Digital education – The role of digital activities in the development of social competence and civic participation in a comparison of formal and non-formal educational contexts (DigEduVV)

As adolescents nowadays use digital technologies (especially smartphones) in both private and professional contexts almost permanently, it seems plausible that digital activities also play a major role in the development of social skills and civic participation. More concretely, we assume that a combination of learning experiences in both contexts is likely to be particularly beneficial in this regard.

Against this background, research into the impact of adolescents’ digital activities is a worth-while endeavour because of its societal importance. Moreover, there is an urgent need to ad-dress three main research gaps, especially as regards vocational education and training (VET): (1) Existing research in VET is primarily concerned with professional skills whereas the development of social skills is clearly less frequently dealt with. (2) There are hardly any valid findings concerning interrelations between digital technologies, social competence, and civic participation. (3) Formal (i.e. VET) and informal (i.e. volunteer work) educational contexts are often investigated separately, although their interplay can be assumed to be relevant for adolescents’ development and participation.

In order to draw comparisons regarding adolescents’ acquisition of social skills and their civic participation in formal and non-formal educational contexts, our study focuses on adolescents from the Swiss and the German Lake-Constance region who (a) either follow a VET program, (b) volunteer in a church, or (c) are representatives of both groups. Methodologically, we combine (i) a literature review, (ii) an online survey, and (ii) in-depth interviews. Based on the literature review, we first define and operationalize digital activities, social competence, and civic participation specifically for apprentices. Second, we analyse digital activities that adolescents perform on their smartphones in formal and non-formal contexts and investigate in an online survey how they perceive their social competence and civic participation. Third, the interview study assesses the effect of digital activities on the development of social competence and civic participation.

Duration:         September, 1 2020 – August, 31 2021

Funding:          Internationale Bodensee Hochschule

Cooperation:   Prof. Dr. Doreen Holtsch, PH St. Gallen (Project coordination)

                        Dr. Sabrina Müller, Universität Zürich

                        Prof. Dr. Thomas Schlag, Universität Zürich

Verlinkung zur Projektseite der PH St. Gallen