Programming robots. Putting together stories with Book Creator and learning how to set up a show with a projector and speakers. Using apps to learn how to identify the local flora and fauna. These are some new tools students can access in preschool and elementary school in Solna.
Testing digital for the classroom
Through the Digital Employeeship project, teachers in Solna were initiated to technologies that could help them in their job. “We ran workshops for teachers with education in mind,” explains Andreas Trondsen, Digital Employeeship Project Leader for the Child, Youth and Education Office, Educator and Digital Competence Leader. “What could teachers use in the classroom? Or looking at the curriculum, where could technology help?”
The project proposed a broad spectrum of tools, from practical ones helping children to plan their day or to support their reading to more playful ones. “Most of the tools were not mandatory. We wanted to inspire teachers to do even more within the existing teaching activities by adding digital elements,” says Trondsen.
“Teachers could experiment and fail, learn in a safe environment, and have fun together. When uncomfortable or not used to digital tools, it’s important to make it about being curious and playful.”
As much as teachers found joy in the exploratory nature of the workshops, these addressed the curriculum to show concrete use of the tools. “We adapted each tool to the student’s age and school,” explains Trondsen.
Wider and bigger
Initially, the project targeted only preschool teachers and after-school teachers, but the pandemic changed this and made it necessary to broaden its scope. “Because of the pandemic, we had to include all the teachers within the city because there was more pressure on them to be able to do their work digitally,” shares Trondsen. “We worked on how to teach classes considering each child is different, and we discussed lesson design to consider how to set up and start a lesson.”
However, what started as a challenge turned into an asset as teachers in Solna became more digital. “It’s been a journey for us and the teachers, but digital competence went through the roof,” says Trondsen.
While Covid-19 widened the purpose of the Digital Employeeship project addressing the educational sector, its component addressing the care sector had to suspend activities for six months. “The Care Services Office had to close down the project for a while because the staff were needed in their regular jobs,” explains Sara Ravén, Digital Employeeship Project Leader for the Care Services Office and Coordinator of the Digital Competence Leaders.
Technology that makes care better
In addition to teachers, the Digital Employeeship project targeted employees and managers in care homes, group accommodation, home-help services and accommodations for people with disabilities.
The goal was to provide individuals with digital training, mainly through coaching with a digital competence leader. The sessions would focus on administrative and operational systems and tools needed to be able to handle the daily work.
After six months of interruption, training started again in the care sector too. The digital leaders assessed the training needs of each individual and could offer both group training and one-to-one sessions.
“One-to-one coaching were most popular as it allowed to both address different starting points in term of digital skills and possible language barriers,” explains Ravén.
Additional individualised training was particularly relevant as 77 % of participants in the care services part of the project came from an international background with different language skills.
“Initially, we taught skills that caught the interest of staff, for example, for their private lives,” explains Ravén. Some staff members didn’t know how to send an email or how to apply for holiday leave.
“To acquire digital competence demands more than education and training. It’s about the mindset too. That’s why we proposed skills that also would enrich and facilitate participants’ private life.”
The work paid off. Managers in the care sector evaluated the competence and knowledge of their staff after the training and registered an increase in efficiency in how the team performs their daily work.
Teachers who self-evaluated the Digital Employeeship workshops they attended declared feeling more confident using digital tools on the job.
People involved in the implementation of the project, like Ravén and Trondsen, stress the importance of the project’s long-term impact. They hope the project’s legacy will continue to spread digital skills and knowledge in the education and care sector and maybe even further.
For now, the digital competence leaders who trained the staff at the Care Services Office have been replaced by superusers who are available as digital experts. The Care Services Office also developed a strategy for using digital tools at work and doing digital tasks.
The strategy is partly about maintaining the level of digital competence that has been achieved but also about how to go about introducing new digital working tools and methods in our services.
“The challenge is to get everybody on board and work towards this strategy and continue to set knowledge goals,” adds Ravén. “What is the level that we want to have in the organisation? What command of these digital tools do we want?”
On the education side, the project caught the attention of other Swedish cities and hopes to inspire them to set up similar programmes. They can already access most training material that was used, accessible on an online platform.
The digital competence leaders who ran the workshops with teachers continue to work in the department and have built a strong relationship with the teachers. “Since the project, we have had more regular contact with the teachers. They want to learn and do things, and they contact us through that,” says Trondsen.
With digital becoming ever more present in all sectors of life, projects like the Digital Employeeship become crucial to ensure people have fair access to the tools.