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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

Information on the project

Digital Media in education

Thematic area: Information technologies
Analytical approach: TA project
Topic initiative: Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment
Status: ongoing
Duration: 2015 till 2015

Background and central aspects of the topic

The importance of digital, increasingly internet-based information and communication systems (»digital media«) in education and training is growing constantly. This development is being given further impetus by the level of competition within the education sector which, at university level at least, has long extended beyond national borders. In view of the declining numbers of school pupils, on the one hand, and enormous shifts between vocational and academic training and education, on the other hand, competition is growing at the same time among schools in the relevant primary and secondary education fields and among apprenticeship employers and universities in the tertiary sector. The requirements relating to innovative and appropriate course content and learning forms are rising, and the training options on offer are becoming ever more diverse. Education and science policy-makers with their responsible committees and associations at a national, regional and local level together with the universities are seeking to respond to the challenges of an ever more complex educational landscape by further developing their provision and offers.

With reference to the increasing use of digital media in all areas of education, their requirements and consequences for the individual and society, the »Internet and Digital Society« committee of enquiry of the 17th electoral term of the German Bundestag emphasises the ongoing nature of the policy tasks: »Education and research are always particularly affected by technological change and can in many cases – including in a pioneering role – benefit from it. In light of the advancing digital networking it is therefore important to realign education and training in some areas in and for the digital society« (Bundestag official record 17/12029, p.8). Although in this regard specific issues relating to this »digital realignment« have been addressed in the scientific literature, to date there have been relatively few specific references to the impacts of the digital media, such as on (new) barriers to accessing education and training.

Fundamental questions are raised about the impacts of the »omnipresence« of digital media on the performance capability of the education and training system and the equality of opportunity and inclusiveness offered by the system. The question of to what extent education – increasingly influenced or shaped by the digital media – is impacting the course of people's lives in terms of employment options is of particular importance to individuals and society. The different educational institutions are also increasingly coming under the spotlight. What impacts are the digital media having on the institutional structure of the education system, i.e. on schools, secondary and tertiary cooperative education and universities?

Overall, the capable, active use of digital media (»media literacy«) is not only a fundamental prerequisite for taking up education opportunities, but now represents the basic skill for participating in the digital society – in career, private, economic and political terms. Promoting and ensuring media literacy must therefore be seen – in addition to training requirements – as an essential element of democracy and emancipation in today's society. A concomitant aspect is that the penetration of all aspects of life by digital media means that using media in a targeted, critical and considered manner is indispensable. The corresponding literacy is not acquired simply through using the media, but needs to be taught by appropriately qualified teachers, either at school and university or in vocational training and professional development provisions.

Objectives and approach

In an extensive review of e-learning in the 2000s the TAB conducted an in-depth examination of the use of digital media at an EU level (background paper no. 11), in vocational and further training (working report no. 105), in research, teaching and further education in Germany (working report no 107) and abroad (background paper no. 14), for children and older people as the target groups (working report no. 115) and in schools (working report no. 122). An update, with particular reference to the education policy impacts and the changes which may be necessary in the framework conditions for using and teaching relating to the new digital media in the various education and training spheres, appears to be appropriate in light of the rapid developments.

It is intended, on the one hand, that the TA study should examine the access and use requirements as a substantive precondition in enabling educational opportunities to be taken up; on the other hand, it will look at issues relating to appropriate media literacy, new educational forms, but also data protection and personal rights. And, finally, at a higher level the question is to be addressed of the extent to which the media literacy as an extensively used cultural skill is (fundamentally or significantly) changing the policy framework, content and outcomes of education. Having established this, the intention is then to discuss where the new digital media require a rethink (in terms of education policy) and where there is a need for regulation in the individual education spheres, e.g. with regard to coordinating IT systems in schools and universities. Finally, options for policy-related action in the education sector are to be identified.