You have to learn

Back to school : "Children don't have to learn everything at once"

In my last column, I suggested making a scaled-down version of our digital world available for children to study. The reactions were mixed. In addition to a lot of approval, there was the objection that even the youngest had to learn in the real, complex and dangerous world of the Internet, instead of in a protected, reduced and child-friendly practice room. Of course, first graders should already be familiar with the copyrights and rights of use of images and should take them into account when using them in self-made films.

Where first graders stand in their learning process and what they can achieve

Is that so? For me, this statement shows in a terrifying way how much the ideas about where children stand in their learning process and what they can achieve are increasingly deviating from reality. It seems as if we assume that children already have all the necessary previous experience and basics when they start school, that they can combine and think networked like adults and learn and work independently at the age of six or seven. In addition, the fact that up to 28 children work with a teacher in school is apparently overlooked. The children first receive their information in the group and must first be able to absorb and implement it independently - a completely underestimated ability. A one-on-one accompaniment opens up completely different and much more far-reaching possibilities, but the prerequisites and conditions in school are completely different.

It seems as if we assume that children already have all the necessary previous experience and basics when they start school, that they can combine and think networked like adults and learn and work independently at the age of six or seven.

When I was a junior teacher, children in school learned mathematics, for example, according to Piaget, who showed clear steps how children initially build a number concept in the first place. This process took months and was repeated and deepened with every number range expansion and every new arithmetic operation. I remember well that in this earlier teaching it was very rare that children did not develop a well-founded concept of numbers. Unfortunately, things are different today. Today there are an increasing number of children who do not have an overview of the sequence of numbers when they switch to secondary schools, have no idea of ​​the quantities, do not master the transition between tens and who lack a basic understanding of arithmetic symbols. So they inevitably fail when calculating in more complex number spaces. It used to be almost inconceivable that a child would leave elementary school as functionally illiterate, even if they could not speak German when they entered school. Today that happens more and more. With the content and the wealth of material in today's curriculum, especially in the first two grades, one obviously assumes that one only has to touch on basic topics briefly, but that neither an own pedagogical structure nor the special practice of these skills is required. There are enough "more important" ...

Not even many adults understand what binary systems are

For example, if you look at the content of the computer science department recommended by working groups for elementary schools, it is not only elementary school teachers who clap their hands over their heads. And not just because more material should be taught at the same time. As early as the very first school years, children should decode and encode binary systems and deal with algorithms. In conversation with proponents you can hear that with “arm up at 0 and arm down at 1” everything is easy for children to learn. Yes, but that's not all !? Not even many adults grasp what binary systems are, arm up, arm down. There is a lot more to it and in particular the ability to think in a complex, analytical and abstract way and to be able to look behind things. Skills that generally only develop around the age of ten. Otherwise it remains a - and relatively boring - child's play with arm up and arm down ... and what use is it?

And yes, if one of the child's parents is a computer scientist, these terms are used again and again in everyday life with contexts and specific applications, if you sit at the computer together from time to time, you can stop when the child is tired or doesn't feel like it, completely can respond individually and flexibly to his child, give a tip in the appropriate millisecond, take over or hand it back to the child ... yes, then it may be that this privileged child with all the previous experience and all the support ultimately knows what it is there does and can work with it, even in elementary school age.

With this accompaniment, a child may be able to shoot a film on a topic on their own even after the fifth film they have made together (and not just hold the camera on it somewhere), even though they are only seven years old. And yes, maybe after doing this umpteen times with its parents, it will also be able to understand the legal language of copyright law when using images and judge for itself whether it is allowed to use this image in its film or not. Then it may actually know which of the 20 buttons in the e-mail program it has to press and when. Then it has seen enough dick pics that its parents have taken up the problem as a topic, that it knows that these are not yet appropriate for its age, but it is no longer frightened of them.

Children who never get to know the feeling that they have really understood something

But most children are not that privileged. Fewer and fewer parents have the time and the strength to accompany their children in their learning or to organize everyday life, especially before starting school, in such a way that the children can gain a wide range of experiences and come to school on a broad basis. The scissors are growing wider and wider. There are the few who have the privilege of being at home. On the other hand there is the increasing number of children who have to master everything on their own, who stumble and are overwhelmed from the start by the abundance of content and the speed, who build up gaps and deficits and never get to know the feeling that something is really understood to have and to be able to.

Is that really what we want? Is it right to demand what we adults would like to have? It seems as if the children of elementary school age should best deal with everything we know after tens of years of school, study and work experience. And best of all, they should also deal with everything that we are not sure of ourselves. Or wouldn't it make more sense to finally recognize what children are and what they need? To accept that a meaningful structure is required, a child-friendly basic framework for learning and that all children must have a chance to follow the lessons, even if there are no parents at home to help and support?

School lessons, the content-related requirements and the framework conditions, especially in elementary school, must be such that all children can build up a good basis, even without additional domestic support and preparatory work. And that means: reduce, appropriate child-friendly content-related demands and requirements, a meaningful pedagogical structure, sufficient time to practice, absolutely the materials that are really useful for such work and enough staff so that each child can be accompanied personally for at least a few minutes a day and receives individual verbal feedback.

Learning to read and write is important for first graders

We should definitely go back to taking it step-by-step. Children don't have to learn everything at once. It is completely sufficient if you only deal with copyright law when you have learned to read sufficiently well and reflectively. And when the topic is really relevant to you, because you want to put your film online as a teenager, for example. For first graders it is important to learn to read and write at all and to be able to enter a search term correctly in the correct text field.

I hope that we will have the courage to say “no” again. No, this is too early, no, this is too much, no, this is too difficult.

I hope that we will have the courage to say “no” again. No, this is too early, no, this is too much, no, this is too difficult. And to look at the children instead of trying to profile ourselves - be it as a federal state, be it as the responsible working group, be it as a teacher. Our children do not get better just because what is written on paper and what is demanded is grandiose and spectacular. The discrepancy between what is really good and meaningful for our children is growing bigger and bigger.

Not always earlier, higher, faster, further, but clearer, more concentrated and more thorough should be our motto, coherence and fit our goal and yardstick.