Technology has changed many aspects of our lives – from communication and labor, through leisure and time management, to the way we look for information. Its impact is evident in the way we think and behave, as well as in our education. The European Commission, therefore, created the Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu) as a means of increasing teachers’ digital literacy. EU experts designed it with the aim of facilitating the education digitization process for member state governments, regional governments, municipalities and cities. The Framework is designed for relevant agencies and organizations, schools and educators themselves – from kindergarten teachers to university professors.
Prior to the publication of this document in 2017, numerous acts and programs were created at the national and international level, aimed at enabling professional development in accordance with the requirements of the digital age; DigCompEdu is the consolidated and enhanced version of these documents.
The significance of the DigCompEdu framework lies in the fact that it provides:
a foundation for implementing policies at all levels;
a pattern that allows local participants to automatically focus on planning specific campaigns tailored to their needs, without having to work on conceptual basics;
a common language and logic that can inspire discussion and cross-border exchange of ideas and experiences in the field;
a reference point for evaluating the scope and success of current and future frameworks and tools for member states and other interested parties.
LINKgroup had been following and implementing the recommendations and standards of the European Commission listed in the document even before they were publicly presented – this is how.
Shifting and erasing boundaries
Education has entered a global crisis due to its inability to keep pace with economic development. Instead of preparing students for tomorrow’s challenges, generations are educated for yesterday’s world, making them unprepared for today. Namely, schools are not implementing technology to a sufficient degree, and it is precisely technological advancement that will lay the groundwork for success in the future. Preference is given to diplomas and titles over knowledge and skills, thus marginalizing education’s main role.
Having recognized this as a serious problem for education on a global scale, the company has endeavored to be different, modern, more efficient and more reliable since day one. Given that it has been creating solutions tailored to this vision since 1998, LINKgroup has established itself as a leading multinational company with more than 20 years of success in professional education and certification in the fields of information technology and business.
Constantly developing the network of educational institutions
The company operates successfully in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and the United States of America, and brings together students from over 120 countries through its Distance Learning Platform.
In addition to educational institutions, LINKgroup’s system includes 32 educational services designed to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Taking into account that our company’s starting point is creating professionals in the field of IT, we have realized from the get-go how important digital competences are for the advancement of experts in different areas of Industry 4.0. Therefore, we provide all our teachers and students, from first-graders to graduates, with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.
Not putting quantity over quality
Although our network has expanded over time, quality must always be our number one priority. We’re not forgetting our main task: to enable each individual student to use the skills and knowledge they have acquired in the business world and build a successful career. This is the principle that guides our teachers, as well!
Another reason why we are recognized as the regional leader in education is our resolution to use and develop innovative educational practices. We are ruthlessly dedicated to modernizing the school system through the integration of the latest educational technologies and contemporary approaches. Thus, we adapt education outcomes to the demands of the market and society as a whole. All our institutions are designed to make the education process as fruitful as possible, technology-supported, and fully committed to facilitating and accelerating the students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Innovation is not just about having an original approach to make students eligible for today’s most sought-after jobs; it’s also about preparing them to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for future jobs.
Advancing teachers’ skills and knowledge
The teachers are our students’ role models. They provide an example to students and, therefore, bear great responsibility. They have to be hard-working, adaptable, motivated, creative, driven and responsible in their relationship with themselves, other people and technology. In order to shape digitally literate students, they need to be digitally literate themselves. The best motivation for this is their working environment, both the equipment they use and their colleagues who strive towards daily progress. This, however, does not mean that we exclusively employ people who have extensive experience in using information technology. On the contrary... The most important characteristic a candidate should have is the will to advance their knowledge and skills in teaching.
