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Towards the Integration of Digital Citizenship in Foreign Language Education: concepts, practices and training

Vers l'intégration de la citoyenneté numérique dans l'enseignement des langues étrangères : concepts, pratiques et formation
Marta Giralt, Silvia Benini, Liam Murray, Christiane Lütge, Yasemin Erdemgil, Claudia Mustroph, Ana Raquel Simões, Susana Senos, Lavinia Bracci, Fiora Biagi, Ireta Čekse et Thorsten Merse

Résumés

L'éducation à la citoyenneté numérique (ECN) est devenue une priorité supranationale visant à donner aux jeunes citoyens les moyens de participer activement et de manière responsable à la société numérique et à renforcer leurs compétences en matière d'utilisation efficace, sûre et critique des technologies numériques. Afin de faciliter la mise en œuvre de l'ECN dans les écoles et dans les programmes scolaires à travers l'Europe, des adaptations spécifiques à chaque matière sont nécessaires. Il s'agirait notamment d'adapter en profondeur les principes et les objectifs de l'ECN à l'enseignement des langues étrangères, ainsi que les compétences nécessaires à la communication interculturelle, à la compréhension de l'autre, aux échanges mutuels et à l'action civique. Dans le cadre de l'ECN, il est essentiel de développer les compétences et les aptitudes nécessaires à l'exercice des droits démocratiques dans une société numérique, puisque "la citoyenneté numérique est considérée comme un indicateur de la participation politique et que les médias sociaux favorisent la participation civique numérique des citoyens et leur engagement dans plusieurs communautés" (MINDtheGaps, 2019, p. 7).

L'objectif de cet article est de rendre compte de différentes recherches et pratiques pédagogiques qui ont eu lieu dans le cadre d'un projet européen transnational de partenariat stratégique Erasmus+ visant à renforcer le profil de l'éducation à la citoyenneté numérique dans le contexte de l'enseignement des langues étrangères. Dans cette optique, l'article passera brièvement en revue certains concepts clés (par exemple, littératie numérique critique, identité, communication transculturelle et interculturelle, cultures démocratiques) pour une définition et une (re)conceptualisation évolutive de la citoyenneté numérique dans le contexte de l'enseignement des langues. De même, une analyse critique des documents européens concernant ces sujets importants, à savoir le DigComp Framework, le Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture et le Digital Citizenship Education Handbook sera effectuée pour informer notre cadre pédagogique proposé, qui sera discuté comme base pour présenter les résultats de différentes pratiques d'ECN qui ont eu lieu au cours des années 2021 et 2022 sous l'égide du projet Dice.Lang. La première de ces pratiques est le développement de ressources appropriées pour les enseignants afin d'intégrer l'ECN dans l'apprentissage des langues étrangères, ainsi qu'un kit de formation pour les enseignants. La création d'un ensemble de ressources éducatives ouvertes et d'un cours de formation utilisant une approche basée sur les données sera discutée. La conception des ressources pédagogiques et de formation pour les enseignants a été guidée par les résultats des données recueillies lors de l'enquête et des entretiens. L'enquête visait à évaluer la capacité des enseignants de langues étrangères à L'étude cherchait à mesurer la compétence des enseignants de langues étrangères à se transformer en citoyens numériques et leur capacité à accompagner leurs élèves dans l'adoption de l'ECN dans l'apprentissage des langues étrangères. En outre, les résultats obtenus après avoir piloté le cours d'auto-apprentissage en ligne et les commentaires des participants seront examinés afin de montrer comment les besoins des enseignants et des apprenants sont pris en compte pour développer les compétences en matière de citoyenneté numérique dans le contexte de l'acquisition des langues. Pour conclure, nous donnerons quelques recommandations concrètes pour le développement et la mise en œuvre de la citoyenneté numérique dans l'enseignement des langues étrangères.

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1. Introduction

1We live in an era of increasing migration and continuous digital shift and transformation, which may demand embracing and engaging with the latest technological innovations. Our technology-driven society encompasses different areas such as globalisation, politics, participatory democracies, sustainability, digitalization, but also plays a very important role in education and how all these changes are reflected upon it. From this perspective, Digital Citizenship Education (DCE) has emerged as a supranational priority (Council of Europe, 2022, p. 9), seeking to empower younger citizens to participate actively and responsibly in a digital society and to foster their skills of using digital technologies effectively, safely and critically. In order to facilitate the implementation of DCE in schools and in curricula across Europe, subject-specific adaptations are required. This would include a thorough adaptation of DCE principles and objectives into Foreign Language Education (FLE), together with the skills needed for intercultural communication, understanding the other, mutual exchanges, and civic action. Within DCE, it is essential to develop the competencies needed to exercise one's democratic rights in a digital society, since "digital citizenship is seen as an indicator of political participation, and social media promotes citizens' digital civic participation and engagement in several communities" (MINDtheGaps, 2019, p. 7).

2As a response to these educational demands, a transnational consortium composed of five universities and research centres from different countries - Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and Portugal - initiated a European Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership project aiming to strengthen the profile of Digital Citizenship Education in the context of Foreign Language Education. This article reports on the different outcomes of the Dice.Lang project, which has been running for three years (2020-2023) and has united various areas of expertise of its members (eg foreign language didactics, citizenship pedagogy and digital education). This shared project is marked by both context-sensitivity and multiperspectivity multi-perspectivity, together with educational innovations in order to strengthen today's learners to become the citizens of tomorrow's Europe in an era of digital transformation.

3In the digital 21st century, successful communication and social exchange demand a new and unique skillset. To equip foreign language learners with the ability to comprehend and express meaning by using different multimedia formats, language education must include activities that promote the production and reception of digital content. In order to navigate the digital landscape and make the most of its potential, learners must possess both language proficiency and digital literacy. With the goal of proficiency in mind, the distinction between receptive and productive learning objectives becomes irrelevant due to the ever-changing roles of both producers and users in the digital world.

