In a digitalized world, e-skills seem to play an increasingly large role in an individual’s skill set. They seem needed almost everywhere. Would you think of writing a letter to a friend or drafting an essay by hand? Most certainly not! You would drop your friend an email and type your essay in a word processor and so would most people, at least in your generation. But is this really all there is to e-skills? Does it really all come down to writing emails and typing documents?
This kit will help you explore what e-skills are actually about, how they are affecting our everyday lives and why they will be so crucial in tomorrow's world.
E-skills commonly refer to people’s ICT skills but also to their ability to make sense of and perform well in a technology-rich environment. E-skills can vary from basic, simple skills like bookmarking a site to more sophisticated competencies like applying for a job online or designing a website.
The New Millennium Learners are the people born since 1980 and thus raised surrounded by technology. They are known for being comfortable and creative with technology, for using social media extensively (IM, chat, social networking sites) and for being good at multitasking across different devices. Many are creating their own original content such as blogs, artwork, websites or video mash-ups.
According to statistics, the digital gap between countries with high and low ICT levels has decreased. Mobile phone penetration, increased internet availability and cheaper broadband connections have helped close the divide. However, there are still major differences between “high” and “low” countries, with poor areas still in need of technological equipment.
Although there is no conclusive evidence that girls are less gifted in science and technology, only a few of them pursue careers in this field. It seems that they are often discouraged to do so and lack inspiring role models. This makes it all the more important for parents to collaborate with teachers in helping talented girls identify and develop their skills.
Scientists warn that the ease of searching for information online is making us shallower and less responsible. With our ‘grasshopper mind’, we often change our focus of attention, are more likely to overlook important information and, in the long run, may find it increasingly difficult to transfer information to our long-term memory; a process that is essential for the development of our intelligence.
Many claim that “textism”, Twitter and social networking sites have led to the corruption of language and the worsening of spelling among young people. Unlike previous generations who preferred classics such as “David Copperfield” or “Treasure Island”, research has found that today’s teens in the UK choose easier reads such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series.
Research shows that we develop our brains differently by reading books than by surfing the internet. The huge volume of texts, images and videos together with the mass of emails, alerts, and newsfeeds that we receive make us less able to process information and develop long-term memory.
Podcasting and media streaming have become practical ways to present information at school and at university via slideshows, video and audio files. Podcasting also means that classes have become accessible to everyone and universities are rapidly picking up the trend. Stanford University was first to partner with Apple to offer recordings of campus events, book readings, and lectures via iTunes.
While the first digital divide was about access to technology, the second digital divide refers to people’s ability to make sense and use of it. There are differences in how people can access and use various sources of online information and therefore also differences in how well they take advantage of its opportunities.
Digital citizenship commonly refers to a person’s capacity to participate in society in a way that integrates ICT use. Along with access to technology, a digital citizen should possess sufficient e-skills and knowledge to interact with other members of society, institutions and organizations through digital tools.
E-commerce refers to the sale and purchase of goods and services over the internet. Online shopping is a worldwide phenomenon that has transformed the way we buy and sell things. There are numerous systems available for online payment, including the traditional credit and debit card but also new technologies such as digital wallets, e-cash, mobile payment and e-checks.
Microsoft Office for Windows was launched in 1990 as a three application pack for Microsoft Windows 3.0 containing: a word processor (Microsoft Word), a spreadsheet program (Microsoft Excel) and a presentation tool (Microsoft PowerPoint). Other desktop applications were added over time. Since then, open source and free alternatives like Open Office have been launched to reduce the dominant market share of MS Office.
Due to technological innovation and to the fast growth of the ICT sector, the shortage of e-skills has been increasing. That means that our society is producing technology at a faster pace than it is producing skilled knowledge workers that can use it effectively. There is also a shortage of “linkers” in the labour market – people who combine expertise in ICT with a background in other subjects such as law, medicine or social sciences.
A knowledge engineer is a computer system specialist trained to create and implement computer software programs that can accomplish problem-solving tasks. They incorporate artificial intelligence into data analysis and decision-making applications. The term appeared in the 1980s when artificial intelligence was first commercialized for the consulting business.
Founded in 2001, Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative encyclopaedia that has become the largest and most popular reference website on the internet. Wikipedia employs an open wiki editing tool that enables the anonymous creation and editing of articles, without prior approval and review. Its accuracy and success is maintained through the collaborative efforts of volunteers.
The concept of 'T-shaped' professionals refers to people who are very knowledgeable and competent in their specialty, and also have broader management education and awareness of the wider business and political context. As an example, the ICT hybrid manager is a specialist in ICT who also knows about business and management strategies and is a good networker and communicator.
With the expansion of technology and the aging of the baby boomer generation, IT is bound to become the most wanted field of expertise in the near future. Professionals like network systems and data communications analysts, computer software engineers, and systems and database administrators are already in high demand.
The exponential rate of technological progress means that it will derail the linear pace of human development through increasingly fast technological jumps. Within the past sixty years, our lives have changed almost beyond recognition. This trend will lead to unimaginable technological progress in the 21st century, such as the surpassing of human intelligence by machines.
Similar to the digitisation of music and photography, the e-book market has expanded greatly. For the avid reader, the possibility of carrying hundreds of books in one device has huge appeal, and for students, the possibility of annotating text electronically is highly valued. However, some people are nostalgic about the feel and smell of printed books.
Research shows that online strategy games and virtual worlds encourage the development of deductive reasoning, effective planning, strategic thinking and decision-making. Multiplayer or collaborative online games also help children and young people develop social skills such as mutual trust and cooperative problem-solving.
