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Digital skills of students not always utilized in class in Estonia

Computer.
Computer. Source: Karolina Grabowska / Pixabay

The international PISA test results also looked at use of digital aids in schools. While Estonian students and teachers sport excellent digital skills, they are not always put to the most effective use in school.

The Tartu Annelinn High School uses tablets to make learning more versatile and exciting for students. Teacher Pavel Babtšenko said that students like it when digital aids are incorporated in class.

"It is something new. They are a little fed up with classic education that consists of a lot of reading, writing and memorizing. The new system offers playful education, lets them obtain new knowledge and skills through playing."

Recent PISA test results show that Estonian schools use digital technology for an average of 1.6 hours a day – below the OECD average. Maie Kitsing, education management and teacher policy adviser at the Ministry of Education and Reserch, said that while Estonian students are adept at using digital aids, the latter are utilized for very basic purposes.

"Whether it's writing documents in Word or making PowerPoint presentations. The kids' replies tell us that we have a lot of untapped potential. We are not using digital aids enough in areas where they can help with the thought process or to streamline processes," Kitsing said.

She added that the PISA results also suggest Estonian teachers have excellent digital skills which they put to good use, but teachers often do so when appearing in front of the class as opposed to having the kids collaborate using digital tools.

"We're not sure schools are currently shaping students who would be able to develop our digital state in the future. While we used to be a pioneering digital state a decade ago, it is slipping away today. For example, Latvian and Finnish schools use digital aids for more than we do, not to mention Asian countries," Kitsing said.

Margus Pedaste, professor of education technology at the University of Tartu and head of a group of scientists who have studied students' digital skills, said that digital aids are the most effective when used interactively.

"Project-based learning, debates, working together online or by using digital tools when collaborating in person, providing feedback to peers' work etc."

Pedaste said that while the study suggests Estonian schools are doing a good job using digital aids, the important thing to understand is that the way in which technology is used is more important than how often it is done.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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