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Wanted: scholarly truth in times of digitalisation

This is teacher education in the digital age: Professor Guido Pollak (Chair of General Pedagogy) gives us an insight into the Information & Media Literacy Think Tank of the Didactics Laboratory of the University of Passau and into his view of teaching in a digital world.

This is where it gets a bit philosophical: 'Digitalisation turns truth into a construct for people to use at their discretion': this hypothesis was Professor Pollak's opening shot in a discussion round with budding teachers and education experts from the fields of Cultural Studies, Media, Computer Science, Art/Visual Culture, History and Media Semiotics.

Here is an example of how such a discussion might go:

Student: As a teacher, I need objective criteria against which to evaluate pupils' work. But what criteria can be applied to the truth?

Professor Pollak: The school system needs truth to underpin and facilitate selection.

Art educator: How can a teacher determine what's true and what's not?

Computer scientist: Digitalisation is nothing more than translating reality into strings of ones and zeroes. Nowadays we are able to create new realities that children consider to be just as real.

Cultural scholar: Doesn't digitalisation also mean that my position as an expert is eroded?

Art educator: How can classroom teaching be adapted to accommodate truth-seeking processes? Maybe what's needed is the self-confidence to accept that the best one can do is to admire the problem together.

This scene comes from the Information & Media Literacy Think Tank of the Didactics Laboratory of the University of Passau. Developed as part of the SKILL project 'Information & Media Literacy' (IML), this teaching format is employed in the University's teacher education programmes for the first time during the winter semester 2017/2018. Its intention is to get future teachers ready for education in the digital age.

It is the answer of the University of Passau to the challenges in teacher education that are in part caused by digitalisation. Digitalisation, in the participants' minds, is not a mere technological process, but a development that permeates all facets of life; and in Professor Pollak's view, this throws established social rules into disarray.

What was the outcome of this session, from his standpoint? Once more, it has shown that teacher education must bring together knowledge from many different disciplines to ensure that teachers 'are able to equip their pupils with the necessary know-how to make educated decisions in the digital world.'

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