Textbook on the Smartphone

The Forum Education and Digitization supports schools as they  make the transition to digital technologies. But what can high-quality lessons with digital media look like? A secondary school near Munich is finding out. Students talk about under what circumstances digital lessons make sense in their opinion, where digital teaching aids are particularly useful, and why pen and paper are still indispensable at times.

Christoph Dorner | January 2018
The Forum Education and Digitization supports schools as they  make the transition to digital technologies.
Julian Baumann

The bell announces the start of the third hour. “Any questions, anything not clear?” English teacher Andrea Holler, 33, asks her class. A projector beams an exercise onto the wall. The 29 students in class 6c at the Oskar-Maria-Graf-Gymnasium, a secondary school in Neufahrn, collect iPads from a silver case brought in by Holler. Then they disperse in all directions. The students gather in groups at various classroom stations to learn about Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.

The topic is from the printed textbooks for sixth grade “which, unfortunately, aren’t exactly up-to-date anymore,” Holler says. Luckily for them, there are iPads now; the school currently owns 90 of them.

How do the students feel about classes with digital media?

Tablets have long since proven themselves a valuable tool in foreign-language learning. The students can use them to organize information in “mind maps,” watch interactive videos, complete listening exercises, or film themselves role-playing. The advantages are obvious: Cooperative learning promotes interpersonal skills, and the use of media improves students’ listening and speaking skills. The most surprising thing is how quiet the class is while working.

The iPads are also frequently used in physics or German classes across all grades. How can schools provide high-quality instruction with digital media? And when are digital learning tools helpful? The students of the Oskar Maria Graf Grammar School offer some answers.

The Oskar-Maria-Graf Gymnasium was one of 38 schools in Germany that participated in the “Workshop for Digital Learning” co-sponsored by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. For one year, workshop participants discussed the digital transition in the educational sphere. It was a cross-border exchange of ideas, because education in Germany is the responsibility of the individual states, not the federal government. That doesn’t make it any easier to come to a consensus on reasonable standards.

New technology is making physics classes digital too.
Julian Baumann

But over the past few years, the school modernized itself from the inside out with prudent investments in technology and good employee management, like a medium-sized company. And that’s exactly why it could serve as a model for schools that have not yet started the transition to the digital learning environment of the future.