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PATCHWORLD research Germany

Saarland University, department of information science

PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Quantitative and qualitative research The German PATCHWORLD research is based on 120 quantitative interviews with a questionnaire. This research was conducted in association with the Volkshochschule of Saarbrücken, the biggest adult education institution in the German federal state of Saarland. The final question was whether the participants would also be prepared to take part in a qualitative video interview. Thus we got contact with partners to conduct qualitative interviews. However, the readiness to take part in a video interview was very limited; a twentieth of the original participants were prepared to take part. We don’t now what types (sociologically or individually) of people declined the video interview (or what criteria have to be fulfilled to accept such an interview) and thus don’t know how significant and meaningful these interviews are.

Social selection of interview partners However, already the way we got into contact with the participants for the quantitative research meant a quite significant form of selection. As our partner in this research was an adult education institution, it was already ensured that all participants had an at least partial interest in education, continuous learning and so on. The decision to work together with an adult education institution was voluntarily and has had advantages and disadvantages. A decisive disadvantage is, of course, that we thus were not able to explore the attitudes of your ‘typical’ Germans but only to a selection that might be different in social regard, or concerning their attitudes.

PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Common basis for assessement: interest in lifelong learning However, as our research was determined by getting information in order to organize and research an applied project that is focussing on who to get families into learning, we thought that at least a certain interest in education was desirable. If you want to adapt to a certain subgroup, you’d of course have to get information on this very subgroup and not of the population as a whole. Access to information and communication technologies Another important point of the PATCHWORLD project is to get families into lifelong learning by using digital media. Thus another selection criterion was of whether the interview partners had access to, or even possess their own computer. All do use information and communication technologies Indeed, all interview partners do know and work with digital media. All of them use digital media in their private lives and contexts. Those who are in the working live – that is: all except children, housewives, retired persons – use them in their professional context as well. Applications 1 – daily usage Besides software such as text editing, all use the internet services like the web or e-mail. Anyhow, these two are the services several members of the families use together or to keep into contact with each other. However, a common utilisation of computer services is relatively scarce.

PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Attitudes What are their attitudes towards digital media, and would they be prepared to use them in the learning process? None of our interview partners is thinking media are entirely good for society and living together, but none is thinking they are necessarily and entirely bad or dangerous, either – it obviously depends on how you use them. For example, a point stressed several times: Media make you feel overwhelmed, so you have to find out what suits to you, a process that sometimes is quite difficult. One interviewee, for example, told that a close friend of his didn’t managed to find out the adequate dosage, he described his friend as ‘computer addicted’ and reported this was the reason his marriage broke. Another interview partner had the impression that a typical phenomenon with all media, the computer, but also the television set and even the book, is to cause “isolation or loneliness at close ranks”. No reduction to information and communication technologies Thus, all participants agreed that you also have to focus on other things such as your family, your friends. Learning as a social process To all people we asked learning was a social process (an observation that, however, might again have been influenced by the way we got into contact with our interview partners – we got them when taking part at class in the Volkshochschule of Saarbrücken, that is, when voluntarily having chosen a social – and traditional – way of learning).

PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Advantages and disadvantages for family life However, in this context and especially in regard to family life, media have advantages, too, as again all participants agreed upon. First, all family members (whether they are working professionally or not, whether they are male or female, or regardless their age) do have the same access not only to media themselves but therefore to literally all knowledge that exists on earth as well. So all family members can feel (more) emancipated, and have a broader common base for inter-family discussions. Media demolish hierarchies, in general, but in families as well – a point that was mentioned several times. The big disadvantage seems to be that media consume too much time that is missing elsewhere, as mentioned, also regarding your family (which obviously was the reason for the divorce described above). However, most partners we interviewed see the disadvantages outweighing the advantages Handling of information and communication technologies according to generation one belongs to An interesting observation is that obviously the elders use media with more scruples, wanting to know why things are done the way they are taught to do them. Younger participants, however, simply use what they can, obviously without the necessity nor even the interest in having to know why they have to use their computer in a specific way. This might be more efficient but does not lead to media competence. Thus, at least concerning the selected sample of the people we interviewed, we don’t have the feeling that elders have much to learn from their younger partners, at least not qualitatively (indeed, the youngers know more software or ways to do research on the internet then the elders, and do it faster – but not necessarily more sensible, reasonable, meaningful – thus in

PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

tendency the elders are slower, but seem to do their work in a more sensible, reasonable, meaningful way). Applications 2 – themes Most people use digital media to get new information (what already can be described as a kind of ‘learning’, by the way), like weather forecast. Only a minority is shopping via the net, but almost all are research on products and prices. The younger the people we asked were, the more they use digital media for entertainment, watching videos, listening to music and so on. In fact, two thirds of those we asked that were under 50 already have knowledge of computer games, whereas this can be said of less then one third of those elder than 50. Still, in our quantitative research we also had people aged 70 or older that also have had experiences like that. Summary: Handling of information and communication technologies according to generation one belongs to All in all and to a surprising extend, we have the feeling that the German research results in that there still exists a gap between youngers and elders regarding their conduct with the computer, but it’s not a big gap any more and it is more determined by the way they use the computer, not the question of whether and to how much it is used. Security and critical attitude? For example, elders not only want to know why things work as they do (what most youngsters are not so much interested in), but are also more cautious in context with the medium. Younger participants describe themselves (and are described by the elders) as in tendency (more) careless and light hearted. They know about phenomena like viruses or phishing but in their daily usage don’t so much care about this. The say they were informed about the danger of the web by their peers, their teachers, and their parents, as all parents say they have
PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

talked with their children about those problems. Parents, especially those of the post-68-generation, want their children to be ‘critical’ users, but again, for the youngers it’s just a medium to be used, not much to be thought about. Computer security system However, everyone we asked had a computer security system in place. Applications 3 – software As mentioned, there is also a gap concerning the softwares used. Younger users are as a rule more familiar with computer gaming then elders. Elders tend to see gaming as a social process that is important in the context with their families or friends, but limit this to face-to-face social situations and don’t see this possible in the computer context so much. Thus they are simply not so much interested in computer gaming. For the youngers, computer gaming to a larger extend possesses a quality of its own. Gaming, watching videos and so on are very common among youngsters. Of the elders, it is rather scarce. A certain confidence The elder interview partners all know that computer gaming has a different meaning and importance for the youngers. Actually, they all seem to accept this (which not necessarily might mean they understand it or want to take part). Thus they, at least at large, know what their kids are doing and what the games are about. Most reject violent games, but you have the interesting (and in social research quote common) phenomenon that they object them, but are sure what their own children or family members are doing with their computer don’t belong to the ‘evil’ things. So it seems to be a problem with others (other social stratums), but not with them. On the other hand, this even might be true, as our interview partners came from participants of classes in an adult education institution and thus were more probably members of the educated citizenry / bourgeoisie.
PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

No inter-generational control Thus, no-one said s/he would control what other family members have seen or used. Thus, parents – at least in the context of the people we got in our interviews – obviously never track or monitor online activities and movements of their children. Applications 4 – in the context of learning If you define research (to google, looking at wikipedia, checking the weather and so forth) as an informal kind of learning, there is literally no-one who has not yet used digital media for learning. Thus, almost all of the persons interviewed had already experienced online learning. All communicate regularly with their parents / their children with the help of media, too. Especially when they don’t live together any more (for example, we interviewed a woman that is divorced – not the person described above) media provide new possibilities for inter-family contacts. Some – but not all – elders say they are ‘pupils of their children’ sometimes, and most agree they indeed like and enjoy this fact quite a lot. This seems to be another proof that media help to make disappear inter-family or, in this case, inter-generational hierarchies. Application gaps in the context of learning On the other side, only a small percentage of our interview partners has bought educational software, and none has bought educational games. Chatrooms are seen as a medium for communication, not for education – not even in the informal sense of the word. Few parents work with their children for example to conduct research for school subjects; that’s what most kids are doing themselves. Some pupils have had online-training in context with school subjects, but never isolated from this context. There is obviously very few interaction between parents and children concerning digital media for educational reasons.
PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

Summary All in all, the results of our research suggests that German families – at least from the social stratum we gained our interview partners from – accept information and communication technologies as part of everyday life. There is a generation gap referring not so much on the time spend in front of the screen but in the way computers are used – efficiently but uncritically among youngsters, critically and questioning by elders, in respective tendency. Obviously, family life is not decisively altered by information and communication technologies, but several members of families – especially those historically ‘oppressed’ such as women and children – now gain new individual freedoms and possibilities; there, at least, is no arcane knowledge any more. Negatively, it is very often deplored that information and communication technologies cost so much time. Most (elders as well as youngsters) prefer ‘real life’ face-to-face social interaction. – Information and communication technologies are mainly used as tools of entertainment (gaming, with an obvious focus on younger users), communication (that is: social contact, used in all generations), and information seeking (also used in all generations). Learning in another than informal way is not (yet) common among those we were able to interview. Final remark: For the empirical research, as well as the summaries of all video interviews we conducted, please see the German language part in the activity report.

PATCH-WORLd – PArenTs and CHildren Working, ORganising and Learning together 135285-LLP-1-2007-1-IT-KA3-KA3MP Grant Agreement 2007- 3620/001-001 This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein