Barbara Kochan

Barbara Kochan

Barbara Kochan is a German professor of primary education at the Technical University of Berlin (TU-Berlin). She is regarded as pioneerFact|date=July 2008 in the special field of the academically sounded use of computers for children's language learning (aged 4 to 12).

Profession and activity

In 1972 Barbara Kochan was appointed to a chair for primary education at the Pedagogical College of Berlin. Since then she teaches and researches in the special field of primary school and nursery school children's language learning and its promotion by teaching, since 1980 at the Technical University of Berlin. In 1986 there she established the computer-enriched "Children's Writing-Workshop", which in 1998 was renamed in "Computer-based Learning Workshop" (CLW) - up to now in Germany a nationwide unique institution for educational research as well as for teacher education. Kochan's academic papers about learning and teaching to write by using the computer are well-known outside the German-speaking areas. Also the research-based educational software she developed in overall charge of the didactics is internationally known. At present several countries are interestedFact|date=July 2008 in the adaption and implementation of the educational initiative "Smart Mice - children explore language" (German: "Schlaumäuse - Kinder entdecken Sprache") which Kochan together with her research assistant Elke Schröter developed for the nursery school.

Main emphases

Kochan's special field is the primary education, especially the pedagogy of German language, including it's linguistic basis. In the course of the years she set different priorities.

In the seventies she looked into the native-language learning in the field of oral language usage. Her papers about role playing for linguistic and social learning nationwide decisively influenced the pedagogy of linguistic and social learning - far beyond primary education. She also had a forming influenceFact|date=July 2008 on lessons practice: by her working on the innovative language book "Language and Speech" ("Sprache und Sprechen") which offered a theoretical basis of communicative language classes, put it in concrete forms and spread it in schools.

At the beginning of the eighties again in an innovativeFact|date=July 2008 way Kochan dealt with the process of learning to spell. Assuming that most spelling mistakes come from - subjectively valid - language analytic thinking performances she questioned children how they explain their (norm divergent) spellings. She found her hypothesis confirmed and developed a concept of spelling lessons which puts dialogical thinking work on the individual theory of the respective child to the place of bare corrections on paper and to the place of bare impressing the correct spelling. "Teachers have to think themselves into the child's theory so that the child itself can think out of his theory which not yet meets the norm." (Kochan 1987)

In the middle of the eighties she turned to the question how children learn to compose and how teachers can support this learning. She adopted the international research on the writing process, the writing development and the process of learning to write - including the research on early spontaneous writing: scribbling and invented spelling. From this she obtained lasting impulses for a first sketching of her concept of "developing learning (to write)" and - in the didactic consequence - the "developing (writing) lesson".

Connected with this she investigated the effects of the writing tool (pen, stamps, printery, typewriter, word processing) on the learning to write, on composing, and on the child's development as an author. But at that time in Germany the use of computers in primary school was regarded as forbidden. Therefore in 1986 she established the "Children's Writing Workshop" at the Technical University of Berlin - a writing environment which was fully provided for with resources and staff. Up to now here groups of children with differing writing performances carry out self-determined (longer-term) writing projects such as making books or newspapers. Kochan established and conducted this writing workshop against vehement, many years lasting opposition on the part of German colleagues, education policy and authorities, and the general public, who were mainly hostile toward computer use especially by children.

Kochan's didactic concept for the use of word processing in the writing and composition lesson internationally got high regard on the way of her cooperation in international panels of experts. Since 1993 she elaborates the concept and plan of developing learning and teaching together with her research assistant Elke Schröter, who since then is running the "Children's Writing Workshop" (since 1998 renamed in "Computer-based learning Workshop" (CLW). Up to now they jointly explore, conceive and realize especially the didactic sensible and academically sounded use of computers for language and literacy learning by children aged four to twelve.

