Created in 2014, Aula is a concept operating via an online platform (also a mobile app) that allows secondary and high school pupils aged around 11-18 to develop their own ideas about how they would like to change and improve their school environment and to decide how these ideas will be implemented.
Students are also given the chance to reflect on the process in a classroom context and explore the links between everyday life decisions and democratic responsibility. Aula was developed by the German association politik-digital e.V. with the support of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. It is mostly used in German schools but has also been adapted to other contexts outside education, such as community decision-making.
How does it work?
- The school council including pupils, teachers and the school leadership draws up a contract which governs the ways students and teachers can use the Aula online platform. This includes how they can contribute ideas on Aula, but also the limitations on what they can do. The school leadership team also commits to taking up any proposal decided on the platform, as long as that idea is acceptable within the terms of the school’s Aula contract.
- After the contract is signed by all parties involved, students are given a user account and can log into the platform anywhere and anytime. They can post, discuss, elaborate on their own ideas and support the ideas of others via the online platform.
- After the ideas are elaborated upon and clustered into topics, the school leadership team checks if an idea is compatible with the Aula contract and achievable in practice.
- The ideas are then submitted for voting.
- All the ideas that gained sufficient votes are implemented. The responsibility for implementing the idea lies with its originator and the idea project team. They may ask for help from their class representative, the school leadership or their class teacher.
The Aula platform is moderated by teachers and students who want to take on more responsibility and some administrative roles. Parents have the option to request accounts that allow them to see the ideas and discussions taking place in their child’s school or class. They have no other access to the site.
- Video about Aula
- A device to watch the video on (TV/laptop/projector,screen)
- School board/flipchart
- Flipchart paper or other large sheets of paper
- Colourful pens and highlighters
- Green, yellow and red post-its (as many as participants)
- Participants learn about digital participation from the example of an app called Aula.
- Participants understand the term of digital participation.
- Participants learn about possibilities of using digital participation in schools.
- Participants create ideas of using digital tools in decision-making in their own schools.
1. Introduction (5 min.)
Tell students that the topic of this workshop will be participation with a special focus on digital participation. This term refers to different ways people get involved in decision making in their communities (schools, cities, countries). There are traditional ways of participating (e.g. voting, running in elections, sending petitions), and there are more innovative ways that are becoming more popular each year. During these workshops, you will discuss how digital tools can improve participation in your schools.
2. Is Aula an example for us? (20 min.)
Tell students that now they will watch a short video with an example of digital participation. Say that afterwards you will be discussing 3 questions (see below).
Write these questions on a board or present them on a screen:
- How would you describe the idea of Aula to your peers?
- What are the possibilities that this platform gives students?
- What challenges do you see in implementing a similar decision making process in schools?
The students watch the film about Aula.
After watching the video, tell your students that they will work in 3 phases. They will first think about questions by themselves for 2 minutes. Then they will share their thoughts in pairs for 6 minutes and come to common conclusions. At the end, each pair of students will present their thoughts to the whole group.
- 2 minutes reflect by yourself
- 6 minutes sharing in pairs
- 12 minutes sharing in plenary
Ask students if they have any questions regarding the video and rules of using Aula. You will find most common questions and answers to them in Appendix 1.
3. Digital tools list (15 min.)
Tell the group that Aula is a unique innovation, but parts of it can be transferred easily to any group. Ask participants if they know/use any digital tools that can help in these processes:
- creating new projects and ideas
- discussing new ideas
- making common decisions
On a flipchart/school board create a list of tools mentioned by the group. Tell the group that this list will become useful in the next part.
4. Accessibility of digital participation (30 min.)
Ask students to consider the limitations of digital participation. Emphasise that real participation and democracy is possible only under the condition that it is accessible to everyone.
Give them 2 questions to think about:
- Can you give examples of situations in which students would not have equal access to this digital tool?
- How could we solve those problems? Come up with at least 3 ideas.
After 10 minutes, ask students to share their answers with the group. On a board/flipchart write a list of possible problems and solutions that the group created.
5. Digital tools in our group (90 min.)
Divide students into groups of 3-5 people. Give each group a flipchart and pens of different colours. Tell students that now you will think about using digital tools in decision making in their group. Specify that their task now is to choose a problem/issue that they have inside their class/youth group, which could be solved with decision making (e.g. choosing where to go on a trip or deciding what they want their classroom to look like).
Then they should create a proposal for how they could use digital tools known to them to make common decisions. Emphasise that the proposals have to include more than simply voting - they should allow students to share their thoughts, proposals, discussions. The groups should create a whole proposal answering the following questions:
- What is the problem we would like to solve?
- What is the decision associated with this problem that should be made?
- What tool(s) should we use in this case?
- What capabilities will this tool give us?
- Why would digital tools help us with making this decision?
- How should we carry out this process step by step?
Write these questions on a flipchart/board.
Participants should draw a poster advertising their proposal and prepare to present it to the whole group. Give participants 40 minutes to create their proposals. Afterwards ask each group to present their idea in front of the class for 5 minutes. After each presentation listeners have 5 minutes to ask questions to the presenting groups. Each group answers the questions or notes them down to consider later. At the end of this part students can decide together through consensus which proposals they would like to apply to their group.
6. Summary and feedback (40 min.)
Remind the group about everything that you have discussed during this workshop. Give each participant 3 post-its: 1 green, 1 yellow and 1 red and ask them to write on them the following:
- On the green paper, they write a conclusion, reflection or thought they have after this workshop.
- On the yellow paper, they write a question/concern they have after this workshop.
- On the red paper, they write down the things they do not understand about digital participation.
Tell the students that they have 5 minutes to write their answers down. After this time, gather post-its from each student and group them thematically on the board/flipchart. Summarise answers in each category (green/yellow/red). If you have the knowledge, answer the questions or doubts. If not, encourage students to research the topic after the workshops.