Is Digital Better?
Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral (Kranzberg, 1986). This can be applied to the didactic question. Learning or teaching does not become better or worse per se through the use of modern technology, but there is no doubt that digital technologies are changing learning and teaching. Certain characteristics of digital technologies fit particularly well with certain didactic directions – but not in any particular direction. A teaching-learning setting with digital materials, tools, and communication channels can have very different didactic directions.
At one extreme, technology enables teachers to exert a high degree of control and steer the learning process. (Here we imagine “teachers” as a combination of people and programmes). The learner follows a predetermined learning path, which in the ideal scenario is individually adapted for each person over the course of learning. Digital technology thus enables the implementation of behaviouristic didactics in pure form.
At the other extreme, the use of technology lies in the hands of the learner, who experiences quasi empowerment in the digital world: All means, materials and fellow learners are open to him. Learners do not follow a learning path – they design it themselves. It is therefore no wonder that constructivist representatives of the digital change see the greatest potential for learning as an active, self-directed, creative, social process.
Digital technology can optimize various forms of didactics and perhaps even make them possible in the first place. A homogenous digital didactic does not exist. The same digital technology can support very different didactics.
Ultimately, there is the fundamental political question of power that lies behind this concept: Who, teacher or learner, decides on the concrete use of digital media? Are learners subject to a process or do they have control over it? The question of digital didactics is a political question.
Old Didactics with Modern Media
The debate must not be based on technology, but on didactics! That sounds banal. But in everyday life, it is often the other way around – and talk of digital didactics promotes just that. One puts the digital at the beginning, not only linguistically. This obscures the fundamental questions, such as whether digital media are used to implement didactics oriented towards activation or didactics oriented towards control.
Terms such as „Germany‘s most modern school“ (self-designation of Schloss Neubeuern) are oriented towards technology, not didactics. Modern technologies do not make for a modern school. On the contrary, when things go badly, digitalisation optimises and cements old didactics.
Jöran Muuß-Meerholz holds a master in educational management. In 2009 Jöran started his agency J&K - Jöran und Konsorten to strengthen the connections between the educational and the digital world.
Education and Learning
This text was published in the frame of the project DIGIT-AL - Digital Transformation Adult Learning for Active Citizenship.
Pirker, G. and Martínez, R. (Ed.): Education and Learning (2020). Part of the reader: Smart City, Smart Teaching: Understanding Digital Transformation in Teaching and Learning. DARE Blue Lines, Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe, Brussels 2020.
Kranzberg, M. (1986). Technology and History: „Kranzberg‘s Laws“. Technology and Culture. 27 (3): 544–560. https://doi.org/10.2307/3105385