The digital future at school is already integrated into the everyday lives of learners. At home, smartphones & Co. have become indispensable for students. Digitization in German schools is still lagging behind, as the current Forsa survey for the School Barometer Special on the Corona Pandemic proves. The crisis has shrouded the schools in Germany in truth, but also shows where the potential for success lies within digitization at schools.
Digitization in schools as part of the new educational promise
In the course of digitization, schools will transform analog, location-based teaching methods into digital, location-independent training opportunities. Teachers will be challenged to initiate and accompany more in the classroom. In return, students are expected to be more self-disciplined and responsible. Advocates also see the need for this in the new educational promise, which, in addition to social justice, also places responsibility on the digital transformation in schools. After all, it is still about preparing the coming generations for life in the best possible way.
Digitization at school: Keeping education going in times of crisis.
Digital learning can ensure that students continue to be educated during times of crisis and school closures. The prerequisite for this is that the necessary investments in the digitization of schools are perceived, because the backlog demand is immense according to the survey results from the German School Barometer. Although the situation had improved compared to the previous year’s survey with regard to the digital transformation in education, the greatest potential for improvement still lies in the digital equipment of schools.
Success potential of digitization in schools
If schools and lessons are enhanced by digital offerings, significant benefits arise for students and teachers alike that go far beyond the continuation of lessons at the time of the Corona pandemic.
Due to the use of digital media, more know-how is required from teachers at individual schools. In return, interdisciplinarily trained teachers at digitized schools can look forward to the following:
- A modern workplace with more freedom to design lessons
- Flexible teaching from the home office
- Innovative teaching concepts for more variety
- The opportunity to develop digitally
- Less pressure due to more responsibility for learning on the part of students
What is certain is that there are not only advantages for teachers. Fear of an excessive workload or the increasing dissolution of boundaries between work and free time dampens the euphoria. Digitization will involve some adjustments. Setting personal boundaries and creating an intact work culture will become a constant challenge for teachers and schools.
Digitization can provide students with more fun and variety in the virtual or real classroom. Digital media are trendy in everyday life, why shouldn’t they be in school? Digitization also offers students:
- Vivid teaching materials in video format, using 3-D models or in the form of virtual reality (VR).
- Realistic methods such as spreadsheets and word processing
- Flexibility in learning time and space
- Better integration into and focus on lessons
- More effective integration of learning content with work and production processes
Students may also be adversely affected by the digitization initiative. In this context, learning lags due to distance learning and insufficient investment by schools are serious challenges posed by the digital transformation of education.
“DigitalPakt School”: Funding for the digital transformation of education
The acquisition of mobile devices and IT networks, but also training courses to build up media skills for teachers, represent a financial burden for schools. This is why the DigitalPakt Schule (Digital Pact for Schools) was launched by the federal and state governments. In the current legislative period, 3.5 billion euros will be made available for digitization in schools. Within five years, as much as 5.55 billion euros are to be raised, or 500 euros for every student in Germany. The funds are to be used primarily for fast Internet in schools and for stationary and mobile devices. Further funding will be provided for
- Professional IT administration and support structures that are directly related to digitization in schools.
- Personnel costs for professional administration and support structures, which can also be carried out by external service providers
- Qualification and further training of internal school IT administrators
Building blocks for digitization at schools
E-learning or digital learning relies on the use of electronic tools such as iPads or laptops and conveys content via special learning programs in virtual as well as real classrooms. To redesign today’s learning environment, schools need to take a holistic approach, because just handing students a tablet has nothing in common with a serious digitization offensive in schools.
Investing in digital equipment for schools
Instead, the first step in digitization at schools is to establish a digital network in which learners, parents and teachers can gather and communicate with each other regardless of location. A secure and fast Internet via LAN and WLAN connection creates the first basis for successful, digital learning.
Media competence as a basic requirement for teachers
Even digital tools are only as good as the people who use them. One of the major challenges in the digitization of schools will be to familiarize teachers with the use of digital media. Pedagogical concepts and didactics must also be adapted to the digital learning environment.
Designing digitization in schools to meet demand
Before learning software is installed for the first time, individual schools must also think about their students. Digitization is not a standardized panacea to address learning deficits. Every school, every student, has individual learning goals and abilities to achieve them.
Digitizing schools with strong partners
Digitizing schools will remain an everlasting process because technology is always evolving. According to the trend study “Knowledge goes mobile,” digital teaching tools will play an increasingly important role in the future, budgets for digital learning are expected to increase, and smartphones and tablets will be the most common digital teaching media in Germany’s schools and virtual classrooms. To usher in the paradigm shift, schools can do tomorrow’s homework now and look for strong partners in the IT and telecommunications industry to join them in ushering in the digital revolution to give students across Germany the skills that tomorrow’s world will expect of them.
Frequently asked questions
How can schools apply for funding for digitization?
School authorities apply directly to the federal states for funding from the DigitalPakt Schule. As a basic requirement for funding digitization, schools must submit a technical and pedagogical concept (e.g., a media development plan).
What role will virtual reality (VR) play in digitized teaching?
With the virtual reality app Google Expeditions, teachers can already visit more than 800 locations around the world with their students from their classroom and research historical backgrounds on adventurous expeditions, take tours of famous museums and dive into the inner workings of the human body. Offerings of this kind will become increasingly common in the future, with traditional teaching methods enriched by virtual worlds.
What is the difference between digitization and e-learning?
Digitization precedes everything. Without digitization, i.e. the structured transformation of analog school infrastructure into digital formats, no e-learning can take place. E-learning, in turn, is understood as electronically supported learning using digital media such as e-books, learning programs and social media. It is just as much a part of the process of holistic digitization at schools as improvements in the school infrastructure and the media training and continuing education of teachers.