FOSTERING YOUTH DIGITAL SKILLS THROUGH OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

V. Jecheva, A. Toshkov, T. Kotzeva, K. Mineva

Burgas Free University (BULGARIA)
In the recent years there is no doubt that, overall, young Europeans enjoy widespread access to ICTs and the internet, and that accessibility has been steadily increasing over the years. According to Eurostat, in 2016, 91 % of young people in the EU made daily use of the internet, compared with 71 % for the whole EU population. Thus, it looks as if Europe is well on the way to bridging the digital divide. However, these data and conclusions, do not do justice to the real issue which is at stake. When analyzing the digital divide, attention must be paid to the online behaviors of youngsters.

This research paper describes key results from the project "I Tech: youth do digital scienceā€œ, under Erasmus+, KA2 Youth topic, contract 2017-1-FR02-KA205-012764. The project aimed to develop open educational resources on digital technologies, thus targeting disadvantaged youth in a situation of digital exclusion. The purpose is also to trigger interest for digital technologies, to develop critical attitude towards digital and media technologies, to prevent youth from engaging in dangerous practices and misuses of digital technologies and to increase soft skills.

To achieve this purpose four open educational resources (OER) have been developed. The underlying principle was to expose young people with experiences which are conducive to the acquisition of digital skills without limitations pertaining to space or time. The tools can be deployed anywhere and in any circumstance, because they are self-contained and portable. The OER module on social networking tackles the following major topics: social networks and their opportunities for career, self-development, participating in social activities, the advantages of social networking; preventing radicalization on social networks; preventing social networks from engaging young people in individualistic behaviors that undermine citizenship, cyberbullying, etc. The OER module on coding aims at equipping users with computer programming skills, especially in block programming and connected objects as the most attractive and easy to understand tool for the youngsters. The OER module on Internet of Things (IoT) is about connected electronic interactive objects which enable people to monitor the environment, record data about it, interact at distance with people and things, while the OER module on training for youth workers/educators allows youth agents without prior training nor education on digital science to deliver the tool autonomously.

The paper presents also the results of the piloting phase, when the developed OER modules have been tested with the target group representatives from high schools in Bulgaria.