In the late nineties Barbara Kochan together with Elke Schröter and Gerd Scheiman (an excellent developer of educational software in Munich, Germany) worked out the didactic programme, the contents, and the methods for an innovative software for the German lessons in the primary school: "LolliPop Multimedia German" (“LolliPop Multimedia Deutsch”). This software stands out among others by the fact that it enables children to explore language self-determinedly, independent from instructions by teachers or other adults, and - through this - they learn new things, not only train things they learnt elsewhere before. This even goes for learning to write and read as well as for learning to spell, too. Mainly the following features facilitate this independent learning: "speaking writing", digital tools for exploring, and a special handling of mistakes. An important factor in the acquisition of written language on the way of self-determined writing is the multimedia initial sound-letter table (including a synthetic voice output), a component of the word processor suitable for children, which is integrated in this software. By this tool children can write down their thoughts even before they have reached control of the letter sound relations, because the table shows them the letter required for the respective sound. With it children grasp the letter sound relations and gradually keep them in their head - without any course, but because of the many moments of individual need for the letter which fits the respective sound. As an important factor in learning to spell Kochan and Schröter media specifically worked out their method of dialogical "accompanied spelling" which gives time and attention to the child's "theory hidden in the mistake". Because of such educational innovative methods and features the software "LolliPop" won several awards: digita, Comenius Medal, Giga Mouse)

According to the expansion of the didactic computer use beyond word processing into developing educational software the "Children's Writing Workshop" in 1998 was renamed in "Computer-based Learning Workshop" (CLW). As such today it is internationally well-known and enquired.

In 2003 - again jointly with Elke Schröter - Barbara Kochan worked out the educational and didactic programme for the nationwide education initiative ("Schlaumäuse - Kinder entdecken Sprache") "Smart Mice - children explore language", which was opened and sponsored by Microsoft Germany. The main medium of this project in promoting language performances with four- to six-year-old children at first in 200 nursery schools in socially disadvantaged areas is the software "Smart Mice" (“Schlaumäuse”). Its didactic design follows the same principles as "LolliPop". Kochan and Schröter in their study report impressive social and language learning successes the children achieved already after six months. Even children who speak a different language and at the start of the project spoke German not at all or very poorly got into speaking German, even into sound-orientated writing as well as into deciphering interesting words or sentences they found in her environment, such as street names, inscriptions, book titles.

Meanwhile Kochan and Schröter worked out a further software: "The latest news of the Smart Mice" (German title: "Neues von den Schlaumäusen"; this is the title for free spreading by Microsoft; on the market it is sold by Cornelsen Publisher under the title "Lolli, Pop and the Smart Mice"). In Germany it won the "Golden Giga-Mouse" award as "best educational software 2006" and the "digita" award 2007.

Concerning the use of computers for language and literacy learning particular mention deserves that Barbara Kochan together with Elke Schröter worked out multimedia methods which are applicable to other languages with alphabetical scripts. These methods also hold a high potential for overcoming illiteracy - worldwide.

Educational and didactic convictions and findings

Kochan’s work is characterized by a continuous interplay between theory, product development (language book, software), and practice. It always includes the concrete work with children, also in environments beyond school such as in the "Computer-based Learning Workshop". By studying children’s social and language behaviour and learning during self-determined projects outside school Kochan gains insight and access to children’s comparatively natural learning strategies which hardly come to light in teacher- or book-centred lessons. But Kochan opens up just these "natural" learning strategies in order to improve learning, also at school.

The conviction that even very young children are able to learn self-determinedly and for themselves runs through Kochan's entire work (from role-playing for oral language use up to software for the acquisition of written language). She regards children’s need to share in the communication of their environment as the main motive for this learning, and she recognizes children’s natural search for the rules of spoken and of written language as well as of its communicative usage as the main strategy of children’s learning. Therefore she makes both, sharing in communication and searching for rules, the centre of didactic attention. From this she draws the conclusion that a main didactic task for teachers is to design classes as social culture for speaking, listening, writing, and reading, a culture which functions as learning environment for language development. This environment should offer good models of communication, invite to communicate, give children an opportunity to talk meta-cognitively about their language problems and their findings, and appreciate children's activities and findings (even the preliminary, yet incomplete findings). According to this Kochan regards and treats children as authors, from that moment on when a child thinks to record a wording by using graphic signs, even if the child not yet uses the conventional characters. The discovery and the gradual use of the conventional characters, also - bit by bit - the correct spelling is regarded as a process of development of a communicative action which is complex right from the start. This development is driven by the child’s - teachingly provocable - experience that he or she by means of letters can tear his or her own thoughts out of the head.

In the concept of "developing learning" and "developing teaching" the emotional, social and cognitive powers of the child’s personality are regarded as agents of learning in "I-want-to"-situations. The concept uses the child’s need for interaction and communication in the groups he or she belongs to. It is based on confidence in the child’s willingness to try hard to attain own goals. Developing language learning results from self-defined language use by means of analysis and reflection of this use as well as by means of communication about these activities. The pleasure the child gets from his own findings is the reward as well as the drive of such learning. Kochan’s conceptual programme gives teachers a mental orientation for shaping their lessons. But it offers neither recipes nor copy patterns. The teacher, too (not only the child) is regarded as a personally responsible and independently thinking individual, who has to give time and attention to the children’s individual personalities, their abilities, and their needs in order to help them to develop their potentials.

