Will future generations be over-stimulated

Keyword: learning

Digitization and Sustainability - Student Perspectives

Relationships between sustainability and digitization have been an issue not least since the Fridays for Future movement, which also uses digital tools for internal and external communication. Our blog also dealt with the sustainability of digital projects and the question of how learning can be sustainably supported by digitization. The latter is a point that has become particularly important due to the Corona crisis. The “Bits & Trees” movement wants to make digitization more sustainable in general. The book for the conference of the same name is open access and can therefore be used sustainably. It is under the Creative Commons 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE) license. It may therefore be reproduced and not commercially redistributed provided the original source is cited.

What connections are there between sustainability and digitization?

This contribution also continues the contribution How does learning work today and tomorrow? Student perspectives on learning in the age of digitization continue with a further insight into student perspectives. For the students of the seminar “Scientific work” at the Technical University of Hamburg there was an optional possibility in the winter semester 2019/20 to deal with the following question as part of a writing task as an essay:

“Sustainability” and “digitization” - two terms that affect us all now and in the future. What connection do you see between sustainability and digitization? Which aspect or which aspects of this complex context are particularly important to you and why?

The above-mentioned different aspects of the relationship between sustainability and digitization are reflected and expanded in the following by seven elaborations courtesy of the students:

Lorenz Reichel reflects on sustainability and digitization and, among other things, relates both to scientific work but also to Fridays-for-Future.

Sustainability and digitization - opposition or symbiosis?

Lorenz Reichel

When you mention these two terms, most people will certainly think straight through their heads that this is about hot topics that shape our society and that provide a lot of material for discussion. But perhaps it is not immediately obvious why these key words are mentioned in the same breath. Is there even a connection between sustainability and digitization? If so, where is it and which aspects of the correlation are particularly exciting? This essay tries to get to the bottom of these questions. Many inevitably associate the topic of sustainability with the topics of climate and environmental protection, as these are very present in the media. And rightly so, as they represent one of the greatest challenges of our time. Of course, sustainability does not only have an ecological dimension. Political, economic or scientific aspects can also be sustainable. For example, the author of a scientific work probably claims that his work is sustainable and will still have a certain relevance and validity in the subject area in 20 years' time and will not be made irrelevant by another work the day after tomorrow. Sustainability is the requirement that an action unfolds its original effect for a longer period of time and is therefore a term that is primarily future-oriented. "Digitization" is also one of the key buzzwords of today. It enables and accelerates progress in many areas, be it in "Industry 4.0", everyday communication between people via social media or the term "Big Data" the processing of large amounts of data and information. Following on from this, a bridge can also be built to the writing of a scientific paper. Thanks to digitization, the author has a wealth of information on a topic available within a few seconds. This is a great possibility, of course, but it can also be overwhelming at times. Many people are also scared of the idea of ​​becoming "transparent people" in all areas of life through digitization, i.e. involuntarily revealing everything about themselves at some point. The fact is: Digitization not only enables progress, it is also part of it and continues to advance. And this will not change for the foreseeable future. But where is there a connection between the two terms? A very clear example here is the “Fridays for Future” movement. In a short period of time, young people from all over the world have come together and organized there. It then looks like that every Friday in countless cities around the globe, the activists demonstrate for better climate, environmental and animal protection. Your great demand is a sustainable and thus the planet-protecting way of life for all people. Social media in particular were and are like a fire accelerator for the movement. Without this, people might have organized themselves in a single city, but the spread to other cities and even countries would have taken much longer or would not have come about in the first place. In addition, social media offer the opportunity to market yourself and thus attract a lot of attention outside of the movement and away from demonstrations. Here, digitization can be understood as a tool to draw attention to the topic of sustainability. Let's call the “Fridays for Future” movement an example of digital sustainability. If there is digital sustainability, there must certainly also be sustainable digitization. Let us think of “smart homes”, for example. These digital assistants should of course make our life in our own four walls easier, less stressful and more pleasant. But our heating, lighting and technical devices should also be controlled more intelligently and thus more efficiently and contribute to a sustainable lifestyle. Of course, there are many other “Smarts”, such as “Smart Mobility”, “Smart Health” or even the vision of entire “Smart Cities”. It can be said that digitization should provide support for society in all areas of life, not just to understand sustainability as a flat phrase but to realize it as a lived ideal. In summary, it can be said that digitization and sustainability have a lot in common and, above all, the interaction of these two central terms in our society today is extremely exciting. The initial question can probably be answered in such a way that a symbiosis can create great added value and help to better master the challenges of this time.

