Research project MediaartLab@School


The research project "MediaArtLab@School - Creative Media Competence with Hypermedia and Mixed Reality-Systems in the Framework of Aesthetic Research Projects at School and University" is funded under the research programme Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsprogramm (HWP) of the German Bund-Laender-Commission and the Land Schleswig-Holstein. The project is co-ordinated by the department of Department of Visual Arts at the Institute of Aesthetic and Cultural Education (Prof. Dr. Manfred Blohm, Dr. Daniela Reimann) at the University of Flensburg, North Germany. It is realised in co-operation with the UNESCO-Project School in Flensburg (head: Gisela Koch, art teacher Robert Kuehn, Thomas Fetke) and the Institute for Multimedia and Interactive Systems at the University of Luebeck (Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Michael Herczeg) and the co-operation project Kids in Media and Motion (KiMM).

The project's aims

The project MediaArtLab@School aims to link aesthetic strategies to the creative use of interactive media and Mixed Reality systems in an innovative art and media education. Rather than teaching computer applying skills, the project’s approach is looking at learning processes which are based on a differenciated perception, use and reflection of computers and digital media technologies and their specific added opportunities as interactive media. The project’s name "MediaArtLab@School" refers to an experimental space at school which is coined by a continuous exchange between the UNESCO Project School (teacher and pupils) and the University of Flensburg (researchers as well as students of art education in the framework of initial teacher training studies). The concept of a MediaArtLab at school was introduced to develop exchange of ideas and experiences of the different participating social actors, such as students, teachers and pupils as well as external experts on the basis of a regular and experimental learning space.

The main aim of the project is the development and implementation of the Laboratory School of Art and Media Education at the UNESCO-Project School Flensburg.

Media tested at school and university and the research areas linked to them

The project aims to develop model scenarios at school and university level to support creative use of the digital media technologies to increase media literacy. The following research areas and software groups are tested in the project by pupils and students:

1.) Interactive 3D-Worlds (VR) and -identities and extended communication spaces (Web log, networked systems etc.)
-3D-Internet-Worlds and identities (Avatarlab by Curious Labs) for the design of interactive avatars, Mixed Reality game environments (3DGameStudio)/

2.) Hypermedia storytelling

Hypermedia-storytelling (e.g. the collaborative storytelling tool KidPad, The Human-Computer Interaction Lab / University of Maryland , KiMM-Studio by IMIS, University of Luebeck)

3.) Programming interactive concepts (with iconic programming tools) interactive systems with Tangibe Media/ sensor-based system development (e.g. using LEGO Mindstorms Robolab and Educational Division / Technik - LPE

Interacitve environments for play (image recognition software, e.g. MediaCommand by IMIS at the University of Luebeck)/ performative approach integrating the body

4.) Mobile systems and locative media in education (handheld devices/PDA/GPS systems) for aethetic research and art projects (e.g. mapping space)
learning projects in media art education (e.g. self-initiated learning in public space)

The areas listed below which constitute form the systems and software groups are not seen seperated from each other. The fields defined are merging togehter in the context of what we call the Mixed Reality shaping and learning spaces.

New software tools and prototypes researched and developed by the Institute for Multimedia and Interactive Systems (IMIS) at the University of Luebeck (Kids in Media and Motion (KiMM) will be tested in the framework of the project.

A documentation of further hard- und software can be downloaded on the previous BLK-model project "Theory and Practice of Integrated Arts and Computer Science in Education" (ArtDeCom) funded 2001-2003 under the German Bund-Laender-Commission in the Cultural Education in the Media Age-programme. The ArtDeCom Web site can be accessed here (click on "Projekte/Medien").

Aesthetic Research as a didactic approach to media education

What are characteristics and opportunities opening up introducing Aesthetic Research in the framework of a project-based media education? Based on sensory perception, an artistic approach to research might be characterised as the integration of sensory experiences and “scientific” reflection- but not necessarily as it is not obligatory in terms of work methods. Artistic research is usually strongly subjective. Neither does it claim completeness, nor being a systematic approach, nor does it intend completion and objectivity like research in natural sciences claims. Artistic research can be described as dealing with processes of collecting and documenting and with the picking up of trails and collecting traces. [1] The motivation for working out a particular theme might be very personal or private one. Artists usually do not claim to realise an “objective research need” but they may be working in the area of “subjective historiography” [2]. The term of Aesthetical Research (cp. Kaempf-Jansen, H., 2002) has been introduced as a strategic approach in the context of art education. It is an overarching artistic, didactical and theoretical concept. The concept describes a complex approach related to an individual topic bringing together the areas of daily experiences, memories, collecting and archiving, arts, research as well as individual character. Sensory perception and reflection are integrated in the overall concept of Aesthetic Research (cp. Reimann, D., Hoepel, I. Herczeg, M., 2001).

The didactic approach has lead us to the following research questions for an innovative integrated media and art education:

-How can artistic work processes be initiated and supported using information and communication technologies, such as haptic systems, mobile technologies and in Mixed Reality-Scenarios?

-How can the value of the computer as an artictic medium be addressed in an integrated and holistic art and media education?

-How can pupils and students be encouraged to reflect the use of digital media technologies in the context of self-initiated Aesthetic Research projects?

