Shaping digital Transformation

Boy in front of the PC
Photo: C. Fischer

The educationalist Dr Robin Schmidt has been dealing with the pedagogical consequences of society’s digital transformation for years. He wrote his doctoral thesis on this topic at the University of Basel (more information online here), contributed to the curriculum for digital media education at Rudolf Steiner schools in Switzerland, and is an advisory board member of the “Media Education at Reform Pedagogical Schools” initiative led by Prof. Dr. Paula Bleckmann at the Alanus University of Applied Sciences and funded by SAGST. At the FHNW School of Education (PH FHNW) in northwestern Switzerland, Schmidt has mapped out a four-year research project on the design of schools in the digital world (“Teacher Agency in Digital Literacy Education”). The focus is on answering the question of what competencies teachers need today in order to teach their students how to learn and work with digital media in an age-appropriate way but also to deal with the challenges of our increasingly digitalised world.

In addition to suggestions from Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogy, Schmidt also examines newer approaches in educational science, such as the development of the professional ability to work autonomously. “Robin Schmidt uses his scientific work to build bridges between academic educational science and Waldorf education”, explains SAGST project manager Jana Weische. “We support such an initiative in this instance, as well as in other funded projects that enrich the dialogue between various concepts, including reform pedagogical initiatives.”

In a current subproject, Schmidt researched the influence of experiences during the coronavirus pandemic on the next generation of teachers. He was able to show that fundamental changes are not to be expected in this context. However, there is one problem: what was experienced during the emergency distance learning is often considered paradigmatic – which does, however, narrow down the complex issues of digital transformation. In this light, the challenge for teacher education has not become smaller but bigger: it must deal with the – positively or negatively evaluated – experiences during the lockdown as normative variables. Therefore, it is now necessary to broaden the horizon of questions and to increasingly assert a wide variety of educational science and didactic points of view.

Around 3,600 student teachers are currently enrolled at the FHNW School of Education. It is part of the association of nine schools that is supported by the four cantons of Aargau, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt and Solothurn and in addion to the School of Education also includes universities for computer science, economics or architecture.

Read more: Interview with Robin Schmidt on the digitalisation boost from the coronavirus pandemic (University of Basel website, November 2020)