Björn Wohltmann takes up the campaign from a smaller German party from the last federal election campaign and addresses interesting questions such as “Can everything be digitized? or "Is sustainability sustainable?"

Digitization first, sustainability second?

Bjorn Wohltmann


Out of the fog of fashionable terms that has been wafting through the depths of public debate for several years, two particularly universally instrumentalizable terms stand out. On the one hand there is the word “sustainability”. While the term by definition only describes a principle of action for the use of resources, sustainability is on the way to becoming the most important criterion in the evaluation of almost all products and actions. Sustainability is the leitmotif of many social movements, which, however, are so divided in detail that they only owe their unity among themselves to the extremely flexible interpretability of this term. Competition in the race for the filler word of the decade makes sustainability just a term whose current boom is based solely on the fact that nobody knows exactly what is meant by it. We are talking about "digitization". Digitization describes the conversion of analog data and processes in order to process and record them using information technology. At the same time, the term is the magic word of politics, religion of industry and great unknowns in the lives of many people. Digitization suggests modernity, progress, efficiency and innovation, but some people feel threatened by it more or less rightly. Wherever one of the terms occurs, the other is not far. Even if they do not have much in common at first glance, both concern most of the issues that concern our society today. This raises several questions:

Can everything be digitized?

Data science enthusiasts and FDP politicians would answer yes to this question without hesitation, and basically they are right. Modern data acquisition can be integrated anywhere, statistics can be created for everything and everything can theoretically be better controlled by a program than by a person. This transformation has long been completed in many areas of life or is already well underway, but if you see the world through the eyes of an idealist, digitization does not have to stop at the last bastions of human superiority. In some companies, artificial intelligence has long been evaluating application letters and drawing on the applicants' entire digital footprint. It has long been possible to enter your symptoms online in a mask and an algorithm spits out the allegedly most likely disease. And politicians from certain corners of the political spectrum have long been bringing care robots into play as a measure against understaffing in care homes. In doing so, they forget one thing: the disruptive human factor. If top politics in Germany weren't so outdated, one could have assumed that the relevant politicians derive their knowledge of the predictability of human needs and characteristics from computer games. Predictability is an important prerequisite for the success of digitization, and the complete predictability of people fortunately remains a wet daydream for various digital visionaries.

Is digitization sustainable?

Even assuming various idealizations, this question cannot be answered unequivocally. On the one hand, digital technology opens up unprecedented opportunities in terms of targeted micromanagement of economic processes, new research methods and increasing the quality of life of the population. There are innumerable purposes in which the use of digital technology makes sense and is even required. Agriculture, for example, is an old industry that is more strongly shaped by tradition than any other. Our German patchwork of fields that are cultivated by long-established farming families with a peasant flair with machines of museum value is beautiful to look at, but also a billion-dollar grave for EU subsidies and a nightmare for the environment. Thanks to the digital upgrade of agricultural machinery, every square meter of a field can now be precisely monitored. Fertilizers and pesticides can be applied selectively, which can reduce the pollution of the groundwater. No other area is more suitable for autonomous driving than the field. Machines could be saved through 24-hour operation. Machine data analyzes enable surprisingly precise predictions about the development of consumer behavior in the population. If European food production were to be networked, the food surplus could be drastically reduced with the help of these predictions. However, digitization does not come at an ecological zero tariff. The production of circuit boards, processors and batteries devours valuable resources of problematic origin and the network infrastructure eats up vast amounts of energy, which we currently generate to a far too large extent with technologies from the last century. The blind mania of the digitization fetishists temporarily culminated in 2017 in the fortunately short success of the digital currency Bitcoin, for whose "generation" huge data centers were built whose sole purpose was to transform resources into now worthless data garbage.

