Artifact 5

The Importance of Digital Competence in Childhood Education

Focus Issue

The importance of digital competence in the classroom has fascinated me for some time. When I was a child, home computers were in their infancy, and their use in the classroom with students was not possible. My grandfather, an academic, gave me my first computer and dial-up internet to go along with it. He saw the potential in computers and encouraged me to never stop learning about them as they improved and evolved. He foresaw their near limitless capabilities and would tell me, “Make sure you know how to use a computer; someday everything we do will be with one of these machines.” His advice was prophetic, computers and technology are everywhere today.

I was fortunate enough to have a family member that was fascinated by the potential of the digital world and was encouraged to learn as much as I could about them. Many children do not have someone like my grandfather that encourages them to embrace and use technology as a tool, understanding how important it will be when they become adults. Not everyone can have a person in their corner like my grandfather, so it is important for educators to provide that encouragement to children in the classroom. Because of this, it is important for educators themselves to understand technology and be able to make use of the digital world competently. Studies have shown that children introduced to technology in the form of interactive educational activities show improved learning and increased educational potential by providing technological scaffolding that builds skills and competence (Chassiakos et al., 2016, paras. 21-22). It is increasingly important to expose children to technology, especially in a post-Covid society. The need for digital competence only increases as children age, so educators must be properly trained in both how to use digital devices and media, as well as teach and encourage children to make use of technology. This paper will focus on how and why it is important for educators to understand technology and make use of it in the classroom so students can benefit as they age into adulthood.

Research Summary

The research and studies I gathered support the advice my grandfather once gave me. We can see how technology has been integrated into our everyday lives, almost everyone in the country carries a computer in their pocket, in the form of their cellphone, that is more powerful than the computer system that NASA used to send astronauts to the moon. This is just as true in the classroom and the prevalence of technology in society has made it an important tool in children's lives.

There are many factors that influence an educator’s resistance or acceptance of the use of technology in the classroom, but one of the more important factors is the educator’s personal confidence and competence with technology, and their ability to teach children how to use digital tools (Johnston et al., 2018, para. 1). There is a commonly accepted belief that children learn best when teaching is done using play-based activities. While educators have incorporated this system into many different facets of education, technology is not always one of them. Often educators do not prioritize or find any pedagogical value for technology in education (Johnston et al., 2018, para. 3). A study done by Early Childhood Australia found that more than half of the educators interviewed believed that early curriculums should not include provisions for developing children’s proficiency with digital technologies (Johnston et al., 2018, para. 4). Johnston and her team took this information and further studied why educators felt this way. In their study, they attempted to ask questions and gain insights into why educators held these beliefs and further inquired into their personal confidence and competence using technology. The results gathered from this study showed that each educator that did not feel comfortable using technology, also believed early curriculums should not include provisions for education in digital technology.

A study done for the Journal of Digital Learning in Higher Education resulted in eerily similar results to the Johnston research. This study, involving 105 educators across multiple levels of education, focused on educators that are required to use or choose to use digital tools that allow them to serve as role models for students and their use of digital information and communication tools (Amhag et al., 2019, para. 26). These tools include computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and smartboards. Further, these educators reported using digital tools to support student learning such as “itslearning,” Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, Adobe Connect, Google Drive, and Kahoot (Amhag et al., 2019, para. 27). After gathering data on the hardware and digital tools these educators use in the classroom, educators were asked to evaluate their own comfortability and competence using these tools in teaching. Only 27.9% of the educators self- reported their competence as “high,” and 13.9% of the educators felt that creating a digital learning environment was problematic (Amhag et al., 2019, para. 30). The research further showed educators that self-reported a high competence in creating digital learning environments felt it was unproblematic at a much higher statistical margin compared to educators that reported a low competence (Amhag et al., 2019, para. 30). As a result, there is a direct correlation between an educator’s digital competency and whether they find creating digital learning environments problematic.

