Digital competence in the training of pre-service teachers: Perceptions of students in the degrees of early childhood education and primary education

October 2021

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 37:4, 262-278

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The objective of this work will be twofold:
On the one hand, to know whether there are significant differences in digital competence according to the students’ educational degree and gender.
On the other hand, to know more in-depth how digital competence impacts and evolves in the training of future teachers of early childhood education and primary education, with the passage of the courses and the age.


A total of 200 students participated despite the fact that 2800 students were invited to participate (7.14% acceptance rate).
Of these, 46 were early childhood education students and 154 were primary education students.
A total of 79 of them came from the public University of the Basque Country and 121 from the private University of Deusto, both in the Basque Country (Spain).

To carry out this study, a series of contextual variables of the university students were collected.
More specifically, the university degree, sex, age, course, and type of university were requested.
Regarding the instrument used to measure digital competence, the Perceptions Questionnaire on Digital Competence was used (Pascual et al., 2019).
This instrument is made up of a total of 51 items on a 5-point Likert scale that measure the perception of university students regarding their digital competence through five dimensions based on the Common European Framework for Teaching Digital Competence (MCECD).

The questionnaire for data collection was distributed by online means through the LMS Platform used at participating universities.
The data gathering process lasted one month.

Findings and discussion
The global findings show a perception of medium digital competence in the students of the Early Childhood Education and Primary Education degrees, in the dimensions of Information, Communication, Safety and Problem Solving.
Regarding the Content Creation dimension, pre-service teachers scored significantly lower in this dimension in comparison with the other four digital competence dimensions. This results are coherent with other previous studies, which highlighted the need of working more in-depth content creation dimension (e.g. Çebi & Reisoğlu, 2020, Garzón et al., 2020; Gutiérrez-Porlán & Serrano-Sánchez, 2016; Hinojo-Lucena et al., 2019; Rizal et al., 2019), but also the safety (Gutiérrez-Porlán & Serrano-Sánchez, 2016; Rizal et al., 2019) and the problem-solving skills (Esteve-Mon et al., 2020; Rizal et al., 2019) as they are the dimensions in which pre-service teachers seem to perceive themselves as less competent.
These results, obtained from pre-service teachers, may explain what recent studies have shown in relation to the digital competence of in-service teachers in the pandemic context, and the need to use ICT with various teaching-learning purposes and functionalities.
For instance, Perifanou et al. (2021) revealed how in-service primary teachers mostly used during this pandemic digital tools for finding, evaluating, and developing educational resources.
They also used digital tools for self-study, students’ assessment activities (quizzes, tests, assignments …) as well as interacting and communicating with students.
However, they hardly used digital tools for other teaching activities such as giving feedback and support to students, and final evaluation (examinations).
Clearly, the pandemic situation has required teachers to develop digital educational resources, to communicate with students via ICT, and to use technological resources for assessment.
Therefore, these skills need to be reinforced in educational degrees, and according to the results of this study, those related to digital content creation in particular, which seem to be the least developed by early childhood and primary education students.
As the most critical dimension observed has turned out to be the digital content creation, it should be mentioned that this dimension has been previously considered as an essential skill for teachers in the 21st century as it is very important for children to become content creators (Drotner, 2020).
Besides, previous works affirm that having greater competence in the creation of digital content contributes to making greater use of active and innovative methodologies in the classroom (López Belmente et al., 2019).
Regarding gender and type of university education degree, no statistically significant differences were found.
The literature in this regard shows inconclusive results on whether there are differences between both genders.
In some cases, it is appreciated that males use and handle ICT more than females (Casillas et al., 2017; Çebi & Reisoğlu, 2020; Flores & Roig, 2017; Vázquez-Cano et al., 2017), while in other cases, it is appreciated that it is females who show a greater presence in contact with ICT (Casillas et al., 2017 Casillas et al., 2020; Cózar & Roblizo, 2014; Vázquez-Cano et al., 2017).
Regarding type of education degree, no comparative studies have been found, neither at national level, nor at international level.
Therefore, these results allow the authors to provide evidence that both early childhood and primary education pre-service teachers have very similar perceived digital competence values.
In the literature, only evidence about the differences between both grades has been found, in favor of early childhood education teachers, in the attitude they show regarding the use of ICT as a tool to promote the inclusion of students with special educational needs (Pegalajar, 2017).
In the case of the perception of digital competence by year, statistically significant differences were found in the communication dimension between second-year students and fourth-year students, with second-year students scoring lower.
In general, without becoming statistically significant differences, it can be seen that with the passing of the courses, the perception of digital competence is usually slightly better.
These data could be linked to the significant findings found in four of the five dimensions, in which age positively and significantly predicted the dimensions of Information, Communication, Content Creation and Problem Solving.
These data suggest that with the course of age and years, the perception of digital competence could improve.
This finding could bear the idea that using technology in a greater way could lead pre-service teachers to develop a greater digital competence.
Thus, the importance of age within pre-service teachers in order to develop their digital competence remains inconclusive.
In this sense, it is thought that perhaps age is not a variable that contributes to developing digital competence, but rather that what it is important is the attitude shown by the teacher toward technology.
In this way, presenting a better attitude toward technology will position the teacher, regardless of age, in a place to develop digital competence more solidly (Casillas et al., 2020).
All of these findings have a number of implications, both theoretical and practical.
Firstly, theoretically, these results contribute to the literature on teaching digital competence with new data on students’ perceptions of their digital competence.
Secondly, regarding practical implications of the results, these findings may help to highlight the need to continue developing successful programs for the development of teaching digital competence, especially in relation to digital content creation, as it is one of the dimensions worst perceived by students.
Nonetheless, previous studies highlight the fact that it is necessary to develop also communication and safety areas as pre-service teachers feel less competent in these three dimensions (Reisoğlu & Çebi, 2020).
In this sense, and based on the advanced level of the Common European Framework for Teaching Digital Competence, it may be interesting
(1) to introduce a wide range of activities related to the creation of material, such as the creation of blogs (Blogger, Wix, Wordpress, etc.) or interactive exercises (Kahoot, Genially, Canva, etc.),
(2) to make good use of Learning Management Systems (Moodle, BlackBoard, etc.),
(3) to develop digital educational projects in which the educational community is involved, and
(4) to know the different types of resource licenses, and even introduce themselves to the modification of source code programs, for the modification of blogs, open-source software, etc.
In addition, Reisoğlu and Çebi (2020) recommend that training should include professional engagement, digital resources, teaching-learning, assessment, and empowering learner areas, and place an emphasis on putting theoretical information into practice and on collaborative learning.

