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SELFIE: Helping Schools Go Digital

This January, Spain’s Seville, which is the capital of Andalusia and one of the country’s most picturesque localities, welcomed an expert workshop as part of the large-scale SELFIE school digital self-evaluation project. Irina Dvoretskaya, a researcher at the IOE Center for Educational Leadership, attended the event to discuss the results of SELFIE’s pilot stage in Russia and outline key areas for further developing and refining this new school assessment framework.   

As ICT innovation has been on the rise across the domains of social and economic life, it is essential for modern schools to become more aware of and responsive to this ubiquitous digital move. Accordingly, there has been a growing emphasis placed on equipping school stakeholders with an accurate and comprehensive assessment tool that would enable a clearer understanding of how well modern ICT means and techniques are being used within a specific learning environment and what policies are best appropriate in each particular case for bolstering more digitally capable schooling.  

Are school systems in fact fit to capture the benefits that digital technology offers education? What strategies can most effectively transform the opportunities of modern ICT into better teaching and improved learning outcomes? In order to provide meaningful answers to these questions, the European Commission has been partnering with an international team of educational experts in developing the SELFIE project (Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering Innovation through Educational Technologies) – an easy-to-use online framework for schools to see how well positioned they are to take advantage of the ongoing digitization.   

The idea put at the heart of this project reverberates, in a sense, how the traditional selfie works. From feedback that school stakeholders provide through completing electronic questionnaires on various aspects of digital transformations and ICT use, leadership can obtain a fair and holistic picture – just like a selfie – of what the key strengths and drawbacks in the school’s current digital stand are and how its ICT strategy should be revised to spark a more systemic digital momentum.  

SELFIE’s pilot stage got underway in 2017, when a total of 600 secondary schools from 14 countries, including Russia, took part in surveying their administrators, instructors and students to judge about what they have been doing right and which areas need to be improved in seeking to secure greater positive effects on educational quality through ICT. The next phase of pilot evaluations is set to be held in the fall of 2018.


This workshop has turned out a great opportunity for networking with other experts on the SELFIE team, and it has also given a chance to learn firsthand about how the digitization of schooling is taking place outside Russia, by talking to many educators from other countries that came to Seville to join our project discussions. It is often striking to realize how many challenges and barriers school systems from across the globe share in common when it comes to fostering innovation through digital transformations. For example, while there has been an almost widespread consensus about the benefits that digitally assisted learning brings to all of the educational stakeholders, many students are still in fact precluded from using smartphones and tablets. And what’s more, it is not infrequently parents themselves who act to impose such ICT bans.
    
 

Irina Dvoretskaya, IOE Center for Educational Leadership


 

The project team is confident SELFIE has sound prospects to become an assessment tool that will greatly benefit schools in carving out more feasible and sustainable policies and measures for best harnessing the opportunities that the global digital move has been affording. Going forward, important steps in making SELFIE inspire practical improvements in teaching and learning will involve, among other initiatives, designing cross-country methodology guidelines for this evaluation kit, supporting school liaison to exchange experience and best practices in SELFIE application, holding webinars and mass training sessions for school stakeholders, etc.