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DATAFIED – First Results presented at two Research Colloquia

In November 2020 and February 2021, Dr. Juliane Jarke and Irina Zakharova presented the first results from TP2 of the DATAFIED research project. They reflected first at the Colloquium Social Research of the University of Lucerne and then at the Research Colloquium of the Center for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI) on the methodological approaches to researching data flows in educational organizations.

At the heart of these methodological reflections is the further development of the approach of “data journeys” – data journeys already used in the sociology of science and the natural sciences (Bates et al., 2016; Leonelli 2014, 2020). For example, data journeys are used to track the movement of climate data from a meteorological sensor to global financial market institutions (Bates et al., 2016). The DATAFIED research team is examining the data that moves within schools and between schools and departments of education. The focus is on school management systems. In doing so, the concept of a data journey presents how data changes along the way, how paths of data open and close during the journey, and by what social and organizational conditions data movements are driven.

Both talks explored the data journeys approach and its benefits and challenges for educational research. The presentation slides of both talks can be found on the ifib website under publications. In the coming months, TP2 will continue to work on data journeys together with the other projects from the DATAFIED network. Thus, using the example of the researched federal states, it will be shown how school data, which originate e.g. in a school office room, move on and evolve to the education statistics of the federal states.

DTAFIED: Virtual Joint Meeting – What’s next in 2021?

a screenshot form the virtual joint meeting

We are slowly developing a routine in the virtual execution of our joint meeting. Unfortunately, due to corona, we were again unable to meet in person. Nonetheless the mood was still good.

On Wednesday, 11.11.2020, we first met to discuss the current status of the four subprojects. Additionally each subproject had brought something to the discussion. From a basic text on “Changes in School Management and Supervision” to “Methods of Walktrough for the Analysis of learning Software” and the examination of individual transcript extracts from classroom observations, everything was included. Once again, the interdisciplinary nature of the project team proved to be a strength: the different professional perspectives gave rise to exciting discussions and further bi- and trilateral meetings were arranged for further in-depth study.

The second day of the joint meeting on Thursday, 12.11.2020, was dedicated to the question “What is the future of DATAFIED in 2021?”. In particular the numerous school closures and the still tense situation in the schools pose great problems for our data collection. Together, various strategies were discussed and a plan for the coming six months was developed.

More concretely, the form of presentation of the results was also discussed. Our scientific coordinator, Dr. Annekatrin Bock, had prepared different book versions which we could use to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of publishing the results in German or English. We also discussed the transfer of the project results to our practice partners. We do not only want to prepare our results for science, but especially care to give the (participating) schools something back and to be able taking it with them for their daily work.

We hope to be able to carry out the still open data collection in the near future and are looking forward to working more closely together to analyze the collected material beyond the boundaries of our subprojects. Pitches on possible book chapters are planned for our next joint meeting.

Digital Education in the US and Germany: Promises and Challenges

On October 21st, Andreas Breiter as head of the DATAFIED project took part in an international panel discussion on the future of digital education. It was organized by the German Embassy in Washington, the German Consulate General in San Francisco and the German Center for Research and Innovation and Innovation (DWIH) New York. He discussed current developments in both countries as well as chances and risks with four other experts: Barbara Holzapfel (VP Microsoft Education), Maureen McLaughlin (Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Director of International Affairs, U.S. Department of Education)

Prof. Dr. Christoph Meinel (CEO and Scientific Director, Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering (HPI)).

His main statement was a déja-vu. 20 years ago, he collected data for his PhD research project in U.S. states (CA, MA, IL) and districts as well as in schools. This was compared to the German school system. The first result was the different speed of ICT and media integration in classroom practices and school management, as well as in educational policies (Breiter 2000). The “connector” between school development, district decisions and state policy making was the then called “Technology Plan”.  It was mainly pedagogical and defined the requirements for ICT infrastructure. In the U.S., a Technology Plan was required from each school, each corresponding school district, and the Department of Education of each State. Even on the federal level (as powerless as in Germany), there was and is a Federal Technology Plan (currently open for revision in an online consultation process: In Germany, the necessity of planning for education ICT infrastructure was  neglected for quite a long time. As late as of 2018, the new DigitalPakt Schule made it a prerequisite for schools (and Schultraeger, ie. school districts) to receive funding.   

