Are digital technologies corrupting the school?


Since the world is the world, technology has been present in our day to day. In the Lower Paleolithic, Homo habilis began to use stone tools: from then on, humanity has not stopped generating new objects based on the elements it found in its immediate environment. We must not forget that technology is everything created by man, which cannot be found by itself in nature.

These elements have meant a change in the way we do things, significantly improving our quality of life. But not everything has been rosy. Every technological innovation has had detractors. The current era was not going to be any different and there is a current, increasingly widespread, willing to attribute all the ills of this society to technological advances. In the educational field, the focus of the debate has been placed on the following dichotomous question, which, in my opinion, tendentious: should we use computers in the classroom?

All technology has implicit advantages and disadvantages. In Education, they translate into aids and risks for teaching, learning and health. There is no study that flatly denies this question, nor will there be. Therefore, the initial question should not be that. The debate does not revolve around using or not using digital technology in the classroom.

Technological advances are here to stay

Technological advances are here to stay and positioning ourselves for or against does not contribute anything to education. Also, some people view it as a versus between digital and analog, a fight in which one of the two technologies must win. They forget that the printed textbook is also a technology, subject to advantages and disadvantages, just like those computers, screens, mobile phones and other digital devices that they demonize.

We live in turbulent times, a period of great social transformations that constantly influence new educational policies. This generates confusion, both in teachers and in students and families , regarding the formation of the 21st century citizen that we want to promote in our schools. However, the importance of developing digital competence in our students remains an unalterable constant.

In Spain, from the promulgation of the Organic Law of Education in 2006 to the most recent Organic Law for the Improvement of the Organic Law of Education in 2020, the focus of training in the compulsory stage has been to promote a “multiliterate” student body.

This vision implies that, in addition to acquiring skills in literacy, mathematics and basic knowledge in areas such as languages, social, natural, artistic and cultural sciences, students must be able to face the challenges of the information and communication society. .

Five key areas

The DigComp (Digital Competence Framework) initiative , promoted by the European Commission in 2013 and continuously updated since then, has forced educational systems at a national and regional level to take various measures to ensure, among their students, multiple competencies in five key areas.

It is sought that the citizen who leaves school is capable of:

  1. Search, evaluate and organize information.
  2. Communicate, collaborate and participate in digital environments.
  3. Create, edit and publish digital content.
  4. Protect yourself from the risks associated with the use of technology and guarantee your privacy.
  5. Identify, analyze and solve typical problems related to the use of technological tools.

Unfortunately, the common practice of some educational systems has been to take measures to achieve multiliteracy among their students through the thoughtless and indiscriminate implementation of technology in schools. In this way of acting lies an erroneous idea based on the per se benefits of digital technology in educational processes, not supported by any evidence.

The scientific literature has not accepted the hypothesis that more technology in the classroom produces better academic results. Therefore, it cannot be affirmed that there is a direct, linear and automatic relationship between these two variables, beyond the causal effect towards the improvement of the digital competence of the students.

In the field of educational technology aimed at studying the use of different technological tools and resources to improve teaching-learning processes, there is a maxim that all researchers assume: the question is not technological, but pedagogical. Any tool or resource to be integrated into education must be analyzed from the perspective of the objective to be achieved. Therefore, the question we have to ask ourselves is what we want to achieve.

Towards calm planning

If we talk about compulsory education, we must take into account the need to respond to the diversity of students in our classrooms. The latest advances in neuroscience derived from scientific studies inform us of this variability in the way of learning .

However, learning can be simplified through a model called Universal Design for Learning based on three interdependent neural networks:

  1. An affective network that regulates the involvement of students in their learning.
  2. A recognition network that allows processing the information that is required.
  3. A strategic network that guarantees action and the expression of what has been learned.

This model advocates the use of different options, strategies and resources. And it is in this diversity of supports where we can find the answer to our dilemma. Screens, computers and the internet have a place together with a great diversity of other tools based on prior reflection and a design that accepts the variability of our students and does not try to find the impossible, planning for an average student that does not exist .

The important thing in our compulsory education schools is to schedule activities that use a varied selection of tools, including digital ones, that guarantee all students, without exception and regardless of their individual characteristics, their motivation and commitment, their own processing of information. and putting into practice what has been learned.

By way of conclusion, it is important to underline that digital technologies are not corrupting education, but neither can we say that they are improving it simply because they have become naturalized in our classrooms. Only calm planning towards a school for all can lead to a positive outcome in their integration.

Author Bio: Daniel Losada is a University Professor in the Department of Didactics and School Organization. Faculty of Education, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea