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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: completed
Duration: 2015 till 2016

Subject and objective of the project

The significance of digital, Internet-based information and communication systems (»digital media«) in education and training is growing constantly. They are increasingly used in all areas of education and have requirements and consequences for the individual and society as a whole. In view of this, fundamental questions are raised about the impacts of the »omnipresence« of digital media on the effectiveness of the education and training system as well as on the equality and inclusiveness offered by the system. The extent to which education – increasingly influenced by digital media – is impacting the course of people's lives in terms of employment options is of particular importance. Moreover, questions are raised on what impacts digital media are having on the institutional structure of the education system, on schools, the dual system, tertiary cooperative education and universities.

In this context, the project focused i. a. on the following aspects and central questions: How are mediatisation and digitalisation of society as a whole impacting the way children and young people are growing up? How do forms of education change? How do contents and orientation of education have to change in order to tackle societal challenges that are imposed by digitalisation and to which education will have to make an adequate contribution to cope with? What are the basic potentials or possible applications of digital media in the different areas of education? What questions are raised with regard to the existing regulatory and institutional framework and which challenges does the educational infrastructure have to face?

Results

With its newly emerging online tools and applications, digitalisation has a massive potential for the field of education: From a didactic point of view, this potential lies in the quality of teaching as it relates to the qualitative enrichment of existing teaching methods, the quality and quantity of learning options and the motivation of students. Further advantages include an independence from time and place, an easier management of educational processes and their verification, the extended usability of lesson plans and the promotion of equal opportunity regardless of social or socio-economic status. Fundamentally and above else, working with digital media is most advantageous if student learning is actually and substantially improved.

In principal, the technological characteristics of digital educational media – their interactiveness, convergence and connectivity – mean that different types of educational concepts can be created and used. The resulting educational media do not substitute for preexisting media, but rather expand upon them. Possible synergy effects are coupled with structural conditions (e. g. the preparation and training of teachers, the clarification of legal stipulations, a supporting media policy and a positive image of digital media). At the same time, the technical increase in a potential interactiveness, participation and collaboration always means an increase in self-organisation for the students and an increase in conceptual work for the teachers.

For the use of new digital education provisions, the necessary technical infrastructure must be created. In the school sector, this especially concerns the improvement of technical equipment to an up-to-date standard – with consideration of aspects of digital (in)equality – and the provision of appropriate network infrastructures. It is also necessary to establish platforms for the provision of and search for open educational resources (OER) as well as to consider to which extent the »Bildungsserver« of the Länder can take on this function for the school sector. The construction of technical infrastructures for a uniform rights, licence and quality management for OER is also of relevance – particularly regarding the development of mechanisms for the choice of suitable licences as well as the allocation of metadata for individual content.

A connection of formal and informal learning processes would be desirable. Additionally, the number of social science studies on education processes and digital media is still relatively small, and they are largely heterogeneous in both the types of questions asked and operationalisation. Since education policy should ensure that all people can benefit from the opportunities for professional, cultural and social participation associated with the new media, the closing of these research gaps is also of public interest.

More research is needed in particular to elucidate the connection between the use of digital media in education and its effects on learning. Accordingly, studies must look more closely at the ways in which digital media are used in educational processes – and not only at the extent to which this is the case. Further to this, educational monitoring could have a positive effect, which would also record the use of digital media. International examples show that corresponding feedback can give valuable suggestions for the improvement of educational systems. This is not just interesting in the area of schools, but also for university teaching and the extent of the students’ use of digital media, as there is currently no sufficient data available.

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