The Corona pandemic has gifted teachers of German as a Foreign Language in many places experiences in digital teaching from a standing start to flat out: they often have had to completely reconfigure their face-to-face teaching to completely digital teaching within a very short time, usually without appropriate prior knowledge of how to. They had to master many new tasks and were often over-challenged. Difficulties were caused by technical problems, but the greatest challenges were primarily in the field of (social ) interaction, activating and motivating the learners and the digital skills of the teacher.
How will it continue after the pandemic restrictions can be lifted, or have been lifted? Should we return as quickly as possible, and completely, to face-to-face teaching since digital teaching proved to be so challenging? That would appear neither desirable nor conceivable in a time of worldwide digitalisation of all areas of public and private life. The more sensible way would be to train teachers for the challenges, but primarily the potential of digital teaching and provide them not just with the necessary technology, but with the necessary tools to design digital teaching of German as a Foreign Language together with their learners successfully and in a way that is motivating for all. Fortunately, there is a sufficient body of knowledge from 30 years of research into e-learning, including in the area of foreign languages and thus there are also suggestions for the design of further training opportunities for teachers (see Rösler & Würffel, 2020) and catalogues of skills for developing the digital skills of learners.
What digital skills do teachers need?
What do teachers need to be able to teach successfully online? One model that is well-suited to the conception of training and further training measure for teachers in digital teaching is the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu). This was developed as a flexible guideline and as a basis for the development of further models and concept descriptions of all stakeholders (for example the relevant national and regional training institutions). The framework is aimed at teachers at all levels of education (from infant to adult education) and can be adapted to every specific education context (see Redecker & Punie, 2017: pages 9–13).
The main task of teachers is teaching and supporting the learning of learners. They should therefor (also) have skills to allow them to design their teaching using digital media, i.e., digitalise their teaching. This encompasses teachers planning the use of media in the teaching and learning process, using digital media appropriately and effectively and trying out new digital formats and methods. While this skills area has been imparted for many years in ongoing training in the use of digital media, the DigComEdu brings into focus digital partial competences in the three other areas “supporting learning”, “collaborative learning” and “self-managed learning”, that have up to now often been too little considered in teacher qualifications. Teachers should have skills for using digital media to support individual, self-managed and collaborative formats; they should also be able to design their digital teaching so that media help the learners in completing joint tasks, in interacting and in joint knowledge generation within and beyond lessons (see Redecker & Punie, 2017: page 20 et seq.).
How can skills building be supported at the school level?
The promotion of digital skills of teachers in the context of schools can be undertaken at various levels. On the micro-level, teachers can, with the support of school leaders, take organise regular exchanges of subject-specific experiences (including between different schools ) in relation to digital media. Another good route could be independent further training of teachers by providing the necessary digital resources and support (for example by experiences colleagues). On the macro-level, the development of a media concept or a media education concept is recommended. Such a concept should be worked out in discussion with all teachers and contain specific aims and actions, take subject-specific and school circumstances into account and enable sustainable promotion of digital skills.