4The present article will briefly review some of the key concepts (eg critical digital literacies, democratic cultures) for a renewed definition and conceptualization of digital citizenship in the context of FLE (Lütge & Merse, 2022). Equally, a critical analysis of European documents concerning these important topics, namely the DigComp Framework (Vourikari et al., 2022), the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (Council of Europe, 2018) and the Digital Citizenship Education Handbook (Council of Europe, 2022) will be carried out, together with an analysis of other frameworks developed outside Europe. After discussing the variety of frameworks related to Digital Citizenship, the Dice.Lang pedagogical framework will be presented together with the different DCE project outcomes from the years 2020 to 2023. Specifically, two of these outcomes focus on the development of a set of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and the design of a training package for teachers to integrate DCE into foreign language learning. The design of both teachers' pedagogical and training resources were informed by the data gathered through a survey (n=627) carried out with pre-service and in-service teachers. The survey was conducted in order to investigate foreign language teachers' ability to be digital citizens themselves and their preparedness to guide students through the integration process of DCE into FLE. In line with the survey, a self-reflection tool was developed in order to initiate a critical self-assessment on digital citizenship competence as a pathway to professional development.

5The feedback received from the piloting of the self-study online course will be examined to demonstrate how teachers and learners' needs are addressed in order to develop digital citizenship competences in the context of language acquisition. In addition, qualitative data gathered from pre-service teachers reflective portfolios (n=32) will be considered in pursuance of understanding student teachers' perspectives on the purposes and challenges of DCE in FLE. Considering that pre-service teachers have the role of educating future learners and digital citizens, it is crucial to have their take on the potential foreign language curriculum changes. To conclude, some concrete recommendations will be given toward the development and implementation of DCE in foreign language education.

6This article reports on the different intellectual productions of the Dice.Lang project providing an overview of each of them. The outcomes generated are complex and diverse as they use different methodological approaches. In summary, the following points will be discussed throughout the article:

  • Definitions and reconceptualization of DC (Digital Citizenship)

  • A critical analysis of DC frameworks

  • The Dice.Lang pedagogical framework and the Global and Digital Literacies

  • The Dice.Lang OERs

  • The Dice.Lang Teacher Training Package

  • The self-reflective approach for the integration of digital citizenship into foreign language education and pre-service teachers' reflections on their digital competence as educators

  • Recommendations towards the development of a policy framework

2. Definitions and (re)conceptualization of Digital Citizenship

7Digital citizenship is a multi-layered and complex concept that has received much attention by scholars and educators in the last few years. It is not our goal to dive into a theoretical reflection about the diverse definitions of digital citizenship, however, we aim at establishing the main relevant aspects that may help us to reconceptualise Digital Citizenship. Choi (2016, p. 570) examines how the concept of digital citizenship has been defined, used, and practiced during the last past 10 years and studies what elements might constitute a cohesive concept of digital citizenship. She differentiates four spheres in which the concept has been operating: Media and Information Literacy, Critical Resistance, Ethics, and Participation/Engagement. These main areas are present in the conceptualizations of digital citizenship, and each of them is closely connected to a specific domain. Media and Information Literacy has been identified as an important and necessary literacy when navigating cyberspace (Choi, 2016; Walsch et al., 2022). Indeed, the results from the Dice.Lang survey conducted in 2021 reported that most of the time teachers seem to confound digital literacies with digital citizenship. As we understand it, digital citizenship supports users in participating safely, critically, effectively, and responsibly in the world of digital technologies (Ollivier, 2022), while developing a set of capabilities and behaviors that exploit the opportunities the digital world affords in creating resilience to potential disadvantages (Autiza et al., 2022). Thus, digital literacies and criticality have a prominent position, not just as the skills or competences to navigate digital space safely, or to deal effectively and critically with digital information, but to become a competent user of technology in all senses. The liminal nature of digital literacies forces educators and scholars to keep revising the concept, and as a consequence, to reconceptualize it. See for example, digital literacies 3.0 as presented by Pegrum et al. (2022) in the domain of language learning, covering 3D and XR Technologies, Ethical and Critical Literacies, Attentional Literacy–to combat digital disarray, Artificial Intelligence Literacy. The inclusion of new literacies in any established taxonomy clearly illustrates how digital literacies must continuously expand as new realities, technologies and human needs appear.

8The ethical, civic and agentive dimensions of DC, indicated in Choi's 4 dimensions as well, are unique aspects that, together with the critical and the digital literacy components mentioned above, need to be taken as core components when we reconceptualise DC.

9Equally, some of these concepts can be connected to the three European Frameworks. The three of them, for different reasons and at different levels, set the foundations for the development of digital, democratic and intercultural competences and should guide and inform any attempt to contribute to the elaboration of materials and analysis of effective practices in this field (see section 2.1). At the same time, the three frameworks do not totally overlap and come to cover somewhat different areas of learning; therefore they need to be carefully compared and juxtaposed in the right perspective.

2.1. Digital Citizenship Frameworks: a critical analysis

10The conceptual framework sustaining DiCE.Lang educational resources is based on the acknowledgement and critical analysis of some important European frameworks concerning digital literacy, digital citizenship education and more broadly speaking democratic competences: the DigComp, the RFCDC and the DCE frameworks.

11The first one, the European Digital Competence Framework (DigComp), is a reference framework created by the European Commission to offer a common comprehensive understanding of what digital competences are. Chronologically it represents the first attempt carried out by European institutions to deal with this subject; in fact its first edition dates back to 2013, with an updated version being released in 2022. According to Vuorikari this framework has "provided a scientifically solid and technology-neutral basis for a common understanding of digital skills and framing policy" (Vuorikari et al., 2022, p. 1) and for this reason it can be considered a starting point for the following studies and frameworks, at least in Europe. The DigComp reads digital competence as:

[T]he confident, critical and responsible use of, and engagement with, digital technologies for learning, at work, and for participation in society. It includes information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, media literacy, digital content creation (including programming), safety (including digital well-being and competences related to cybersecurity), intellectual property related questions, problem solving and critical thinking (Vuorikari et al., 2022, p. 3).

