Data literacy and computational empowerment through playful learning in Danish education

An engaging interview with Jette A. Frydendahl and her co-author, Vibeke Schrøder.

Could you tell us how the experiences of University College Copenhagen and Denmark in general can contribute to the Agile EDU project and our understanding of data use in education?

The Danish classroom is characterised by a comprehensive and complex use of data and digital technologies aimed at enhancing student learning. Since 2013 it has been mandatory for the Danish municipalities to use learning management systems (LMSs) and they are a key component in the digital ecosystems in the K-9 educational system. They consist of a national joint municipal communications platform AULA and a LMS chosen by the municipality. The establishment and designs of the platforms were linked to the 2012 school reform characterised by support for the students' learning by focusing on explicit learning goals for each student in every course, a tendency for visibility of learning (Hattie, 2008) and a trend of individual competence orientation.

As part of this national strategy of digitalisation the government has supported the publisher business in developing digital learning materials. The platforms are integrated with the LMS at the schools, and currently Alinea and Gyldendal are nearly the only providers to the LMS. The degree of dominance to these systems differs from school to school and municipality to municipality.

At University College Copenhagen we have a row of activities to back up the digitalisation of education; development and professional development of teachers in the Future Classroom, Technology comprehension as a trial subject in teacher education and further technology comprehension written into the curriculum of all the teacher education subjects. Further there are initiatives across the institution to support and develop education into professional technology comprehension.


Danish schools have experience with digital tools and adaptive tests. Can you tell us about the impact of using such tools on students? For instance, you once mentioned that adaptive tests impact students' self-efficacy.

The wellbeing of Danish children and youth is decreasing. This is connected to acceleration, performativity and individualisation of society and education, but also due to their social digital life including digital assessment (Rosa, 2019; Katnelzon et al., 2022). In an ethnographic study on self-evaluation in the classroom the authors describe how the focus on evaluation and self-evaluation of learning in the classroom – including digital forms of evaluation - detriments the self-esteem of the pupils, how it takes part in exclusion and pushes for the individualisation process. They suggest a focus on common evaluation, where the class in communality evaluates teaching and learning in ways where teachers and students cooperate to develop teaching that supports the children's learning and participation (Grumløse et al., 2020).

Evaluation and its role in exclusion in education is also at the heart of Dennis & Harrison's (2021) concerns about digital wellbeing and the lack of ethics and virtue education to meet the new digital challenges. In a Danish educational context this challenge is, among other things, met with the idea of a Computational Empowerment competence as part of education (Dindler et al., 2022). 


In the Danish part of the Agile Edu project you have a playful approach on data literacy, why is this important to you?

The Danish classroom interventions that will focus on computational empowerment through learning practices and data production about the common learning environment, aim at participation, wellbeing, and inclusion for all.

Play has proved to be an ambiguous, often subtle, elusive phenomenon and a highly creative and transcending practice (Henricks, 2009; Huizinga,1938/2014). The powerful character of play has been adopted by education, hoping to bring motivation, learning for all, and new ways of learning into the educational system (OECD, 2018). Playful learning is characterised by bodily engagement, a lusory attitude, democratic values, risk-taking, and failure, and due to this, in need of safe spaces to flourish (Nørgård et al., 2017; Schrøder et al., 2022).

Working with a playful approach can  be understood as an approach where you work exploratorily, experimentally, and creatively through more open, creative tasks with more solution options in meaningful situations together with others. Mitch Resnick describes a playful approach as working with creative meaningful project in the classroom based on the four Ps: Projects, Passion (working on projects that matter), Peers (collaborating and sharing with others) and Play (experimentation and testing) (Resnick, 2019).


What are the data-related challenges that the Danish education system is facing? How can Agile EDU help with overcoming these challenges?

There is a need for higher degrees of computational empowerment among Danish children. This might be addressed by curriculum changes and by further education of teachers into technology comprehension, computational thinking, and design thinking, also including the arts.


How would you complete this sentence: "Data use in education is…"

…an important element in teachers' professional work, and it requires great professionalism and the ability to work with data in a qualified manner together with students, so that it makes sense in daily teaching and it creates a better school and education in the long term.


Interview also available in ES and PT.