Samuel’s father – a young Kenyan portrayed in Pascal Plisson documentary “On the Way to School” (see my blog) – says it all: do we need technology in the classroom or a pencil is enough?
A group of french teachers launched a movement against digital devices in schools: “appel de Beauchastel contre l’école numérique” available in a digital format (!) here
Beyond the usual rethoric against commodification of education and the Silicon Valley duplicity promoting technology in the classroom while sending their kids to non digital schools (see my blog), these teachers refuse to be simple intermediaries between students and their devices.
A similar movement started in the UK a couple of years ago. In a letter (paywall) to The Times, 198 academics and children’s authors accused the new national education policies “of taking enormous risk with the quality of children’s lives and learning”.
What these teachers don’t say is that technology will never be the solution if it is not accompanied by a change in pedagogy.
In 2015, an OECD report concluded that “school systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world”. In other words, a tablet won’t solve it all (but a tablet is not useless). Another OECD report takes the debate a step further introducing the need for students to work independently, co-operatively and in projects with little teacher intervention. Would our French teachers accept to let students lead the learning process?
It is one thing to believe that technology can make learning more effective in certain conditions but it is another to believe that putting computers in the hands of all students can make all schools more effective. Examples abound in favour or against the role of digital.
The Bolton school – Essa Academy – became the first in Britain to buy touchscreen devices for all its students and went from being a failing school to be judged ‘good’ by Ofsted and a reference on how to teach with technology. On the contrary a report, based on research in 17 US states with online charter schools, has found “significantly weaker academic performance” in maths and reading in these virtual schools compared with the conventional school system.
Teachers are the cornerstone of change in education. We need more innovative teachers (let’s have a look again at an inspiring portrait of a young teacher who wants to change his class… and the world. Let’s go back to Frank Damour’s article entitled “Comment Internet m’a ré-appris pourquoi j’enseigne”.
Education will be better off with the committed children in the center and the committed teachers not left aside (especially on their own initiative!).
At the end of the day, one must decide whether education needs more plaintive letters or more innovative practices?