12This framework lists 21 competences, divided into five areas that range from information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, to digital content creation, safety, and problem solving. The Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (RFCDC) was conceived and elaborated by the Council of Europe. At a first glance concerning a different matter, the RFCDC has quickly come to reveal its importance, not only as a major tool for describing those competences needed for being democratic citizens in the real world, but also as a guide to leading theoretical and educational reflection on how these democratic competences are also essential in the digital world, given that the two environments are closely interwoven, with the virtual world being an extension of the real one.

13The RFCDC was first elaborated in 2016 and expanded in the following years. It presents a set of 20 competences needed for European citizens in order to live peacefully in our highly diverse modern societies:

The heart of the Framework is a model of the competences that need to be acquired by learners if they are to participate effectively in a culture of democracy and live peacefully together with others in culturally diverse democratic societies (Council of Europe, 2018a, p. 11).

14These competences are grouped into four areas: values, attitudes, skills, and knowledge and critical understanding, as shown in the following figure.

Figure 1The RFCDC butterfly (Council of Europe, 2022).

Figure 1–The RFCDC butterfly (Council of Europe, 2022).

15The third framework–Digital Citizenship Education (DCE)–is closely connected to the RFCDC, as clearly shown by its visual representation: a temple whose foundations are exactly the competences for democratic culture (see Figure 2). This graphic makes it evident how DCE must be built starting from a democratic basis and how being democratic citizens in the digital world implies the mastery of these competences in the real world. Being digitally literate online and being a democratic citizen in real life have merged into the figure of a digital citizen, ie someone who:

through the development of a broad range of competences, is able to actively, positively and responsibly engage in both on- and offline communities, whether local, national or global (Richardson & Milovidov, 2019, p. 11).

16In the shape of a temple, founded on democratic competences, DCE is described as sustained by five pillars, which uphold the whole structure of digital citizenship development and consist of policies, stakeholders, strategies, infrastructures and resources, and evaluation. The top of the temple digital citizenship is broken down into ten digital domains, which "have been defined as underpinning the overall concept of digital citizenship" (Richardson & Milovidov, 2019, p. 13). The ten domains are grouped into three main areas:

  • Being online includes three domains: access and inclusion, learning and creativity, media and information literacy;

  • Wellbeing online includes the second three domains: ethics and empathy, health and wellbeing, e-presence and communication;

  • Rights online includes the last four domains: active participation, rights and responsibilities, privacy and security, consumer awareness.

Figure 2–The DCE temple (Council of Europe, 2022).

Figure 2–The DCE temple (Council of Europe, 2022).

17All three frameworks should be set as reference points to any further discussion about the topic of DCE, notwithstanding the fact that their interrelatedness has been neglected in the literature, or at least not explicitly described, as pointed out in Bracci et al. (2022). The urgency to foster a theoretical and applied reflection about DCE goes beyond European institutions. In fact on other continents the discussion of this critical topic is extensive and began in some cases by the early 2000s. In those years, at Kansas University, Ribble and Bailey started their work on conceptualising Digital Citizenship, which was defined as "the norms of appropriate, responsible behaviour with regard to technology" and encompassed some major themes: digital access, digital commerce, digital communication and collaboration, digital etiquette, digital fluency, digital health and welfare, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital security and privacy (http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/​nine-elements.html).

18The link between theory and practice is exemplified by the work of Common Sense, an independent and non-profit American organisation, which aims at student empowerment in digital settings and provides a large set of educational resources and curriculum proposals for school-age children. Common Sense defines digital citizenship as "the ability to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in the digital world" and a digital citizen is someone who has a safe, responsible and respectful behavior online (https://www.commonsense.org/​education/​digital-citizenship). Common Sense presents a cross-curricular approach that covers eight areas: internet safety, privacy and security, relationship and communication, cyberbullying and digital drama, digital footprint and reputation, self-image and identity, information literacy, creative credit and copyright.

19On the other side of the globe, the New Zealander NGO Netsafe has been working on the elaboration of a set of actions and resources since 2016, together with the publication of a white paper in which the relationship between digital capability, fluency and citizenship is highlighted. According to their statements, "a person is digitally fluent if they have the skills to participate in a digital society, and is a digital citizen when they are effectively doing so" (https://netsafe.org.nz/​the-kit/​theory/​). Their definition of a digital citizen recalls the terminology used in the RFCDC, where he/she is defined as:

somebody that has appropriate:
Skills and strategies to access technology to communicate, connect, collaborate and create;
Attitudes, underpinned by values that support personal integrity and positive connection with others;
Understanding and knowledge of the digital environments and contexts in which they are working, and how they integrate on/offline spaces;
and then critically:
They are using their "digital fluency" competency to participate in life-enhancing opportunities (social, economic, cultural, civil) and to achieve their goals (https://netsafe.org.nz/​the-kit/​theory/​, emphasis added).

20In Australia, the eSafety Commission was the world's first Government agency committed to keeping its citizens safer online. It was first established in 2015 as the Children's eSafety Commissioner under the Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015 to help protect Australian children from cyberbullying harm and to take a national leadership role in online safety for children. In 2017, the Government expanded the Commissioner's function to online safety for all Australians. This includes providing information and tools to help manage online safety risks, and administering schemes to tackle serious online abuse, cyberbullying material, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and harmful online material. This project offers teachers a wide range of materials based on three fundamental principles: positive engagement, knowing your online world and choosing consciously. According to this project,

Digital citizenship is about confident and positive engagement with digital technology. A digital citizen is a person with the skills and knowledge to effectively use digital technologies to participate in society, communicate with others and create and consume digital content (https://www.esafety.gov.au/​educators).

