Digital Competence Development in Higher Education

An International Perspective

by Maria Luisa Pérez Cañado (Volume editor) Juan Ráez Padilla (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 157 Pages


This book seeks to foster the successful incorporation of digital competence in Bologna-adapted language degrees. To this end, it pools the insights of a set of international practitioners and investigators who report on classroom- and research-based experiences which have integrated ICT (information and communication technology) for specific and generic competence development within the Higher Education language context. Their research has evinced that digital competence can act as a catalyst for the development of other linguistic and generic competencies of crucial relevance in Higher Education language degrees, as well as the multiple literacies involved not only in digital and linguistic skills, but also cooperative learning, critical thinking and literary aspects. Thus, the contributions included in this volume seem to make a compelling case for the incorporation of ICT into the new language learning scenario provided by the implementation of the European Credit Transfer System.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction and Overview
  • Bibliography
  • The New Competency-based Foreign Language Teacher Education in the European Context
  • Abstract
  • Competency-based Teacher Education
  • The Behavioural CBTE Approach
  • The New Competency-based Teacher Education Movement
  • Basic Competencies
  • Main Characteristics of Basic Competencies
  • General Competencies for Teachers
  • Specific Competencies for Foreign Language Teachers
  • Assessment of Competencies
  • Critique of the Competency-based Teacher Education Approach
  • Bibliography
  • A European Approach to Language Teaching: Developing Competency in the Usage of Web 2.0 Tools
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • 1 Technology: A bridge or a Barrier?
  • 1.1 Europeanising Language Teacher Education
  • 2 The Experimental Study: Design and Method
  • 2.1 Participants
  • 2.2 Training Tools
  • 2.3 Procedure
  • 3 A European Approach to Web 2.0 Training
  • 4 Findings
  • 4.1 Quantitative Findings
  • 4.2. Qualitative Findings
  • 5 Concluding Remarks
  • Bibliography
  • What’s HappeNING?: Expanding the ESL Classroom through Educational Social Network Sites
  • Abstract
  • Introduction: Generation 2.0. Enters the University Classroom
  • Participants and Methodology
  • Educational Social Network Sites: A Definition
  • Educational Social Network Sites and Competence Building
  • Acquiring Digital Competence in the New EHEA Degrees
  • Results: Toward Self-Managed, Collaborative Learning Practices
  • Assessment of Competences, Autonomous and Collaborative Skills
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • The Use of Ict for Competence Teaching: A Practical Approach at the University of Valencia
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Principles
  • ICTs in Classroom University Teaching
  • The Use of Corpora and Concordance Tools
  • Digital Presentations: Digital Storytelling and Cuadernia
  • Podcasting and Videocasting
  • Subtitling
  • Competence Assessment
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Aprendizaje Colaborativo Asistido por Ordenador para la Transferencia de las Competencias Mediadora y Lingüístico-comunicativa en Inglés Especializado
  • Abstract
  • Introducción
  • Objetivos y marco teórico
  • Desarrollo de la investigación
  • Análisis de los resultados
  • Conclusiones
  • Bibliografía
  • An Innovative Approach for Developing Oral Skills in English in a Distance Course
  • Abstract
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Synchronous Computer Mediated Communication Studies (SCMC)
  • 3 Research Context
  • 3.1 Some Data about the Institution
  • 3.2 The Participants
  • 4 The Project
  • 4.1 Aims
  • 4.2 Stages
  • 4.3 Task Description
  • 5 Data and Results
  • 5.1 Levels of Activity and Participation
  • 5.2 Multimodal Analysis
  • 5.3 Qualitative Analysis
  • 6 Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Enhancing the Competency-based Approach to Learning in Literary Studies: Strategies and Resources
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Biliography
  • Competency Development and Evaluation: Student-centred Assessment Methodologies Related to the EHEA
  • Abstract
  • The Bologna Process and the EHEA
  • The 1997 Lisbon Recognition Convention and the 1998 Sorbonne Declaration
  • The 1999 Bologna Declaration and the ECTS System
  • Student-centred Education and Learning Outcomes
  • Competency-based Education
  • The Impact of the Bologna Process in the EHEA
  • An Increased Pressure on Higher Education Institutions and Departments
  • The Lengthy Introduction Process: An Example from Portugal
  • The Challenges of Faculty Development and Training: An Example from Spain
  • THe Use of the Concept of Competency-Based Education
  • Assessment and Grading in the EHEA
  • Different Assessment Formats
  • Scoring and Grading Students
  • Student-centred Assessment
  • The Relationship between Grades and Future Workplace Success
  • Looking Ahead
  • Bibliography

