Digital Competences (I). Boris Mir: The digital competence as a methodological competence

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

The digital competence as a methodological competence
Boris Mir

Boris Mir begins with a description of the Catalan Education system, stating some main characteristics:

  • High ratio of students per teacher, which doesn’t allow for much personalization
  • High rate of drop outs as we move up the educational system (K-12, high school, college…)
  • High decentralization that does not allow for homogeneous methodologies state wide
  • High dependence of the political cycle, meaning that every four years, the educational system can be redesigned from scratch by the new government, breaking any kind of long-term strategy


We do not have a syllabus designed towards competences, but towards disciplines. And it is within these disciplines that competences are to be developed.

These generic competences are eight: communicational competences, methodological competences, personal competences, and living-with-the-others competences. Within the methodological competences we find “Information treatment and digital competence”. The problem is: whose reponsibility is developing those competences? In an educational system centred on the discipline, whom are the generic competences?

Digital Competence

The digital competence is the combination of knowledge and skills, along with values and attitudes, to achieve goals with efficacy and efficiency in digital contexts and with digital tools. It is interesting to note that the acquisition of knowledge is accompanied by skills, being the main difference that skills can be trained (while knowledge cannot). What’s the difference then between an expert and a competent? Digital competence is reached in the strategic use of different skills in several spheres of action which lead to their respective dimensions of the digital competence:

  • Sphere of learning: learn and generate knowledge
  • Sphere of information: Retrieve, evaluate and manage information
  • Sphere of communication: how we relate with others, communicate, etc. in digital environments
  • Sphere of digital culture and digital citizenship: civic behaviour, political participation, security, etc.
  • Sphere of technology: use and manage technological devices — not the first sphere, not the only one, but one in five

At what point we decide what and when we have to do a web search, or scan a document, or send an e-mail? This is the strategic application of the digital competence, this is what is to be learnt, it’s not easy to, but it’s really fundamental (and this has little to do with when one was born).

State of the question

Few teachers use technology in their work, and the ones that do, they use it to support the traditional teaching practices. Students do alike: support the traditional learning practices, sometimes enhanced or improved by their own digital knowledge, but similar to teachers. Summing up: no methodological changes, no changes of educational goals, no changes of syllabuses.

In general, the computer at home is used for leisure and introduced quite often in the household to “do homework”, though a huge majority agrees that “using the computer” will be a needed requisite in the nearer future.

A Road map?

Possibilities in Education will be:

  • In 1 year: Collaborative environments, online communication tools
  • In 2-3 years: Mobile devices, cloud computing
  • In 4-5 years: Smart objects, personal portal

But, will these potentialities become true? Are we aware of them and their relationship with education? Can we foster them if we do not use or even do not understand them? Are we, at the Education system, going the same path the society goes? e.g. are we banning mobiles in classrooms but dreaming of mobile learning?

What should we do?

  • Raise awareness on a broader conception of ICTs, fostering its methodological and competence-related dimensions;
  • Find out why ICTs have had little impact or low adoption levels in Education and act in consequence;
  • Lead systemic educational changes: it’s not a matter of ITs or technology, but a matter of education and pedagogy and methodology.


Q: how do we make the teachers not to be afraid of technology? A: They are not! Students and teachers use intensively the technology for their own personal purposes. But they have their own idea of what a school is, and technology does not fit there. So, it’s not a matter of fear, but a matter of mindsets. The main indicator of success at school is the familiar framework; and the main indicator of educational use of technology is, again, household usage: the digital divide is a knowledge divide, not an access divide.

Joan Carles Torres: We are finding the anti-educational use of ICTs when applied in an old-fashioned way, where the results are worse than without technology. A: Agreed. It’s a matter of change management. It’s better to use the technology that is already socialized; then you can focus on pedagogy and not on technology.

Carolina Velasco: Isn’t it a problem that students are way more tech-savvy that their teachers? A: Agreed, but we should not overstate the digital competence of the students. Yes, they use a lot of technology, but in a very narrow field.

More information


Course on Digital Competences (2009)