The second result was the necessity of federal engagement. Already in 1996, the U.S government launched an infrastructure support program under the Telecommunications Act: the e-Rate. Until now it supports especially poorer districts (and schools) to improve their ICT infrastructure and it is worth more than $2.5 billion (per year, approx. 100,000 public schools). Germany started two years ago in 2019 with a 5-year program (DigitalPakt Schule) with overall 5 billion Euros (approx. 40,000 schools). Better later than never!

But this is only the tip of the iceberg when we look at the digital transformation of schooling. ICT infrastructure and mobile devices are relatively easy to purchase and to roll-out (just a question of money and political will – and professional ICT support structures). But substantial changes in curriculum and classroom practice require a long breath and are part of a school development process. At the bottom of the iceberg, there has to be teacher’s values and beliefs considered (check Welling et al. 2015). This requires intelligent teacher training and teacher education. And in this respect, the two countries face similar challenges. Hence, it is worth exchanging good practices and working policies between the countries. In fact, the school systems are more similar than one might think.

DATAFIED at the Congress of the German Sociological Association

Yesterday (22.09.2020) Juliane Jarke from SP2 and Vtio Dabisch (SP1) jointly presented first results of the two subprojects at this year’s congress of the German Sociological Association. Her presentation was the first of four papers presented by an ad hoc group on the digitization of education. Vito Dabisch’s presentation focused on the increasing production and usage of data for school management by school supervision. He noted that there is an increasing expansion and compression of data and data practices. In this context, the simultaneous data criticism and data orientation of the interviewed actors was striking: School councils are partly (very) skeptical about how helpful data-based control is, but on the other hand more and more data is used in institutionalized discussions. Schools are encouraged to “see” themselves through “their” data and to work with this data.
Juliane Jarke’s presentation concentrated on how school as an organization is changing through digitization and datafication and how this change can be researched.She presented various research artifacts from TP2 that allow to analyze data flows and show how schools (re)position themselves to their environment and how boundaries of their organization, tasks or members are renegotiated.
The slides to the presentation can be found here.

DATAFIED. First DataSession for a joint evaluation

Data session! This sounds like “Jam session” and to a certain extent it is. Together we look at our research data, interpret and consider whether a (dys)harmonic “picture” emerges. In mid-September, the four DATAFIED subprojects met for a joint data evaluation and discussed possible evaluation intersections with regard to the interview excerpts collected in the research field. The data session is the prelude to a series of reconstructive to qualitatively interpretive evaluation sessions, which will result in a book by the end of next year, where we will present the DATAFIED results for public discussion.

Picture from: <a href=””>Business vector created by katemangostar –</a>

DATAFIED represented on the 4S / EASST 2020 Convention in “virPrague”

A screenshot of the presentation by Irina Zakharova and Dr. Juliane Jarke, other participants were made unrecognizable with “stickers”.

From August 18 to 21, the joint conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology and the international Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) took place. Due to the Corona Pandemic, the conference was moved from the Czech capital Prague to “virPrague” and was held digitally. Whether the “vir” stands for “virus” or “virtual” was left open by the organizers. Despite the restrictions due to the pandemic, the organizers quickly created a digital infrastructure combining the classical lectures with the possibilities of digital communication and giving the participants a feeling of community.

The theme of the conference – “Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerigng worlds” – focused on the situated nature of the actions of different human and more-than-human actors in the datafied world. In numerous panel discussions, the impact of the corona pandemic on social practices and the role of data, algorithms and information systems in this process were also critically discussed.

As part of TP2 at ifib, Irina Zakharova and Juliane Jarke presented results from the ongoing DATAFIED project in the panel “Crafting critical methodologies in computing: Theories, Practices and Future Directions”. Their presentation was entitled “Software-as-a-Process: Reflection of Discourse-, Map-, and Process-based Research Artifacts” and reflected methodological considerations for the study of information systems.

The authors referred to feminist epistemologies (e.g. Puig de la Bellacasa 2011, 2017, Mol 2002) as a basis for understanding the “fluid”, ever-changing processes in information systems. The aim was to explore how the concepts of care-work and the application of different research artifacts (interview transcripts, maps and process models) help to explore the collaboration of school information systems and the many actors involved in the digitized school as an ongoing, continuous, emotional relationship. In this context, after Puig de la Bellacasa (2017), care work was understood as an affective state, work and ethical-political obligation. Thus, the authors used empirical examples to show how school information systems enable or restrict certain practices of care work. When practices of care work are narrowed down in one place, alternative spaces open up in which both human and more-than-human actors participate together in care work. Moreover, the care of multi-ethnic actors, such as digital data, is one of the practices required by school information systems to successfully implement the educational mission of the digital school.

