Trojans from Berlin: The “Digitalpact#D”

Statement and petition by the Society for Education and Knowledge (registered association)

In October 2016, Education Minister, Johanna Wanka announced a digital pact. 40,000 schools in Germany are supposed to be equipped with computers and WLAN within the next five years. The federal government is going to release funds of 5 billion euros for schools until 2021. 5 billion euros, while sounding positively at first, turned out to be a Trojan Horse.

 The costs for hardware

 For those counting: 5 billion euros allocated to 40,000 schools, over the course of five years, equals approximately 25,000 euros per school and year. The actual costs for the required hardware are significantly higher. In a study for the Bertelsmann Foundation, Andreas Breiter (Bremen University) projected two scenarios.
In the first scenario, five pupils had to share one computer. An average size school (750 pupils) incurs costs between 70,000 and 136,000 euros per year. If every pupil is to have her or his own device, the costs already rank from 240,000 to 350,000 euros per year and school. That way, nationally, costs between 538 million and 2,62 billion euros per year incur just for hardware. The expenses neither for technicians nor for software licences are included within that price – no rooms heated; no teaching personal trained or paid. In addition, the individual federal states are imposed much more following costs for technicians, upkeep, updates, software licences and therefore, federal funds indirectly are being grabbed.

Clientele policy instead of educational support

Mrs Wanka alleges computers and IT to be “the right tool for a good education in the 21st century”. However, it stays a secret, how she reached that conclusion.  There is no scientifically valid study supporting the use of digital technology during lessons. All known studies point to the contrary, among them the OECD’s study on “Students, Computers, and Learning.” It reads “apparently the use of digital media does not automatically lead to better student results. It rather depends on the teacher”. The same study shows how to support students in a meaningful way in order to raise their chances and in order to provide equal learning opportunities: by “promoting their basic knowledge of reading and writing”. According to OECD, this is supposed to lead to more “equalisation of educational opportunities than the expansion and subsidisation of access to high-tech devices and services”. What type of schools and universities do we want?

The devalorisation of teachers and social community

In “return for financial support”, concessions are being demanded that are a massive interference into the teacher’s profession and the conception of teaching. For example, teachers are to receive additional training for the application of digital teaching media. This shifts the focus towards digital media, instead of focussing on the use of “teaching-media” in a broader sense. At the same time, digital technology has been made obligatory during lessons as a media technology, which constitutes a direct interference with the teaching staff’s choice of methods. There is no differentiation according to age, type of school or teaching contents – a fact that, from a pedagogical point of view and while taking into account aspects of learning and developmental psychology, can only be described as deficient.
The task of developing concepts for “digital teaching” – at its most basic level – fails to acknowledge, that neither a “digital class” nor “digital education” even exists. The term “class” by definition alludes to teachers and those who are taught. Education mandatorily is linked to a person and not to technical storage media. When publishing for the federal Ministry of Science, it is imperative to make a clear, semantically correct distinction between “digital media used in class” and self-study phases with digital – or more specifically – electronic devices and media. Furthermore, it is important to differentiate between offline and online media, although a defining characteristic of online media is the permanent feedback channel as well as the saving and analysing of all data (the so-called “Big Data Mining”). Psychometric measuring of the student and detailed learning assessment form the basis of so-called “individualised and personalised learning”: algorithms supported by pattern recognition and statistics calculate the next exercises. De facto, the individual itself turns into a set of data.
The lack of data protection regulations when collecting and analysing data likewise disqualifies the application of those techniques and the underlying concept of “digitally controlled production of human capital with evaluated skills” for schools. Last but not least: working individually at a learning station isolates the learner and further dissolves the class as a social and supportive community. Once socially isolated, the individual becomes susceptible to the exertion of influence – even be it by a computer voice.
Those seeking to make the agreement on shared technical standards and the usage and upkeep of digital infrastructure a part of teachers’ fields of duties fail to recognise the complexity of the task. For instance since 2009, software for a “dialogue-oriented service procedure” is in the process of being developed. It is meant to standardise the process of the national distribution of university places with restricted admission throughout Germany. Until now, the system has cost 15 million euros. In 2016, 19% of university places are accessible via this platform. However, this system merely distributes places to 4,000 study programmes at 426 universities. The national coordination of technical systems at 40,000 schools is very likely to be more complex.