Is sustainability sustainable?

In retrospect, one of the biggest industrial fraud scandals, known by the nickname “Diesel Gate”, was the trigger for our current climate debate, which poses massive challenges for both the government and the opposition parties. One of the federal government's showcase projects is currently promoting electric cars. Under the banner of sustainability, relatively clean and, above all, already produced diesel cars are scrapped in order to burden the environment with the production emissions of a lithium-ion battery that is much too large for city traffic. This madness is driven forward out of fear of the growing demand of the population for more environmental protection on the one hand and fewer changes on the other. Because under certain circumstances an electric car is actually sustainable on its own and the fairy tale of green individual public transport can be told for a few more years.


It is true that the current average voter is reassured when climate politicians rely on technical solutions instead of the infamous Veggi Day. However, as soon as the adjective “sustainable” degenerates into a worthless seal of approval for green-painted transition technologies, we lose the chance to at least somewhat cushion the devastating effects of climate change on our lives with actual technical innovations.

Olivier Petitot asks about the potential of digitization for sustainability and also considers the ecological balance of digitization.

Sustainability and digitization

Olivier Petitot

How sustainable is digitization and how sustainable can digitization be? A difficult question that addresses a very complex and varied topic. First of all, the term digitization is clarified. The term originally stood for the conversion of analog information into digital formats (1). But what most people understand by this is digital change or digital transformation. This change brings changes in society, economy, culture, education and politics. Many processes that used to work in analog format are now digitally processed globally and in a matter of seconds. For example, correspondence is mainly e-mails instead of letters, and mass production is largely automated with machines (2). Globalization is therefore not possible or only very slow without digitization. Nowadays z. For example, a company can be divided into several locations in different countries and still function as a unit. Usually the reasons for such a division are of an economic nature, but the potential for sustainable corporate development through digitization is great. So it is possible to use the strengths of the respective country, but without violating human rights or harming nature. Frequently, however, the economy has the upper hand and sustainability aspects take a back seat. So regulations are needed that set certain frameworks in order to focus more on sustainability. The term "digital" is often associated with the saving of resources, e.g. the lower paper requirement. However, this is not generally true. Some digital processes eliminate the need to run in analog form, but all digital devices require a lot of resources to begin with. One example are servers that provide all information in the form of the Internet and store the search history. A lot of energy is used for operation and a lot of raw materials are needed to manufacture such servers and other digital devices (3). Often these raw materials are mined in developing countries under inhumane conditions. For the mining of minerals, damage to nature is often accepted, profit and economic growth dominate. However, the sustainable idea is becoming increasingly important, as we are facing the ever-increasing problem of global warming with all the consequences it has on the environment and people. The term “circular economy” is one of the approaches to use the available resources more sparingly (4). Old devices should not simply be disposed of, but should be reused or recycled in order to reuse the raw materials they contain and no further mining of raw materials is necessary for this. In conclusion, one can say that digitization has great potential for sustainability, but this is not being fully exploited. The sustainability of digitization must be brought to the fore, e.g. through rules and regulations.

1 Stefan Luber, Nico Litzel: What is digitization ?. 2019. [online document]. Available at: https://www.bigdata-insider.de/was-ist-digitalisierung-a-626489/ [accessed on November 6, 2019].
2 Companies in the age of digitization: Become a global player with labeling machines and the like. 2019. [online document].Available at: https://www.trendsderzukunft.de/unternehmen-im-zeitalter-der-digitalisierung-mit-etikettiermaschine-und-co-zum-global-player-haben/ [accessed on November 6, 2019].
3 Werner Eckert: Fact check: Life cycle assessment by search engines. 2018. [online document]. Available at: https://www.swr.de/wissen/20-jahre-google-umweltfacts-zu-suchmaschinen/-/id=253126/did=22378814/nid=253126/d2azhl/index.html [accessed on 6.11 .2019].
4 Valentin Greggersen: Thinking in cycles - the circular economy as the key to sustainable business ?. 2017. [online document]. Available at: https://reset.org/knowledge/haben-kreislaeufen-die-circular-economy-als-schluessel-fuer-nachhaltiges-wirtschaften-072 [accessed on November 6, 2019].