21As suggested by this definition, the Australian approach is very much focused on safety and protection and on the participatory and communicative character of digital citizenship.

22Going back to the American continent, the Canadian perspective seems to combine theory and practice in the work carried out by the Media Smart NGO, which developed "USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools". On the basis of their research, Media Smart elaborated the USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE framework, which provides a roadmap for teaching digital skills in Canadian schools. Again, digital literacy is seen as a combination of multiple areas of action, seven in this case: ethics and empathy, privacy and security, community engagement, digital health, consumer awareness, finding and verifying, making and remixing. Educational resources in this case are equipped/accompanied by "tips" for parents so that school and family mutually reinforce kids' learning (https://mediasmarts.ca/​teacher-resources).

23In Europe, a lot of research and work has been carried out by European Schoolnet. Founded in 1997, this is a non-profit international organisation, based in Brussels and encompassing 34 Ministries of Education, aimed at bringing innovation to key education stakeholders. ICT and digitization are two of their focus areas "because of the critical role they play in terms of designing and implementing future classroom scenarios and supporting new forms of learning both in and out of school" (http://www.eun.org/​it/​about/​mission-and-vision). In fact, many of their projects revolve around digital literacy and digital citizenship, which in their view range from safe and responsible use of online technology, online safety and responsibility to active and creative digital life, digital skills for jobs and life, coding and computational thinking (http://www.eun.org/​it/​focus-areas/​digital-citizenship). At a closer look, it is evident how projects and frameworks so far have a lot in common in terms of key areas and skills to be addressed in order for students to acquire the competencies needed to navigate the digital world. The Council of Europe's DCE international Expert Group, who worked on the development of the above-mentioned 'temple', studied a wide and comprehensive body of academic and policy literature related to DCE published since 2000 and reviewed it in order to identify those dimensions that were considered to be fundamental, and aimed at including digital literacy in a wider frame, that of digital citizenship: being a competent user of digital devices leads to being a democratic user, ie a democratic citizen online, and "simple" technical skills must be accompanied by values and attitudes that characterise democratic behavior (both online and offline). Moreover, a democratic digital citizen cannot but live in a global world and thus be equipped with competences that allow him/her to be a global digital citizen.

24In fact, DCE needs to take into account and reflect upon the concepts of citizenship, civic participation and democracy, and upon the ways in which these concepts have changed or are changing in the process of digitization. The digital environment can create and facilitate new and more direct forms of democratic participation (such as online petitions or crowdfunding), but at the same time it can entail sentiments of exclusion or frustration (Meyer, 2016) when the digital devices cannot be easily accessed. In accordance with Kenner and Lange (2019), digital transformation can have a positive impact on the processes of democratization of our time. This requires a DCE that teaches people technical skills, enables them to deal competently with digital media and allows them to develop a critically reflective awareness of democracy (Kenner & Lange, 2019). Once again, democratic competences, indicated by the RFCDC, are the necessary fundamental basis on which to build digital citizenship education.

2.2. The Dice.Lang pedagogical framework: an "emerging star" of Digital Citizenship

25The DiCE.Lang project responds to the European "Digital Citizenship Education" initiative, launched by the Council of Europe, which seeks to empower learners to participate in a digital society, develop their sense of critical analysis in view of digital transformations, and reach an effective use of digital technologies–all of which are embedded in a notion of citizenship–based on respect for democratic culture and shared values. As already pointed out, to ensure the implementation of DCE in curricula all over Europe, subject-specific adaptations are essential, yet still lacking. Our project aims to close this gap by layering the perspective of FLE onto the available concepts so that foreign language classrooms can become a productive site for Digital Citizenship Education.

26The DiCE.Lang framework provides a foreign language perspective and integrates digital, democratic, and subject-specific competences into the concept of DCE for FLE. The rising star model, explained in detail below, identifies four dimensions: the content dimension, communication dimension, inter and transcultural dimension, and identity dimension. Additionally, a critical and reflective dimension is emphasised, which is interconnected with the preceding dimensions (DiCE.Lang, 2023; Lütge & Merse, 2022).

27These five crucial dimensions that constitute the main strands of the Dice.Lang proposed pedagogical framework are also linked to digital and global perspectives. They are the cornerstones of the theoretical-conceptual model that aims at positioning DCE in the context of foreign language education. As we delve deeper into the theoretical foundations of the intersection between FLE and DCE, we recognize that the reflective and critical dimension cannot exist in isolation; it is a transversal component that affects all aspects of the model. This fact is also mirrored in our graphic below as an element that is intertwined/echoed in all the other dimensions as well (Figure 3). This was confirmed during the piloting phases of the teacher training package, where feedback from teachers revealed the importance of critical reflection in all dimensions of the model–see section 4. As depicted in Figure 3, the model is built on four FLE perspectives that are linked to key global and digital practices such as participation, interaction, and diversity. The fundamental dimension of critical reflection underscores the interconnectedness of all aspects of the model, emphasising its transversal nature.

Figure 3–The rising star model (DiCE.Lang, 2023).

Figure 3–The rising star model (DiCE.Lang, 2023).

28To establish the subject-specific orientation, the framework covers and models the specific perspectives of FLE into available European initiatives of DCE–see section 2 where the European Frameworks are discussed. These entail:

  • A communication dimension that focuses on both language competences and digital literacies to help learners understand, interpret, manage, share, and create meaning in the ever-expanding digital communication channels and online media.

  • An inter- and transcultural dimension that emphasises the importance of cultural encounters and diversity in digital environments, where digital media plays a vital role in transmitting cultural knowledge.