Introduction and Overview

María Luisa Pérez-Cañado & Juan Ráez-Padilla

The creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has deeply impacted tertiary education across the continent at all curricular and organizational levels. Objectives are now formulated in terms of learning outcomes, methodologies are becoming more student-centered, groupings and learning modalities are increasingly diversified, teacher and learner roles are being reconfigured, and assessment is more authentic, formative, and criterion-referenced (Pérez Cañado, 2010). Within didactic materials and resources, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now acquiring a particularly sharp relief.

Indeed, in addition to being one the core generic competencies which most European universities have worked into all their Bologna-adapted degrees, the potential of technological or digital competence for enhancing the student-centered learning process has been underscored in the official EHEA literature. According to Benito & Cruz (2007: 104), ICT is not a new fad, but a crucial tool which, in combination with the EHEA, will foster pedagogical innovation and allow all the agents involved in the teaching-learning process to expedite knowledge-building and competency development. Much the same is claimed by Pennock-Speck (2008: 70):

ICT in the field of education is an exciting opportunity for teachers and students. With more and more teachers being expected to apply more student-centred teaching, even if they do not particularly want to (Bailey, 2008), practically all teachers will end up using ICT to teach or at least to communicate with or evaluate students to a greater or lesser extent.

The use of ICT for language learning or Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), perhaps the most widespread and acknowledged term, has developed particularly rapidly in recent years, coming to involve an increasingly diverse range of options relating to the principled application of new technologies in language learning. During the last three decades, CALL has progressed and evolved at a remarkable rate. Books are regularly published on the subject and at least four international journals are now dedicated to the topic. There are annual conferences devoted to it in many parts of the world, and highly active online discussion lists (Levy & Stockwell, 2006: 1).

Beatty (2003: 7) defines CALL as “any process in which a learner uses a computer and, as a result, improves his or her language” and considers it an “amorphous or unstructured discipline, constantly evolving both in terms of pedagogy and technological advances in hardware and software” (2003: 8). Sure ← 7 | 8 → enough, as Beatty (2003), Lee (2000), Levy (1997), Pérez Gutiérrez & Pérez Torres (2005), or Warschauer & Healey (1998) document, CALL has undergone three main phases, with each stage corresponding to a different level of technology and certain pedagogical theories.

Behaviorist CALL was conceived in the 1950s and implemented in the next two decades. As it name indicates, it was based on the behaviorist learning model underlying Audiolingualism and thus featured repetitive language drills, explicit grammar and vocabulary instruction, and activities focused on form. The latter were corrected by the computer, which fulfilled the role of mechanical tutor.

Communicative CALL emerged in the 1980s as a reaction to the behaviorist view of language teaching. It was based on cognitive theories which saw learning as a creative process of discovery and thus incorporated more interactive and varied programs. Computers were employed for conducting individual work and popular CALL software involved reconstruction, concordancing, and simulations.

Finally, integrative CALL has superseded the previous two types of CALL from the 1990s onwards. With its underlying socio-cognitive view and consequent emphasis on real language use in a meaningful, authentic context, it is based on skills integration, multimedia-networked computers, and the Internet, and employs varied and hybrid CALL programs, where the computer acts as tutor, stimulus, and tool. The evolution of CALL can be visually traced in the summary provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1: CALL stages (after Pérez Gutiérrez & Pérez Torres, 2005: 562)

image ← 8 | 9 →

The introduction of multimodality and the Internet in this last phase is precisely what has caused CALL as a general label to be called into question and competing terms to arise. Kern & Warschauer (2000: 1), for instance, speak of network-based language teaching (NBLT) to refer to a new side of CALL, “where human communication is the focus”. Gassó (2000) alludes to technology-enhanced language learning (TELL) as the latest acronym, coined to signal the incorporation of multimedia and the Internet. And Pennock-Speck (2013) mentions ICT as the preferred paradigm. CALL is associated in all these cases with pre-network language teaching and learning and the use of inflexible programs and mechanical activities with no room for creativity or peer interaction (Pennock-Speck, 2013).