Casillas, S., Cabezas, M., & García, F. J. (2020). Digital competence of early childhood education teachers: Attitude, knowledge and use of ICT. European Journal of Teacher Education, 43(2), 210–223.
Casillas, S., Cabezas, M., Ibarra, M. S., & Rodríguez, G. (2017). Evaluation of digital competence from a gender perspective. In M. Dodero, M.S. Ibarra-Sáiz & I. Ruiz Rube (Eds), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference. Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality TEEM 2017 (pp. 1–5). Association for Computing Machinery-ACM
Çebi, a., & Reisoğlu, I. (2020). Digital competence: A study from the perspective of pre-service teachers in Turkey. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 9(2), 294–308
Cózar, R., & Roblizo, M. J. (2014). La competencia digital en la formación de los futuros maestros: percepciones de los alumnos de los Grados de Maestro de la Facultad de Educación de Albacete. Revista Latinoamericana de Tecnología Educativa, 13(2), 119–133.
Drotner, K. (2020). Children’s digital content creation: Towards a processual understanding of media production among Danish children. Journal of Children and Media, 14(2), 221–236
Esteve-Mon, F. M., Llopis, Á., & Adell-Segura, J. (2020). Digital competence and computational thinking of student teachers. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 15(02), 29–29
Flores, C., & Roig, R. (2017). Gender and its impact on Pedagogy students’ self-perceived digital competence. International Journal of Educational Research and Innovation, 8, 79–96.
Garzón, E., Ortega, J. L., & Gómez, G. (2020). Importance of digital competence in the encouragement of teaching innovation. Sustainability, 12(7), 2852.
Gutiérrez-Porlán, J., & Serrano-Sánchez, J. L. (2016). Evaluation and development of digital competence in future primary school teachers at the University of Murcia. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 5(1), 51–56.
Hinojo-Lucena, F. J., Aznar-Díaz, I., Cáceres-Reche, M. P., Trujillo-Torres, J. M., & Romero, J. M. (2019). Factors influencing the development of digital competence in teachers: Analysis of the teaching staff of permanent education centres. IEEE Access., 7
López Belmente, J., Pozo Sanchez, S., Fuentes Cabrera, A., & Lopez Nuñez, J. A., Universidad Internacional de Valencia (2019). Content creation and flipped learning: A necessary pairing for education in the new millennium. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 77(274), 535–555
Pegalajar, M. C. (2017). Teacher training in the use of ICT for inclusion: Differences between early childhood and primary education. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 237, 144–149.
Perifanou, M., Economides, A., & Tzafilkou, K. (2021). Teachers’ digital skills readiness during COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 16(08), 238–251
Pascual, M. A., Ortega-Carrillo, J. A., Pérez-Ferra, M., & Fombona, J. (2019). Competencias Digitales en los Estudiantes del Grado de Maestro de Educación Primaria. El caso de tres Universidades Españolas. Formación Universitaria, 12(6), 141–150
Reisoğlu, I., & Çebi, A. (2020). How can the digital competences of pre-service teachers be developed? Examining a case study through the lens of DigComp and DigCompEdu. Computers & Education, 156
Rizal, R., Setiawan, W., & Rusdiana, D. (2019). Digital literacy of preservice science teacher. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1157(2)
Vázquez-Cano, E., López, E., & García-Garzón, E. (2017). Differences in basic digital competences between male and female university students of Social Sciences in Spain. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 14(1), 27

Updated: May. 14, 2022