‘Digitalization’ is a term and concept that foregrounds the transformation of formerly analogue, physical signs into discrete digital signals and electronic bits whenever content is presented, represented, communicated or ‘shared’ – one of the standard practices of digital communication.
Since in the domain of teaching and learning languages, communicating content between interlocutors in given situations and interactions is the core of language use and of all language learning, digital types and forms of communication that are inherent to the utterance itself and the digital environments in which digital communication occurs are, of course, our prime concern.
In terms of Bildung and the purposes and goals of school education, digitalization can be regarded as a cause, but also as a result of, complex global economic, cultural and personal exchange processes, including migration.
All of these processes have seen (and are still undergoing) fundamental changes which can briefly be summarized as globalization, the multiplication and individualization of cultural, ethical or religious orientations, the multiplication of textual information and presentation (hyper¬textu¬alization), the pluralization and the acceleration of the distribution of information, and the use of a large variety of modes in acts of representation and communication, with visual, diagrammatic or cartographic languages among them.
Digital education (‘digitale Bildung’) must therefore be conceived as part of a larger pedagogical framework that draws upon social, cultural and societal changes, processes, and conditions in which all of us live and which the younger generation must be able to actively design and create (‘designing social futures’; cf. The New London Group’s multiliteracies pedagogy; also cf. BMBF 2016: 6).
Levels of digitalization
In light of the previous remarks, it seems advisable to define as clearly as possible the aspects or phenomena that we mean to address whenever we talk about ‘digitalization’; and these are, of course, not limited to the classroom itself (in terms of ‘assisting or ‘enhancing’ learning).
Instead, first and foremost digitalization concerns fundamental cultural and communicative practices that must be integrated into language learning, and the English language in particular as a global language and as the language of worldwide communication via the Internet (in which most learners already participate actively in their everyday lives, e.g. youtubing, gaming etc.).
For pedagogical discourses on digitalization, I propose to distinguish between the following six levels:
- The digitalization of information, representation and communication in the lifeworld
- From the ‘old’ four skills to multiple literacies
- The digitalization of classroom technologies
- The digitalization of language learning
- The digitalization of classroom communication and discourse
- Reflections and discourses on digitalization
To a good extent, the headings for these levels (or dimensions) are self-explanatory. But, of course, they have been created to be able to define more clearly, to describe neatly and to initiate discourses on which aspect of digitalization we are discussing, what it precisely is that we want to develop further and in which direction we would like to go.
The essay that is available as a download tries to delimit these levels in an attempt to emphasize that digitalization is not so much about technologies, but rather how we will and would like to live and communicate in a world that is largely digitalized.What’s a digital classroom, 2018 (PDF, 6 S.)