In this part of our project "Optimal digital learning during and beyond the crisis". is concerned with the question "What measures can German schools and educational institutions take to maintain educational operations in the short term".
In an international comparison, Germany is not optimally positioned in terms of digital education across the board - even if the will to do so is certainly there. Now, the crisis is bringing a forced dynamic to the topic of eLearning. The more farsightedly one acts out of this situation, the more likely it is that this crisis can be used as an opportunity to be in a much better position in the future.
Every educational institution and every teacher improvises as best they can - within the respective possibilities, skills and tools (tools) that are available. Schools and institutions that already had an existing eLearning-solution (LMS-system), use them as consistently as possible.
Overall, the work may not always be didactically clean or of high quality - which cannot be expected in the short time available - but work is being done!
School management and teachers
In large parts, there is an excessive demand on school administrators and teachers, as they have to implement their "teaching mission" via a digital intermediate medium on the one hand - and parents as mediators on the other. A central body that develops the optimal strategy and makes it available is missing.
On the one hand, many teachers are very well prepared for the current digital Homeschooling prepared. There are no problems working with digital classrooms or with video calls. On the other hand, there are many teachers who are completely overwhelmed with the sudden crisis situation. This has nothing to do with age. Rather, the personal readiness is decisive in how far the use of digital teaching and learning methods can be applied in the critical phase.
Parents and children
Parents and children are sometimes overwhelmed by the flood of information that teachers give them with the best of intentions. This results mostly from the fact that teachers do not or cannot coordinate with each other. Digital learning is not yet a matter of course. It is advantageous that children (pupils) are fundamentally curious and usually approach the matter in a playful manner.
For parents, school is also always a form of childcare, which now has to be organised in ambitious homes. This creates a lot of extra work for parents and, if possible, relatives: general care, lunch and help with school material and homework. Thus parents become the substitute teacher, assistant and controller of the learning progress. To ensure that sport is not neglected, parents must also keep an eye on this.
In some families there are - despite the extra workload - also very positive effects. People talk to each other more and spend more time together. In other families, negative effects dominate, as some parents are not really interested in their children and thus do not (can not) invest time in a reasonable educational and occupational offer for their OWN children.
Parents themselves, of course, face their own personal issues and fears: Corona Virus, job and existence. In extreme cases this - in connection with the currently restricted freedom of movement - unfortunately also leads to cases of domestic violence. Often the learning environment described above is not created in these families and often the necessary technical basis is not given. There are still households in which the Internet, computers, Tablets or smartphones are not available to all family members, or only to a very limited extent.
Some classrooms and teachers in primary schools are very well equipped with digital learning media and hardware. This mostly location-bound infrastructure is of little use to individual pupils at home, of course.
Special software for students of higher grades provides a group-oriented, dynamic elaboration of learning content and the building of high-level human group values. In the context of the pandemic, here too it is not possible to switch overnight to a digital classroom with all participants, for example via chat, with all the requirements.
For educational institutions, the equipment with learning systems is rather average and the staff often only knows how to handle the hardware and software in a bumpy way. Learning units as videos or even simultaneously in chat can be counted on one hand. Up to now, online education providers have tended to be regarded as competitors. These in turn currently have a clear advantage in terms of their infrastructure - but not necessarily in terms of the content currently required. A first idea (1) on this: Partnerships of traditional and online education providers have great potential for the future.
Things look better at the universities. They have been experimenting and working with digital learning for some time now. The first universities are already streaming "live from the lecture hall".
The ideal way to learn is currently neither conventional nor digital. The motivation to learn is in danger of (further) declining. Even an improved structure of digital learning does not change this much. The idea is too widespread that digital lessons must look or be structured in exactly the same way as in school.
In addition, digital learning is not yet equally suitable for all pupils, but only from a certain age. Not that young children cannot do this. However, digital media in excess are not really in line with a good and brain friendly overall cognitive development. And what about our fellow human beings with physical and mental limitations?
At the end of the day, school is also the space for social interaction. Learning and building respect for others and oneself are fundamental to successful schooling. This currently seems to be made more difficult over distance and through digital communication channels. This is where online groups and one-on-one conversations can help to do damage control. Many schools and teachers are already practicing this in an exemplary manner.
In the next part of our project "Optimal digital learning during and beyond the crisis". is concerned with the question "What measures can German schools and educational institutions take to maintain educational operations in the short term" - in other words, initial innovative ideas to develop the current situation in a constructive and future-oriented manner.