Owing to the fact that they have invaluable experience in implementing new digital knowledge and skills, which they embrace and furnish with a personal touch, LINKgroup teachers and professors are constantly moving up the DigCompEdu proficiency ladder. The proficiency levels are as follows:
A1 – Newcomers – Newcomers are aware of the potential of digital technologies for enhancing pedagogical and professional practice. However, they have had very little contact with digital technologies and use them mainly for lesson preparation, administration or organizational communication. Newcomers need guidance and encouragement to expand their repertoire and to apply their existing digital competence in the pedagogical realm;
A2 – Explorers – Explorers are aware of the potential of digital technologies and are interested in exploring them to enhance pedagogical and professional practice. They have started using digital technologies in some areas of digital competence, without, however, following a comprehensive or consistent approach. Explorers are motivated to move towards B1 by encouragement, understanding and inspiration, e.g. through discussions and sharing ideas and experience with colleagues;
B1 – Integrators – Integrators experiment with digital technologies in a variety of contexts and for a range of purposes, integrating them into many of their practices. They creatively use them to enhance diverse aspects of their professional engagement. They are eager to expand their repertoire of practices. They are, however, still working on understanding which tools work best in which situations and on fitting digital technologies to pedagogic strategies and methods. Integrators just need some more time for experimentation and reflection, complemented by collaborative encouragement and knowledge exchange to become Experts;
B2 – Experts – Experts use a range of digital technologies confidently, creatively and critically to enhance their professional activities. They purposefully select digital technologies for particular situations, and try to understand the benefits and drawbacks of different digital strategies. They are curious and open to new ideas, knowing that there are many things they have not tried out yet. They use experimentation as a means of expanding, structuring and consolidating their repertoire of strategies. Experts are the backbone of any educational organization when it comes to innovating practice;
C1 – Leaders – Leaders have a consistent and comprehensive approach to using digital technologies to enhance pedagogic and professional practices. They rely on a broad repertoire of digital strategies from which they know how to choose the most appropriate for any given situation. They continuously reflect on and further develop their practices. Exchanging with peers, they keep updated on new developments and ideas. They are a source of inspiration for others, to whom they pass on their expertise;
C2 – Pioneers – Pioneers question the adequacy of contemporary digital and pedagogical practices, of which they themselves are leaders. They are concerned about the constraints or drawbacks of these practices and driven by the impulse to innovate education even further. Pioneers experiment with highly innovative and complex digital technologies and/ or develop novel pedagogical approaches. Pioneers are a unique and rare species. They lead innovation and are a role model for younger teachers.
Bearing in mind that the framework is not a “goal” but a “path”, our institutions organize relevant workshops. When teachers join our company’s institutions, they do not have absolute digital competence, nor do they fall in the category of leaders and innovators. However, the training we provide gives them the tools in the form of digital knowledge and skills, whose further use is supported by their personal aspirations, creativity and pedagogical ability, allowing them to advance up the DigCompEdu ladder. We merely recognize their determination to be better and heartily help them achieve their aspirations!
The fact that the teachers are serious about implementing digital knowledge and skills in teaching was evident during the health crisis. LINKgroup professors and teachers were fully prepared for the switch to virtual classrooms in March due to the pandemic, in accordance with the recommendations received from competent bodies. The Distance Learning Platform enabled them to teach in an online environment with no obstructions.
As part of their professional development program, our teachers attend bi-annual training at the Institute for Contemporary Education aimed at strengthening capacities regarding digital knowledge and skills. For those interested in further enriching their business portfolios or testing their knowledge and skills, the Institute provides a wide range of courses, webinars and tests in different fields.
Teachers are supposed to keep pace with our curricula, which are updated with apps throughout the year. Mastering these apps is aimed at expanding the digital competences of both teachers and students.
With a strong belief that technology is a generator of change with an important role in introducing innovation and implementing contemporary educational methods, LINKgroup focuses on helping teachers teach and helping students learn by creating and using attractive and inspiring technological devices and concepts. We have created a wide range of innovative software and services, carefully crafted so as to meet the needs of all educational institutions. Each solution is designed to respond to key questions, priorities and problems faced by the education system.
The teachers play an integral part in designing the projects through which we enhance the quality of teaching, thus confirming their digital, professional and pedagogical competences, which are also part of the DigCompEdu framework.
Professional competences refer to organization, cooperation, reflection and constant professional development. Pedagogic competences are classified into four groups – digital resources, teaching and learning, assessment, and empowering learners (see figure below).
Advancing students’ knowledge and skills
Our end goal is to make LINKgroup certificates and diplomas a guarantee of the students’ knowledge and skills, i.e. their digital competences. For the sake of their careers, students should be on a first name basis with technology. Who knows, maybe someday they will teach others.
In order to train students for the 21st century, professors have to be trained to accept technological advancements. They also need to be determined to constantly update their IT skills, which LINKgroup educators have done on countless occasions. Both educators and students are more than capable of presenting their school assignments on specially designed websites, instead of using Google, as they have proven during the extraordinary circumstances caused by the coronavirus.
Our motto is: In order to advance others, we need to advance ourselves first. This is why LINKgroup teachers took part in the ICE Conference of Good Ideas 2020. At the event, the participants presented the best examples of using ICT in online and hybrid teaching. The teachers will potentially delight and amaze the students with the newly acquired knowledge and skills, making their satisfaction level during teacher evaluation at the end of the term – 100 percent.
It is believed that throughout its history, humankind hasn’t experienced change as comprehensive and complex as that which awaits us in Industry 4.0. Our fast-evolving times require everyone, including teachers, to quickly adapt to innovation. We should use technology in a responsible and critical manner that will help us awaken the students’ potential for problem solving and innovative thinking. LINKgroup educators design their lessons guided by the 4C principle – cooperation, communication, creativity and critical thinking. The lessons are shaped in a way that encourages students to develop these four competences, rather than merely absorb the content.