The first school pilot scenario started in September 2004. It was entitled "Invented Memories" and aims to link fictitious stories to projects realised in public space in the quarter Flensburg-Weiche.

Pupils have introduced their favorite computer games to teachers, students and researchers. They were then asked to develop avatars and construct virtual environments based on the digital photos collected when exploring the city quarter where the school is placed.

The topic of Mixed Reality game design is developed further in the current school scenario (8 graders). Therefore the class has been split into three main work groups addressing the topic of game development from different angles. The thematic work groups are addressing a variety of usage categories of the computer, such as the medium Virtual Reality, the tool for communication and collaboration as well as the issue of performance and new interaction concepts. The follwing work groups have been introduced:

- Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality game environments using a 3D game development software. Such group addresses the medium of Virtual Reality in the context of Mixed Reality game concepts in our physical world developed by the pupils

- Programming interacitve systems (robotic installations, iconic programming, new haptic forms of human-machine interaction

- Hypermedia Storytelling (Kid Pad, KiMM Studio) and extended communication spaces (synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication such as Web log, email, Chat etc.) The group specifically focuses on the augmented opportunities for communication and collaboration through the Internet. Current a Web log is developed.

- Performance, play and digital media: Such group addresses the issue of motion and play linked to video, dance and haptic interfaces in the context of play.

- Extended communication spaces (Web log, networked systems etc.)

An interactive environment for play: Worlds of the future

The school project in summer semester 2005 was realised with 6 graders of lower secondary school in the area of programming micro computers, interactive systems and robotic toys using LEGO® Mindstorms Robolab, an iconic programming tool.

The shaping of interactive environments include the development and reflection of sensor- and actuator-based system development. The subject of arts is constituting the link to shaping processes with any media available for the kids, such as traditional materials and design activities. Apart from building objects, selecting forms and colours, the kids develop high and low-tech artefacts, such as prototypes which behave differently. Pupils will develop roboter-conceptions embedded in an overall environment of their imagination, using a variety of media (multi media), programming and controlling the robots.

Students of art education have planed, prepared and realised the lessons at school together in the framework of a more practice -orented initial teacher training at university level.

The Laboratory School of Art and Media Education (Kunst- und Medienpaedagogische Laborschule) at the UNESCO-Project School Flensburg

One of the project's aims is to develop a Laboratory School of Art Education (Kunstpaedagogische Laborschule). It represents a research laboratory of the Department of Visual Arts at the Institute of Aesthetic and Cultural Education at the University of Flensburg in which the area of aesthetic education with digital media is developed, realised and evaluated. Whilst traditional concepts of public schools with a focus on art education are in terms of a quantitative expansion of lessons taught, the approach of the Laboratory School for Art Education is in terms of developing an experimental learning space at the interface between media, arts and its didactics and evaluation. The didactic concept is based on an interdisciplinary approach to shaping and learning with digital media technologies. It recruits its impulses from contemporary media arts, art education as well as computer science. Traditional research laboratories are usually placed in the in an ivory tower inside of the university. The Laboratory School of Art Education is based at the UNESCO school Flensburg, an elementary and lower secondary school.

Pupils, students as well as researchers are learning together in the MediaArtLab at school.

The concept of the school is responding to support children of near-illiterate social classes offering access to technologies to initiate the perception, use, shaping and reflecting of digital media in creative processes. The Laboratory School of Art Education is linking a variety of educational offers, such as
• lessons accompanied by researchers as well as students of art education studies (initial teacher training)
• Open work groups in the MediaArtLab outside of the regular timetable
• lectures, work shops by external experts
• innovative offers for teacher training (further education)

[1] E.g. art projects undertaken by artists such as Nikolaus Lang or Christian Boltanski. The latter made up memories by means of photography. “Collective memory” was one of the topics of his works.
[2] The German term of “Kuenstlerische Spurensicherung” in terms of „evidences shown“ related to a particular topic.


Kaempf-Jansen, H.: Aesthetische Forschung, Hrsg. Blohm, M., Koeln, 2002
Reimann, D., Hoepel, I., Herczeg, M. (2001): "Theory and Practice of Integrated Arts, Design and Computer Science in Education" – the BLK-Model Project ArtDeCom. Paper presented on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2001 held in Lille, France over 5-8 September 2001
for Porject publication see here


Media ArtLab@School at the Laboratory School of Art and Media Education (Kunst- und Medienpaedagogische Laborschule) at the UNESCO Project School Flensburg was endorsed by the

- BDK e.V. Fachverband fuer Kunstpaedagogik (BDK), The German association of art teachers and art educators
- International Society for Education through Arts (InSEA),
- Gesellschaft fuer Medienpaedagogik und Kommunikationskultur e.V. (GMK), the incorporate "Society Concerned with Media Education and Communication Culture in Germany (GMK)". Being the largest association, concerned with media literacy and media education in Germany, the GMK functions as a broad platform for discussion, cooperation and new initiatives. The GMK aims to support media literacy as well as communication culture and contributes to these in a responsible fashion. In this respect, the new communication and information technologies such as multimedia, as well as the increasingly international nature of the media market, present a particular challenge. More information can be accessed here