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What is the current situation and what could we do to improve it?

There are ideas on how we can improve the situation in the education sector.

Of course, in the first place, we should all pay attention to the necessary rules of infection protection and also promote this among friends and acquaintances.

However, there are also good ideas about what we can do additionally, to keep the situation from getting worse. These ideas include the valuable suggestions from Marina Weisband, which she recently presented in an interview with StifterTV. Below you can find the transcript and the source of this really recommendable video (the transcript is also available here as a pdf):

Marina Weisband: EDUCATIONAL CONCEPTS IN THE TIMES OF PANDEMIC

Transcript video source: https://stifter-tv.com/bildungskonzepte-in-zeiten-der-pandemie/

00:00:00
Jörg Birkelbach (StifterTV):
Dear viewers, today I have an appointment with Marina Weisband, Ms. Weisband and I have already met on a foundation day in Mannheim. And there you (Ms Weisband) introduced me to the Aula project. You were there on a panel in the discussion round, and it was also about this educational concept. This is one of your passions, one of your domains, which you are very familiar with. And you are introducing them very often in talks on analog television. Now you are a guest on Stifter TV […]. You said there are problems with the concept of education that we have at the moment because of the pandemic. I would like to make a video about it ... and now you are sitting here and now we are making a video about it. I am very pleased […]. Yes, many parents are currently experiencing these problematic situations [...] homeschooling; - It always sounds so simple. There are very, very many problem areas. And you developed a concept that we would like to present here today. Maybe I can give you the floor.

00:01:03
Marina Weisband:
Thank you very much. Well, [...] I am working with schools and that means I saw exactly how it worked or didn't work in May when the schools were closed and the children were basically learning at distance. At some schools that already - let's say - worked more digitally before, but which also worked more project-oriented and interdisciplinary, with more personal responsibility from the students. It went better with them.

In contrast to this, those who placed great value on control, on presence, on regular instruction, as we are familiar with, say, from the last century. It was worse for them. And a big problem that was raised again and again was educational equity. The fact that the children who had no room of their own, no devices of their own, no parents who could support them in learning, [...] were very disadvantaged.

And back then I said: Hey guys, the first wave is over now. That's nice. But there is a second wave coming. Don't we have to get prepared for it?

The ministries of education didn't give priority to this: No, we do face-to-face lessons and face-to-face lessons is the best way of learning and we go through with it!

Last month I wrote an article that we will probably have to close the schools again soon, that we have to prepare for it and that we need concepts on how we can learn at a distance or look after the students in alternate or hybrid classes not having the equipment at home; Their parents are unable to provide support, for various reasons [...] and exactly nothing happened!

That means that we are now facing January. Schools are scheduled to reopen on January 10th. The number of cases continues to rise. The real source of contagion will occur over Christmas and we will have these numbers on January 10th.
To be honest, I don't see the schools open again and the best time to implement all these plans would have been May. The second best time is always now!

That's why I would like to introduce how I would go about it. Distance teaching as a creative solution between schools, municipalities and parents. I believe that we have to involve the municipalities much more closely here. We don't have the space to allow students to have a good class. And they don't have the devices at home. We have a lot of empty offices, libraries, university buildings, seminar rooms, community halls and so on. These are all alternative rooms for the schools. These are all rooms in which 2, 3, 4 children can learn from a distance together with caregivers.

Care is also in short supply. But at the same time we have parents who would be able to look after. We have student teachers. We generally have students who could be won for this. We have staff who may not be able to work at the moment because they work in the events industry that could provide support.

Networking these urban actors, spaces and staff would actually be the urgent task now. And I was wondering why the ministries don't do that.

The only answer I've come up with is that the liability issues and the insurance issues that go with it are so overwhelming that no one dares to approach the task.

This means the only thing we can do is to organize it privately because we can do what we want in our private space. And it is absolutely possible to ensure schooling in this way without the children being able to go to school.

The whole thing should go hand in hand with meaningful concepts for hybrid teaching. And they already exist, they are there, they are known, they should be disseminated and teachers should be trained in such concepts for schooling. There are no "papers" for it now, but [...] they are created in an agile manner. You have to implement them first and then write them down.

00:05:34
Jörg Birkelbach (StifterTV):
So there is great need for supporters and donors. Yes, but your concept sounds smart and conclusive. What would you have to do to bring this concept to fruition? A lot is possible at the moment. We noticed that. If you are heard, you can perhaps spontaneously initiate one or the other and then do things and not just discuss them.

00:05:54
Marina Weisband:
Right, I think we need to get into doing. Explicitly said, this means: We need municipal bodies. We need foundations. We need civil associations, foundations, non-profit associations that take care of it. I don't think the ministries will do that. And what we specifically have to do is identify: Where are there rooms and where is the staff? Spread this information among the parents and thus build a network, a safety net.

What if the schools have to close? Or what happens if the schools are unable to provide full lessons? It would be crazy and dangerous to make compulsory attendance again from January 10th! - and to force the children again to risk the lives of their families so that they can freeze in [...] [freezing] classrooms. That is not learning either! And that is exactly what decision-makers and committed people now have to take care of!