  • An identity-oriented dimension that helps learners develop a strong sense of self and considers how their online presence can impact their identity formation.

  • A content-oriented dimension that connects current global themes, such as migration, diversity, and sustainability to digital transformations.

  • A transversal dimension that intersects with each of the other four dimensions and emphasises the critical and reflective aspect of the increasing importance of digitality in learners' lives.

29The proposed framework aligns with the concept of "global digital citizen" which implies that digital media and online realms are removing barriers of all kinds, thus connecting the digital and global realms (Council of Europe, 2018, p. 5). With this in mind, the framework also underpins the design of a set of OERs and a specific teacher training course aimed at the language teacher's growth in the area of DCE and FLE.

30To outline some of the theoretical aspects from the framework in a more practical and teacher-oriented manner, the next paragraphs present an example of possible descriptors of the different progression levels when attempting to assess DCE within FLE.

31The descriptors for the different progression levels were inspired by the frameworks reviewed in section 2.1 and designed based on empirical research carried out for this project including the teacher survey on DCE, the evaluation of the open educational resources and the piloting of the teacher training package. Three levels of progression are suggested (basic, independent, proficient) for each dimension. Table 1 below illustrates those levels with proficiency statements in the Communication Dimension strand. The outlined descriptors allow teachers to recognize their students' particular strengths as well as areas that can be improved upon. The levels are built upon each other, so that each higher level includes all lower levels.

Table 1Progression levels for the Communication dimension (DiCE.Lang, 2023).

Table 1–Progression levels for the Communication dimension (DiCE.Lang, 2023).

3. The Dice.Lang OERs

32Drawing on the conceptual framework discussed above, the DiceLang consortium designed, piloted and evaluated a set of 50 OERs for the integration of DCE in FLE allowing teachers and educators in Europe and beyond to teach DCE to learners at primary and secondary school levels as well as for higher education students. The OERs available on the DiceLang website (see Figure 4) are presented and organised as very practical and easy to implement teaching units. Each of the teaching units has indicated precise outcomes, a meta-commentary aimed at teachers to explain the purpose and methodological intent of each resource, ready-to-use worksheets and additional resources for DCE integration into the FLE class.

33In order to have a clear understanding of the conceptualization of the five strands presented in the framework and the discussion about the results of the survey, the training course and the student teacher reflective portfolios, the authors of this paper will present examples of five different OERs, each one dealing with a different strand. Each example indicates some of the learning outcomes of the unit and how they relate to DCE.

Figure 4The Teaching Units.

Figure 4–The Teaching Units.

34Communication Dimension: Seeing is no longer believing: Deepfake videos
Potential product: creation of a collaborative digital infographic or poster with tips to spot deepfakes.
This teaching unit (Level B1 CEFR) focuses on fostering learners' skills to spot and evaluate the credibility and reliability of online material. This topic assumes an even stronger importance when one considers the current challenges learners and teachers may face with AI applications, specifically relating to the trust deficit and the problem of bias. Learners are guided in understanding the importance of being well-informed consumers of news while reflecting on types of news sources and the danger of misleading information. Within the activities proposed in the teaching unit, learners are given opportunities to practise their listening and speaking skills, thus the authors believe that students will move from being mere consumers of online content to producers by creating an infographic on spotting deepfake videos.

35Content Dimension: Refugees and the importance of digital education
Potential product: organising and promoting online "Refugee Day" at school.
This teaching unit (Level A2-B1 CEFR) addresses the importance of raising awareness on the digital and educational inequalities that affect young refugees. It is vital for them to have access to digital tools and know how to use them while promoting intercultural understanding and tolerance. During the lesson learners are guided through the organisation and promotion of an online event entitled "Refugee Day" that could aim at encouraging public awareness and support of young refugees with a special focus on education through the use of digital technology.

36Critical and Reflective Dimension: Quality time online: cultivating healthy digital habits
Potential product: creating a digital activity journal.
This teaching unit (Level A2-B1 CEFR) addresses the impact that being online can have on mental and physical well-being and focuses on how technology can enhance and simplify people's lives rather than being just a cause of distraction. Learners are guided to cultivate healthy digital habits and improve their digital life through a series of
ad hoc tasks and the creation of a digital activity journal where they can record their digital habits on a weekly basis.

37Identity Dimension: Virtual Emotions and Virtual Empathy: how do we communicate emotions and empathy in a digitalised global world?
Potential Product: creation of a digital poster and video.
This teaching unit (Level B2 CEFR) guides students in raising awareness about the fact that communication of emotions in a virtual environment differs greatly from that of face-to-face encounters, despite the universality of the six main facial expressions of emotions. Within the teaching unit, Ekman's universal facial expressions of emotions are discussed while reflecting on the use and interpretation of emojis in communication as well as preventing and solving possible misunderstanding in a virtual environment.

38Inter- and Transcultural Perspectives: Global Peace Path
Potential product: a multilingual poem that contributes to the Global Peace Path project.
This teaching unit (Level B1) is available in multiple languages (Catalan, French, Irish, German, Italian, Latgalian, Latvian, Turkish, Spanish and, of course English) and focuses on enhancing students' language skills by communicating with others through the Internet and by collaboratively creating multilingual peace poetry. Through the activities proposed in this teaching unit, students will become part of a world-wide peace campaign by sharing their peace poetry on the digital Global Peace Path platforms.

39Together with the OERs, the Dice.Lang project designed a digital inventory (see Figure 5) in order to offer post-primary and higher education teachers authentic resources to be used in their classes. The inventory, created by the consortium, compiles 60 original and authentic multilingual resources for the integration of DCE in FLE (including digital texts, literature, films and games). These resources are tagged based on content criteria relevant to DCE, which turns this inventory into a database that teachers can easily use to search for specific topics and themes.

Figure 5–The Digital Inventory.

Figure 5–The Digital Inventory.

