Digital literacy in the curriculum for the Netherlands

The Netherlands started the development of a new curriculum framework for primary and secondary education in 2018. Digital literacy will be a new together with the other subjects: Dutch, Arithmetic/mathematics, English/modern foreign languages, Citizenship, Exercise & Sport, Art &Culture, Human & Nature, Human & Society. Proposals were created for each subject.

The government of the Netherlands will decide in March 2020 how to proceed with this proposal and decide if Digital Literacy will become actual part of the new curriculum. 

For the development process 125 teachers, 18 school leaders and over 80 schools were recruited to work on the corner stones for the new curriculum. For each subject a teacher design team was formed to work on a subject. The nine teacher design teams worked together in eight three-day sessions to create a vision for each subject, design big ideas and corresponding learning trajectories for the big ideas. For Digital Literacy a teacher design team (TDT) of 12 teachers and 4 school leaders were recruited from primary, secondary and special needs education. The team was guided by a member of the national institute for curriculum development and a process leader. Next to this five schools for primary education, five schools for secondary education and one institute for teacher training were recruited to give feedback on the work of the TDT. The feedback focused on the usability of the products and was gathered from teachers, parents and students. 

One of the new themes in this curriculum is Digital Literacy, which is defined as a combination of ICT skills, media literacy, information literacy and computational thinking.

The four components were described as (SLO, 2020):
-     ICT (basic) skills includes the knowledge of basic concepts and functions of computers, the ability to identify, connect and operate hardware, the ability to deal with standard office applications (word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software), the ability to deal with software programs on mobile devices, the ability to use the internet (browsers, e-mail), and to be aware of and deal with security and privacy issues.
-     Computational thinking is about using think processes that involve problem identification, and the organization, representation and analysis of data that are used for finding solutions for problems while using ICT techniques and tools.
-     Media literacy is about the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for conscious, critical and actively working with media. Next to the ability to understand how media work and how they influence what we see, it is about the ability to create content, participate in social networks, and to reflect on your own media use.
-     Information literacy is the ability to identify and analyze a need for information and based on this to be able to search, select, process, use, and present relevant information.

For digital literacy six big ideas were described in terms of learning trajectories and learning objectives:

1. data and information;
2. security and privacy in the digital world;
3. the operation and use of digital technology;
4. digital communication and collaboration;
5. digital citizenship;
6. digital economy.

In order to help teachers from primary and secondary education to teach the concepts of Digital Literacy key stages or learning trajectories have to be designed. Learning trajectories are defined as "a reasoned structured set of intermediate objectives and content leading to a certain core objective" (Strijker, 2010, p. 10). Learning trajectories not only give clarity about the core objective, but it also gives the opportunity to personalize learning by adjusting learning goals and related learning activities to the possibilities of the learners. For primary education two levels were defined to design intermediate objectives for: Stage 1 (age 4-8) and Stage 2 (age 9-12). This continues into lower secondary education with Stage 3 (age 12-14) and higher secondary education Stage 4 (age 15-18). This means that the learning trajectory for Digital Literacy contains four stages of learning objectives that all cover a specific period of ages.

For each of the big ideas a set of learning objectives were defined for primary (stage 2) and lower secondary (stage 3) education (, 2020).

·         Data and information (ICT basic skills, Media literacy, Information literacy, Computational thinking);
o    From data to information;
§  Stage 2, students learn how to search for information, selecting and presenting with the use of digital technologies. They learn how to formulate questions that computers can understand;
§  Stage 3, students learn to make a conscious choice from available digital resources to search, select and present information, they also learn about copyright;
o    Digital data;
§  Stage 2, students learn what is digital data, what the importance is of data, how digital technology uses data and how they themselves can deal with digital data;
§  Stage 3, students learn how digital technology can help them dealing with large amounts of data and the value of data for use in society and the economy;
·         Security and privacy in the digital world (ICT basic skills, Media literacy, Computational thinking);
o    Security in the digital world;
§  Stage 2, students learn that their personal data are stored in different places, they learn how they can ensure that their data is safe and what to do if something goes wrong;
§  Stage 3, students learn how abuse of data can occur through uncareful behavior and security, they learn that companies and institutions can have security issues;
o    Privacy in the digital world;
§  Stage 2, students learn that everything they share online, stays online, they learn that there are rules about posting and sharing media. They learn what they can do when things go wrong;
§  Stage 3, students learn that users of digital technology leave traces how this can be used to influence people;
·         The operation and use of digital technology (ICT basic skills, Media literacy, Computational thinking);
o    Interaction and creation with digital technology;
§  Stage 2, students learn to know the possibilities of digital technology and how to interact with digital technology. They also learn to be creative with the use with the possibilities of digital technology;
§  Stage 3, students learn to use available digital applications and to choose the most useful. They use agile digital technology for creative use of design and creative processes;
o    Controlling and creation of digital technology;
§  Stage 2, students learn that people use digital technology, they learn the basics of programming and use applications to solve problems;
§  Stage 3, students learn programming in order to solve complex problems they meet with ai and robotics and learn to think about the value of technology for their personal lives and society;
·         Digital communication and collaboration (ICT basic skills, Media literacy, Information literacy, Computational thinking);
o    Networking;
§  Stage 2, students learn about networks and internet. They learn to recognize the networks in their environment and learn how networks are used;
§  Stage 3, students learn how a digital network can be used and that rules and regulations are necessary to operate such a network, they know the (im) possibilities of networking and recognizes the value of the use of networks;
o    Communication using digital technology;
§  Stage 2, students learn how digital communication works and use it effectively with others to communicate, they learn to deal responsibly with social media;
§  Stage 3, students learn the importance of digitally communicate for themselves, others and society, they learn to have an eye for the interests of individuals and of society;
o    Collaboration using digital technology;
§  Stage 2, students learn how to work together with the support of digital technology, they also collaborate remotely or asynchronous, they learn to work with collaborative applications;
§  Stage 3, students learn what the importance of digital work means for themselves, others and the society. They learn that collaborate devices can work together and what the added value can be;
·         Digital citizenship (ICT basic skills, Media literacy, Information literacy);
o    The digital citizen;
§  Stage 2, students learn that digital media offer opportunities for you as a citizen. They learn that media can be used to inform but also that media can be subjective and used to influence society. They also learn that media can be used to express their own opinion;
§  Stage 3, students learn how digital technology can be used to influence democratic process and they reflect on the value of digital technology on society;
o    Digital identity;
§  Stage 2, students learn that the way someone presents online is not required to match with reality and how they can handle that, they learn to present themselves online;
§  Stage 3, students learn that a good online presentation offers opportunities in the social and professional field. They learn to exploit opportunities and deal with the risks of unwise use;
·         Digital economy (ICT basic skills, Media literacy, Information literacy, Computational thinking);
o    Participation in the platform economy;
§  Stage 2, students learn that economic activity increasingly takes place online and payment has become increasingly automated, data is money and someone can be both producers and consumers;
§  Stage 3, students learn how businesses use digital technologies to improve production processes and to sell more they learn to think about the positives and negatives thereof;
o    Digital marketing;
§  Stage 2, students learn how digital marketing works, what possibilities does this and what disadvantages may entail;
§  Stage 3, students learn to recognize techniques and revenue models of digital marketing.  they learn to think about the impact of digital marketing on their own identity and how they see society.