Joshua Höhne sheds light on the question of how the digitization of previously available analog data or analog processes can promote sustainable living. The sustainability of digital infrastructure is also questioned.

Digitization - does it bring us closer to a sustainable way of life?

Joshua Höhne

Sustainability and digitization - two topics that are receiving more attention now than ever before and which will probably continue to gain in importance in the future. Digitization itself is a very young topic, which with the invention of the computer and especially that of the Internet suddenly gained popularity and is steadily increasing in relevance. Sustainability, on the other hand, is a principle of action and business that was probably already known to the first people. The combination of both topics promises very interesting discussions and will produce important new insights for our current and future way of life. In the following, sustainability is to be understood in particular as the aspect of the use of our planet's resources. The term digitization should primarily mean digitizing analog data and processes. I consider the question of how digitization affects our sustainability efforts and whether it will improve or worsen our situation of the global resource budget as a whole, as I consider the sustainable use of our environmental resources to be the greatest challenge facing humanity at the moment. Therefore, in this essay, I will offer a few thoughts on this. The first thing that comes to mind when you mention the term “digitization” is the digitization of data that was previously available in analog form, mostly on paper. These are, for example, books, documents and other text formats, as well as photos and films. But processes such as tax returns or personal conversations can also be digitized. This saves those resources that would have been necessary for the analog existence of the data or the analog execution of the activity. For example, a lot of paper and thus wood can be saved by publishing books as e-books, sending letters and messages by e-mail and making study documents and exercise sheets digitally accessible. In this way, the global wood household could be made more sustainable, because with less paper you can get closer to the goal of only cutting as much forest as can grow back in the same period of time. Fossil fuels and pollutant emissions can also be saved: The fuel consumption of forestry is falling, as they need fewer machines due to the lower demand for wood. Letters no longer have to be delivered by post bus, ship or plane, because e-mail offers an alternative with many advantages. And face-to-face conversations can be made through (video) calls without having to travel halfway around the world. Saving fossil fuels is particularly important from a resource-sustainable point of view, as we are currently mining them much faster than they can be regenerated. However, digitization not only brings blessings in the area of ​​resource sustainability. It is essential to consider the effort with which this digital infrastructure is created and maintained. On the one hand, all the electronic and technical devices on which a digital world is based must be manufactured. Many different materials from the earth's crust are required for this, the degradation and processing of which do not always correspond to the principle of sustainability. The amount of energy required to manufacture and, above all, operate the devices is also considerable. In order to enable the high availability of the digitized data, countless servers worldwide have to be operated around the clock, and the retrieval and use of the data also requires an electronic device with power consumption. However, this electricity is currently not generated sustainably - the proportion of fossil fuels that is used to generate the huge amounts of electricity is too large. The big question is what is the current relationship between the gains and losses in the sustainability of digitization. The long-term goal must be to make the maintenance of a digital world so resource-efficient that the above-mentioned advantages of digitization can really be enjoyed without making a bottom-line minus in terms of sustainability. If we succeed in this, humanity can come one step closer to sustainable life on this planet.

Fynn Pieper links the description of socio-economic aspects of digitization with the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

Digitization vs. sustainability - how can digital progress be reconciled with foresight?

