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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