To give an impression of how such a learning trajectory looks like, we give an overview of the learning trajectory "from data to information":

Stage 1
Children explore the (digital) world around them and learn how they can use their curiosity in the search for information that can help them further in understanding the world. The students learn:
-      to make explicit what they want to know;
-      to think of useful questions to extend their knowledge;
-      to deal with (digital) resources and several types of media messages and their purposes such as advertising, information, and amusement in a safe environment;
-      to use and search within (digital) resources and media to find answers for their questions;
-      to represent the information they found;
-      to evaluate the process of searching and findings and explicit their learnings.

Stage 2
Building on Stage 1 the students learn to deal with more general information. They learn that the information gathering is a process with several steps. The complexity increases and the digital component is more important. Media is used as a digital resource. Students will focus on target groups and the possibilities for presentation offered by digital technologies. Students learn:
-     to identify their need for information and to formulate relevant questions;
-     to identify the (digital) information resources that are relevant to use for answering questions;
-     to formulate, select, combine relevant terms for searching information;
-     to collect and evaluate information from several digital tools and resources and decide if the found information is useful and reliable;
-     to recognize facts and meanings from media messages, and how messages can be affected by using specific words, visualization or audio messages;
-     to select information and systematically save the information in a digital environment;
-     that information is owned by someone and may not be used freely by everyone;
-     to present information with digital technologies, taking into account the public for which the presentation is intended and making use of the possibilities of digital technology;
-     to evaluate the process of information acquisition, processing and presentation and to review the end-product based on a number of criteria and reflect on the entire process;
-     to see the relationship between concepts from digital information processing and computational thinking.

Stage 3
Stage 3 builds upon stage 2 and students learn more about the possibilities of digital technology and about the creative use of these technologies in the process of information acquisition, processing and representing. They also learn to deal with the limitations of technologies. The topics that they learn will become more abstract and are more and more related to study, profession or social developments. Students learn:
-     to explore and articulate the information needs of others;
-      to choose a different search strategy, should the chosen strategy give no or insufficient results;
-     how digital search technology works and continues to innovate by exploiting the characteristics of search technology, and they learn how to cope with the possibilities and limitations of digital search technology;
-     how to deal with the difference between reality and the display of this reality in words, images and sounds and its consequences for the reliability of the information;
-     how to interpret, analyze, and summarize information, and to explain their reasoning in relation to the way they answer the information need;
-     how to manage the sources they found (give references, ask permission), and that there are legal conditions for using sources of others;
-     to choose an appropriate form of presentation, using the strength of different types of media;
-     to formulate and apply criteria in order to assess the form of presentation on relevance, usability and reliability;
-     to apply concepts from computational thinking in the process of acquiring digital information;
-     to evaluate their own process of acquiring digital information and that of others and relate this to their future study and profession;
-     to reflect on the role of information acquisition, processing and- representing and its role in society, businesses and professions.

Stage 4
Stage 4 is the part of education in which students do their exams in upper secondary education. The complexity of renewing the national exam documents and procedures without explicitly knowing how Digital Literacy will be part of the new curriculum (that still has to be implemented!) was a problem that could not be solved in the current development process. The TDT decided to give recommendations instead on how to continue working on the skills and knowledge from Stages 1 to 3. The TDT recommends that Digital Literacy
-       should be part of the official (legal) final terms of secondary education;
-       should be integrated in the subjects to contextualize and apply Digital Literacy in the different domains;
-        should be integrated in the subjects to make sure that the students can deepen en widen their knowledge and skills, so they can become advanced users of digital technology, with as ultimate goal that all students are digitally literate and are prepared for their follow-up study and (future) job;
-       should be part of computer science, an optional course in Dutch upper secondary education, to enable students to learn more expert knowledge and skills.