21 December 2022

Digital competence’s awareness, cooperation, and sense of empowerment. Our grantees point to the most important values in education

Three grantees are working with us to develop and implement an interdisciplinary subject (IDS). And while they share a mutual purpose - to transform the world's education to become more holistic and humanistic - they see the critical values for achieving this goal somewhat differently. Let's take a deeper look at those.

Author: Katarzyna Pająk-Załęska,


We might look at education as a park. In this metaphor, the teacher is a gardener who nurtures the plants, which in turn – depending on the quality of his care – flourish and bear fruit. In his work, however, the gardener adopts a method – a key by which he works to avoid mistakes. Such a key is the What School Ought To Teach (WSOT) list created by the Holistic Think Tank. However, each of our grantees interpreted it differently and highlighted various aspects of it. Let’s take a look at the values they see as the core. 

School of Education, University of Sheffield: Digital competence’s awareness

The first of our grantees, the School of Education (operating at the University of Sheffield), is turning its attention to digital competence. Its experts point out that the essence of education is a young person’s understanding of how the contemporary world works. And the contemporary world is overwhelmingly digital. 

Its understanding is sometimes a challenge for every process member – regardless of age, country of residence, or cultural background. However, most of today’s elementary school students are so-called “digital natives”: people who, from birth, have been in contact with the Internet and devices that allow them to move smoothly between the virtual and material worlds. Multiple times each day. 

However, youth immersion in the Internet and their digital skills do not always go hand in hand with a complete understanding of the power of these tools and the responsible transfer of actions taken online to the offline world. While young people know how to go online, sometimes they need help understanding the impact on the material world that acting in cyberspace can have. The design of the interdisciplinary subject proposed by the University of Sheffield is intended precisely to build that reflexivity and what goes behind it: responsibility for one’s actions, a sense of agency, attitudes open to cooperation, and building a better tomorrow. 

The program’s three components cover three different issues. The first relates to media education, i.e., the development of the ability to critically understand information and analyze the message that various sources provide us with. The second promotes self-efficacy’s effect on multiple aspects of life, while the last touches on the issue of the relationship between the individual and the world and the understanding of the individual’s role in this world. The different areas are divided into three age categories, which makes it easier for teachers to use them when working with students of specific grades. 

A noteworthy feature of the presented interdisciplinary subject is its embedding in European educational science and a systemic approach modeled on international standards for preparing plans and curricula. These international standards met with the products of the HTT research team’s intellectual efforts, which together made an inspiring combination. Areas from the WSOT list have been described as key competencies, numbered according to the order in which they appear in the WSOT list. Each lesson unit includes an indication of the WSOT list competency to which it relates, as well as a direct indication of the learning objectives and their results. 

Human Restoration Project: Cooperation

HRP, like our other grantees, has created an interdisciplinary program to prepare young people for what lies ahead in the decades to come. Experts at the Human Restoration Project see cooperation for the common good as the path to that goal. Students, in their view, should work together primarily for the benefit of the local communities of which they are a part. 

HRP members seem to emphasize that creating communities that work together in harmony is crucial from a human development perspective. This requires the right attitude built on mutual respect and a willingness to cooperate based on diverse talents and aptitudes. The values contained in the WSOT list carry a universal message about working harmoniously for human development. They touch on the essence of humanity, both in terms of personality development and intellectual progression. 

These values are reflected in the interdisciplinary subject proposed by the Human Restoration Project, which is based on humanocentrism (in other words: putting humanism in the broadest sense). Each lesson is based on building students’ self-awareness and understanding of world processes. The program’s creators are determined that students realize the impact that a single human being has on the world as well as the impact that the world has on a single human being. This understanding helps shape a more responsible approach (both locally and globally) to political, economic, or climate issues, among others. The HRP project takes a very practical approach: students are expected to work on problems or challenges that exist in real life, right next to them, in the local communities they co-create. 

Our HRP colleagues have diagnosed an unmet need in education: while working with students, we should focus on the immediate environment, on what is required here and now. If young people learn responsibility for their immediate environment and the people who directly surround them – they will be able to transfer these habits and attitudes to a broader, global scale. 

The FAB Foundation: Sense of Empowerment

The curriculum proposed by the FAB Foundation is based on fostering a sense of empowerment and understanding of one’s power to make things happen for individuals and communities. Realizing one’s agency, in turn, makes it possible to develop and strengthen the potential of the community – both at school and more broadly (including the global community). 

The FAB Foundation grounded its program very firmly in the WSOT list while pointing to the concept of thriving, which is key to understanding the idea that guided them in designing the interdisciplinary subject (IDS). According to the grantee, “thriving” includes a learning process based on a holistic understanding of reality, respecting the human-environment bond, and nurturing relationships with other people. 

Although many youth rebels against rules, in the era of postmodern uncertainty and competition, it is the understandable rules – given by kind-hearted teachers who want improvements in the world (not just in schools) – that can allow young people to find their way in this challenging reality and learn to cooperate, respect and make wise choices. The stakes are high. 

Three inspirations, one project

The results of our grantees’ work show how differently the IDS can be conceptualized – even if we take the same, consistent WSOT list as the basis for its creation. In the School of Education (University of Sheffield) concept, the focus was on digital competencies; in the Human Restoration Project – it was on cooperation, while the FAB Foundation emphasized the importance of a sense of empowerment.

The next part of our project will be to join forces –  our grantees will work together to combine and optimize these three valuable visions into one that is integrated and maximally relevant to HTT’s mission. With the efforts of all collaborators, we will create the best possible interdisciplinary subject.