We continue our “Meet Our Members” section with Ross Campbell from Hälsingland Education Association (HEA)

Could tell us a little bit about your organisation’s mission?

Halsingland Education Association (HEA) was established in 2015, as a collaboration between the three municipalities in the county of Hälsingland (Bollnäs, Söderhamn, Nordanstig). In HEA the municipalities cooperate around education and training on various levels from upper secondary level for youth to adult education and vocational training for adults.

The municipalities within HEA organises education and vocational training for about 5 000 students per year. HEA makes it possible for the municipalities to offer a broad spectrum of courses that each municipality by itself would be unable to offer due to financial reasons.

Our mission follows the Swedish way of schooling which is making good citizens and adults in society. Though we don’t have a big mission statement, the general notion of what a school is for us is ‘inclusion’. What is interesting about our school for adults is that currently we are together as a conglomerate with the handicap schools, which provides a wider perspective. We are in the beginning phases of collaborating but our mission is to continue in the long term. The begining state for us is to be aware of each other’s situations and challenges.

Compared to other members of the CRISS project, HEA is located in a small rural area surrounded by nature with very low population. Thus, our students don’t have access to large libraries or newspapers. CRISS is a way to be digitally connected to the world, which is very important, to be able to enter global conversations in a much more direct way. We don’t think that there is a need to live in a large city in order to have access, one of our goals is to connect people that live spread away. It happens very frequently that young adults don’t feel connected and tend to move to greater cities, this is why we support and feel connection to the CRISS project.    

What is your role in the CRISS project?

Our role at this stage is to be facilitators, as we are in the process of testing and not running the project just yet. We are starting by defining roles in the project, but for it we need to meet each other and get to know the different personalities and discuss.  

In my case, I have been involved in technology for many years, but some of my colleagues are afraid of how technology could take away human contact. I am trying to inspire them to see the importance of using a combination of both, and the importance of being digitally competent. Regardless, we are still citizens in Europe and we should meet and have personal contact as well. Once you have the personal contact you can complement that with the electronic contact to enrich it.

In your opinion, which of the digital competences listed by the EU do you find most important? Why?

I really like the one called ‘Digital citizenship’. I find that many of my colleagues and students when talking about information technology, they think of programs and creating content, and maybe some digital safety, like to make a back-up or upload files to a Cloud… those are very obvious but what they don’t think about is on area 1 for competences in the CRISS project. With citizenship where you not only become an active citizen by entering conversation but also getting information. There is many people who think like this with libraries and information resource but it’s also citizen resource, like what is happening in the EU, how do you read a newspaper and are able to make a comment and enter a conversation from a village as a digitally active person. I consider this to be the biggest competence, by using digital technologies anyone could be an active citizen of the world.

In the CRISS project the 1.3.3 competence talks about using digital technology for social improvement and even for sustainability. For example, online conferences may avoid getting an airplane and purchasing tickets, letting people meet in a more friendly environment. This also has implication for government, companies and businesses. Again, one of my goals is to get people used to it in order to challenge the idea of having such big urban centres, to have the possibility of repopulating the rural areas.

The EU idea of having digital competence and digital citizenship could be very important, in my opinion. There could be a different future of an EU vote, where all citizens, not only Ministers in Brussels, could vote for a referendum of a certain issue. I think that in CRISS, citizenship is one of the big goals for the EU’s digital competence.

How can we can make students more engaged with ITC education?

The way I see it is that students need to find recognition in what they do or publish in order to engage themselves. I think that a way to engage students is to start by getting them to explore some real situations which they could get involved in, such as to have their social network account hacked, and raise their awareness on the problem. We can do this following two steps, first showing the problems that relate to the student’s situation and then coming to some solutions listening to their own suggestions.

Sometimes people don’t know how technology may be misused and maybe don’t know how easy it would be to do a group Skype.  So it shouldn’t be a problem to be in the countryside, it’s all about getting to know the tools and showing them that those tools may open to more possibilities, hence, as simple as a Skype group conversation with people in other parts of the world.

An exercise that I do in school is to divide students into different classrooms and to Skype each other. Another is getting the students to publish in the school’s website. Most of the times they get more engaged when a text is published because then they look into how many people have read it. It’s like for example when we write a comment in an article of a newspaper. If they know more people are reading and listening to them that creates more engagement.

What is the most exciting aspect of taking part in CRISS for you and your organisation?

Emotionally what is more relevant for me is it’s acceptance. I think that CRISS and it’s tools make the idea of digital competence easier and not so worrying. People can look and see how to use tools and digital competences and then don’t have to think it’s something for experts. The thing is to bring it to normal and everyday life.

The list of performance criteria, that includes 35 of them, are very understandable, but the term  digital competence it’s not so understandable because it’s vague. Once you look into the performance criteria you see that these are steps we are making to solve this non understanding issue.

What excites me is the possibility of people getting beyond their fear to do things, and by taking ownership of doing, they become active. The big thing of this is the simplification of the term and to take mental ownership of this. The key is to open the term so it becomes part of everybody.