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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
As schools start to reopen across the EU, many educational establishments are facing the challenge to offer effective long-term distance learning solutions. A European Commission tool called SELFIE can help schools to plan online teaching ahead of the new school year.
SELFIE (Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational Technologies) is a free, easy-to-use, customisable tool designed to help schools embed digital technologies into teaching, learning and student assessment.
The tool, a joint effort between the JRC and the Directorate-General for Education Youth, Sport and Culture is one of the 11 actions of the current Digital Education Action Plan, which helps Member States and education and training institutions support and scale up the purposeful use of digital and innovative education practices.
Since its launch in 2018, over 7 000 schools and nearly 700 000 users from 57 countries have used the SELFIE tool.
At the start of COVID-19 restriction measures, JRC researchers registered a sudden increase in the number of users as new schools and teachers were searching for guidance on online schooling.
"During the lockdown we saw that some schools were adding more specific questions linked to remote teaching and learning. This enabled those schools to tailor their distance learning offer to the specific needs of the students, taking into account their socio-economic backgrounds", JRC researcher Nikoleta Giannoutsou explains.
A new release of SELFIE published today contains new questions, which can help schools to improve their digital and online learning offer.
The questions can help schools to assess the needs of the students beyond the questions linked to access to equipment.
They can also help schools to focus on digital teaching and learning strategies, which support autonomy in learning as well as student resilience.
The tool also enables schools to reflect on how well they did during the distancing measures, in the key areas linked to the integration of digital technologies in education, from leadership and infrastructure to teaching and learning practices.
This will help identify what worked well and what did not, and to prioritise actions based on the specific needs of the students and teachers.
"We would like to look at the current pandemic not only as an unprecedented challenge, but also as an opportunity to rethink education. The questions in SELFIE are designed to support immediate needs of distance learning, but also to plan in the long term, and to harness the progress made in the use of digital technologies for more equitable, inspiring and efficient education", Nikoleta said.
The COVID-19 pandemic created several challenges for education, with the digital divide being one of the most prominent ones.
A JRC report on the likely impact of COVID-19 on education highlights the difficulties faced by schools and students during this period, ranging from the students’ possible inability to adapt to online learning, to teachers’ lack of digital skills.
Despite the widespread shift to online schooling, the authors of the report estimated that students were likely to experience a learning loss due to the lockdown period.
Furthermore, restriction measures are likely to exacerbate existing socio-economic inequalities in education, with children from less advantaged backgrounds being much more likely to fall behind in learning.
In order to mitigate against permanent learning loss and its possible economic consequences, the authors recommended schools to prepare for alternative teaching methods, including online teaching, in case schools are not able to open fully at the start of the next academic year.
A JRC policy brief on Educational inequalities in Europe and physical school closures during Covid-19 further underlines the need for targeted actions to help disadvantaged children catch up.
SELFIE gathers – anonymously – the views of students, teachers and school leaders on how technology is used in their school.
This is done using short statements and questions and a simple 1-5 agreement scale. The statements cover areas such as leadership, infrastructure, teacher training and students’ digital competence.
The self-reflection takes around 30 minutes. The questions are tailored to each group. For example, students get questions relating to their learning experience, while teachers get to reflect on teaching practices and school leaders address planning and overall strategy.
Based on this input, the tool generates a report – a SELFIE – which is a snapshot of the school‘s strengths and weaknesses in the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning.
As all schools are different, SELFIE if customisable. This means that schools can develop their own additional questions. This enables them to obtain a thorough view of the needs of all students, including those most vulnerable.
The JRC is developing SELFIE for Teachers, a new self-reflection tool aiming to improve the digital competences of teachers. The pilot phase will start in the autumn, with the aim of having the new tool fully available in mid-2021.
The tool is based on the DigCompEdu framework, which targets educators at all levels, from pre‑primary to vocational, higher and adult education. It identifies 22 specific competences teachers should acquire, structured along five areas, to be able to benefit fully from the use of digital technologies for teaching, learning and assessment.
DigCompEdu provides a general reference framework to support the development of educator-specific digital competences in Europe.
In September 2020, the European Commission will adopt a new Digital Education Action Plan, boosting the SELFIE tool and promoting high-quality, accessible and inclusive education and training in the digital age. The new Action Plan will apply the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis and set out a long-term vision for the digital transformation of education and training in the EU.
The Commission launched an EU-wide open public consultation to inform the Action Plan, gathering the views and experiences of citizens, institutions, organisations and companies during the coronavirus crisis. The consultation runs until 4 September 2020 and is available in all official EU languages.