4. The Dice.Lang Teacher Training Package

40Based on the existing frameworks of DCE and on the framework created within this project, the third output of the project is a Teacher Training Package (TTP), composed of five elements aimed at fostering the professional development of pre- and in-service teachers and teacher trainers regarding DCE methodologies, practices, and resources (Figure 6). One of the elements of this TTP is a Free Online Training Course (https://dicelang-edu.com), a training opportunity for teachers on how to implement DCE in FL classrooms. It aims to develop the digital literacy and skills of their participants in using technologies effectively and critically. The course is freely available online, to be completed autonomously. This innovative self-guided training allows teachers to follow the course at their own pace, removing the time constraints for professional development often reported. It is aligned with international studies that stress the need to find teacher training modalities that answer teachers' current needs (OECD, 2018).

Figure 6–Free online Training Course.

Figure 6–Free online Training Course.

41The Free Online Training Course is divided into five Modules, each one corresponding to the five dimensions conceptualized in this project (Critical and Reflective Dimension, Communication Dimension, Content Dimension, Identity Dimension, Inter- and Transcultural Dimension) as were discussed in the previous section (Figure 7).

42The modules entail different tasks of reflection on individual or collective practices and analysis of documents and resources. All the activities proposed aim to engage teachers in active learning methodologies supported by digital technologies. In order to develop the digital citizenship competence of teachers as well as their students, participants are asked, for instance, to reflect on the implications of using digital environments, and on how to identify, prevent and react to inappropriate digital recognizers and also to think of ways of addressing DCE topics in their classrooms.

Figure 7–Structure of the course.

Figure 7–Structure of the course.

43This course also gives participants access to a set of tools and resources that can be effectively implemented in their classrooms, as they can be adapted to different educational contexts. Some of the 50 OERs created for the project are used as examples for analysis, discussion and to help the design of learning activities which require pupils to manage digital identities responsibly. The final task of this course foresees the creation of a teaching unit, according to the educational context of the participant.

44This Free online Course was piloted during the year 2022 by participants from Portugal and Ireland. The teaching units created by the teachers enrolled during the pilot were analysed, following Bardin's (1977) content analysis that in this analysis focuses on specific topics, goals, activities, resources and targeted groups. Generally, the results indicate that the teachers understood the concept of DCE and the possible ways of bringing it into their FL classrooms.

45According to the final reflections written at the end of this course (Simões et al., in press), participants highlighted that the course provided them with opportunities to strengthen their theoretical knowledge about DCE, contributed to the development of new pedagogical plans to bring DCE into FLE, allowed them contact with new materials and resources related to the topic, helped them to reflect on their current practices and fostered new opportunities of improving them. They also mentioned that the activities proposed in the Free Online Course raise awareness of the theme and provide them with different perspectives about DCE in FLE education. Table 2 below offers some quotations from the participants.

Table 2–Feedback from students regarding the DCE and FLE training.

Reflection on current practices

Strengthen DCE understanding

Development of new pedagogical plans

"It definitely made me reflect on my teaching practices (...) The great bonus of this course was to know the theory behind the practice. That was excellent!"

"The course has given us an array of tools and ideas on how to address the topic with the students and provided an opportunity to grasp what still needs to be done"

"I enjoyed analysing the many TU where DCE was implemented and developing one myself"

"This course has helped us to understand the multiple perspectives of DCE"

"Must say that this course provided me with so much interesting content and different perspectives on facing DCE that I feel much more confident, enthusiastic, and motivated to apply it in my classes. It was very enriching and I feel more empowered"

46The participants were also questioned about the structure and design of the course. Most participants agreed that the course has an adequate structure and a logical progression, that it is easy to navigate and that it covers relevant topics.

47In general, participants considered that the course met their needs and expectations and would recommend it to other teachers. More than 50% of them rated the course 5/5. The participants who concluded this course affirmed they are now more aware of the importance and more confident in implementing DCE practices in their FL classrooms.

Much more confident as the course confirmed what I already knew: while teaching English we can enhance our students´ perspective on others, the world.

5. A self-reflective approach for the integration of digital citizenship into foreign language education

48This section of the article briefly discusses some results from qualitative data arising from pre-service teacher reflection portfolios to explore teachers' perspectives regarding DCE in FLE.

49Following this, a self-reflection tool will be presented. This tool was inspired by the initial survey carried out at the beginning of the project to assess the status and progress of DCE in FLE among teachers while understanding–with a fine-grained local view–what needs to be done in a specific educational setting to integrate DCE into FLE. For detailed results of the survey and interviews, see the Dice.Lang, 2021 report (io1_report_1_.pdf (uni-muenchen.de) and also Autiza et al., (2022).

5.1. Pre-service teachers' reflections on their digital competence as educators

50This section will engage with qualitative data that sheds light on the nexus between pre-service teachers' professionalisation during their university education, and their views on their developing digital competences as educators. These data come from the context of a course for teacher education at a German university, with students choosing this course to specialise in foreign language education pedagogy in the fifth or sixth semester of their Bachelor studies (ie, these students will continue with a two-year-program for their Master of Education before they go into schools to become English language teachers). This university course targets the professionalisation of these pre-service teachers in view of their digital competences as educators, and it was modelled to integrate the five dimensions outlined in the previous sections that connect Digital Citizenship Education with the teaching and learning of foreign languages. In view of the digital competences of educators, this course was structured heuristically along the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu) (Redecker, 2017) and its six dimensions of digital professionalism: professional engagement, digital resources, teaching and learning, assessment, empowering learners, and facilitating learners' digital competence. Throughout the course, all students documented their individual learning progress, professional questions as well as learning outcomes in what was called a 'reflection portfolio' of 12 to 15 pages that was submitted after course completion as proof of learning. In the sense of action research (cf. Mertler, 2019), these portfolios were used as a feedback source to improve the pedagogic quality and processes of this course. For the purpose of this paper, the reflection portfolios of 32 students were re-evaluated with a qualitative content analysis to tease out student teachers' perspectives on the purposes and challenges of DCE in FLE.

