This article comes from the 4/2020 issue of the transfer magazine 'TRIOLOG. Science – Economy – Society in Eastern Bavaria' with the emphasis on crisis and opportunity. The university consortium Transfer and Innovation in Eastern Bavaria (TRIO) is a project of six East Bavarian universities, in which the University of Passau is also taking part. The project is being funded from the programme 'Innovative University' by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and will run for five years. TRIO sees itself as an initiator of innovations in Eastern Bavaria. It aims to expand and actively organise the transfer of knowledge and technology and intensify the exchange between science, economy and society in the region.
“Not so much shortcomings as interesting discoveries” – this is how Professor Christina Hansen summarises her experiences from the past few months in crisis mode. The University of Passau’s Vice-President for Study and Teaching and the holder of the Chair of Education/Primary and Pre-Primary Education can speak from two perspectives: from the perspective of the administration of a large educational institution and from the perspective of a teacher who is in direct contact with the students.
Learning in and from the crisis
There is no question that the crisis has provided a huge boost for digitisation. Especially in the education sector. As Hansen emphasises, this is a matter not only of the appropriate technical equipment and the application possibilities of certain tools, but primarily also of reflecting upon previous and new teaching and learning formats and evaluating their added value. “Digitisation does not mean: the old educational theory with new media. The crisis is only an opportunity if a sensible didactic use of digitisation for teaching and learning processes and expertise in the area of digitisation are seen as part of the education process.” New digital working methods could lead to more differentiated learning programmes and could therefore address the needs of schoolchildren more individually.
According to Hansen, a creative, critical and responsible handling of data is very important when it comes to digitisation in education. “In my opinion, both digital education and the reflective approach to this should be mandatory in every form and phase of teacher training.”
About Professor Hansen
The educationalist and psychologist Prof. Christina Hansen is the Vice-President for Study, Teaching and International Affairs at the University of Passau. At her Chair of Education/Primary and Pre-Primary Education, researchers have, for many years, been investigating educational, technical and regulatory needs and options for action to shape teaching and learning processes through the initiation of code literacy, from the perspective of critical data studies. This is a case not of what-works research or does-it-work research, but of a desire for critical understanding and an awareness of what digital technologies do with educational settings.
New ways of interaction
There is also no doubt that the crisis and the associated digitisation have massively changed the way in which we communicate and interact. Our “normal” has become fragile. “On the one hand, we have generally become much more aware of the value of social encounters in our social life,” says the educationalist and psychologist Christina Hansen. “People have realised how important social contacts are. On the other hand, new or different questions are being asked about the meaning of life. What we accept as normal is being questioned and needs to be questioned, new priorities are being set.” At school, at university and in the world of work, communication channels are being redefined, learning and working processes are being reviewed and modified, structures are being adjusted – thus improving the crisis management, amongst other things.
Research as a driving force
It is also clear that new solutions are needed to cope with the crisis. Science and research play an important role here. They can and must provide impetus and offer solutions for social challenges, according to Hansen. “There is a need for a voice that will critically reflect on the social processes from a scientific perspective, but will also seek solutions for society. With regard to education, the focus could, for example, be on how adaptive and more flexible learning programmes can be used to tackle increased educational inequalities and how these can provide positive support for education systems.”
Since August, the University of Passau has increasingly received requests from authorities and companies to seek new solutions together. For example from the government of Lower Bavaria, which co-opted the university for a “digital education quality pact”. “At the beginning, everyone was just trying to cope with the new situation and to get through it as best they could, but now we are increasingly noticing that the expertise and the knowledge of the university are in demand.”