Selected papers and books

Anthologies (editor / co-editor)

* Rollenspiel als Methode sprachlichen und sozialen Lernens. Ein Reader. [Role-playing as a method for lingustic and social learning. A reader.] Kronberg/Ts.: Scriptor 1974
* Taschenlexikon Grundschule. [Pocket encyclopedia primary education] Königstein/Ts.: Scriptor 1979 (zusammen mit Elisabeth Neuhaus-Siemon)


* Schlaumäuse - Kinder entdecken Sprache. Eine Bildungsinitiative von Microsoft Deutschland. Projektordner. [Smart Mice - Children explore language. An educational initiative of Microsoft Germany. Project file.] Unterschleißheim: Microsoft 2003. (Zusammen mit Elke Schröter)

* Abschlussbericht über die Studie zur Microsoft-Bildungsinitiative "Schlaumäuse - Kinder entdecken Sprache". [Final report on the evaluating study of the Microsoft educational initiative "Smart Mice - Children explore language.] Unterschleißheim: Microsoft 2006 (Zusammen mit Elke Schröter) [Als Download verfügbar unter "" und unter ""]

* Neues von den Schlaumäusen. Das Kita-Handbuch. [The latest news of the Smart Mice. The nursery school manual.] Unterschleißheim: Microsoft Deutschland 2007. (Zusammen mit Elke Schröter)

Articles for anthologies and journals

* Fehler als Lernhilfe im Rechtschreibunterricht. [Mistakes as learning aid in spelling lessons] In: Renate Valtin und Ingrid Naegele(Hrsg.): „Schreiben ist wichtig!“ - Grundlagen und Beispiele für kommunikatives Schreiben(lernen). (Beiträge zur Reform der Grundschule. Bd. 67/68) Frankfurt/M.: Arbeitskreis Grundschule 1986, S. 111-128.

* How to Handle Children's Spelling Mistakes on the Microcomputer? In: Education & Computing. (Special Issue: The Primary Curriculum and New Technology - Ways and Means) 1987 Vol. 3, Nos. 3,4; 219-222.

* Kann Alex aus seinen Rechtschreibfehlern lernen? [Can Alex learn from his spelling mistakes?] In: Heiko Balhorn und Hans Brügelmann (Hrsg.): Welten der Schrift in der Erfahrung der Kinder. Konstanz: Faude 1987, S. 136-146.

* Lernbereich Deutsch. Eine Didaktik auf dem Wege zu Kindern. [Pedagogy of German language. A pedagogy on the way to children.] In: Elisabeth K. Paefgen und Gerhart Wolff (Hrsg.): Pragmatik in Sprache und Literatur. Tübingen: Narr 1993, S. 47-65.

* Schreibprozeß, Schreibentwicklung und Schreibwerkzeug. Theoretische Aspekte des Computergebrauchs im entfaltenden Schreibunterricht. [Writing process, writing development, and writing tool. Theoretical aspects of using computers in developing writing lessons] In: Werner Hofmann, Jochen Müsseler und Heike Adolphs (Hrsg.): Computer und Schriftspracherwerb. Programmentwicklungen, Anwendungen, Lernkonzepte. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag 1993, S. 57-91.

* Der Computer als Herausforderung zum Nachdenken über schriftsprachliches Lernen und Schreibkultur in der Grundschule - Argumente und Anregungen für entfaltenden Schreibunterricht. [The Computer as a challenge to thought about literacy learning and writing culture at primary school.] In: Hartmut Mitzlaff (Hrsg.): Handbuch Grundschule und Computer. Vom Tabu zur Alltagspraxis. Weinheim und Basel: Beltz 1996, S. 131-151.

* Gedankenwege zum Lernen beim Freien Schreiben. [Paths for thinking about learning by the means of independent writing.] In: Gudrun Spitta (Hrsg.): Freies Schreiben - eigene Wege gehen. Lengwil: Libelle 1998, S. 218-277.

