction of products such as digital textbooks, which the EC intends to make freely available on its Open Education Europa portal. It also wants more "massive open online courses" (MOOCs), which would be accessible anywhere and from any device, to be made available to European students.
Finally, better technical support for schools looking to connect to high-speed internet services will be provided, as well as more training for teachers who want or require better ICT skills in order to teach effectively.
It also seeks to have member states work together more closely on these investments, as it believes that current investment in training and infrastructure from European governments "rarely yields the expected returns".
Androulla Vassiliou, commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth said the plans were critical to the development of EU education standards. "Open technology-based education will soon be a 'must have', not just a 'good-to-have', for all ages," she said. "We need to do more to ensure that young people especially are equipped with the digital skills they need for their future.
"It's not enough to understand how to use an app or program; we need youngsters who can create their own programs. Opening up Education is about opening minds to new learning methods so that our people are more employable, creative, innovative and entrepreneurial."
Many of the plans announced today will begin immediately, with others coming online by 2015, the EC said.
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