In 2013, The Teaching and Learning International Survery found that 18% of educators felt they needed more development and training in digital technology teaching skills, and 16% of educators said they needed more training on the use of new technologies in the workplace (eTwinning, 2020). To understand this better, and to develop avenues for educators to increase digital competency, the European Commission developed the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. From there, a further framework was established for educators, known as DigCompEdu, which allows them to self-report personal digital competence, in the form of a competency test, and be guided toward tools that will allow them to increase competence. The results of this competence test, which had a total of 88 points which could be achieved, returned an average score of 45 points, with a minimum score of 11 points and a maximum score of 88 points (Ghomi, 2019, pg. 544). The results of the first DigCompEdu report showed teachers that taught in STEM fields scored much higher on this competency test than teachers in non-STEM fields (Ghomi, 2019, pg. 546). Teachers that had more years of experience in the use of digital tools and technology had higher scores, than those that did not have much experience (Ghomi, 2019, pg. 548). The fact that the educators that scored higher on the test work in STEM fields, supports a previous study regarding educators and whether or not they felt digital learning environments were problematic.

So why is all this important, why does it matter? Unfortunately, a study done by the Pew Research Center found that 52% of adults are hesitant when using digital tools to access information (Underscoring, 2020). There is an understandable gap between a parent’s knowledge of technology and their children that are growing up with technology. So, parents cannot always be a guiding force in their child’s digital literacy. This is where teachers can and should help. Dr. Lazar Stošić, identified three domains of use for educational technology that can aid students: technology as a tutor, technology as a teaching tool, and technology as a learning tool (Stošić, 2015, pg. 111). His research further showed that while some children have an opportunity to learn how to use technology at home, children in poorer areas do not have an opportunity to use technology as a learning tool at home but are expected to know how to use modern technical equipment from an early age (Stošić, 2015, pg. 111).

In a recent study of students transitioning from high school to their first year at a University, Sameera Ahmed and Thomas Roche studied the relationship between a students’ digital literacy and their academic success. They hypothesized that a students’ digital capabilities, such as their access to technology and their digital literacy practices and skills, had a direct impact on their academic success (Ahmed & Roche, 2021). Nearly 100% of the students owned or had access to a smartphone, about 80% owned or had access to a tablet, almost 100% owned or had access to a laptop, and 60% owned or had access to a desktop computer. According to their findings, an overwhelming majority of students (almost 100%) said these devices were key to their academic success (Ahmed & Roche, 2021). They then analyzed the universities learning management systems and digital tools offered by the university, such as Blackboard, Canvas, and the digital library, and again questioned students on how these tools aided in their success. Once again, students said these tools were key to their academic success with over 80% of the students identifying the library website, learning sites, citation tools, university website, e-books, and word processing software, as important rather than not important (Ahmed & Roche, 2021). When analyzing these first year student’s grades, Ahmed and Roche found that 60% of the students learned best in a blended learning environment, in other words, a learning environment that had some online components (Ahmed & Roche, 2021). The results showed that most of the students that had access to, and the capability to use, digital tools, were confident in their ability to access and use digital tools and platforms they had never used before, which then allowed them to develop skills in those tools through self-learning (Ahmed & Roche, 2021). In summary, students that had a prior education in digital tools and technology, and had access to those digital tools and technology, were more easily able to navigate new, evolving, and changing technologies.


A child’s ability to navigate our digital world and be proficient in digital literacy is actually really important and it only becomes more important as that child ages. Technology has been woven into every facet of our lives. There are not many occupational fields left that do not require some proficiency in technology. Children need to have an understanding of the digital tools available to them in order to succeed. Parents are often incapable of building their child’s digital literacy, as many of the tools available now were not available when the parent was growing up. Schools and teachers can fill that void and help build a students digital identity in an increasingly digital world.