 Juridically on thin ice and false competition

Thus, it rounds out the whole picture that, legally speaking, Mrs Wanka ventures into new territory as schools and education are federal responsibilities. One constant, however, is her campaigning for IT in schools – in 2000 Wanka spoke out in favour of laptop-classes and in 2009 she made the case for tablet-classes. Now, as Education Minister, she is trying to circumvent the cooperation ban by citing paragraph 91c. While certainly being juridically creative, it is still being examined whether that is also a legally valid option. In exchange, she pitches chronically and systematically underfunded schools against each other. The money, of course, is not to be distributed equally among schools, but is to be given to those submitting a concept for “digital education”. The double-strategy behind: on the one hand, only desired concepts are being supported, on the other hand solidarity among schools and colleges that with their concepts have to compete against each other, is systematically eroded.

Learning factory 4.0 Behaviorism instead of education

The “Digital Pact # D” is part of a redefinition of schools and teaching on the way to an increasingly fully automated, digitally controlled “learning factory 4.0”. Teachers are demoted to social coaches and learning companions. Instead of teaching, the aim is automated instruction through computer programs and language systems. These concepts do not come from pedagogy but from cybernetics and behaviorism. The concepts are not new: it is the concept of “programmed learning” of the 1960s, with current computer technology and big data mining as a control and control system in the background. These are no schools, but web-based, algorithmically calculated learning control scenarios. Wealthy Americans, among them most leaders from Silicon Valley, therefore, send their children to schools with real teachers and prevent that their children are taught automatically by software and speech systems. “Internet companies and secret services want the determined man”, EU President Martin Schulz already wrote in 2014. “If we want to be free, we must defend ourselves and change our policies.” None more so than the education policy, which has to solve from its fixation on digital technology and turn towards people and their learning and education processes, so that coming generations will have a human and democratic future.

Seven demands

What has to be required instead of investment in IT infrastructure and hardware is:
Which kind of (high-) schools do we want?

  1. Schools and universities in Germany are educational institutions in a humanist and democratic tradition. They have to refer to human beings not to technical systems and their development cycles. We need more teachers, mentors, and tutors, not hardware.
  2. Media and media technology in the classroom are tools in the educational or (subject-specific) didactic context. They are potential tools to support teaching and learning. Teachers decide on the appropriate use of teaching media based on their training and according to the fundamental right of teaching and methodological freedom.
  3. Neither teachers nor pupils may be obliged to use devices of the media or entertainment electronics, such as tablets, smartphones, and others  in the classroom. Every child has to be able to take part in lessons without using electronic equipment and to do homework without being disadvantaged.
  4. Data from and between schools and pupils may neither be recorded nor evaluated for learning profiles. Students are legally minor wards whose data must be protected according to German law. In this case legal requirement has priority over technical solutions.
  5. Screen media in the first school years do not foster the learning process from the viewpoint of paediatricians, cognitive scientists, representatives of media impact research and pedagogy. Therefore, day care centres (DCCs) and primary schools must remain IT-free in their pedagogical work.
  6. The key media competences for educational opportunities and educational justice are the cultural techniques of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Investing in these cultural techniques as well as in intensive reading support is sustainable and emancipatory for educational biographies.
  7. Media technology in the classroom is always to be questioned from a pedagogical point of view and to assess whether and – if possible – when it can be used appropriately.

