Digital Learning: Just A Trend Or The Future Of Teaching?
Everyone is always talking about the digitization of education. We are now in a crisis and are forced to tackle the issue. However, acceptance for digital learning is not given by every teacher. Many people are forced to use eLearning in times of crisis but quickly fall back into old patterns of face-to-face teaching. For good reasons. This is especially the case in the school environment. But why not use the advantages of both forms of learning? We explain which obstacles are currently still in integrating digital knowledge and how they can be solved.
Prejudices About Digital Learning – Unfounded?
Many teachers have well-founded doubts about whether digital learning can be realistically implemented in their everyday lives. These doubts must be taken seriously as a matter of urgency.
Let’s take the young trainee teacher who has just come out of university and has got to know the possibilities of digital learning. You would like to integrate digital knowledge into your teaching, but your school lacks the necessary infrastructure for it.
As a rule, teachers get to know the advantages of digital learning efficiently during their studies. Most universities have their own (primarily based on the Open Source Learning Management System “Moodle”) learning platform, which the lecturers are more or less helpful in their teaching. But at least it does exist. Each school is responsible for building the necessary infrastructure for digital learning. Some schools do well, others less so. Yes, this prejudice is well-founded. The infrastructure required for digital learning urgently needs to be created here – uniform throughout so that all teachers and students have the same opportunities.
Take the 50-year-old English teacher, who has followed a specific work routine for years, which in your eyes is very effective. To achieve this, she worked on it for years. Why give up this hard-won routine?
Who says you have to give up your routine completely? It is doubtful that you can convert your entire teaching business to digital learning in a short period. That shouldn’t be the claim either. You start with small changes and gradually develop. It would help if you first reflected on the point where you reach your limits in face-to-face teaching or where problems arise. Exactly where there is still a need for optimization, the possibilities of digital learning can come into play.
Probably the most crucial argument: Many teachers are not even trained to implement digital learning. How should teachers use eLearning if they don’t know how?
Yes, it is a fact that most teachers in some countries do not know how to (effectively) implement digital teaching. In times of crisis, many teachers set up digital learning (mainly in online seminars) at concise notice. First of all, that is very commendable, without any prior knowledge. The reactions of the students were accordingly sober. But that doesn’t mean that digital learning is terrible per se. It had to be set up quickly and thus kept very simple. However, this is not the requirement of future digital learning processes in schools.
In addition to the technical aspect (e.g. operation of a learning platform), special didactic features must also be considered. Digital learning is much more than an online seminar. A brief introduction is not enough. There is an urgent need for training here. On the one hand, teachers need to understand which digital tools are generally suitable for their subjects. In general, it makes sense to create a central learning platform for each school on which everything can then be built.
The Future Of (School) Teaching
Anyone who thinks that digital learning was only a “temporary trend” and will not prevail (as the Internet claimed at the time) is wrong. The government is now aggressively tackling the issue with the digital education initiative that has been launched. And that is also imperative to get up-to-date education.
However, due to the obstacles described above, the project is not that easy to implement. It is essential to take the challenges seriously and point out possible realistic measures. In addition to the technical equipment, didactics is the decisive factor.
Didactics: Combination Of Presence And Digital Learning
One has to think about how exactly one wants to convey the teaching content in any teaching scenario. This is precisely what the term didactics means. The learning content that must be given at a particular time is specifically recorded within a curriculum or syllabus. The learning content is therefore already defined. The question now is which methods are used to convey this learning content. You should always think carefully about which way leads to the desired learning success. Good teachers choose the teaching methods that are best for their subjects.
If over time, it turns out that there are new, more effective methods, a teacher should be open to new ways to improve the quality of the teaching. As in any job, it is essential for teachers to develop themselves and not stay on the status quo. This applies to digital education and other innovative forms of face-to-face teaching.
Didactic point of view
From a didactic point of view, it is recommended to use diverse teaching methods to anchor learning content with the learner in the long term. Among other things, it is not just about knowing content “by heart” (e.g. English vocabulary), but also being able to apply it (e.g. within a conversation).
There are also different approaches to teaching for these different dimensions of learning. For example, when it comes to developing language skills, a practical dialogue must also occur. A didactic question is how exactly one would like to create this dialogue.
No matter what you want to convey in terms of content and competencies, it would help to consider which method (be it analogue or digital) best suits this. As a teacher, you usually work with several techniques and combine them.
An example of a teaching method from the presence:
An English lesson is about practicing vocabulary. The teacher has developed a kind of parkour. The teacher asks five selected students for a speech within this playful composition. Whoever answers correctly first can move up one place. Whoever reaches the end first is the winner. The winner receives homework-free as a reward.
Within this very creative teaching method, the students learn through play. The only downside is that only a fraction of the students (5 out of 30) actively participate in the game. Now one can ask oneself whether there are possible digital possibilities to initiate such a scenario or to supplement it in a meaningful way.
An example of a digital teaching method:
English is about practicing vocabulary. Practicing vocabulary is a highly individual matter. Some learn faster, some more slowly. Some have a steadily higher level of knowledge; some quickly forget the language. One learns by repeating the selected vocabulary, ideally in several practical situations. With the help of a digital tool, speech can be practiced at home as preparation for and follow-up to the lesson – and this on a very individual basis based on one’s prior knowledge. The tool is used to precisely repeat vocabulary that has not yet been learned. Not only is the language itself queried, but it is also placed in a larger context.
In the example, it becomes clear that digital learning methods can be used as a supplement to traditional classroom teaching. The alternative would be that the pupils are learning vocabulary and have to find their suitable methods. With the help of a digital tool, the students are supported in their learning because a formal framework is made available to them. In addition, you can track progress digitally and, as a learner, “see” your positive developments directly.
The digital teaching processes in this example are more effective than the analogue ones. That is why it makes sense to implement digital learning processes at this point. This is precisely how a teacher should start implementing digital teaching methods. Step by step, digital teaching methods should be integrated at suitable points. That doesn’t mean that you should switch to online teaching from now on. It’s about using the advantages of face-to-face and online education by combining them.