Finelc Director’s Blog – February 2022

Mike Nelson, University of Turku

From 2digi to 2digi2: navigating the world of teaching in the digital environment

The 2digi project ran over a two-year period from 2017-2019. As many of you will remember, it was a project instigated by Finelc, comprising teachers and staff from ten language centres. The aim was to facilitate the transition from what we termed the ‘analogue’ classroom to the digital environment. In those far-off pre-Covid days, the concept of digital literacy in teaching was not well known or understood (Nelson 2019) and there was also resistance in some quarters to the move online. As we all now know, Covid changed this landscape completely, to the extent that some teachers would now be happy to teach at distance all the time. In 2digi, the focus was on all aspects of assisting the transition to the digital environment: definitions of digital literacy, self-evaluation online questionnaires for teachers and students to judge their own digipedagogical skills, teaching resources, a digital portfolio and help with online ethics and best practice. One section also elucidated the added value digitalization can bring to teaching: perhaps we do not need this anymore, as a 100% digital routine has become everyday for all of us.

So that was then – what about now? Already at the end of 2digi we were thinking how it could be continued and what themes could be pursued. In December 2020 we held a national workshop to ask language centre teachers what ideas and issues would be important for them now. In all, over fifteen pages of ideas were generated in the workshop and then discussed in our boss’s working group. Four main ideas that were continually echoed across the small group work were then chosen for the two-year 2digi2 project. You can see these themes below – they lead to point 5 – we have to network and share the best practice we will hopefully create.

  1. Research, write, share and promote new learning objectives for the digital age
  2. Analyse the generic skills needed in a digital environment and create guidelines/support/materials for their teaching > see eg Kappas report
  3. Provide guidelines/support/materials for teaching students with special needs in the digital environment
  4. Provide guidelines/support/materials relationship building in a digital environment: teacher > student / student > student
  5. Network and share best practice

These are both interesting and important themes that I would argue affect every teacher in tertiary education at this moment in time. Two themes, in particular, raised a lot of discussion: special needs learners, who anecdotally seem to increase year on year, and the question of how to build relationships between teacher and student and students together in an online environment. I am sure we have all endured black screen/no camera lessons and wondered what can we do to foster a more open environment. Of course, there are plenty of others doing work in these areas, but we will be focusing specifically on language centre teaching and the particular demands of the field.

We now have representation of around thirty teachers from twelve language centres and we held our first kick-off seminar in December 2021 just one year after the original brainstorming workshop. Teachers chose which theme they were interested in, and have been meeting since in small groups and sharing a Teams platform for communication and storage of ideas and materials. In Vaasa, in the Language Centre Days, I will present an update to let you all know how things are going, and your colleagues in your own centre will also be able to tell you of the latest developments. The 2digi website will also be the home of the new ideas, materials and guidance this new project will produce. We hope and believe that 2digi2 will be a source of help, guidance and inspiration for all of us as we navigate this changing world of language teaching and learning.

Looking forward to seeing you all hopefully soon!

Mike Nelson