Fynn Pieper

Digitization is the abstraction of the physical things and processes that surround us for the purpose of simplifying, structuring and ultimately using the recorded data. The design of this process is one of the most controversial issues of our time, not only in terms of technical implementation, but also on a socio-economic level. Attempts were made at an early stage to clarify the role of technology and the digital world for social change and individual development. Although the main interests in research are of a different origin, there is still no contradiction! Digitization can very well even promote social progress. However, the past has also shown that new technologies without regulation, critical discussion of the risks and without democratic control often lead to more or new social problems. It is therefore not without reason that data protection is one of the most important public interests of the 21st century. According to a survey by the anti-virus program McAfee, over 40% of people worldwide do not feel able to control their personal data independently. If digitization is really to be an element of major social change, it must be sustainable, fair and transparent for everyone. Against this background, 193 countries have agreed on 17 sustainable development goals. The delegates of these nations signed an ambitious agenda in 2015, which should lead to a better quality of life for future generations within 15 years. However, this process has only just begun: the implementation requires a dialogue with many different interest groups in order to ultimately achieve the development goals. This is especially true with regard to the most recent steps towards the realization of sustainability: Contrary to general expectations, there have been no groundbreaking results. Despite multiple efforts in developing and industrialized countries, none of the member states of the United Nations has yet achieved all of the stated goals, so that the call to intensify engagement and research into solution strategies remains open. A concrete way to solve the long-term ecological problems is not yet in sight. But so that the prospect of this is not blocked, we have to act today and take all interests into account when digitizing our environment. The aspired goal of mankind must be to secure its own needs without restricting future generations in being able to meet their own needs.

Kevin Malz links the concepts of sustainability and digitization with the terms communication, information and knowledge. All three have and will continue to change through the concepts listed. The author connects the topic with consumption and emphasizes that the positive aspects of digitization in the field of academic work and education outweigh the negative aspects.

Our Planet - Can We Save It? An essay on sustainability and digitization

Kevin Malt

Every day today we encounter the topic of the environment and, connected to it, the topic of sustainability. Everyone interprets this term a little more individually and everyone acts at his own discretion as sustainably as it seems possible for one. But what can we achieve with sustainability? Is there a chance to keep our blue and green planet alive with our consumption-oriented way of life? Can digitization help us? For every human being, the raging climate change will mean that he will have to deal with sustainability. Laws and new regulations will restrict our actions and try to reduce private emissions. But that is only a small part of the cake and a much larger part of it is industrialization and therefore also digitization for the immense cost reduction of the processes of large companies. My first thought on the subject of digitization is the amount of paper saved by switching to electronic communication. No more letters, faxes or the hassle of sending large letters back and forth. All of this is saved and ensures a massive reduction in paper consumption and thus protects our forests on our green planet. But in addition to environmental influences, digitization also has an impact on our daily life. It simplifies our entire everyday life. Information can be called up everywhere and this saves us an enormous amount of time in accessing various information. The selection and the targeted search for information is also simplified. But is that an advantage? The simplification suggests to people that there is no longer any need to be diligent to get information. Everything is publicly available and can be used around the clock. Apart from the topic of knowledge, digitization has also fundamentally changed the consumption of the Internet and the networking of mankind. The internet has changed people's behavior in every way. It affects the economy, jobs and also the environment. Small local businesses are being displaced by large corporations like Amazon, as they cannot keep up with the prices of a billion-dollar group due to the lack of price adjustment. This means that more and more people prefer to order goods via the Internet. The reasons for this are convenience and lower prices, as well as a 14-day right of withdrawal, which does not exist in normal trade. At the end of the year, the media reports on how many millions of parcels are being sent, strikes break out because underpaid shift workers in shipping companies have to work under poor conditions. But what is the price in the end? The above arguments clearly show that digitization has both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, it ensures that all people have access to information that they can use for their own research, school purposes or their own interests. But also for the fact that people gain convenience and use digitization as a simple medium and rely on it. In terms of environmental reasons, digitization ensures that countless tons of paper are saved at one end, but at the same time ensures that an enormous amount of emissions is generated by other consequences of digitization. In the end, in my opinion, digitization is a very positive human achievement. Mainly through the simplification of many processes and the resulting possibilities. In the end, however, you have to weigh up which aspects of digitization are those that people should continue to pursue, because mass online consumption is anything but a positive achievement, as it only results in negative burdens for people, the climate and the environment. So can we save our planet? Digitization alone is not responsible for this, there is much more to it. For me, the most important connection is the aspect of climate change. In relation to scientific work, we have to use it to be able to implement advances in science more quickly, as well as for the simple dissemination of written knowledge. I am convinced that many people have had the barrier to their own education taken away and that many people have been given education in the first place. Digitization therefore has enormous advantages, which in my opinion outweigh the negative. However, one should keep an eye on the negative consequences, because with digitization we have a tool that can help us in every way, but only if we use it correctly.