PS: The question of digitisation is different for vocational schools. Trainees are young adults who are thought to be capable and expectable of a higher degree of media maturity. These schools must be technologically up-to-date in order to qualify professionally and with a practical orientation.     •

V.i.S.d.P./Contact Person: Prof. Dr. R. Lankau, Fakultät M+I, HS Offenburg, Badstr. 24, 77652 Offenburg; Dr. Matthias Burchardt, Institut für Bildungsphilosophie, Anthropologie- und Pädagogik der Lebensspanne, Universität zu Köln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50931 Köln; Peter Hensinger, Bismarckstr. 63, 70197 Stuttgart

First signatory (status 2.11.2016)
Prof. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Bandelt, FB Mathematik, Universität Hamburg
Prof. Dr. Peter Bender, Institut für Mathematik, Universität Paderborn
Prof. Dr. Armin Bernhard, Allgemeine Pädagogik, Universität Duisburg-Essen
Prof. Dr. Peter Buck, Pädagogische Hochschule, Institut für Sachunterricht, Im Neuenheimer Feld 561, 69120 Heidelberg
Dr. Matthias Burchardt, Universität zu Köln
Dr. Burkard Chwalek, OStr. i. K., Lehrer am Gymnasium (Latein, Geschichte, Philosophie), Hildegardisschule Bingen
Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Dammer, Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft, Abteilung Allgemeine Pädagogik, Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Ursula Frost, Universität zu Köln
Prof. Dr. Andreas Gruschka, Erziehungswissenschaften, Goethe Universität Frankfurt
Prof. Dr. Dr. Wolfgang A. Halang, Informationstechnik, FernUniversität Hagen
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Heinen, Gestaltungstechnik und Kunstgeschichte, Dekan der Fakultät Design und Kunst, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
M.A. Peter Hensinger, Diagnose Funk
Dr. Anette Hettinger, Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Edwin Hübner, Freie Hochschule Stuttgart, Stuttgart
Dr. phil. Beat Kissling, Erziehungswissenschaftler & Psychologe, Kantonsschullehrer & Hochschuldozent
Prof. Dr. Hans Peter Klein, Universität Frankfurt Josef Kraus, Gymnasiallehrer und Schulleiter i.R.
Prof. Dr. Jochen Krautz, Fakultät für Design und Kunst, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Prof. Dr. Volker Ladenthin, Lehrstuhl für Historische und Systematische Erziehungswissenschaft, Bonn
Prof. Dr. phil. Ralf Lankau, Hochschule Offenburg
Ingo Leipner, Journalist, Bensheim
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Lembke, Duale Hochschule Mannheim
Prof. Dr. Peter Lutzker, Anthropologie, Freie Hochschule Stuttgart
Prof. Dr. Pierangelo Maset, Institut für Kunst, Musik und ihre Vermittlung, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg apl.
Prof. Dr. Niko Paech, Eibenweg 26, 26131 Oldenburg
Prof. Dr. Ingo Reuter, Viersen Dr. Klaus Scheler, Pädagogische Hochschule, Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Roy Sommer, Anglistische Literatur-, Kultur- und Medienwissenschaft, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Prof. Dr. Hubert Sowa, Professor für Kunst und ihre Didaktik, Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg
Prof. Dr. Dr. Manfred Spitzer, Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik & Transferzentrum für Neurowissenschaften und Lernen, Universität Ulm Hagen Steffel, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, Institut für Kunst, Musik und ihre Vermittlung, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg Prof. (em.) Dr. Gertraud Teuchert-Noodt, Neurobiologie, Universität Bielefeld
Prof. Dr. Werner Thiede, Richard-Wagner-Strasse 8, D 75242 Neuhausen
Prof. Dr. Christoph Türcke, Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig
Prof. em. Dr. Rainer Winkel, Erziehungswissenschaft, Berlin
Dr. phil. Lutz Wittenberg, Erziehungswissenschaftler und Berufsschullehrer, Oberwangen,  Schweiz
(Translation Current Concerns)