8.7 Fostering the creative use of new technologies
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Current and past efforts at national level in Germany have attempted to give as many school pupils as possible access to the Internet. The initiative “Schools go online” (Schulen ans Netz), involving the federal government, the federal states and local communities, ran from 1996 to 2012. The initiative was funded through a joint initiative by the Federal Ministry of Education, Research and Technology (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Technologie) (now the Federal Ministry of Education and Research [Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF]) and Deutsche Telekom. The initiative aimed to give free Internet access to all schools in Germany, which it successfully achieved. By the end of 2001, all of the about 34,000 schools and colleges in Germany had Internet access. After achieving this goal, the focus turned to projects such as information portals for teachers and pupils, training opportunities and integrating new media into daily school life. Professional Internet services and platforms from “Schulen ans Netz” helped youth work professionals (in the field of early childhood education and career guidance, as well as support for young people with an immigration background) in schools and in the non-formal youth sector in their day-to-day work with computers and the Internet. Some Schulen ans Netz projects were continued by private backers after funding ended. These include flagship projects such as the Teachers online (Lehrer-Online) website. The website offers around 20,000 quality-assured teaching materials for teachers and trainee teachers, such as lesson plans, proposed methods, downloadable worksheets and so on. Another “Schulen ans Netz” product is LizzyNet, an online portal and community offering information, news, and a space to share thoughts on books, music, films, games etc.
Education offensive for the digital knowledge society
In 2016, BMBF launched its Education offensive for the digital knowledge society (Bildungsoffensive für die digitale Wissensgesellschaft) (cf. BMBF 2016). The Federal Ministry’s strategy aims to identify the opportunities and action areas that digital change creates for all areas of education, from early childhood education and schools, to vocational training, universities and continuing vocational training. The platform “digital training” (qualifizierung digital) provides comprehensive information on the use of digital media in vocational training.
Digital pact for schools
In 2019 digital pact for schools (DigitalPakt Schule) was launched, a scheme under which the federal government and the Länder are equipping schools with high-quality digital technology. Over a five-year period, the federal government is providing a total of five billion euros; with at least another half a billion euros coming from the Länder, the total is at least 5.5 billion euros. Schools can apply to the respective Länder government for funding. To enable this scheme, the upper (Bundesrat) and lower (Bundestag) houses of parliament amended Section 104c of Germany“s Basic Law (Grundgesetz). Through DigitalPakt Schule, the federal government has earmarked funding for the development of a digital education infrastructure. Meanwhile, the federal states manage the development of media education concepts in schools, oversee the training of teachers and ensure that local authorities, which manage schools, and independent education bodies have concepts in place to safeguard the operation, support and maintenance of said infrastructure. In addition, the federal states decide whether to incorporate mobile devices in their teaching material regulations. During the Covid-19 crisis, the federal government and the Länder added three supplementary agreements to the digital pact for schools, in so doing adding a further 1.5 billion euros in investment aid.
In its coalition agreement, the newly elected federal government in 2021 pledged to work with the Länder to introduce a Digital Pact 2.0 for schools, to run until 2030, that will improve the outflow of funds and cover “the sustainable purchase of hardware, the replacement of outdated technology, and equipment maintenance and administration” (cf. Social Democratic Party of Germany [SPD]/Alliance 90/The Greens/Free Democratic Party [FDP] 2021, page 96). The government also pledged in its coalition agreement to fund “competence centres for digital and digitally supported learning in schools and further training”, and set up a “central point of contact for learning and teaching in the digital world”.
Education in the digital world
The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) has also come up with an action plan in the form of its strategy “Education in the digital world” (Bildung in der digitalen Welt) (cf. KMK 2016). Under the plan, learning in the context of the increasing digitalisation of society and work and critical reflection on this trend are to become integral elements of the educational mandate. Digital media is to contribute to the development and roll-out of new teaching and learning processes and better promote personal development for pupils, thus supporting efforts to establish greater gender equality using education.
Further programmes and initiatives
Associations, companies and foundations have also set up programmes and initiatives to improve digital learning. One example is the programme “Digitising education” (Digitalisierung der Bildung) by the Bertelsmann Foundation (Bertelsmann Stiftung). Together with the CHE Centre for Higher Education (Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung) the Foundation wants to lead a debate on when and how digital learning media offer genuine benefits. The debate is to be supported with selected studies, events and projects – taking a learner-centric approach using educationally sound reasoning rather than based on what is technologically possible. The online platform of the Bertelsmann Foundation, school, learning and education in the 21st century (Schule, Lernen, Bildung im 21. Jahrhundert), pools various activities from schools, youth work or lifelong learning activities. Regular blog posts offer a platform for mutual dialogue.
In addition to the major initiatives, a large number of programmes, networks and activities take place at federal state and local level. These include, e.g., the education portal mebis in Bavaria, content-based platforms (such as the Mesax portal for education media in Saxony) and initiatives to teach media skills to school pupils. There are a lot of advisory and “certification-based” approaches to teaching media skills at federal state level, such as the project “Media scouts NRW” (Medienscouts NRW) by the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia (Landesmedienanstalt NRW) or the “Media pass” (Medienpass) initiatives in Thuringia, Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia. Activities in the federal states are mainly project-based. All too frequently, after a project runs its course there is no funding available to help build long-term on the project outcomes.
The federal government (Bundesregierung) believes that digital technologies and dissemination over the Internet have revolutionised and democratised the procurement of and access to cultural assets and media content as well as opportunities to form and express opinions. The provision of digital content and images online strengthens the foundations not only of culture, science and research, but also social participation. The “digital agenda” (Digitale Agenda)pursued by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, BMWi) thus seeks to develop overarching strategies and plans of action to digitise cultural assets (including the digitisation of cinema and film) using suitable technical solutions and standards and to promote the preservation of knowledge, information and cultural assets in digital form and create the legal framework needed to do so. One step is to accelerate the expansion of the German digital library (Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, DDB).
German Federal Cultural Foundation
In addition, the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes) runs a programme known as Kultur Digital, which supports cultural institutions in “helping to shape digital opportunities and challenges independently and for the greater good”. The programme has an open-access, open-content and open-source approach and encompasses three areas (cf. German Federal Cultural Foundation 2019):
- Fonds Digital, which welcomes applications from cultural institutions from all areas that already have a digital strategy,
- Coding da Vinci, a cultural hackathon that brings together cultural institutions with experts in programming, development, design, art and gaming,
- the academy for theatre and digitality (Akademie für Theater und Digitalität) in Dortmund, a new space for digital artistic research and basic and advanced training for artistic and technical staff. Between 2019 and 2021 54 artist scholarships will be funded.
The German Federal Cultural Foundation has earmarked a total of 18 million euros for Kultur Digital for the period 2018 to 2024.
Projects by the federal states
The federal states are also implementing various projects. For example, Hamburg promotes the digital availability of information from cultural institutions. The aim is to make cultural assets available digitally to be experienced by all. The Hamburg Ministry of Culture (Kulturbehörde) published its eCulture Agenda 2020 (cf. Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg 2014) at the beginning of 2014 as a framework for planning and organising digital access to culture efficiently. The number of eCulture projects – including internationally networked projects – is growing. These include diverse apps with information and animations on cultural institutions (museums, memorial sites) or digital platforms that teach knowledge and provide new opportunities to access works of art and cultural institutions at school or on the move. The Hamburg Ministry of Culture (Kulturbehörde) has also earmarked funding for pilot projects to digitise the theatre. The aim of this is to create specific infrastructure and reusable solutions that can then be used by as many theatres as possible as the basis for creating their own offerings.