Brownbag Conversation Series: Digitalization in schools


Join us for a Brownbag Conversation with Meike Hethey (University of Bremen), who will present her research on the challenge of digitalization in the context of German schools.

Date: February 26, 2018
Time: 2:00 – 3:30p
Room: 418 Zankel (Teachers College)


Digitalization – a difficult process in German schools: a discourse analysis


Digitalization is a global phenomenon which causes changes in nearly every part of our social and cultural life, in economic production processes as well as in our ways of communication. The term digital revolution (cf. Garton Ash 2016) emphasizes the upheaval modern societies experience since more than a decade. And it puts the current changes on equal footage with the Industrial Revolution or the Enlightenment.

As a logical consequence, digitalization also became a key area in School Education. In 2016, the German Ministry of Education started its Educational Initiative for a Digital Knowledge Society, a program to promote digitalization in School Education (cf. BMBF 2016). The fact, that digitalization became a key topic of the federal government in a country like Germany, where the federal states traditionally are responsible for the public school system, emphasizes its overriding importance.

But what are the expectations for digital teaching and learning at school? By analyzing the public discourse (newspaper articles, educational blogs etc.) on the one hand and the scientific discourse on the other hand, the presentation aims at pointing out the key questions and arguments of the German discussion on digital education in public schools. Taking the debate in Foreign Language Education as an example, the presentation will argue that the discussion on digitalization currently swings between two supposedly contradictory positions: the true belief in technological innovation and all its life-changing possibilities on the one hand and the fear of possible negative consequences (i.e. particular risks of ways of digital communication etc.) for the personal development of students on the other hand. From a historical point of view the current discourse on digitalization therefore joins the pedagogical discussion on the educationalization of different phenomena of modernization since the 18th century (cf. Tröhler 2016, Smeyers & Depaepe 2008). The presentation will contextualize the discussion in its historical context before it concludes with some thoughts on the desideratum of a more subject-specific approach to digitalization (in Foreign Language Education).


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (2016). Bildungsoffensive für die digitale Wissensgesellschaft. Online: Wissensgesellschaft.pdf [02/05/2018]

Garton Ash, Timothy (2016). Free Speech. Ten Principles for a Connected World. London: Atlantic Books.

Tröhler, Daniel (2016). Educationalization ofSocial Problems and the Educationalization ofthe Modern World. In: Peters, Michael

A. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Singapore: Springer: 1-9.
Depaepe, M. & Smeyers, P. (ed.) (2008). Symposium on the Educationalization of Social Problems. Educational Theory, 58(4): 379-474.


About Meike:

Meike Hethey studied French, History and Educational Studies at the Universities of Bremen and Reims (France). She graduated with the First Civil Service Examination (2002) and did her teacher training in Hannover (Second Civil Service Examination in 2004). From 2004 -2011, she worked as a High School teacher of French and History. Since 2011, she is a University lecturer at the department of Foreign Language Education at the University of Bremen (key area: Romance languages).

In her Ph.D project, she explores how to teach aesthetic reading of literature in the foreign language classroom on an advanced beginners level (expected submission in 2018). Beyond that she is head of an interdisciplinary research project on transmitting literature and literary knowledge in (Foreign) Language Education at schools, in teacher education and in the non-academic literary field (Literaturvermittlung hoch3; in cooperation with Dr. Karen Struve).

Further research interests:

  • digital teaching and learning / digitalization as a challenge for the (German) school system
  • history of foreign language education
  • film education in the (foreign) language classroom


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