Of course I can't do that in all of Germany. In this respect, what I have is not so much a mature concept as what is nowadays understood by concept, but it is an impetus, an impulse for thought, to act self motivated and independent of ministries, and to search for resources: What could we offer at all and how could we design fair lessons for everyone?

I once looked at how it was done in California when it was announced there in late spring: “Please notice, we have to go into lockdown now!” And there were a few but verry important differences to us. Firstly: They said: “This year the schools won't open again. This is a Corona school year. ”- That is, they communicated [this] early on.

Good solutions have to be found early on. We can't just wait and see what we did in Germany. We rely on everything to be the same as it used to be! I also think that's very, very important for the school year 2021: It will also be a Corona school year!

The second thing they did is: It is by no means the case that all children in California were on the move with devices or had access to the Internet. There were offline schools there too. What they did was distribute equipment. First of all, that's a question of money. Here, too, foundations can be very active and help disadvantaged families with device donations. And they set up hotspots. So very simply [via] a classic 4G router […] - I have already done this at schools, by the way: I can use my cell phone as a WLAN router and if there are enough hotspots, one can also provide decentralized internet.

And the third thing is spread. You said it was absolutely correct: female teachers did not receive the advanced training. Nowadays I still get through a complete teacher training course without even having to deal with digital topics, if I don't want to.

But the concepts are there. It's not that this is complete chaos. We know [of] different blended learning models, such as learning tandems, i.e. a group of six students learn together. Or a digital “fishbowl”. This means that some of the students are in the classroom, but that students who are not in the classroom are involved. They have certain tasks such as logging, designing, researching, etc. Things that can only be done digitally and e.g. learning products. Schools already had very good experiences with this in May, when they said: Okay, you now have a week, find a topic that is interesting for you and create some form of media presentation for it. And here too, of course, there are children who are better at using these devices, who know more tools, and children who are less familiar with them. It is all the more important that they can work together. It is all the more important to learn this, to network tandems, because in this way the children can also pass on their expertise directly. I know that many teachers are afraid of these concepts because they have no experience with them and are afraid of running into a wall or that something will go wrong.

And that is actually the highlight of the culture of digitality. Because digital education is much more than just learning with digital devices. Very stupid, I could say a PDF is on the iPad; - Bamm! - I have digital education. [...] [but it's actually about] learning the culture of digitality, the culture that later becomes relevant in the job market and is part of it: present the unfinished, learn together! If, as a teacher, I am also on a learning path and make it transparent, then I can perfectly teach how learning works. If I make my mistakes transparent, then I can teach students how to deal with mistakes. And in addition to this improved error culture, we have to come to the conclusion that you are not just an authority when you know and can everything, but that you are an authority by setting an example and throwing yourself into the unknown and showing the process: How do I learn something?

I highly recommend the series “Digi-Fernunterricht” by Philippe Wampfler on YouTube for hybrid teaching methods. These are very short videos, but very many of them that you can use to train yourself and that simply present a wealth of teaching concepts that are not only suitable for pandemics, but also contain contemporary learning and that work in the information society.

00:11:50
Jörg Birkelbach (StifterTV):
Sooner or later we won't get past them anyway. Yes what can you do? Maybe you want to start a call? You want to start by doing a pilot project to show a living example. […] How can we help? What would the message be from you?

00:12:04
Marina Weisband:
The message from me would be: I'm in my hometown Münster and I would like to do it myself, so that we can make phone calls to different rooms, with the university, with the library, with perhaps different companies that are currently in lockdown themselves and their offices are not use. Just literally call, ask: Hey, let's assume we are allowed to have students look after you. How would that be done? And the second call is to the pedagogical faculties, i.e. where the teacher training students are sitting. Hey, is it possible to win them for this job? The problem, of course, is that they would have to get a salary if they provided care. And public bodies or foundations would actually be needed.

And I fear the whole thing has to be a private initiative, even though it is actually a deeply political task to ensure the care and education of children during a pandemic. I just don't see anything happening.

And that means we have to take action!

This is my call to you all! Make phone calls, write letters, take action and what is very important: Write letters to the ministries of culture. With the questions why they don't organize that. I noticed that the ministries of education don't react that way to Twitter and Facebook complaints because they don't really get it. That sticks with the social media teams. But what they get are letters on paper. So write letters on paper! With these suggestions.

And maybe we will manage to implement a meaningful concept somewhere in some municipality that will not be banned by the Ministry of Culture!

And then we can ensure schooling for everyone and [we] would be able to make great progress regarding growing together as a municipality, trying out modern educational concepts and making ourselves as crisis-proof as we unfortunately have to be at the beginning of this century!

00:14:11
Jörg Birkelbach (StifterTV):
So, dear Ms. Weisband, we will be more than happy to support you! We believe that this is a smart concept and “doing” is also your strength. And I am sure you will find the partners who are ready to support that. There are actually very simple ingredients for the menu, to cook that, to stay pictorial. You just have to encourage people to be active and you did this beautifully! Thank you very much for today. And we keep in touch. We will follow up on the topic and have a good time for you!

00:14:44
Marina Weisband:
Thank you! A beautiful day!


Information on Marina Weisband

Marina Weisband is a qualified psychologist and participatory educator. She leads the aula project on student participation and speaks at events and in public media about her work and topics such as political participation, privacy, digital society, media and crises. Further information can be found on her personal website, among other places.