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Training critical engagement

An exhibition provides insight into the SKILL teaching project ‘Information and Media Literacy’. For this project, trainee teachers have worked with lecturers to develop ideas on how to critically engage with media in the digital era.

In order to prepare trainee teachers for their classroom work and their role as teachers in the digital era, it is important to draw on a variety of disciplines. Over the past three-and-a-half years, the SKILL teaching project ‘Information and Media Literacy’ has brought together researchers from a variety of disciplines to develop teaching formats for trainee teachers. This has resulted not only in innovative and interdisciplinary seminar formats that over 100 students have already participated in, but also – and above all – in new ideas for lessons and a great number of student projects.

The media studies teacher Jessica Knauer has honoured these projects with an exhibition. We are exhibiting a selection online, from A for ‘Analogue learning game’ to Z for ‘Zugezogene’ (‘Incomers’), and presenting students and lecturers as they discuss their work.

Analogue learning game: Katharina Kölb has worked with Anna-Maria Vogl to develop an analogue escape scenario designed to train critical thinking in the digital era.

‘How can we adopt different perspectives through play? This was our initial question. We used this to develop a type of escape game. There are different puzzles for players to solve by sharing and using their insights and experience. The aim is to decode words, solve sudokus and search for a transformation concept. The game works best when different personality types work together well. The game is aimed at school students in years 7 and 8 of the German school system (ages 13 to 14).’

Bild von der Studentin Carla Seitz neben einem selbst gestalteten Plakat zum Thema Schwarze Bürgerrechtsbewegung

The Black Power movement as a poster: Graphic recording is the name of a method used to translate content into images. This works well both offline and online. Student Carla Seitz has applied this principle to the teaching of history and translated the Black Power civil rights movement into a poster format.

‘The perfect way for me to learn is to see something before me in its entirety. I therefore tried to encapsulate the Black Power civil rights movement in the USA in images and then combine these. I have already tested the poster in the classroom and had my school students work on parts of it in groups. I taught myself a lot of content while creating the poster. It also helped me to identify connections. It is a good method that guarantees teaching success in the classroom.’

Drei Studentinnen sitzen um einen Globus und sehen sich die geographischen Grenzen Europas an

Europe as a construct: The students Sarah Helmbrecht, Eva Merkl and Claudia Fenniger have questioned the boundaries of Europe and asked fellow students, professors and graduate teaching assistants to set their own cultural boundaries. The students used the results to develop an interactive PowerPoint with an audio track that can be used in the classroom.

‘We surveyed five people and got five different perspectives. The project could be expanded as much as desired, in Germany, in Bavaria, or simply within the surrounding area. Where do we draw our boundaries? Since working on the project, we find ourselves questioning things a lot more. The aim would be to also motivate our future school students to question such constructs.’

Eine Studentin sitzt vor einem Rechner, auf dem der Anfang des produzierten Legevideos zum Thema Fake News zu sehen ist.

A historical analysis of fake news: The group working under student Juliane Watzl wanted to know how long fake news has existed, and used their findings to produce a cutout animation.

‘This phenomenon is much older than we thought. The cutout animation starts in 1274 BC in Ancient Egypt when Pharaoh Ramses spread the news of his victory, even though he lost. With our cutout animation, we want to train school students in checking the sources of their information. We have also included tips on how to fact-check. We thereby want to make school students aware of the importance of in-depth research.’

Die Studentin Annika Becker erklärt ein Schaubild auf einem Laptop.

Boundaries of equality: As part of the seminar ‘Negroes with Guns’, student Annika Becker has engaged with the topic of equality and prepared a multimedia teaching sequence. She has also incorporated the feedback from school students.

‘I discussed the concept of the American Dream with school students from Year 12 in the German School system (age 17). How could it be achieved? What is the situation in America and Germany in terms of social mobility? There was a wide range of reactions. I found it interesting that many school students believe that the equality concept isn’t implemented in elections in Germany because under-18s aren’t allowed to vote.’

Eine Studentin schaut ein Video auf einem Laptop

Online identity: The students Verena Lehmann, Verena Ofner, Marissa Püschner and Vladimíra Sulírová have produced a cutout animation with which they want to make their fellow students reflect on their own identity and the ‘digital self’.

‘What does identity mean online? How do I present myself there? Even within our little group, we have very different approaches to this – some use Instagram, others don’t. Some only use Facebook, whereas I have completely come off Facebook. We used these questions relating to how we present ourselves online to develop a cutout animation that, in combination with an analogue questionnaire, is intended to make people reflect.’

A look inside the exhibition: On the left is the video installation on sexualised violence against women in popular culture, while on the right, visitors test out the analogue escape game.

Eine Studentin schaut auf einem Laptop ein Video zum Thema Lehr- und Lernraum im Wandel

The transformation in learning and teaching environments: The students Julia Furtner, Camilla König and Elisa Koeppen have produced a cutout animation for Year 6 of the German school system (age 12) in which they examine how teaching has changed since the 19th century.

‘We were interested in the following question: How does learning change when access to information is no longer restricted to books, but is instead unlimited? We used this question to produce a cutout animation with the aid of index cards. Robot Rob, whom we also drew on one of the cards, guides viewers through the video. I learned a lot, because this was the first time that I produced this kind of video.’

