Mastering Digital Competency: South African Educators in the 21st Century

Digital competency involves the proficient use, assessment, and creation of digital content, tools, and platforms in an effective and ethical manner. More than just being familiar with computer or smartphone operations, it’s about navigating the online environment, engaging with various audiences, and sourcing and evaluating information. As an educator, your digital literacy is vital in developing engaging and relevant learning experiences for your learners, collaborating with colleagues and stakeholders, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your field.

21st-century educators are expected to have diverse digital skills. These include recording online lectures, creating independent videos, facilitating online case discussions, responding to student queries in chat boxes, and conducting online discussion forums. In addition, they should be able to receive and evaluate assignments online, conduct surveys and primary research, collect data from learners, and present findings online, including sometimes instantaneous results. Conducting polls, uploading question papers for assessment and evaluation, and effectively using software such as MS Word for writing research papers, MS Excel and SPSS for data analysis, and MS PPTs for presenting findings, are all critical skills. Other essential digital communication skills include the use of email and social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Digital pedagogical skills for South African educators

Digital pedagogy refers to the art and science of teaching and learning using digital technologies. It’s not merely about using digital tools to deliver content, but also about creating interactive and meaningful learning experiences that foster critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. As an educator, you need to master digital pedagogy to adapt your curriculum and teaching methods to your learners’ needs and interests, leverage the opportunities and capabilities of digital media, and cultivate an environment of inquiry and innovation in your classroom.

Creating a balance between tech and non-tech times can help in managing classroom activities. For instance, during the first part of a class, you could ask learners to perform a specific task, like research or a survey, then once the task is completed, ask them to put away their devices. This method of integrating devices into the classroom and then deliberately creating a space without them can significantly decrease distractions.

Digital citizenship for South African educators

Digital citizenship is about participating responsibly, respectfully, and safely in the online community. It’s more than just adhering to rules and regulations; it also involves developing a sense of ethics, empathy, and empowerment. As an educator, it’s your role to model and teach digital citizenship to your learners, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities online, guiding them in making informed and ethical decisions, and supporting them in managing online challenges and opportunities.

Given the increased use of tablets, smartphones, laptops, and access to social media, gaming, and accounts, many learners are navigating the digital landscape without oversight, parameters, or a “license”. Communities, educational institutions, and law enforcement must work together to provide effective ways for students to interact with technology. Local school districts, police departments, libraries, and higher education institutions can provide help in this regard.

Digital creativity for South African educators

Digital creativity involves expressing oneself and generating new ideas through digital media. This is not just about using digital tools to create products, but also about applying digital skills and knowledge to solve problems and innovate. As an educator, it’s important to cultivate digital creativity in yourself and your learners, encouraging them to explore their interests and talents, challenge them to think creatively, and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

This is especially important in the Age of AI. One way to foster this in the classroom is by practicing multimodal creativity. For example, choose a text, audio, or video that you want to share with your learners. Read, listen to, or watch it together, pausing after each paragraph or minute to create something in a different mode.

Digital leadership for South African educators

Digital leadership is the capacity to inspire, influence, and empower others through digital platforms. It’s not only about having a digital presence but also about having a digital vision, strategy, and action. As an educator, you need to demonstrate digital leadership in your profession, showcasing your expertise and experience, networking and collaborating with other educators and experts, and advocating for change and improvement in your field.

Digital wellness for South African educators

Digital wellness involves the ability to manage and balance one’s physical, mental, and emotional health in relation to digital technology. It’s not just about avoiding digital addiction, stress, or harm, but also about enhancing one’s well-being, happiness, and productivity. As an educator, practicing and promoting digital wellness in your life is important. You should set healthy boundaries and habits, protect your privacy and security, and seek support and guidance when necessary.

Balancing time and social media exposure on smartphones and devices remains a challenge as technology changes and devices are updated, both in software and hardware, every year.