However, these views have been countered by Levy & Hubbard (2005) and Levy & Stockwell (2006). They make a strong case for CALL as the global descriptor for the use of technology in language teaching and learning, built around three main reasons: it distinctively captures the application of technology to language as an object of learning; it reliably describes what we do; and it is an inclusive, established, and stable term which has been longer-lasting and more widespread than any other comparable acronym. Favoring the proliferation of other labels is counterproductive and simply serves to fragment the field, confuse, and distract. Thus, as Levy & Hubbard (2005: 148) maintain, “In the final analysis, the term CALL is simply useful. Avoiding the term simply fuels the idea that CALL is somehow locked into some kind of 1980s, pre-network time warp. The facts prove otherwise”.

Despite the controversy aroused by CALL as a general label, what remains incontrovertible is that technology is here to stay (Sharma, 2006: 59) and that its potential to enhance language learning is enormous: “it is obvious that we have entered a new information age in which the links between technology and TEFL have already been established” (Lee, 2000). O’Dell (2004: 6) terms it “the IT revolution” and expounds on how it “has had a particularly significant influence on how TEFL has changed over the last quarter of a century” (2004: 5). CALL has impacted what we teach (computer corpora and concordancing software have brought about striking advances in the grammar and lexis of spoken English); how we teach and how our students learn (by reading and listening to real language and using it productively in email or chat); and how we relate to each other (by availing teachers of opportunities to communicate with other practitioners worldwide).

CALL has also reconfigured teacher and learner roles: the former become facilitators, tutors, and advisors, while the latter need to be more autonomous, active, collaborative, and constructive in their own learning (Gassó, 2000). Thorne & Payne (2005: 380) go as far as to claim that the new generation of IT ← 9 | 10 → users “… thinks, performs, learns and communicates in ways that quantitatively differ from cohorts born prior to the wide adoption of digital communication and information technologies”. It is what Prensky (2001) refers to as the digital immigrant/digital native divide. Digital natives think and process information in a substantially different way from their predecessors:

Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work.

However, both Ware (2009) and O’Dowd (2007) approach these claims with heed for two main reasons: students’ acceptance of online activities will depend on whether they see them as relevant, and a gap may exist between their everyday online practices and the online literacies required to function effectively in virtual foreign language learning scenarios. In this sense, there is an increasingly consensual view in the specialized literature (Dudeney, 2011; O’Dowd, 2007; Ware, 2009) that students are not as technology-savvy as Prensky (2001) would have it. The digital immigrant/digital native divide is in fact being superseded by the digital visitor/digital resident dichotomy (Dudeney, 2011), which reflects the increasingly widespread view that students’ technological literacy is more limited or patchy than it might seem at first blush: they are tech-comfy (they have the computer literacy to use a digital tools for everyday social and entertainment purposes) but not tech-savvy (which involves being able to use key tools for educational and professional purposes) (Pegrum, 2009).

The impact of CALL has also been intensely felt in the variegated materials and technological options it has spawned for language teaching: “CALL has grown along both the horizontal and vertical axes: It has become a rich and diverse area of work with considerable depth” (Levy & Stockwell, 2006: 1). These options have, in turn, spurred on phenomenal amounts of research into their potential and effectiveness for language learning and teaching: “this volume of activity has led to the production of a sizable corpus of work. In fact, the breadth and diversity of CALL is frequently underestimated” (Levy & Stockwell 2006: xi). Following Lee (2000), Pérez Gutiérrez & Pérez Torres (2005), González-Lloret (2010), Moreno Fuentes (2010), or Palacios Maroto (2010), a classification is provided of the different types of CALL tools which have been identified for language teaching (Table 2). ← 10 | 11 →

Table 2: Summary of CALL tools


← 11 | 12 →


Numerous assets have been associated to the use of these CALL tools for foreign language learning:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (November)
ICT Bologna EHEA (European Higher Education Area) Web 2.0
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 157 pp., 37 b/w fig., 13 tables, 9 graphs

Biographical notes

Maria Luisa Pérez Cañado (Volume editor) Juan Ráez Padilla (Volume editor)

María Luisa Pérez Cañado is Associate Professor at the Department of English Philology of the University of Jaén (Spain). Her research interests are in Applied Linguistics, bilingual education, and the intercultural component in language teaching. She has been granted the Ben Massey Award for the quality of her scholarly contributions regarding issues that make a difference in Higher Education. Juan Ráez Padilla holds a European PhD in English Studies and is Associate Professor at the Department of English Philology of the University of Jaén. His research interests are in Applied Linguistics, the European Higher Education Area and modern British and Irish literature.


Title: Digital Competence Development in Higher Education
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160 pages