51In a more detailed analysis in view of the DCE dimensions outlined above, the following picture emerges: the communicative dimension was the most self-evident connection between digitalization and FLE, with students clearly expressing the need to re-think communicative competences in light of digital opportunities and requirements. Probably the biggest challenge for them is to take stock of the almost endless communication channels and options one can use nowadays and apply some of them in classroom scenarios, ranging from writing an opinion on social media, to listening to a podcast, to creating a digital presentation to mediating information in multimodal ways. Afterall, "[c]ommunication is not only limited to school and classes. Communication can proceed anywhere and anytime with students (…) due to digital collaborative ways," as Pinar (all names pseudonymized) highlighted in her reflection, noting that navigating this seemingly endless list of opportunities is clearly both a challenge and a potential for learning–and that more learning and reflection will be necessary to integrate digital communication successfully into their future classrooms.

52The content dimension was embraced with a rather pragmatic notion, with one student writing that "[t]here has to be a functional connection between the use of digital technology and FLE specific topics. Neither the teacher nor the students benefit from using digital technology in the classroom without having a connection to content." In other words, for the classroom, teachers need to bring in themes and topics– and with the Internet, access to digital research as well as digital teacher networks, it was considered much easier to integrate up-to-date topics. From future teachers' perspectives, topics that were considered most relevant in the portfolios include gender equality, social discrimination, environmental sustainability–and digitalization itself. Interestingly, the reflection on FLE content turned out to be a productive pathway for student teachers of this course to think more deeply about inter- and transcultural learning, mainly because "digital platforms can provide students with access to authentic language use as well as authentic culture content, with this including opportunities to interact with native speakers and talk about real topics" as Nick wrote in his portfolio. This position indicates that students might not view "culture", "communication" and "content" in clearly separate terms, but as increasingly intertwined when learners are on their way to becoming interculturally and communicatively competent.

53Student engagement with aspects of identity in contexts of digital education turned out to be very personal, very emotional, and very heart-felt–which is often connected with their own experience of not feeling seen, heard, or represented in their previous classrooms. Interestingly, the need to engage with learners' identities is considered to be of general importance even without reference to digital considerations, as Nelly writes:

Incorporating students' diverse backgrounds into the lesson can motivate and empower learners by making them feel seen and heard. I think that learners can be the most productive and less hesitant to participate during a lesson when they feel comfortable enough to talk about their own identity and their experiences in life, and this should always be the case also in 'normal' lessons.

54Digital media, however, are considered to be highly facilitative to meet this educational demand, as is encapsulated in Sina's reflection:

Because classes always consist of different learners with diverse social heritage, ages, genders, personalities, cultural backgrounds, religions, motivations, and physical or psychological constitutions, all these students should be included (…) in a digital classroom by the teachers–for example by using digital tools for assistance, for creative self-expression, and for achieving voice, visibility and representation (eg, through creating videos with personal identity-related messages and sharing them online).

55On a larger scale, two major tendencies emerged from evaluating these reflection portfolios that highlight the need for constant critical reflection as the fifth DCE dimension. First, none of the students fundamentally called into question the need to be prepared for integrating digital education into their future foreign language classrooms, recognising the omnipresence of digitalization in all spheres of life–and the concomitant necessity to mirror digital transformations in education. This open-minded attitude becomes tangible in Omar's reflection:

We live in the digital era so why not embrace digitalization and implement it to the education system? The education system is one of the most important, if not the most important part of our society since it nurtures the people responsible for the future of the world. It would be irresponsible to stop the ongoing transformation towards digital education, as it can be of great benefit for students and for teachers.

56Second, this general readiness is contrasted with some reflective scepticism, as students are generally concerned with how they can actually live up to this educational challenge and wish for more support to develop their digital skills in FLE, as Leon articulates:

I hope for the future that teachers and teachers-to-be receive a better education in terms of implementing digital tools in the classroom. I do not think that I am well educated in using digital tools in the classroom yet. Before becoming a teacher, I need to develop my skills in order to use digital tools in the classroom properly.

57Here, a constant and continuous practice of reflection–as transversal to all other DCE dimensions–can be the "glue", as Paul called it in his portfolio, to keep all trajectories and targets of digital education together.

5.2. The self-reflection tool

58The survey-based reflection tool (available here) can serve to initiate critical self-assessment as a pathway into professional development, which can then be accessed and used by teachers directly on the project website, with an immediate option for displaying the results after completion. The self-reflection tool explores five different areas: teacher ethics and values and the role that they play in their language classes (ie human rights, cultural diversity, democracy, equality); teacher attitudes (ie on-line security, digital civic-minded issues, on-line responsibility); teacher skills (ie on-line content creation and engagement, on-line well-being); teacher knowledge and critical understanding (ie critical digital literacies) and, finally, the integration of DCE in teachers' lessons. The first four areas align with the different competencies that were described in the Reference Framework for Competencies of Democratic Cultures and the DCE temple and offer teachers the opportunity to self-reflect on their teaching practice. The last area guides the user on reflecting on their motivation to integrate topics related to DCE into their foreign language practice.

6. Conclusions and recommendations: Towards the development of a policy framework

59The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of an education system which is largely conducted in-person, with minimal digital infrastructure or knowledge. When schooling was suspended and students had to transition to remote learning, many children around the world were left behind. Access to technology is not a universal reality for all students, which further exacerbates the issue. However, technology plays a huge part in the students (and teachers) lives hence the need to empower younger citizens to participate actively and responsibly in a digital society while fostering their skills of using digital technologies effectively, safely and critically. DCE is at the centre of a discussion on technology and education having at the core the development of competencies needed to exercise one's democratic rights in a digital society. Moreover, DCE holds an essential role in FLE as addressed by the Dice.Lang project.

