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Teachers also have to be digitally fit : What schools need for good digitization

According to the Pisa special study, Germany is far behind when it comes to digital schools. Not only is there a lack of technical equipment, but also further training for teachers and content-related support for digitization in school lessons, say education experts.

In terms of equipment, Internet speed, learning software and technical support for teachers, Germany is below the OECD average. Schools therefore need basic digital equipment quickly and unbureaucratically. However, educational researchers see the corona crisis as a boost for the school digital pact, which has only started slowly.

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A current study on behalf of the Vodafone Foundation has now attempted to work out the recipes for success in schools where digitization is running in an exemplary manner. Birgit Eickelmann and Kerstin Drossel from the University of Paderborn have carried out a study on digital potential based on the data from the ICLIS study from 2018.

The study examined non-grammar schools whose students in the eighth grade had an above-average level of digital skills - so-called digital optimal schools.

At German grammar schools, students have higher digital skills than their peers at other schools. At about every tenth non-grammar school, however, it looks different: Here there is an above-average level of digital competence.

Reflected use of digital media

The school pedagogy experts Eickelmann and Drossel now explain how this is achieved on the basis of their study. One important finding here is that technical equipment, advanced training for the teaching staff and the reflective didactic use of digital media in the classroom go hand in hand at these schools. The researchers see this as one of the recipes for success.

Technically, these digital optimal schools are not better equipped than other schools. But the equipment concepts seem to be better suited to the educational needs and are used more effectively and in a more diverse way by teachers, according to the scientists. 62 percent of the teachers at digital optimal schools stated that their school had sufficient and pedagogically appropriate IT equipment. The average for all schools was only 47 percent.

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According to the study, it is also important for digital success that teachers at digital optimal schools use digital media more often to present information in frontal lessons (69 percent compared to 44 percent on average) or to support individual students or smaller groups (24 percent compared to 15 percent on average).

Develop skills in a targeted manner

In addition, teachers at the digital optimal schools would develop their skills for the use of digital technologies particularly intensively and in a targeted manner: 48 percent of teachers had already received didactic training before the ICILS 2018 study was carried out - this is the average of all schools in Germany only 31 percent.

"The direct connection between further training and (specialist) teaching is an important success factor here," says the study. "The digital optimal schools show that non-grammar schools can also manage to keep up in Germany and internationally," said Birgit Eickelmann about the results of the study.

It is also noteworthy that, according to the results, the inequalities that have long been evident in the German education system are not an issue at digital optimal schools. According to the study, there are no significant differences in performance in digital skills at these schools according to gender, migration background or the social situation of the students.

"It is particularly gratifying that digital optimal schools specifically promote digital skills in all pupils and at the same time they have equal opportunities and educational inequalities are overcome," said Eickelmann. These schools could therefore be exemplary for other schools in the country in two respects.

Recommendations for schools

As recommendations, the pedagogy researchers then name not only the right IT equipment and pedagogical support, but also, above all, points aimed at supporting and structuring schools and lessons. For example, offers to support and accompany "digitization-related professionalization processes of teachers" should be created. "Especially with regard to further training for the subject-specific use of digital teaching and learning resources," says the study.

The authors also recommend strengthening the skills of teachers and developing school and teaching concepts for the didactic and methodical use of digital media in the classroom. This applies above all to frontal teaching, but also to the individual support of pupils and the use of digital learning applications for independent and cooperative learning. Concepts for using basic computer applications in the classroom should also be developed.

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"The focus of the current education policy debate on digital infrastructure falls short," said Inger Paus, CEO of the Vodafone Foundation. The increase in the digital equipment of teachers, students and schools is urgently necessary and overdue.

"But the lockdown caused by the corona has clearly shown that what matters most is how technology can be used in an educationally meaningful way."

Teachers would have to be supported in a much more targeted and practice-oriented manner in using digital technologies in the classroom in a subject-related manner and in promoting all pupils.

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