School digital: digitization of education – at the crossroads

The digitization of education has been called for for years, but the coronavirus pandemic has given this requirement a whole new level of urgency. So that children are not dependent on how fit their parents, school administrators and teachers are, framework conditions must be created that enable the greatest possible participation.

So how should digitization be implemented in our educational institutions? How has it gone so far? Which tools and equipment have already proven themselves, which should and should come? And what could the school look like in a few decades – after a major boost to digitization? Our series of articles “School digital” would like to shed further light on these questions.

The day on which schools in Baden-Württemberg were to close and the teaching would change in a way that no one would have thought possible was just as strange as everything that followed. In Baden-Württemberg, on Monday, March 16, all students and teachers went to school as usual. But the mood was anything but ordinary.

As a class teacher in a 6th grade and as a German teacher in other classes in the middle and upper grades, it was clear to me that we had to use the last few hours sensibly. Because the only thing more difficult than digital distance learning is to explain digital distance learning – via digital media and at a distance. I wasn’t worried about high school. This was due to a special preparation and a simple change in the functions of those media with which the older pupils were already working. But more on that later.

Bob Blume is senior teacher at the Windeck-Gymnasium in Bühl and teaches English, German and history. In addition to his work as a teacher, he runs a YouTube channel and a blog in which he writes about the challenges of the legal clerkship, the opportunities of digitization and political issues. As a “network teacher” he is on Twitter and also runs a podcast with this name. He also publishes for newspapers and articles in various online magazines – when he is not enjoying life in the Offenburg vineyards with his daughter and wife. More from the author: Blog, Twitter @blume_bob, Instagram: @Netzlehrer, Podcast “Netzlehrer”, Youtube

How should digitization be implemented in our schools? How has it gone so far? This is what our series of articles would like to illuminate.

In the 6th grade, in which I as a German teacher should give media education once a week, I had two hours on this Monday to prepare for the next time. How do I handle this?

The general conditions at our school are good compared to many schools in the country that I got to know as a teacher who is networked with many other teachers; you probably have to say: very good.

We have few iPads and two out of three computer rooms are arranged in a military-style side by side. But the system administrator, who always works beyond the limits of resilience, had prepared the most important digital framework for some time: The Nextcloud as a cloud system that is hosted locally and is therefore secure against data protection.

One cloud for students and one for teachers. The infrastructure for ongoing operations was there. And last but not least, the know-how to keep the infrastructure needed for the next few months running. Another committed colleague implemented the Untis Messenger for this purpose. In theory, this meant that all students could communicate with each other and with all teachers. And that safely and without problems. Theoretically. Because up to now the system had never been as busy as a day later, on which nothing worked at all.

And last but not least, after a productive conference at the end of the last school year, we managed to get our colleagues on board to organize an educational day on the subject of “reflective learning in the digital world”. This somewhat cumbersome name is extremely important for learning under the condition of what the cultural scientist Felix Stalder calls “the culture of digitality”. It should not only be about how to transfer the content that is specified in the curriculum 1: 1, but also about how dealing with digital learning environments can also be used for productive further development of learning, i.e. school development.

For this reason, the preparation for the educational day was more than just organizing motivating speakers. Because although Alexander Fischer from the local media center and the winner of last year’s German teacher award, Sebastian Schmidt, provided additional input, the main responsibility lay with the colleagues. They were instructed by me and prepared so that they could give the workshops themselves. The idea: helping people to help themselves enables a broad group of people who dare to work with new technical possibilities.

If the colleague from my own student council shows me how I can organize my English lessons, that’s different from being a dazzling external speaker. It worked. Whether blogging, working with the visualizer or the messenger or different video and audio formats – everything could be tried. Some of the colleagues were so enthusiastic that it almost pained them to have to say that, unfortunately, they would now come back to normal everyday life and would certainly forget everything. At least that’s what they thought. It was February 20, 2020.

So about a month later, I was standing in the “large media room” and explaining to the children how they could name files. We had previously worked with Etherpads, those collaborative word processing programs based on open software. That seemed like a good basis to me. But now I thought of the chaos in some school bags and practiced naming files with the children for two hours. If that were done, I thought, I would at least be able to keep track of things.

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