Technology has become an integral part and distinct feature of modern societies.
Schools play a major role in preparing students for the challenge of using technology consciously and responsibly. Technology not only opens doors for social inclusion in modern societies, but it also offers diverse opportunities for both students and teachers to support teaching and learning processes.
However, simply being surrounded by digital technologies does not mean that we are able to use them effectively to our and others’ benefit. Discussions about whether teachers and schools are taking advantage of the opportunities of digital technology in classrooms often results in discussions about technical facilities and availability of digital technology in schools. Considering the expectation that investments in digital technologies could result in improved learning achievement, which show mixed results regarding the relationship of computer usage in classrooms and students’ performance, might be considered devastating. On the one hand, students who use computers moderately at school tend to have better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely.
1. Digital learning in schools
The frequency of digital technology use has been previously investigated from students’ and teachers’ perspectives. What types of teachers’ skills are potentially relevant for the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and types of student learning activities involving digital technology? Teachers’ basic digital skills in terms of an “individual’s ability to use computers to investigate, create, and communicate to participate effectively at home, at school, in the workplace, and in society.
In addition to basic digital skills, specific technology-related teaching skills during planning, implementing, and evaluating digital learning and teaching scenarios potentially relate to students’ constructive and interactive learning activities and frequency of digital technology use during teaching.
2. Basic digital skills
Basic digital skills can be defined as a set of individual’s abilities to participate in economic, social, and cultural life effectively and responsibly via digital technologies. To do so, a variety of basic digital skills is necessary. Understanding computer use, gathering information, producing information, and digital communication reflect central digital skills. Understanding computer use refers to the basic knowledge and skills to process information via digital technologies. Gathering information refers to searching, accessing, evaluating, and managing information. Producing information with digital technologies refers to the transformation and creation of new products that may build upon existing ones.
For teachers, these basic digital skills are the foundation of their professional digital skills that we will come to call digital teaching skills. For students, basic digital skills are the target skills to acquire or further develop in schools. In other words, as a prerequisite, teachers seemingly need to have basic digital skills at their disposal to apply digital technology in the classroom and to foster their students’ basic digital skills.
3. Technology-related teaching skills
We consider technology-related teaching skills as being distinct of the teachers’ basic digital skills and necessary for effective use of digital technologies in classrooms.
These interactions include pedagogical content knowledge, such as knowledge of instructional approaches in mathematics education; technological content knowledge, such as knowledge about specific technology used in mathematics education; technological pedagogical knowledge, such as knowledge about the effective use of technology in pedagogical situations; and technological pedagogical content knowledge, such as knowledge about an effective integration of technology in a mathematics teaching situation.
Pedagogical, technological, and content knowledge can be the professional knowledge base for teachers using technology efficiently, but recent approaches propose a more action-oriented perspective associating teaching skills with more general phases in teaching and initiating learning activities with digital technologies.
As technology has become an integral part of our daily live, we expect teachers’ technology usage outside of classrooms to be at an advanced level. However, compared to the use of digital technology in our daily lives, teaching and learning with digital technology has not been so pervasive in teacher education and schools. Technology-related teaching skills may thus be less advanced in teachers. Because basic digital skills are supposed to be the basis for technology-related teaching skills, we hypothesize that teachers assess their basic digital skills as being substantially more advanced than their technology-related teaching skills.