The digital maturity of schools is a concept which is becoming more and more significant within the modern educational system due to the increasing importance of technology. The use of information and communication technologies in schools is no longer a matter of individual enthusiasm, but rather, it is planned and implemented at the level of the school as an organisation, in accordance with local and state policies. The European Commission has recognised the importance of this concept and, through its policies and initiatives, systematically encourages the development of the digital maturity of schools. Through activities within the e-Schools programme, the digital maturity of schools is systematically developed and their progress is monitored.
As defined in the e-Schools programme, digitally mature schools* are schools on a high level of integration of ICT in their life and work. Digitally mature schools have a systematised approach to ICT use in school planning and management, as well as in their educational and business processes. Such schools operate in a supportive environment, with adequate resources, including not only the financial ones, but also adequate ICT equipment for classrooms, laboratories, employees and students. Digitally mature schools systematically approach the development of the digital competences of the educational staff and students, whereas the former use ICT for improving their teaching styles, through which the teaching focuses on the students, for the development of digital educational content and for evaluating the students’ achievements, in accordance with the learning outcomes and educational objectives. There is a developed cooperation between the staff and the students, as well as between the school and other stakeholders, realised through the use of online communication tools and e-services, which includes the participation of the school in projects related to the use of ICT.
In order for digitally mature schools in Croatia to become sustainable, the institutions in the educational system which work with schools, including the schools’ founders (cities and counties) and the agencies and institutions in the system of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports (the Education and Teacher Training Agency, the Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education, CARNet), as well as the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports itself, must also systematically support the integration of ICT into the schools’ life and work, as well as be networked, adequately equipped and educated, with established online communication and collaboration channels.
The e-Schools programme includes the development of the Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools, a document that defines the areas and levels of the digital maturity of schools and is coordinated with the European Framework for Digitally Competent Educational Organisations. The Croatian Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools consists of five areas and five levels of the digital maturity of schools.
|Digitally unaware||Digital beginners||Digitally competent||Digitally advanced||Digitally mature|
Table 1 Areas and levels of the digital maturity of schools
The Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools is the first step onto which other elements of the system of the digital maturity of schools within the e-Schools programme are added, having been developed in accordance with the Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools:
- self-evaluation of the digital maturity of schools;
- external evaluation of the digital maturity of schools;
- support to schools in attaining digital maturity.
Through self-evaluation, schools will obtain feedback on the current status of their digital maturity and instructions on the potential steps which may be taken to develop digital maturity. Within the scope of the pilot project, the purpose of self-evaluation is also to determine the initial status of the digital maturity of all the schools included, in order to monitor their progress and plan the forms of support which they require the most. Self-evaluation is performed by means of an online questionnaire.
The external evaluation of the digital maturity of schools will be performed during the pilot project in a specific number of schools involved in the pilot project. Further information about this will be available later.
The schools participating in the e-Schools programme will receive designated support in attaining digital maturity. The schools will receive document templates based on which they will prepare the strategic documents, plans and policies for the systematic integration of ICT in their life and work. Through consultations, the principals will receive additional assistance in the preparation of these documents and their implementation. It should be noted that all the activities involving schools in the e-Schools programme are focused on attaining the digital maturity of schools. The role and contribution of the schools in this process is crucial – it is only possible to attain the digital maturity of schools if the schools use these incentives.
* In some schools in Croatia and the world, individuals and even entire staffs innovatively and creatively use ICT for the purpose of improving the teaching process, raising the level of the students’ digital competence, as well as for other purposes. However, this does not automatically mean that these schools are digitally mature. In order for a school to be certain of its level of digital maturity, a prescribed evaluation procedure in accordance with the Framework for the Digital Maturity of Schools needs to be performed.
Note: This text is based on the development of the Frameworks for the Digital Maturity of Schools and other elements of the system of the digital maturity of schools within the e-Schools pilot project. The previous text, created during project planning, is no longer applicable.