Google has recently launched its own operating system, working exclusively with web applications instead of traditional software. The advantage is that you have easy and immediate access to your data with very little effort on your part. All you need is a browser and an account. On the other hand, all your data is in the “cloud” and therefore exposed to privacy risks.
Talent is something difficult to define but people usually agree that you recognize it when you see it. It is a special natural ability that is often contrasted with skills acquired through hard work and effort. In the ICT field, talent is about being creative and ‘thinking outside the box’.
Digital literacy generally refers to a person’s capacity to make sense and use of a technology-rich environment for work, leisure, learning and communication purposes. Digital literacy starts with the ability to surf the internet and involves, at a more advanced level, creative skills such as Photoshop use or web design.
Critical thinking refers to the ability to put information in perspective and to question and evaluate its value and credibility. Critical thinking is therefore crucial in recognizing information that might prove to be incomplete, harmful, or just wrong, but also information that allows us to make better choices.
Lack of quality, multiple errors, superficiality – these are some of the dangers of multitasking. Studies have found that when an employee focuses on just one thing at a time, the quality of his/her work improves. Sometimes, multitasking also damages our relationships if we constantly fail to pay attention. But the good news is that like any bad habit, we can unlearn it.
Studies show that people who benefit most from digital integration are the unemployed and the socially excluded. Being digitally literate enables them to benefit from online educational resources and job opportunities, e-government tools, e-health services and other online information and public services, which they would less easily have access to otherwise.
The number of ICT specialists has almost doubled in Europe between 1995 and 2008. However, the interest in ICT careers among young Europeans appears to be diminishing. The number of computer science graduates has been in continuous decline since 2005.
WikiLeaks is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 that claims to represent the empowered digital citizen by challenging powerful institutions and governments through exposing diplomatic secrets, increasing transparency and promoting freedom of the press. There has been a great deal of controversy around the organisation’s release of leaks about the Iraq War and the U.S. State Department.
What do you think most people understand by e-skills? And what do you understand by them?
How do you think that using your mobile phone in class lessons would affect your motivation and your school marks?
How difficult is it for elderly people in your country to access and use modern technology? What kind of support is available to them?
Girls are often said to be less talented at science and technology than boys. Is this true? Discuss.
Is a mind that jumps quickly from one subject to another necessarily superficial? Discuss.
“The decline of children’s literacy skills today is alarming. They do everything on the computer; they can’t write or count anymore.” Do you agree?
On the basis of their current use and consumption of information, how different or similar to their parents do you expect today’s teenagers to be when they become adults?
A lot has been said about innovation in teaching and learning. How does the old compare to the new in your opinion? Are new learning methods clearly more effective?
Having access to technology is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Which aspect is more challenging in your opinion?
The internet could allow each single citizen better participation in the political decision–making process via, for instance, online referendums. How feasible or desirable is this?
Online shopping doesn’t really require e-skills. It’s just a matter of a couple of clicks. Do you agree?
MS Office has become the typical example of basic computer skills required for any office job but are they enough? What are the e-skills required of employees these days?
The percent of jobs that require ICT skills is continually growing. In your opinion, what place will be left in the future for people with no or low ICT skills?
What skills do you think it takes to be a good knowledge engineer?
It has been said that the digital world makes people more selfish. Wikipedia is a good example of people engaging in spontaneous acts of kindness and altruism on a global scale. In your opinion, is this an exception or we are becoming more generous due to the internet?
Is it possible today to reach a senior management position while having very limited e-skills? Discuss.
Should college students listen to their head and choose a career path that will guarantee them a job in the future such as ICT or should they listen to their heart and pursue what they are truly passionate about? Should the current economic situation play a role in this decision?
How can we best prepare ourselves for a future of frequent career changes?
Will the internet cause the death of the ancient art of storytelling and of the novel?
Why do most parents think that young people should not waste their time on video games and why do they believe that such games are pointless?
Who needs software when we have the cloud? No more data backup, no more software to install, no more time spent updating applications. Do you agree?
The search for talent in an increasingly competitive job market is becoming more and more challenging. Companies are always looking for talented employees and this often means ‘stealing’ them from other companies. Is this a sensible practice? What negative consequences could this have in the long run?
The stereotypical view is that young people who have grown up surrounded by technology are more digitally literate than the older generation which has had to adapt to it. Is this true or is the older generation catching up?
“There’s nothing wrong with the current abundance of information in the online environment. The more, the better, and everyone takes just what they need.” Do you agree or is there also a downside to having so much information?
Each time we text while driving and don’t get into an accident, we become cockier and more convinced that we can do more things at the same time. Is multitasking real or are we just putting ourselves at risk?
President Obama expressed his concern that the proliferation of information and social media on the internet threatens to become “a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment rather than a tool of empowerment.” Do you agree that the internet should first be an empowerment tool?
Fewer and fewer young people are pursuing computer science and technical degrees. Why is that? Is ICT simply a boring field? Do young people lack the competencies and self-confidence to go for it? Or are they just not aware of what ICT careers are actually about?
Thanks to modern technology, everybody can now publish anything and reach out to thousands of people. Does it mean that everybody can be a journalist, or is there more to it than this?
For this particular role play, participants are invited to create their own policies and decide which they would support, which they would find acceptable, which they would find not acceptable and which they would abstain from.
One example could be: school curricula should integrate the use of the mobile phone in school lessons and learning activities.