Do anti-tech schools make sense in a digital world?


In recent years, some anti-technology discourses have appeared that defend that children and young people should not be exposed to any type of screen. A position that, together with the risks that the use of the Internet and networks have for minors , has also led to an anti-technology vision in the educational field. However, it is an approach that confuses and mixes contexts.

News and interviews in which some tech gurus admit to sending their kids to anti-tech schools have sparked debate. But this position is not new, since in the mid-80s of the last century, schools without technologies were created around Silicon Valley, at the request of the big technological entrepreneurs. This is how centers such as the Waldorf School of the Peninsula and the Brightworks School arose . However, assuming that technology is harmful due to this fact is too reductionist an approach.

Not so radical gurus

If we go beyond the headlines, we will see that, in general, the statements of several of these professionals are less radical. The Makerspaces in the early years project , funded by the European Union and led by British researcher Jackie Marsh , explored the possible rejection of technology by this technological elite.

The results revealed that these families reject children spending a lot of “meaningless” time in front of screens, but not the creative and productive use of these tools. In fact, many of these technological gurus indicate that learning to program is a basic competence of this century and Tim Cook himself, director of Apple, defends the integration of programming at an early age.

What it specifies, as can be seen in this interview published in The Guardian , is that it is important to make reasonable use of technology and set limits.

In 2013, many of these professionals participated in an initiative that promoted programming training, entitled What most schools don’t teach (What most schools don’t teach), and denounced that only one in four schools taught programming, and they talked about the importance of learning these skills.

A means, not an end

This implies a more realistic view of the current world in which we live, and not an absolute denial of any technology. Let’s not forget that one of the basic principles of Educational Technology as a discipline is that technology is not an end in itself, but a means (to create, overcome communication barriers, express ourselves, etc.).

That Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft) did not let his children use their mobile phones at the table and did not allow them to have one until they were 14 years old is not being against technology, it is educating in an appropriate and responsible use of it. same.

The example of the elders

The study Young Children and Digital Technology , carried out in 2017 in 21 countries of the European Union, concludes that, in general, in Europe children from 0 to 8 years old learn to use technologies by watching the use made by their relatives.

In the cases of children who attend schools that have implemented technologies in education, students are more aware of their risks.

The study also indicates that socioeconomically advantaged families are more aware of the risks and problems of abuse of technologies, so they are more restrictive with the time that children are exposed to them.

The danger of the digital divide

A technology-free education for children and young people in the 21st century implies avoiding the prominence that digital technologies have in all sectors of life. Organizations such as UNESCO and the European Union highlight digital competence as one of the basic competences of the citizen of the 21st century.

good digital literacy will help us to make children and young people more aware of the risks and possibilities of digital technologies, thus favoring a good use of them.

Technologies in the educational process

Therefore, it is essential to work on the risks of technologies in the family and educational sphere, but it is also essential that schools integrate them, from a methodological and non-instrumental perspective, to favor the development of students’ digital competence.

After the covid-19 pandemic, UNESCO highlighted the importance of technologies to enrich the educational process, but also warned of the risk that they help deepen inequalities. In this sense, if we do not introduce technology in schools we could be contributing to the increase of the digital divide.

Not all of us are computer gurus who can help our children with these issues. In the current world in which we live, we cannot talk about banishing technologies. What we can do is promote a rational integration , based on Educational Technology, which enables the development of digital competence and the healthy use of resources that are essential in the 21st century.

Author Bio: Maria del Mar Sanchez Vera is Professor of the Department of Didactics and School Organization. Member of the Educational Technology Research Group at the University of Murcia