* Mit Buchstaben kann man Gedanken aus dem Kopf holen. Wie Erstkläßler beim Schreiben mit dem Computer lernen können. [By the means of letters you can tear your thoughts out of your head. How first graders can learn by word processing.] In: Heiko Balhorn, Horst Bartnitzky, Inge Büchner und Angelika Speck-Hamdan (Hrsg.): Schatzkiste 1. Von den Wegen der Kinder in die Schrift. (Beiträge zur Reform der Grundschule. Bd. 104) Frankfurt/M. und Hamburg: Arbeitskreis Grundschule und Deutsche Gesellschaft für Lesen und Schreiben 1998, S. 224-237.

* Schreiben und Publizieren mit dem Computer als Mittel des Wissenserwerbs in allen Lernbereichen - Ein didaktisches Konzept. [Writing and publishing by word processing as means to the cross-curriculum acquisition of knowledge - A didactic conceptual programme.] In: Hartmut Mitzlaff und Angelika Speck-Hamdan (Hrsg.): Grundschule und neue Medien. (Beiträge zur Reform der Grundschule. Bd. 103) Frankfurt/M.: Arbeitskreis Grundschule 1998, S. 35-54.

* Computer im Schreibleselernprozess. [The use of computers in the processes of learning to write and to read.] In: Mitzlaff, Hartmut (Hrsg.): Internationales Handbuch Computer (ICT), Grundschule, Kindergarten und Neue Lernkultur. Bd. 2. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren 2007, S. 496-506.

* "Schlaumäuse" in Kindergärten und Kinder-Tagesstätten - Bericht aus einem Projekt. ["Smart Mice" in nursery schools - A report on a project.] In: Mitzlaff, Hartmut (Hrsg.): Internationales Handbuch Computer (ICT), Grundschule, Kindergarten und Neue Lernkultur. Bd. 1. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren 2007, S. 365-374 (zusammen mit Elke Schröter).

* Zwanzig Jahre ComputerLernWerkstatt (CLW) an der TU Berlin - Forschung, Lehre, Beratung und Produkt-Entwicklung zum Lernen mittels Computer. [Twenty years "Computer-based Learning Workshop" (CLW) at the Technical University of Berlin - Research, teaching, advising, and product development relevant to learning by the means of computer use.] In: Mitzlaff, Hartmut (Hrsg.): Internationales Handbuch Computer (ICT), Grundschule, Kindergarten und Neue Lernkultur. Bd. 2. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren 2007, S. 507-524 (zusammen mit Elke Schröter).

Contributions to school books

* Sprache und Sprechen. Arbeitsmittel zur Sprachförderung in der Primarstufe und Sekundarstufe I [Language and speech. Teaching aid for supporting language development at primary and secondary school.] , hrsg. v. Detlef C. Kochan, Dorothea Ader, Johann Bauer und Walter Henze. Hannover: Schroedel 1971ff. (Jahrgangsbände für das 2. bis 8. Schuljahr: Schülerbuch, Schülerarbeitsheft, Lehrerhandbuch.

Educational software

* LolliPop Multimedia Deutsch. [LolliPop Multimedia German.] Berlin: Cornelsen 1999-2001 (zusammen mit Gerd Scheimann und Elke Schröter)

* Schlaumäuse. [Smart Mice.] Gesponserte Software für die Microsoft Bildungsinitiative "Schlaumäuse - Kinder entdecken Sprache" in Kindertagesstätten. [Educational software (sponsored by Microsoft Germany) for the educational initative "Smart Mice - Children explore language".] Unterschleißheim: Microsoft 2003 (zusammen mit Gerd Scheimann und Elke Schröter)

* Lolli, Pop und die Schlaumäuse. [Lolli, Pop, and the Smart Mice.] Berlin: Cornelsen 2006. Unter dem Titel "Neues von den Schlaumäusen" gesponserte Software für die Microsoft Bildungsinitiative "Schlaumäuse - Kinder entdecken Sprache" in Kindertagesstätten. [Microsoft sponsors this software under the title "The latest news of the Smart Mice" within the framework of the Microsoft educational initiative "Smart Mice - Children explore language" for the use in nursery schools.] Unterschleißheim: Microsoft 2006 (zusammen mit Gerd Scheimann und Elke Schröter)

Prizes and awards

UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for he Use of ICT in Education 2007 - with her internationally recognized work on the computerized written language acquisition and the computer-based writing instruction in kindergarten and primary school Barbara Kochan was placed under the first ten among 68 competitors from all over the world.

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