As an overall result of the panel, the organizers and discussants have agreed to a follow-up meeting in September to further reflect together on critical methodologies and their role in information systems research.

Sixth joint meeting of DATAFIED – again in digital form

A return to normality is not yet foreseeable in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so the second joint meeting this year was again realized virtually via the conference platform Zoom instead of a meeting in Hamburg. It took place from June 29th to July 1st and was characterized by a good and target-oriented exchange between the participating scientists.
On the first day, previous results were summarised and the first results of analyses and ideas for publications were shared via video conference. The good exchange produced further ideas for synergies between the subprojects, which are now being pursued further.

On the second day various possibilities for the distribution of results were discussed. In addition to the scientific community, the practical partners should also learn what DATAFIED has found out. It is a special concern of ours to “give something back”.

In the second part of the second day the participants concentrated on the consequences of the corona crisis on the DATAFIED project. In all four federal states investigated, schools were closed for several weeks, making it difficult to conduct research on site. Other contacts outside the school also had a different focus at first, and interviews – especially on site – were not possible. Various scenarios were discussed and possibilities examined to compensate for the loss of time.

On the third and last day of the joint meeting, the focus was on the doctoral students. Topics like time management and workload were discussed in the PhD slot of the DATAFIED joint meeting at Wednesday.
In the virtual “bring your own coffee cup” BYOCC format, the five PhDs, Ben Mayer, Vito Dabisch, Tjark Raabe, Jasmin Tröger and Irina Zakharova, discussed with the research coordinator, Annekatrin Bock, the big and small challenges of working in an interdisciplinary joint project during the COVID-19 epidemic. How does field research work without a field? How do you find intersections with collaborative projects when your own results still have to be sorted? How is a dissertation written in three years and what comes after that? The participants hope for a personal meeting in October 2020, then again with analogue coffee cups!

Even if a meeting in persona would certainly have been richer, we were able to clarify important topics and gain new impulses.

Speculative Fiction as a method of investigation: Prof. Dr. Felicitas Macgilchrist presents paper at the University of Utrecht

Screenshot of the seminar “Transmissions in Motion” at the University of Utrecht

What will school look like in 2040? Which socio-technical assemblages will be shaped? How will learners be addressed as subjects?

Prof. Dr. Felicitas Macgilchrist poses these questions in her paperStudents and society in the 2020s. Three futurehistoriesof education and technology“, which she wrote together with Heidrun Allert and Anne Bruch and which she reported on in the seminarTransmissions in Motion” at the University of Utrecht. In theirSocial Science Fictionpaper the authors formulate three different versions of the future 

In the first, learners become so-called “smooth userswho optimize themselves in the pursuit of frictionless efficiency within a post-democratic framework created by large corporations. Because the 2020s had to respond to digitisation and its challenges, education was “smoothedby technological support, entrepreneurs and tech companies became government advisors, decisions were made behind closed doors, and schools became dependent on companies. Educational software was designed to be particularly user-friendly, smooth and groundbreaking, making students less independent, especially in non-cognitive learning dimensions, and their self-optimization became the key process 

The second vision predicts learners as “digital nomads” who seek freedom, individualism, and aesthetic pleasure as solopreneurs, who exploit state regulation and algorithmic rules as they dive deep into a capitalist new economy. In the 2020s, these nomads lived in countries with a low cost of living, but worked in high-wage countries. Through an understanding of algorithms and an authentic, independent entrepreneurial identity, they built their own brand, earned a lot of money by doing so, partly because they avoided government regulations such as taxes, and educated their children online and/or at home. The technical support for their holistic lifestyle was mainly provided by techniques such as life/bio-hacking and the data monopolies of big tech giants manifested themselves. 

