Empowering European Schools for a Resilient Digital Future
In a fast-evolving landscape of education, boosted by the digital revolution, European Schoolnet calls education experts from all over Europe to bring critical thinking and share initiatives to support students and teachers by "Empowering Schools with Digital Skills". Held on 5-6 December 2023 in Rome, in collaboration with INDIRE and the Ministry of Education of Italy, the annual conference of European Schoolnet, EMINENT 2023 brought together over 160 experts in education and innovation from more than 30 countries. The conference echoed a commitment to collaboration, emphasising that the digital transformation of education requires a collective effort. Stakeholders, including policymakers, teachers, academia and industry professionals, were called upon to unite in shaping a digital future for European schools.
Setting the Scene: education fit for the digital decade.
Marc Durando, Executive Director European Schoolnet, opened the conference explaining how the theme of the conference, "Empowering Schools with Digital skills", reflects and contributes to the aims of the 2023 European year of skills and to the new set of recommendations recently adopted by the European council to addressing the need to make education fit for genuine digital transformation.
On 23 November, the European Council adopted two recommendations on the key enabling factors for successful digital education and training, and on improving the provision of digital skills and competences in education and training.
In this context, European Schoolnet's is playing an active role in supporting these recommendations and explained how European Schoolnet has been working for a long time now on supporting the different European countries in preparing their education systems to reduce the digital gap through initiatives and projects that invest in students' digital skills and schools' capacities and empower educators. He mentioned initiatives, such as the European Schoolnet Academy and the Future Classroom Lab, along with projects such as ContinueUP, CodeWeek, and Media Literacy Case for Educators.
During the event, European Schoolnet took a proactive stance in addressing the rising concerns about the impact of digitisation on students' mental and emotional health, launching its new Perspective paper on "Digital Wellbeing" at Eminent 2023. This initiative aligns with a broader commitment to ensuring that the benefits of digitalisation extend beyond the academic realm.
In her introductory speech, Serena Lippi, Consigliere Diplomatico del Ministro dell'Istruzione e del Merito, Ministry of Education of Italy highlighted the importance of integrating emerging technologies into the curriculum and the role of teacher training courses accessible through digital platforms and initiatives like Scuola Futura and explained how the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan 's investment in teacher training aims to enhance pedagogical approaches using digital technologies, empowering educators to actively manage digital tools with an understanding of their potential, limitations, and ethical considerations.
Following this, Georgi Dimitrov, Head of Unit Digital Education, DG EAC, European Commission's introduction speech emphasised the central theme focused on the importance of collaboration at the European level to address common issues among the 27 Member States. The European Commission's organised structured dialogue on digital vocational skills with each Member State, addressing topics such as skills, infrastructure, teacher training, and access development, was highlighted.
Eminent was also the place to exchange best practices and national and regional policy initiatives that support and sustain change at the school level, learning, for example, from the digital education transition plan implemented in member countries, such as Portugal. Maria João, representing the Ministry of Education of Portugal, explained how the government is investing in digital infrastructure and competences for all students and teachers across the country, in an inclusive way, during an open discussion with representatives from various governments. A case study on Portugal's digital education transition plan will be soon published by European Schoolnet in 2024 as part of the organisation's evidence for innovation.
AI in Education: Navigating Challenges and Opportunities
The first keynote speaker, Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor of media and information and communications technology sociology, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle delved into the transformative impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, emphasising the critical necessity for thorough training. The proposed AI Competence Framework provides a strategic blueprint for gradually integrating AI literacy into existing educational structures. Additional insights from Mark West, Education Specialist at UNESCO contributed with inspiring insights and valuable considerations for schools striving to empower students with digital skills.
The emphasis on foundational literacy skills aligns with the broader objective of empowering schools. Strengthening traditional literacy not only establishes the foundation for effective digital literacy but also underscores the long-term impact of foundational skills in an ever-evolving technological landscape.
Furthermore, the discussion on the evolution of digital literacy, particularly the shift towards AI-powered natural language computing, highlights the dynamic nature of technology. For schools to effectively empower their communities, staying informed about these technological advancements becomes imperative, emphasising the need for continuous learning and adaptation within educational institutions.
Watch the Keynote speakers' session
|Mark West , Education Specialist, UNESCO
Roundtable Dialogues: Empowering Schools with Digital Skills
Both roundtable dialogues unveiled key strategies for navigating the digital era.
The first roundtable advocated for integrating digital skills into curricula, focusing on basic competence, critical thinking, and reshaping learning environments, as expressed by Noreen Finnegan, Ministry of Education of Ireland and Elisabetta Mughini, INDIRE (Italy) in their intervention. Notably, the platform Pix (Marie Bancal, Director of Partnerships and Development, Pix) in France demonstrated personalised learning campaigns. The discussions covered teacher training, inclusive education, and the importance of reducing dropout rates, aligning with the goal of empowering students digitally.
Transitioning to the second roundtable, the focus shifted to the challenges and opportunities linked to AI integration in education, centring on the evolving role of teachers. Acknowledging the historical context of teachers adapting to technological revolutions, the panel expressed optimism about educators embracing technology, with the support of sustainable Continued Professional development programmes, fostering synergies between Initial Teacher Education and professional development for in service teachers. The Spanish Ministry's strategic initiatives were highlighted by Ana Maria Hernández Martínez, Ministry of Education and VET – INTEF for contributing to empowering schools through investments in equipment, training, and mentorship. The discussions emphasised the multifaceted approach required to empower teachers with digital skills, prioritising continuous training, mentorship, and acknowledging the broader societal impact of AI in education. In this regard, European Schoolnet Academy is organising a thematic seminar on 'Professional Development for Teachers in the Age of AI.'
Youth Perspectives on Digital Education and Inclusion
The youth panel, featuring two Italian students from the Safer Internet Centre and Better Internet for Kids youth panel, played a pivotal role in highlighting the imperative of incorporating young voices in shaping digital education policies. The duo shared their experiences with Safer Internet initiatives, emphasising the need for a proactive approach to digital education in European schools. They voiced concerns about the current passive stance toward digital education and underscored the necessity of integrating digital skills into the curriculum for both students and teachers.
The call to action echoed the Safer Internet Forum 2023 conference's universal message — "Empower, Inspire, Transform" — urging participants to implement the insights gained in their daily work to benefit young people.
Closing Perspectives on Empowering Schools with Digital Skills
The closing session featured insightful reflections from two distinguished speakers emphasising key takeaways from the two-day conference. Jan De Craemer, Chair of European Schoolnet highlighted the post-pandemic growth in ICT infrastructure and the broader focus needed on digital skills beyond technical aspects. European collaboration, AI concerns, critical voices, and student involvement were acknowledged as crucial elements in the pursuit of comprehensive digital skills. Cristina Grieco, President of Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione, Innovazione e Ricerca Educativa (INDIRE), outlined lessons learned, focusing on empowerment definitions, the digital education ecosystem, and the pivotal role of teachers. Addressing the digital divide, future actions were proposed, emphasising universal access, national digital strategies, and supporting educators. Collaboration, cybersecurity, regular assessment, and a holistic approach were underscored for successful empowerment. The analysis highlighted the urgency of empowering schools with digital skills, recognising the multifaceted nature of digital education. The speakers collectively urged a transformative approach to shape a digital future at national and European levels.
Slides and Presentations
To stay informed about our digital education initiatives, subscribe to our policy newsletter. For real-time updates on publications, events, and recommendations, follow us on our various social media channels.