Sinan Özyilmaz questions today's consumer behavior against the background of digitization and sustainability.

Consumer society

Sinan Özyilmaz

Order at the push of a button and have a coffee at home. Digitization makes it possible for everyone to order a few things online. Be it any kind of clothing, electronics or even food. How does such behavior affect the environment? How does this comfortable behavior harm the environment? Are there sustainable alternatives that are better for our environment? Digitization changed the generation. Young people in particular, who grow up with this technical progress, are particularly affected by it. These changes are not only to be considered technically, but the effects go deeper and influence our behavior patterns. The possibilities that arise through digitization promote convenience behavior. After a long and hard day at work, most people don't want to run to the store again to do some shopping or errands. Most of the time you are exhausted and tired. In addition, the shops are not even in the immediate vicinity. So it is practical that the new technology available makes it possible to easily and conveniently order items online in various shops. Clothing is eagerly ordered on the Internet, and if it doesn't fit or looks good, it is simply sent back. Free returns! This is used by providers to advertise. The orders are starting to increase and the return rates are increasing accordingly. What about grocery shopping after work? Grocery shopping on the Internet is also popular. Groceries are packed and dispatched. The motto is time saving for the buyer at the expense of the environment. Most people are certainly less concerned about how the packages get to them. This is suddenly in front of the door with a postman attached. Among other things, there is a downside to this. The increasing online trade due to digitization, however, promotes an increased transport volume. On the one hand, it is crucial whether the goods are bought one after the other or placed in one order. Usually, an order does not mean that everything will be sent in one package. This increasing transport has a direct impact on our environment via the CO2 emission values. Because rising emissions support global warming. On the other hand, the question arises as to whether the majority of people would normally have done their shopping by car or other alternatives. If everyone buys by car, then transporting the goods is a good idea. Transport would actually reduce emissions because fewer people would have to drive. However, the situation is different. Many young people in the city do not have enough income to afford a car or simply do not need a car within the city. Thus, it tends to lead to increased CO2 emissions due to the large number of transports. Furthermore, the connection in the city with public transport is very well developed in some cities. In addition, cycling will also be made more attractive for people and will keep us fit through exercise. With these two aspects, several people can reach their destination in a more environmentally friendly way. These arguments rather speak in favor of a greater burden due to an excess of transport volumes. In addition, there are those returned clothing items that would not have been created through conventional shopping because they can be tried on in the store and tested on site. These transport trips then add up. One advantage of digitization that can be used sustainably is in the form of second-hand products. No further new product will be created, but existing products will be sold / given away. This can also be done in the immediate vicinity through online portals. For example, footpaths and cycle paths could be used to pass these goods on from person to person in a sustainable manner. There is also a large community of interested parties.Digitization offers tempting opportunities to conveniently order things online. This is simply because it is quick, relaxed and possible from home. This temptation to be able to order something online, however, leads to an increasing volume of transport, which happens at the expense of our environment and supports global warming. A general rethinking about environmentally friendly means of transport not only keeps you fit, but also lowers CO2 emissions, an important parameter for sustainability on our planet. In addition, when buying clothing and other second-hand products, you should pay more attention before making the next purchase towards a new product.


