Primary education research: Using and reflecting on digital media

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BU: Tablet classes should prepare children to become competent in the use of digital media, at the same time as learning to question their use. (Image: IW Medien/Roth).

Researchers from FAU are accompanying Friedrich-Staedtler-Schule in Nuremberg on the way towards ‘school in the digital world’.

The Institute of Primary Education Research and Friedrich-Staedtler-Schule in Nuremberg have launched a project within the context of the funding initiative ‘School in the digital world’, aimed at taking a new approach to teaching. The Stifteverband and the Heinz Nixdorf Stiftung are providing 15,000 euros in funding to support the media concept in schools, aimed at giving children and young people the strategic tools they need for life in the digital world. More than 120 schools throughout Germany filed a joint application with a university that offers teacher training, and 14 of the projects have been chosen for funding.

Friedrich-Staedtler-Schule Nuremberg (FSSN) currently has 280 pupils. Ever since 2015/16 it has offered two tablet classes in grades one to four. In these classes, all pupils are provided with a tablet for lessons which they use, for example, to carry out research on the internet during class time. The funding for the project will be used to take the concept further, purchasing more devices to allow more classes to use tablets. The school is working together with the Institute of Primary Education Research at FAU to develop the concept.

School in the digital world

‘Together, we are taking the first steps towards bringing schools into the digital age,’ says Prof. Dr. Sabine Martschinke from the Chair of Primary Education and Teaching Methodology at FAU, who is coordinating the project together with two teachers Verena Knoblauch and Tatjana Weiss. ‘We want to be able to give pupils long-term support in digital learning at school, allowing them to gain a better understanding of our increasingly digital world. At the same time, we believe it is extremely important to reflect on and critically question our use of digital media in specific instances during lessons. For example: do I need a tablet or a book to help me complete the task? Where can I find information? Which search engines can I use?’

Kinder spielen am Boden auf Spielbrett
Pupils can use mini computers such as bee-bots to venture into the world of computer programming, at a level suitable for their age. (Image: FAU/Institute for Primary Education Research)

The school and the University hope to exploit the potential offered by digital media to the full by following the SAMR model designed by Dr. Ruben Puenteduera. ‘Our goal is not just to replace or enhance analogue media with digital media, instead we want to modify the tasks we set and redefine assignments. Instead of S for Substitution and A for Augmentation we are focussing on M for Modification and R for Redefinition,’ explains Sabine Martschinke. ‘This allows us to make learning individual, differentiated, collaborative, self-led and up to date.’ One example is the use of so-called bee-bots and calliopes, mini computers which allow pupils to get their first fun taste of the world of computers and solve small programming tasks. In collaboration with the FAU Professorship for Didactics of Informatics, Prof. Dr. Sabine Martschinke and Dr. Susanne Palmer Parreira from the FAU Chair of Primary Education and Teaching Methodology have developed the teaching unit ‘Basic computer science in primary school?! What do computer scientists do and how do they work?’ which links up with knowledge the children have already and is based on the principles of teaching in primary education. The first results show that computer science can be incorporated into the curriculum at school. Work is being done on preparing the concept for transfer to other schools.

Closely connected

The school and the University, teachers, lecturers and students in the digital campus led by Dr. Eva-Maria Kirschhock and Dr. Günter Renner all work hand in hand when it comes to other activities in the classroom and at the University as well. ‘In the Uni-workshop, for example, teachers can test various learning apps and report back on their experiences, which are then analysed by students. We are also planning work shadowing or joint workshops on digital media and writing skills, involving participants from various institutions,’ explains Sabine Martschinke. ‘As a university, we are also using the collaboration to create a solid basis for developing skills in the area of digital education in teacher training and continued professional development. We receive valuable input regarding the skills future teachers will need to be able to teach in the modern world.’

The project partners also benefit from the newly-established nation-wide network ‘School in the digital world’. All funded schools are included in the network together with the respective university and can benefit from training or advice tailored to their needs or coaching on aspects relating to teaching and the future of the school as a whole. In addition, they are working on other transferable concepts aimed at successfully integrating digital media into lessons.

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Sabine Martschinke

Phone: +49 911 5302 532

BU: Tablet classes should prepare children to become competent in the use of digital media, at the same time as learning to question their use. (Image: IW Medien/Roth).