Research has shown students that are exposed to technology and other various digital tools are more equipped to deal with new and emerging technologies later in life. These students are better equipped to use and exploit these technologies to their advantage as they age, and further have an advantage as they reach adulthood. Unfortunately, children in poorer regions do not always have access to these tools at home. If a child cannot use a computer or access the internet at home, how can they be expected to succeed when they step out into a world that expects them to know how to use these tools? This is where schools and teachers can make a difference and why it is important for teachers to have proper training in digital technologies.

The research above showed teachers that do not feel comfortable using modern technologies, let alone emerging technologies, are less likely to incorporate them into their educational pedagogy, and often find these technologies to be harmful or problematic. This mindset is perfectly understandable. If a teacher does not understand a tool at their disposal, of course they will feel that they cannot effectively teach someone about it and that it would be easier to use methods they understand, or ‘their way.’ It explains perfectly why teachers in STEM fields understand the importance of technology; they work with it daily and understand how it can be useful in all facets of life.

One can see the importance of digital competency by simply looking at the numbers. In the studies I researched, only about 30% of the educators studied felt they had a high proficiency in the use of digital tools, yet nearly 100% of first year college students identified digital tools as key to their success. How can we expect students to effectively make use of these tools if 70% of teachers do not fully understand and make use of the technology available? We expect the educational system to help prepare children for adulthood by teaching them useful skills they will need to utilize as adults, such as reading, writing, and mathematics. Technology is quickly becoming the single greatest tool a person has at their disposal, so educators should be expected to be just as well versed in their ability to facilitate the education of technology as they are in other subjects, if not more so.

The adult world, from universities to employers, have embraced technology. It is imperative that children do not walk into the first year of college, or their first job, with limited to no understanding in digital literacy. It is a failure to that student, as at the university or job level, they will be expected to understand how various digital tools work. Educators have begun to see the value in employing these tools in the classroom, but as these studies have shown, there is still work to be done. It is of paramount importance for educators that do not feel comfortable using digital tools to recognize their importance and make an effort to develop an understanding of how these tools work so they can effectively and confidently build their students digital literacy. There is an age old saying that a large percentage of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing when they reach adulthood have not been invented yet. While this statement has been disproven, at least the large percentage portion, it does exemplify the fluid nature of education and technology. There will be jobs available when children today reach adulthood that have not been invented yet. At the same time, there will be jobs currently available that further embrace or make use of technology in the years to come. Whether a child is taking on a job in a new field or jumping into an age old field that has evolved with technology, educators need to prepare these students for the digital challenge ahead.


Amhag, L., Hellstrom, L., & Stigmar, M. (2019). Teacher Educators' Use of Digital Tools and Needs for Digital Competence in Higher Education. Journal of Digital Learning in Higher Education, 35(4), 203–220. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://www-tandfonline-

Ahmed, S. T., & Roche, T. (2021). Making the connection: Examining the relationship between undergraduate students’ digital literacy and academic success in an English medium instruction (EMI) university. Education and Information Technologies, (26).

Chassiakos, Y., Radesky, J., Christakis, D., Moreno, M., & Cross, C. (2016). Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 138(5). Retrieved October 7, 2021, from

eTwinning. (2020, January 17). Digital Competence: The vital 21st-century skill for teachers and students. SchoolEducationGateway. Retrieved November 16, 2021, from the-vital-.htm.

Ghomi, Mina & Redecker, Christine. (2019). Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu): Development and Evaluation of a Self-assessment Instrument for Teachers' Digital Competence. 541-548. 10.5220/0007679005410548.

Johnston, K., Highfield, K., & Hadley, F. (2018). Supporting young children as digital citizens: The importance of shared understandings of technology to support integration in play- based learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 49(5), 896–910. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://bera-journals-onlinelibrary-wiley

Stošić, L. (2015). THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY IN TEACHING. International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering and Education, 3(1). Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://web-s-ebscohost- a88f-9e1321ec5a07%40redis.

Underscoring the importance of digital literacy in education. (2020). Education Dive,