How does learning work today and tomorrow? Student perspectives on learning in the age of digitization

Digitization has an impact on almost every area of ​​our life. While many people rub the sleep out of their eyes early in the morning, the hand almost automatically feels for the smartphone on the bedside table. A quick look at Instagram. Read the news on Twitter. Send texts on WhatsApp. A time without smart electronics is hardly imaginable these days. In addition to technical progress, networking is playing an increasingly important role. Teaching and learning are also constantly changing. Online platforms offer multimedia learning material for self-study. More and more people are discovering video platforms like YouTube for targeted learning. The latest trend from South Korea: Gongbang (translated: learning program or learning aid). These videos show people learning - usually for hours. Viewers watch, among other things, to motivate themselves to learn. Basically, it is a “virtual” replacement for learning groups.

Cultural and educational institutions keep asking and discussing what university teaching of the future might look like. For example, the Horizon Report 2019 was devoted to the short, medium and long-term trends and challenges in university teaching from the point of view of technical experts. The German Initiative for Network Information (DINI) took a different approach. DINI is an association of information infrastructure facilities at universities and other research facilities such as libraries, media and computer centers, which gave students the opportunity to have their say in the student competition “Learning 4.0 - Design your learning space”. What should a university offer for learning? Which forms of communication help in physical and virtual learning spaces and which innovative learning concepts promote individual learning success? Answers to this were provided by the three award-winning contributions "Learning in Makerspace 4.0 - thinking about the digitization of the university together"(Online community),"Nina Normal and Bob know-it-alls in the future"(Digital assistance) and"BibBuddies - learn to be happy“(Identification of learning partners).

For the students of the seminar “Scientific work” at the Technical University of Hamburg there was an optional opportunity in the summer semester 2019 to deal with the topic of learning and teaching in the age of digitization. In the following, four elaborations can be viewed with the kind permission of the students:

In her essay “Digital Tools”, Lilian Gabel deals with her individual challenges in everyday learning and the role that digital tools play in this context.

Digital Tools - Curse or Blessing (An Essay)

by Lilian Gabel

Learn as much as possible - in the shortest possible time. Learn as effectively as possible - with as little effort as possible. Efficiency and focus are high on the agenda when I sit in the university library. I always have my laptop with me, on which I watch a recorded lecture in the student forum, which I unfortunately missed because I was busy with another university project at the time. At the same time, I summarize notes from today's lectures and save them digitally and now and then type in terms into Google that I don't know. Thanks to the dual window, multitasking is no longer uncommon. And even though I have so much to do and so busy, my thoughts wander every now and then. Taking a look at the mobile phone that is always next to me - ready to use - seems very tempting. Meanwhile, a notification pops up on my laptop screen: another new email. Should i open it? Is it something urgent? A notification about a canceled lecture or a message from a fellow student regarding a group work currently in progress? Or maybe a message from work? Should I let myself be distracted from my current job because it might be so important after all?

Some days of learning actually go like this, although this shouldn't be a prime example. Due to the ever advancing digitization and the wide range of digital tools, the gateway to science is open to us students today - for example in the form of the Internet. However, caution is advised here. The anonymity in the World Wide Web often goes hand in hand with poorly founded knowledge, which does not necessarily have to be evident. Likewise, one should beware of treacherous distractions at the computer. As helpful as the search engines can be, it is not uncommon for you to go astray in your learning process that leads you straight to an interesting YouTube tutorial. This has opened the downward spiral of procrastination.

Now this is also a bit exaggerated. Of course, there are not only traps of procrastination hidden behind the Internet. My generation grew up with natural access to online encyclopedias and co. I have been doing presentations for school since the fifth grade with the help of digital tools and digital knowledge sources. For me they are an integral part of learning and also of my everyday life as far as I can remember. You have become indispensable. Research based solely on literature? This is a rarity for me, I admit that. I think that in my generation I am not alone in this either. I fondly remember the guidelines at school that were set by the teachers when it came to researching: “Please use at least three sources of literature! And no Wikipedia! ”The internet sources have never posed a problem for us, Generation Y. Literature research was reluctant at that age.

