The Learning Culture within the Digital Shift: Ethnographic Studies of Schools and Teaching (LernDiWa)

Discussions of what future teaching and learning with and within digitised learning environments should look like in schools in Lower Saxony are currently in full swing. Public debates on the future of education in a digitally networked world are dominated by disparate examples veering between best practice and horror scenarios. Profound changes are predicted to occur in schools in the course of the digitalisation and mediatisation of education, while at the same time digital technology is already being used in schools and in lessons. Very few studies have been conducted in German-speaking countries that not only examine digital media in specific teaching scenarios but also explore broader issues in everyday school practice within a digitally networked world. This starting point for this project is that a better understanding of everyday ‘digital practices’ is required in order to generate research data on teaching in schools in the current ‘digital culture’ as well as practical stimuli for the future integration of digital media. The LernDiWa project ethnographically examines how the learning culture in schools is changing as a result of the digitally networked world.

For two years researchers will observe the use of digital technologies in a comprehensive school, focussing on one study group. The practice theory learning culture approach tested in a previous study will be developed further in order to investigate schools in the digital world. Using a learning culture approach will focus on how digital practices affect school and lesson planning and lesson implementation. The LernDiWa project will also explore the relationship between digital practices in school and those of teachers and pupils within their families and in their free time. Observations and interviews will be analysed with reference to each other in order to gain a deeper understanding of digital practices and the involvement of software in these processes.

This is an inter-disciplinary project, which will combine research into schools and lessons with media studies and cultural studies approaches as well as ethnography. It incorporates cultural studies and practice theory research approaches that are currently being developed in parallel in the fields of educational media and schools research, and are seldom combined. The project takes advantage of the opportunity to represent everyday school life as a linguistic and physical action using things and media, in a specific, differentiated and situational way. It understands the relationship between people, things and media to be reciprocal: things and media influence the actions of people just as people influence things and media. In this context the project team are interested in the changes that occur in everyday school life and in lessons as a result of digital media. In order to more thoroughly understand such changes the project team are interested in new routines as well as ambivalence, for example tensions observable in practice between new, changed and traditional processes. It is important to gain a deeper understanding of the significance ascribed to digital media in everyday school practice.

The project will therefore adopt a design-oriented perspective. This will enable successful interventions to be developed that are highly relevant for policy-makers and school development, precisely because they have been developed with a firm basis in detailed knowledge of everyday school practice – and its challenges, achievements and uncertainties. Findings will be published through national and international academic channels and the project team will generate practical stimuli for education policy and practice.