SELFIE: unlocking digital potential in schools

By Deirdre Hodson & Panagiotis Kampylis. Posted

SELFIE evaluates schools’ use of technology in relation to six areas. Image credit: SELFIE

How well is your school using digital technologies in teaching and learning? Deirdre Hodson and Panagiotis Kampylis introduce SELFIE – a free online tool from the European Commission that can provide a rigorous answer

How are we using technology in teaching, learning, and assessment? The SELFIE tool, launched in October 2018, can be used free of charge by any primary, secondary, or further education school in any country to address this overarching question as to how they are using digital technologies for teaching and learning.

SELFIE evaluates schools’ use of technology in relation to six areas. New questions will be added next month to allow schools to gather views on the period of remote teaching and to prepare for blended learning in the coming school year.

SELFIE, which is developed by the European Commission with a team of experts from across Europe, involves the whole school community – teachers, school leaders, and students – in reflecting on a series of questions and statements on technology use in six areas:

  • Teaching and learning: pedagogical uses of technology

  • Assessment: using digital technology for providing feedback

  • Student digital skills: including digital creativity, safe and responsible online behaviour

  • Teacher professional development: opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, online training, and face-to-face courses

  • Infrastructure: availability of devices, internet access, and technical support

  • Leadership: whether the school has a digital strategy and/or involves teachers and students in discussions on technology use

The questions and statements are different for each user group and take around 15 minutes for students to complete, and 20–25 minutes for teachers and leaders. A simpler version of the questions for younger students, between nine and twelve years old, is also included. The anonymity of all responses is respected throughout the process. Schools can customise SELFIE, adding from a list of optional questions and also creating questions, depending on school size, needs, and context. SELFIE is available in over 30 languages and students and teachers can select the language in which they would like to answer the questions.

A tailored report for every school

Once the questions have been answered by school leaders, teachers, and students, the school receives an automatically generated report with detailed insights on technology use for teaching and learning. The tailor-made report is interactive and data can be displayed in different ways, for example by area (teaching and learning, infrastructure etc.) or by group of respondents.

These findings can help a school see what’s working well and less well, and identify areas where action is needed. Are teachers happy with the training they are receiving? What do students think of the infrastructure? Does the school have a vision for how it wants to use technology and, if so, has this been communicated to staff and students? The report can be used to start a discussion in the school, develop an improvement plan, and monitor progress over time. SELFIE can be taken on a regular basis and the results can be compared to the previous reports. The report is for the school only and can only be shared if the school chooses to do so itself. On completion of SELFIE, the school can receive a digital badge and participants can receive personalised certificates.

How to use SELFIE

Schools wishing to use the tool should nominate a teacher or small team of teachers to coordinate the exercise at the school. They then register the school on the SELFIE platform helloworld.cc/Selfie – this takes just a few minutes. The school coordinators decide on who will answer the questions with guidance from the tool on how many students and teachers should take part, and how to select them and when and for how long the exercise will run in the school. The response period should run for minimum one week and maximum three. The school coordinators then set up and customise the SELFIE questions for the school. There are a set of core questions common to every school. After this, schools can add from a list of optional statements and questions or add their own. Setting up SELFIE is straightforward and a step-by-step guide is provided for the school coordinators. Once the questions are set up, links are generated which can be sent to school leaders, teachers, and students, who then reply to the questions anonymously.

A cross-European project

SELFIE (which stands for Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering Innovation through Educational technology) is a European project, developed by the European Commission’s digital education team in cooperation with students, teachers, school leaders, policy makers, and researchers from across Europe, and provided to schools anywhere in the world, free of charge. The tool was developed to help schools across Europe who face the challenge of how to embed technologies for teaching and learning in a purposeful way. SELFIE helps schools take the focus away from infrastructure and devices to considerations of teaching and learning, assessment, teacher professional development, and leadership. It allows voices to be heard – including students’. SELFIE is not a survey/benchmarking tool. It doesn’t rank schools, but allows them to see where they are in terms of using digital technologies for teaching and learning.

Next steps for SELFIE

A first conference on the tool took place in Madrid in April 2019. It brought together teachers, school leaders, students, policy makers, and researchers from 35 countries. The aim was to look at how the tool could be developed over coming years, and what support is needed for schools using SELFIE.

Future plans include offering online training to schools, and guidance on how to create a digital action plan, while the SELFIE team continue to make improvements to the tool. Since launch, 330,000 students, teachers, and school leaders across the globe have already used the tool. Feedback has been excellent, with nine out of ten staff saying they would recommend it to a colleague.

Feedback on SELFIE

“We have created a vision for digital learning in our school by talking to each other. SELFIE made consensus easier because it prompted us to have detailed discussions about digital learning. Our approach to digital learning is that it becomes almost an invisible aspect of school, that technology is there when the children need it the most and when it is going to improve the learning outcomes of each individual child. An added bonus was that it empowered us to discuss and plan how computational thinking and coding can be developed on a continuum throughout the school.” – Seán Gallagher, School Principal, Ireland

“We are using digital technologies for many years, but we have not had a proper evaluation of how we are doing, our weaknesses, and what the students think about technology use at our school. Through SELFIE, we know that we can improve things like data protection, safer use of the internet, and social networks. We also need to boost the confidence of teachers with more training and support in using technology.” – Carmen Lazaro, School Principal, Spain

“I think SELFIE is a very important tool as it invites the school communities to start a discussion on how they can improve the use of technologies. In this process it is very important to hear also the viewpoints of students. Because someone can think that they use technologies effectively in a school, but maybe students have a totally different opinion. The fact that SELFIE invites schools to start a dialogue with students is fantastic.” – Maeve Galvin, Student, 16 years old, Ireland

It is a great opportunity for us, and it is very important that our viewpoints are valued. We are the key people for building, step-by-step, a better use of technologies for learning. – Student, Spain

Technology is present everywhere in our lives so, for us, it is natural to have technology in our classroom. – Student, Spain

Find out more

Details of how to use the SELFIE tool can be found at helloworld.cc/Selfie, and you can contact the SELFIE team at JRC-EAC-SELFIE-TOOL@ec.europa.eu

Authors

Deirdre Hodson

Deirdre Hodson works on the innovation in education team of the European Commission. She is also a student on the MSc programme in digital education at the University of Edinburgh.

Panagiotis Kampylis

Panagiotis Kampylis is a researcher and project manager at the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, working on projects on learning and skills in the digital age.


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