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Digital Pact for Schools: The digitalisation of schools in the Rhein-Sieg district is progressing slowly

Digital Pact for Schools : The digitalisation of schools in the Rhein-Sieg district is progressing slowly

The digitisation of schools and teaching in the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis is only progressing slowly and in small steps. The necessary connections and servers are not the only challenge.

The distribution of tasks via online platforms, internet research during school hours, group work via online networking – for most schools in the Rhine-Sieg district, this is still a dream of the future. Most local authorities have already applied for funding from the Federal Digital Pact for Schools (Digitalpakt Schule) or the applications are in progress. In some cases, the schools are already equipped with the necessary connections, servers and some even with a fiber optic connection. "But the infrastructure alone just isn’t enough," says a principal from the district who would rather remain anonymous.

The coronavirus crisis has hugely increased the importance of the topic of digitisation. What was seemingly effortlessly feasible for many companies – working and networking from home, practically from one day to the next – is clearly not working for schools. This is despite the fact that the local authorities themselves have been working on digitising schools for several years.

Hennef has been working on digitisation since 2005

The town of Hennef drew up the first media development plan as early as 2005 and is currently working with the third plan. In this context, the town being recommended by the media consulting service of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia NRW as an orientation for school IT. Nevertheless, Hennef is receiving money from the Digital Pact and has submitted an application for tablets. "Professional and future-proof products are replacing outdated, partly self-made solutions. This will significantly speed up processes in schools and make maintenance much easier," the city has made it clear that digitisation cannot be handled by one-off investments.

The town of Bornheim launched its first media development plan in 2013. In 2017, Königswinter decided to start networking its municipal schools. Since 2018, all St. Augustine schools have had WLAN. In 2019, the German Bundestag and Bundesrat agreed on the Digital Pact for Schools, which provides funds for the digital infrastructure of schools.

Tablets or laptops are still needed everywhere

In order to be able to make proper use of the infrastructure that is either already in place or at least planned at the district schools, additional money is needed. Digital teaching requires tablets or laptops for teachers and students as additional hardware. There is now also a national budget available for this, "but it’s easy to calculate that this will not be enough," comments Ewald Auel, deputy principal of the Theodor-Heuss-Realschule in Meckenheim. Up to now, digital learning has been used at his school primarily for distance learning, for example during the lockdown.

Godehard Mai, on the other hand, principal of the Königswinter-Oberpleis Comprehensive School, gives examples of how the digital equipment at his school has already led to a change in teaching culture. With WLAN in every classroom, ad hoc research on the internet is now possible. "In the past, this had to be planned and organised, because the internet was only available in our computer room," Mai says. Additional terminals are also needed in the comprehensive school, but students and teachers are already networking on special platforms and the use of the "School Manager" program is planned for internal work in the school.

For the future, Mai is focusing primarily on the young teachers at his school. "They are already familiar with digital working and naturally have a laptop with them in the classroom. In addition, the media development plan of the city of Königswinter also provides internal training for all teachers.

Rhein-Sieg-Gymnasium awarded "digital school" status

Digitisation also has a direct impact on teaching at the Rhein-Sieg Gymnasium (RSG) in Sankt Augustin. Computer science lessons from grade five, a robotics club and advanced computer science courses in the upper school were some of the things that were partly responsible for the RSG recently being awarded the status of "digital school", together with 48 other schools in North Rhine-Westphalia. Networking also plays a major role in the teaching programmes. For example, the school currently has a joint project with the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg College of Applied Sciences. The ninth-grade computer science course uses the cooperation to program a jump & run game, in which parents are also involved. Those parents who work in IT themselves regularly offer media education workshops at the school. Mathematics teacher Harmke Grohmann also sees the opportunities offered by digitisation. She creates explanatory mathematics videos to accompany her lessons, which she makes available to all students and other interested parties on her YouTube channel.

FUNDING POOLS

How the state is investing in the digitisation of schools

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is providing a total of two billion euros via the "Gute Schule 2020" (Good Schools 2020) funding program. About 1.2 billion euros is being provided by the Federal Government's Municipal Investment Promotion Act. The School and Education Allowance amounts to 683 million euros. This money can also be used for the digitisation of schools and from 2017 to 2020, this amounted to a total of six billion euros.

More than one billion euros is available through the Digital Pact for Schools. There is also a program to buy immediate equipment for this purpose, and in North Rhine-Westphalia, this amounts to a total of 178 million euros for equipping students with special educational needs. A further 103 million euros is available for equipping teachers.

(Original text, Andrea Ziech; translation, John Chandler)