Rape culture made visible: The Erasmus students Fiorella Debenedetti and Eugenio Catulo produced a disturbing video that shows how accustomed we have become to sexualised violence against women in popular culture (see cover image). Their project was created during a team-teaching seminar by Dr Viola Huang and Dr Sarah Makeschin. Dr Makeschin, a specialist in American Studies, explains the video installation:

‘Fiorella and Eugenio wanted to render visible the legitimisation of rape culture. They took the lyrics of popular songs that we often sing along to without reflecting on their content, even though it is often quite full-on. In the video, they show women who sing along to these violent texts, together with the actual lyrics. The songs can be heard in the audio track. The video is even more disturbing without the audio track, however, when you just see the movement of the women’s lips together with the subtitles. This makes the sheer brutality of the lyrics visible.’

Zwei Studierende sitzen vor einem Laptop und sehen sich ein Video zur technischen Seite von Fake-News an.

Social bots and fake news: The students Laura Zwerschina, Bettina Behringer, Simon Heitzer and Sophie Greiler have produced an explanatory video on the technical aspects of fake news.

‘We were primarily interested in the technical side of fake news: what role do social bots play? In our video, we show how snowballing effects work and how programs in social networks automatically submit, share or spread posts on certain terms in order to manipulate people. We want to use the video in the final year of Gymnasium school (the German equivalent of grammar schools). Alongside the information that was also new to us, we learned how much hard work is involved in developing an explanatory video.’

Presentation on Instagram versus... 

... reality on one’s front doorstep.

Virtual versus reality: In their project #captured moments, the students Michaela Fluhrer and Lena Früchtenicht contrast how things are presented on Instagram with reality and thereby address the boundary between the staged and the unstaged. The photos were taken from of an exhibition as part of the ‘Boundaries’ seminar in Passau’s Chapel of Saint Anne.

‘We opted for four areas that frequently feature on Instagram. For us, these include: sport, food, music and education. In our photos, we see the excerpt one would upload to Instagram, as well as the image in its entirety. This also includes all the surrounding chaos that is no longer visible on the perfectly staged image. Or it shows the conditions under which the purported sports image was really created. Young adults of our age spend a lot of time on Instagram. And it was important to us to show that every image is staged in its own way, and only represents an excerpt of reality. It is difficult to distinguish between reality and its staged representation. The aim was to make our audience aware that they shouldn’t believe everything they see on social networks.’

Foto von einer Videoinstallation mit zwei Tablets. Auf dem linken Tablet ist die Dozentin Dorothe Knapp und auf dem rechten die Dozentin Amelie Zimmermann zu sehen.

Zugezogene (‘Incomers’): Art teacher Dorothe Knapp and media semiotician Amelie Zimmermann are non-Bavarians living in Bavaria, and in their video address questions which they find themselves confronted with time and again. Their video installation ‘Integrierdi!’ was also part of the ‘Boundaries’ exhibition in the Chapel of Saint Anne.

‘Kann I bairisch? (“Can I speak Bavarian?”) Mecht I bairisch redn? (“Do I want to speak Bavarian?”) Muaß I bairisch redn? (“Do I have to speak Bavarian?”) As an incomer here, I have to face these questions in Bavarian dialect time and again. I come from Hesse, Amelie from Hamburg. The Bavarian dialect is my boundary. I want to integrate, but I can’t here. I would find it strange and presumptuous to speak Bavarian. At the same time, I cause umbrage here by speaking in my own accent: the Prussians speak with such arrogance, they say. Yet that isn’t my intention at all. Our video installation in the Chapel of Saint Anne has developed its own unique effect. It has been the subject of conversations between locals and visitors. The funniest reaction was an e-mail from one of the assistants at the chapel, who had to listen to the permanent sound loop from the installation all day long: “No, damn it! You don’t have to speak Bavarian!”, she wrote.’

Gruppenfoto des interdisziplinären Teams des SKILL-Teilprojekts "Information & Media Literacy"

The interdisciplinary team of the SKILL teaching project ‘Information and Media Literacy’ (from left to right): IT education expert Andreas Dengel, American studies specialist Dr Sarah Makeschin, media studies teacher Petra Mayrhofer, media studies teacher Jessica Knauer, art teacher Dorothe Knapp (sitting at front), student assistant Michaela Fluhrer and history education expert Dr Viola Huang.

HOW SKILL will continue

‘Information and Media Literacy’ was a teaching project as part of SKILL, the Passau model project for the further development of teacher training. As part of the joint Quality Initiative in Teacher Training, the SKILL project is being funded by the federal government and individual states using funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

SKILL stands for ‘Strategien zur Kompetenzentwicklung: Innovative Lehr- und Beratungskonzepte in der Lehrerbildung’ (‘Strategies for Skill Development: Innovative Teaching and Consulting Concepts in Teacher Training’). The project aids the further development of teacher training at the University of Passau.

In (‘Strategien zur Kompetenzentwicklung: Innovative Lehrformate in der Lehrerbildung [Strategies for Skill Development: Innovative Teaching Formats in Teacher Training], digitally enhanced’), the focus will be on ensuring that teachers not only help shape the ‘digital turn’ in education, but also use digital tools to provide measurably better teaching.


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