Digitization - is it a curse or a blessing? Personally, I grew up “digitally” for the largest, if not the greatest, part of my life. So I don't have much choice but to call digitization a blessing. In a sense, I experience digital opportunities as an immense advantage in learning. You get quick access to a wide range of knowledge, videos, experiences and ideas. You just have to know how to filter them and how to use them. In addition, digital means of communication facilitate a quick current exchange with fellow students and enable reflective cooperation in the form of forum discussions. Organizationally, a lot can also be done online. I always have everything with me at university and on one single device. I can easily access knowledge from previous semesters, change files and save them again. A look at scanned formulas also helps me today with modules in the higher semester. From this point of view, I always have an individual hodgepodge of science with me in my unit bag - just stupid if the battery of my laptop gives up the ghost and I don't have the charging cable with me. Then you are really lost.

As a student, these opportunities mean a flood of information for me. The goal is usually to have everything compactly at a glance. To filter, prioritize and simplify. Manage appointments, deadlines and events as cleverly as possible. My digital calendar is usually full. The quick and good organization also means that you sometimes take over. Taking on too much. And it is not uncommon for ideas and creativity to fall by the wayside. Nowadays everything goes faster and faster, you have to function and meet deadlines. Juggle several projects at the same time and acquire knowledge in the shortest possible time.

I wonder when I last had a good book on hand or when I just give my thoughts free rein and free time. Don't think about this or that deadline or exam, but let your thoughts wander. In my opinion, there is a reason why I have the best ideas when I am waiting on the platform with an empty battery on my mobile phone or standing in the shower. If you are not necessarily exposed to digitization, ingenuity and curiosity increase. And that, in my opinion, creates knowledge. For me this is science. Namely, to create ideas and ideas yourself, instead of over-stimulating the senses through an oversupply of specialist knowledge on the Internet.

I think a large part of learning should be these free trains of thought. In science, which is limited to my study life, this is of course not always the case. Because if you don't want to reinvent the wheel, but have to prove the same formula for the tenth time for the next math exam, that doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with creativity and inventiveness. That said, it can be very refreshing to take a pen in one hand and a piece of paper in the other and just start writing on it or doing math - regardless of mistakes.

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In “Moving with the Times - Digital Learning at the University”, Lars Albertsen describes his ideas on how universities could use digital tools and applications even more effectively to improve university teaching.

Moving with the times - digital learning at the university

by Lars Albertsen

Digital tools are finding their way into our lives more and more. They are also indispensable at universities. For many students, they make everyday learning much easier and also offer a good opportunity to attend lectures or seminars from home. However, the possibilities for using these digital tools on campus could still be improved.

Long journeys by train or car, the problem that students have to commute between two universities, often means that it is not possible to be there on time or to attend some lectures at all. In such cases, digital tools could be very useful, e.g. the university provides specially equipped tablets or laptops on which a program is installed that every course participant has direct access to. The point is not simply to download a script, but rather that questions relevant to the exam are discussed there, and direct suggestions or suggestions for improvement can be made immediately after the event. Here students can also enter directly with each other what they consider important or unimportant.

It would also be helpful to have the exam-relevant lecture content briefly filmed with a digital camera and then upload it directly so that the students have access to these topics at any time.

For students who would like to watch the entire lecture later, a live stream might even be useful. You could have direct access to exercises that you can then work on and discuss together.

Furthermore, this program should also be offered as an app. You can create a small catalog of questions for the respective lecture, which you can then edit with your smartphone and receive direct feedback.

Because the library is often completely overcrowded or you want to work in a group, well-equipped study rooms would be very helpful. In these rooms there are whiteboards or even smartboards that you can work with together. But even if you are alone you should be able to use your laptop in such rooms.

Internet / Intranet must be available and it is best to have access to the online library. These rooms then not only have chairs and tables, but also cozy sitting areas with sofas for relaxed learning, especially during long breaks between two events.

Another suggestion specifically concerns the Technical University and the University of Hamburg, in order to make studying here more pleasant and easier.

It would make sense if the two universities worked more closely together. This would also include a common Internet platform, as it takes a lot of time to get used to all the different platforms. In addition, when choosing courses or registering for the exam, it would be easier to see directly whether there is any overlap. Even if this is not a direct suggestion for better learning, it would make this study easier.

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