In the third vision, learners are participatory, democratic, ecologically aware people, embedded in a “collective capacity to act”, who see institutions as spaces for research into fairer ways of life. In the 2020s it was realized that capitalism had a bad impact on social justice, environment, and independence. Privacy by Design became mandatory for educational software in the EU, OER and Open Source were promoted and established, students learned in hackathons to modify and develop software, and data activism as well as democratic, environmentally conscious responsibility were trained. 

The three visions emerged from the analysis of current educational discourses and developments. In this critical, discourse-theoretical research approach, the focus was primarily on processes of subjectivation. The approach also offers several access points for the following research questions, since a speculative approach in (ethnographic) research can help to better perceive relevant events or ruptures and to recognize new objects of interest.    

Macgilchrist mentions datafication as one such object example in the TiM seminar podcast. Here, a speculative research design could be used to analyze the tracking of learners, the capitalistic use of (learning) data, and example projects that emphasize data justice. In their forthcoming paper on predictive analytics, Felicitas Macgilchrist and Juliane Jarke from the DATAFIED project, for example, focus on a program that reports students whose transfer is at risk. One area of this software is “social learningas a predictive factor. Here, the software tracks which learners communicate particularly frequently with others within the platform, which is then visualised in a network map with colour codes and incorporated into the risk analysis. The problem: the software does not track physical exchanges between learners, but only what takes place on the platform itself. In the future, it could therefore be possible that the learners shift their communication completely to the platform in order to counteract a negative risk assessment by the system. Important risk-reducing face-to-face interactions could be overseen by teachers because they are not “countedby the software system. 

Macgilchrist considers it a problem that the public discourse on education policy still focuses too much on the availability of and equipment with hardware. Software is almost completely ignored here, although it also implies important political and social issues: How are developers trained in the social implications of their actions? Why is this not yet part of their education and what does it mean? How diverse are development teams and how is this reflected in software? How can experiences of exclusion be incorporated into software development and how do we react to incidents of discrimination in educational software? 


Links to the mentioned paper and the lecture: 

Felicitas Macgilchrist, Heidrun Allert & Anne Bruch (2020) Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology, Learning, Media and Technology, 45:1, 76-89, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235 

“What Follows for Students & Society in the 2020s? 3 Speculative Futures for Education & Technology” (Recorded Session) 

TiM Seminar Podcast #3: Felicitas Macgilchrist on Speculative Futures for Education and Technology 


Conclusion on the Online Ring Lecture “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”

As already announced, the presentation of the DATAFIED project took place on 05.05.2020 in the context of the online lecture series “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”.

DATAFIED in online lecture series “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”

On behalf of the scientists involved in the joint project, Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter reported on the background, the current status and the objectives of the project. A total of 20 participants received detailed insights into the multifaceted research work during the half-hour presentation. 

The presentation was followed by a lively discussion. The focus was on questions concerning the change in the digitization of schools – especially against the background of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fifth joint meeting of DATAFIED as videoconference

Go digital: The fifth joint meeting takes place as a video conference

The global spread of COVID-19 and the related regulatory measures pose great challenges for researchers in science. But even in times of contact blocks and home offices, it is important to counteract the standstill of scientific work.

For this reason, the fifth joint meeting of the DATAFIED project took place on 27 and 28 April as an online event. On two exciting days, many content and organisational issues were addressed and discussed during the first quarterly meeting in 2020.

On the first day, the individual sub-projects presented their previous findings via video conference, which served as a basis for informative and fruitful discussions. In addition, further synergies and sub-project overlapping topics were identified, which will further intensify the work between the individual research groups and offer exciting cooperation opportunities.

But also the handling of the challenges arising from the rampant corona epidemic and the resulting changes in the school education sector were discussed. Schools in all German states are currently affected by closures and the corona crisis requires a responsible approach to the situation. All employees* in schools and educational institutions are therefore making every effort to continue teaching and therefore often use digital tools. These changes within the school research landscape offer unique opportunities that are being taken advantage of by sub-projects of the DATAFIED project. For example, video or telephone interviews are being conducted with those affected, while the analysis of software and system landscapes is also progressing.

On the second day of the association meeting, the doctoral students were given the opportunity to exchange problems and ideas. This refreshing exchange also took place with the help of a video conferencing tool and offered exciting insights into the work of the doctoral students.

All in all, it was a successful and exciting group meeting. The videoconferencing format allowed many insights into the status quo and results for further proceedings. Although the previous social get-together could not be replaced, a fruitful exchange was possible.