How do I move safely on the net? How do I recognize a fake profile? How do I judge online communication, how do I distinguish real news from fake news? What is a Meme? Where do I reveal too much of my private life and become a potential victim of identity theft? These are all questions of digital competence to which children and young people should have an answer. This makes them strong and resistant to the dangers of the internet and prepares them for their professional future. So far, however, digital competence is neither a teaching subject nor part of teacher training in Germany. TÜV Rheinland Academy in Germany is changing this – for example as a partner of DigiCamps. The resonance is unprecedented and has in the meantime the format of a movement, better said in the net speech: DigiCamps goes viral. The aim is to enable the specialists and managers of tomorrow to develop safely and healthily and to start here as early as possible: with schools and teachers.
2017 was the start of “DigiCamps – Life in Balance.” Since then, a republic-wide series has emerged that provides students, teachers, and parents with orientation on the World Wide Web. To provide didactically and pedagogically valuable information about the opportunities and risks of using the internet the social enterprise BG 3000 Service GmbH, the health insurance BARMER and TÜV Rheinland Academy Germany developed smart camps, teacher camps, trainee camps, and DigiCamps. Barmer is sponsoring the initiative, TÜV Rheinland Academy is one of the leading competence developers on board as part of the digital transformation. The primary motivation is that the acquisition of digital competence has to start early. Today and even more in the future, it belongs to the essential teaching contents such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Parents and teachers must not be left alone with this task.
Optimizing the digital competence
A DigiCamp lasts three days and has a modular structure. It is aimed at students, mainly middle school students, teachers, and parents. In interactive workshops, they learn the safe and above all good use of digital media. The trainer teams consist of media educators, psychologists, nutrition and fitness experts and, above all, well-known social media influencers. Together, the participants deal with all facets of internet use and valuable digital competence. Questions about the functioning of Snapchat, Instagram, etc. are dealt with. The participants deal with the individual challenge of how to optimize their online self. They learn how to recognize addictive behavior in themselves and others and how to handle digital stress. By dealing with their usage patterns and without moral forefinger, the DigiCamps provide recommendations and orientation. Social media and mobile devices are part of life, but good use of them needs to be learned.
Hackers create “aha” effects
The DigiCamps start with impressive demonstrations that IT security specialists prepare according to age. With live hacking experiments, adults and teenagers will experience how quickly an e-mail account with weak passwords can be hacked. They are amazed when they experience the consequences of a travel ticket posted on Facebook and a thumbs up. A thumb recorded with an ordinary smartphone camera can be used to manipulate the fingerprint sensor on a mobile device. These “aha” effects about an unconsidered posting of personal information have a healing effect. Those who have participated in the DigiCamp will use their newly acquired digital competence and at least question their user behavior and ultimately change it.
Digital competences are also taught in the best sense of the word by social media giants at the DigiCamps, who have tens of thousands of subscribers on Instagram or YouTube. For example, Irina Engelke (287,000 followers) and Laura Grosch (132,000 followers) report on their Instagram channels during the DigiCamps. Sebastian Meichsner from Bullshit TV, among others, will talk about their YouTube projects with over 1.8 million followers.
Influencers of this kind, who are still in adolescence themselves, inform their peers about the mechanisms of action of these popular platforms. In the workshops, they appeal to their practical experience to use their minds in dealing with social media. Under their guidance and accompanied by pedagogues, the participants on the second and third day create their videos, create blogs, or other digital formats. They also deal with conditions of production and reception. In this way, children and young people learn playfully and concretely how to deal responsibly with these media.
Great interest in the digital competence format also from third parties
By the end of 2019, DigiCamps should have taken place in at least 100 schools. The objective of the project is that the teaching staff will then be able to offer their own teaching formats for digital competence in their schools with the extensive teaching materials of the initiative. In the meantime, word of success has spread, and the unique role played by TÜV Rheinland Academy in the interdisciplinary project has become known. Further organizations in Germany and Switzerland are interested in the realization of DigiCamps at schools and with education providers.