In this part of our project "Optimal digital learning during and beyond the crisis". is about the question "Optimal tools, concepts and structures that schools and educational institutions in Germany can build that are future-oriented even beyond the crisis".
In our previous part "What measures can German schools and educational institutions take to maintain educational operations in the short term", we emphasized how important it is now to further develop the existing solutions and learning portals. To this end, we referred to our solution approach as a "blueprint" that provides orientation for further development and can be applied to any technological platform. The decisive factor is to promptly implement all four core elements contained in the blueprint in a solution- or platform-specific manner, to constantly expand and further develop them. The result of this process is ideally an optimal learning platform. Let's get started!
The very simple analogies described here can be adapted in existing systems or transferred to completely new systems/platforms that are adapted to this from the outset. The focus is on the creation of virtual and intellectual spaces that are opened up by the learner. In these spaces, the aim is to achieve a constant gain in knowledge through interaction - in other words, action-oriented Learn. This "journey of understanding" is documented in each virtual room so that the learner is shown which areas they have already accessed. The ideal is to display a kind of graphical "puzzle" that completes itself quantitatively over time and also indicates the learner's qualitative level of understanding.
The elements outlined in our 2nd part "What measures can German schools and educational institutions take to maintain educational operations in the short term" will also be implemented in these rooms at the appropriate points.
1. top level: learning spaces
On the top level, students open up the "learning spaces" already mentioned. These rooms have the function to offer transparency to the learner and to show connections. Such spaces can be set up and used in the short term in existing or to-be-created systems / platforms. In the long term, these spaces should be equipped with established gaming analogies (gamification).
The incentive system of adventure games (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventure) has been developed and proven over many years and is simply transferred to the learning area. To avoid misunderstandings: it is about adopting analogies and incentive systems from gaming - and not about developing learning portals as pure learning games.
It is good and important to speak here of spaces that the learner should open up. According to the motto "go in and discover what is contained there". Thus the learner can pursue his interests and inclinations. Through the parallel further and further "completion of the exploration of the room", the motivation grows to also open up a room completely and above all well. Whereby good means: maximum learning effect. In this process, the desire to really know a room well also arises and grows. This results in a lower loss of learning, through motivation, curiosity, incentive and ideally also fun. Again, we use the analogy of an adventure game principle: you have to move attentively through all the scenes (rooms) and you have to "collect" everything important to pass the adventure (as good as possible = good grade). Also as a gaming analogy, there are also exams and competitions on our ideal learning platform, which you have to pass as a learner in order to progress or to get a high "score" (= good grade).
This type of learning follows a constant up and down: something new is explored, finds its way in, is developed more deeply, solidifies and is finally verified. The developed and completed contents and tasks are documented in parallel in the system/platform in order to map the learning progress - analogous to the success of the game.
This room analogy can be implemented right now via DropBox, Box.net, Google Drive, OneDrive, OneNote, Evernote, or similar. A learning portal (LMS) is not a prerequisite - but will be necessary in the further course to become future-proof. Important at the beginning is a parallel documentation (logging) of the learning journey (see above) to show the learner and the teacher / lecturer the learning progress. In the beginning, checklists via Dropbox Paper, Google Forms, Microsoft Forms or similar applications can be used, in which the learner simply ticks off the completed tasks and thus creates transparency for him/herself and the teacher/instructor.
In the later final solution, the feedback should be automatic and via the completion of a visual representation. In principle, as in our puzzle analogy above, in connection with points - or a so-called "scoring" or "ranking". Here students can see, if necessary, how far "fellow students" are on their way in direct comparison in the individual rooms. At least the comparison should be possible in an overview to see how far other "classmates" are. The idea here is cooperation and not competition, because there should be an incentive to help each other. Along the lines of "Say, how did you do that?" - which works mutually, because one student is better or further along here and vice versa.
2nd instruction level: Description
On the instruction level, existing contents and rooms are linked via instructions. Instructions are essentially learning instructions and application examples for the respective rooms. These can also be realized by the systems shown above. For example, with Dropbox it is possible to create simple folder descriptions.
3rd content level: teaching materials
The content level is to be understood as the existing analogue or digital teaching material of the teacher or educational institution: this can be directly integrated, as it is already available - based on the respective curriculum.
Direct access should be given to teaching material providers and existing independent learning platforms in order to feed in or make available content accordingly, as most teachers already obtain their material from here.
If there are no learning videos of one's own, one could also think about cooperating with already successful learning video portals (e.g. LearnAttack by Duden) and YouTube teachers in order to include their videos. Why not set up an advertising-free and free streaming platform for learning videos that is jointly operated by German schools! This would also better preserve equal opportunities - see below.
More ideas for expanding the school and education sector can also be found in Part 4, which we will publish shortly (it is likely that this has already been published at the time of reading - see the general overview of our project "Optimal digital learning during and beyond the crisis"..
4. level of knowledge: expertise
The knowledge level defines the knowledge in the heads of the teachers / lecturers that has not yet been integrated into the content level. This knowledge must be prepared and integrated against the background of the structure shown here:
- Graphics / Pictures
In addition to our "blueprint" described above, we have developed the following further ideas.
The good old new Classroom
Of course, the traditional way of learning must not be forgotten if one wants to enable holistic learning - especially since purely digital learning is not sufficient. For the future, it is important to (further) develop physical-digital hybrid learning systems. It would already be easy for schools and educational institutions to transmit the usual learning units / workshops from the physical classrooms LIVE (streaming), so that learners at home can easily participate in the lessons. Those who can't be there live work through the recording, which is also wonderful for review and digital reference. This would also help to ensure equal opportunities - see "Equal opportunities" below.
The possibility of social exchange remains important, such as the good old break meeting in the schoolyard or online via social meetings between students. The latter would even be possible on a supra-regional, transnational and international level - see also the idea of "Language tandem with native speakers" in our Part 2. This idea could also be extended to other subjects / departments in order to learn / work globally with each other at an early stage.
A teacher becomes more of a helper for many children / students instead of just one class based on the ideal learning platform to strive for. He develops a personal connection and acts more like a mentor or a confidant, e.g. to accompany and discuss personal development.
Many great and dedicated teachers, who have a fantastic knowledge of digital learning and at the same time care for the children holistically and individually, need to be identified and built up as "Mavens" (innovative experts). The aim is to help all teachers into the "digital saddle". Thus, the existing expertise could already be used in a timely manner to bring the entire teaching force up to an elevated level. And it makes more than sense to engage the people who are already in the teaching profession.
After the crisis, there is no need for external consultants for whom the state has to spend a lot of money and who would inevitably work past the practice - unless they also come from the active(!) education business. It is much more sensible to apply the current experiences already now and to develop further and future training programmes from them. Here, the focus must remain on the current experience and must not become too theory- and research-heavy. This would drag out the process too much and, due to a lack of practical relevance, would meet with too little acceptance and fail.
An idea that goes beyond this is to offer teachers a kind of "Internet & Digital Driver's License". This would take the pressure off them to acquire the necessary knowledge privately. In addition, there would be transparency regarding the current skill level of each teacher. This licence should be renewed or extended in a certain cycle (e.g. annually).
The tasks for the test to obtain the driving licence are to be created centrally and apply to the entire teaching staff in Germany. One could even introduce an EU driving licence that is valid for all countries or is required in each country in order to be allowed to continue teaching at all. The exams can be done online.
It becomes difficult when students do not have appropriate devices or internet at home - or a quiet learning environment in their extended family. Here again the weakest would be disadvantaged. The state would have to provide the appropriate resources so that all the pupils concerned can learn at home or in appropriate facilities.
Alternatively or in addition, learning spaces for digital learning can be created. These can be located in the afternoon in the schools or in local learning rooms for pupils from the immediate vicinity. These should be equipped with Internet access, workstations for socially disadvantaged families and optional childcare services. Why not create an alliance of leading and innovative IT companies that provide a wide range of devices, software, applications and platforms in novel "learn hubs"? If the industry is brought on board, there will be no reason to complain about a lack of young talent in the future. In the transitional period or even permanently, companies could also provide unused workplaces or take on "learning sponsorships".
Learning to learn
The current situation offers another opportunity that should be seized. In the context of new and innovative content, the latest findings should also incorporate learning to learn.
We have developed further highly interesting approaches to this, which we have prepared in an extra paper "Learning to Learn", which is available on request.
The central component of the paper is the brain in its essential learning processes and how these are maximally elicited and sustained.
Here, the relevant neurobiological basic functions in their optimal application are considered as well as state-of-the-art procedures.
We describe an "ideal state" possible today, which is realizable via a "neurobiological learning maximum". Here, the learner of any age group and socialization is made accessible to quasi "optimal states". In addition to psychological methods, this is also achieved through a trend-setting application of neurofeedback - up to brain-active frequencies.
We also describe the optimal design of learning tools from a healthy combination of rudimentary methods and current or future media possibilities.
The structure required for this is to be understood as a minimum, without structurally overloading the realisation of learning. On the basis of our findings, it is necessary to construct the appropriate learning environments for the different target groups (children, adults, etc.) and to take social factors into account.
Mental movement - in the sense of action-oriented learning situations - is another central component that we have defined. This includes the following coordinated elements within a specifically defined framework in each case: Mental activity based on curiosity, desire and the given learning repertoire. Followed by rest phases, internalization and self-reflection.
The model defined on the basis of our data ensures a harmony or synchronous cycle of successive FLOW and REST / EASE phases: The electrifying learning state / implementation flow state (recursive) and the relaxed "rest" phases. These are embedded in the respective superordinate time construct: e.g. a daily schedule based on a monthly or weekly plan and in detail a timetable with time-independent blocks.
For us, the "teacher" is more someone who is responsible for implementing and adhering to the model - like a kind of (role) play leader.
As further points find consideration:
- The necessary free space for thinking and thoughts.
- A breeding ground of well-prepared learning material, involved teachers and parents and a broad social understanding - e.g. that wrong learning environments and wrong learning styles make people ill.
- Clearly defined learning content - also through joint planning by teachers and students (= higher acceptance).
- Planning the right learning environment based on all the components defined in our concept or all the resources and knowledge currently available.
In the next part of our project "Optimal digital learning during and beyond the crisis". is concerned with the question "What tasks can German schools and educational institutions take on in the crisis outside their core activities".