60A further step towards a sustainable integration of DCE in the language classroom necessitates a thorough concept for the assessment of DCE in FLE: this includes the evaluation of inputs, processes, and outcomes; we advocate for ongoing formative assessment. Against the backdrop of the rising star model, educators need to keep in mind that the different dimensions of the framework are not mutually exclusive. In general, further research into diagnostic assessment of DCE in FLE is needed.

61The new transformative society we live in demands a specific set of skills in order to allow digital citizens to navigate safely, interact respectfully and produce meaning in different multimedia formats in the digital world. Based on this, language education should include pedagogical practices that promote production and reception of digital content and awareness of cyberspace practices. With this in mind, the DiCE.Lang project provides toolkits to equip the target audience with the necessary skills to promote and implement DCE in FLE consistently and efficiently. However, it is important to note that the digital sphere and language learning are constantly evolving, without rigid borders or time stamps. As technology advances, it is difficult to predict the future for which we aim to prepare our learners. Therefore, we consider the current version of the policy framework (Dice.Lang, 2023) and educational resources as a single step in an evolutionary process that will require further adaptations based on upcoming technological and societal developments. Virtual or Augmented Reality is one example of a technology that currently has a niche existence but may become more influential in the future, potentially altering essential citizenship practices in the digital world. Equally, gamified approaches present promising opportunities to promote DCE in the language classroom in a more comprehensive and engaging manner. Furthermore, the revolutionary emerging AI technologies will further occupy, challenge and offer educational affordances to both language teachers and language learners. At the same time, whilst offering huge and unprecedented potential, AI tools remain largely untested by researchers and teachers, and raise equally large ethical issues related to academic integrity. This ongoing debate holds immense relevance for the future concept of digital citizenship, and cannot be ignored.

62This preliminary policy framework serves as a valuable starting point for a joint European effort to combine foreign language education and Digital Citizenship in a lasting way. By using a policy framework, national and federal curricula and school syllabi can be re-examined and re-evaluated, connecting DCE and FLE as educational progress. After all, "[d]igital transformations go beyond technological issues; they involve a whole range of different experts, (…) address activists and representatives from all walks of life including the perspectives of parents and learners." (Lütge & Merse, 2022, p. 228). A policy framework will be beneficial to a wide range of professions, including teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, educational researchers, and material and coursebook writers, providing them with helpful advice for their different roles, enhancing the educational experience and contributing to scientific dialogue.

63To conclude, we would like to offer some recommendations on the development and implementation of DCE in foreign language education:

  • Teachers should be able to understand the importance of being part of the digital community and use digital space as a tool for foreign language teaching. Support activities and resources like materials, teaching units and platforms can help foreign language teachers to become more self-confident and act as smart digital citizens in the teaching process.

  • Teachers and practitioners in general can avail themselves of a set of resources including teaching materials and teacher training opportunities on DCE in the FLE context using the available toolkits and teacher training opportunities in DCE and FLE. In that respect, Dice.Lang and other European projects (eg Lingu@num) are providing relevant open access resources.

  • Language teachers need to feel more confident and reassured about including critical thinking activities and criticality in their foreign language lessons. The creation of bottom-up teaching communities could serve as a platform to create a critical approach and develop critical thinking within FLE practices.

64Within the context of Digital Citizenship Education there is still a long road to travel, but we do need to remember that education is giving us today the opportunities to cultivate and instruct the young (digital) citizens that will shape a better future.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1The RFCDC butterfly (Council of Europe, 2022).
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Titre Figure 2–The DCE temple (Council of Europe, 2022).
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Titre Figure 3–The rising star model (DiCE.Lang, 2023).
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Titre Table 1Progression levels for the Communication dimension (DiCE.Lang, 2023).
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Titre Figure 4The Teaching Units.
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Titre Figure 5–The Digital Inventory.
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Titre Figure 6–Free online Training Course.
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Titre Figure 7–Structure of the course.
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Marta Giralt, Silvia Benini, Liam Murray, Christiane Lütge, Yasemin Erdemgil, Claudia Mustroph, Ana Raquel Simões, Susana Senos, Lavinia Bracci, Fiora Biagi, Ireta Čekse et Thorsten Merse, « Towards the Integration of Digital Citizenship in Foreign Language Education: concepts, practices and training »Alsic [En ligne], Vol. 26, n° 1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2023, consulté le 23 juillet 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/alsic/6904 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/alsic.6904

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Auteurs

Marta Giralt

Marta Giralt (MA, M.Phil, PhD) is an Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics and Spanish at University of Limerick. She teaches ICT and Languages, Intercultural Communication and Spanish Pedagogy. Her research interests are in Applied Linguistics, CALL and Intercultural Communication.
Affiliation: University of Limerick, Ireland.
Courriel: marta.giralt@ul.ie
Toile : https://www.ul.ie/research/dr-marta-giralt
Adress: School of Modern Languages and applied Linguistics. Millstream Building. University of Limerick. Limerick, Ireland.

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Silvia Benini

Affiliation: University of Limerick, Ireland.

Liam Murray

Affiliation: University of Limerick, Ireland.

Christiane Lütge

Affiliation: LMU Munich

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Yasemin Erdemgil

Affiliation: LMU Munich

Claudia Mustroph

Affiliation: LMU Munich

Ana Raquel Simões

Affiliation: University of Aveiro

Susana Senos

Affiliation: University of Aveiro

Lavinia Bracci

Affiliation: Siena Italian Studies

Fiora Biagi

Affiliation: Siena Italian Studies

Ireta Čekse

Affiliation: University of Latvia

Thorsten Merse

Affiliation: University of Duisburg-Essen

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