From September 18 to 21, 2022, Belgian and German representatives of the SMASCH project schools physically met for the first time. A Belgian delegation of ten teachers, five researchers and two representatives of a teachers’ union visited Hamburg to attend an interactive workshop and visit the German project schools.
After a first meeting on Sunday, about 40 educational stakeholders (teachers, ICT coordinators, principals, representatives from administrative level and teacher unions, researchers etc.) from the German and Belgian context came together on Monday for a workshop entitled “Sustainable School Digitization? Between (Large-Scale) Policies and Local School Practices”. In both Belgium and Germany, large-scale policy programs – namely “Digisprong” in Belgium and “DigitalPakt” in Germany – have played an important role in shaping school digitization in recent years. While such large-scale measures, which at first glance appear very similar in both countries, have undoubtedly been an important driver for reform, their “fit” with local school needs as well as with strategies for a sustainable and pedagogically meaningful digitization was described as a challenge in both countries. Accordingly, the aim of the workshop was to provide a forum for critical reflection on how the policies have influenced not only the digitization processes in SMASCH schools, but also the activities of intermediary actors such as government agencies, teachers’ unions, or school associations in both countries. During different exchange and input formats, the participants developed a better understanding of the cultural and governmental specificities (such as a much greater autonomy of schools in Belgium than in Germany) in the implementation and explored similarities as well as differences between the policy programs. In particular, it became clear that teachers in Belgium and Germany often face similar challenges, such as a lack of long-term concepts for the use of IT devices, scarce time resources to deal with digitization, and social inequality among students. At the same time, a panel discussion that included teachers, representatives of the administrative level and teachers’ unions from both countries illustrated that Digisprong and Digitalpakt have a very different impact depending on the level of agency.
In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to work in groups on various challenges related to the sustainable digitization of schools and to initiate future SMASCH school networks within and between the countries through these working teams. Participants could choose between the following workshop topics:
- “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”: International cooperation on digitalization
- From a digitalization vision to strategy and school curriculum
- Finding commitment by embracing resistance
After the first contact among German and Belgian schools during the workshop on Monday, school visits of the Belgian guests to the Hamburg SMASCH schools were on the agenda for Tuesday. Four SMASCH-schools (elementary and secondary schools) opened their doors so that the Belgian guests could attend classes and get in touch with other stakeholders from the schools. In many cases the Belgian delegates and the German host schools could identify similar interests or challenges when facing the digitization of their school. On the basis of these similarities several schools intent to develop a long-term international cooperation.
We would like to thank all participants and contributors for these exciting days!