How far should we be digitising our schools?

17/10/2017 10:39

Technology as a part of education is now going further than your typical computer room. It’s cost-efficient, simple to use; offers a new method of collaborating with educational content, and can certainly influence the everyday teaching practice. Whether this is a positive or negative thing is highly disputable...

Scannable technology has become more commonplace in schools, especially during the last few years. Technology can transform education, and in a schooling environment, there are multiple tools that can open up whole new possibilities.

QR codes are a great example. Think of them as a smarter version if your typical supermarket barcode. Go to qrstuff.com and put on the site you would like to the link to. Then you’re free to print the QR codes and share them with your class.

Students will no longer have to type in lengthy URL’s, speeding up the lesson process. They may also want to put a QR code inside a textbook when this code is scanned, you could be brought to a document, pointing out certain sections that others found particularly useful.

Aurasma is another great tool that embodies the idea of interactive technology. It’s a reinforced reality app, which lets you add a digital overlay, such as text, image, or video to another item. So, if you were to scan a mug, you could see information about it like the brand and size etc.

In the classroom, Aurasma can open up whole new creative opportunities the classroom. E.g. when teaching English Literature, you could have pictures of famous writers dotted around the room. Students could scan these pictures, and see information about the person- then share what they learnt with the class.

Clearly, interactive technology can open up whole new lesson ideas- although, there are concerns that digitising our schools could be taken too far.

Lot’s of world renown companies like Google, Netflix, and Facebook, have recently been involved in providing technology in multiple different forms to different schools across the globe.

As exciting as this may sound, there’s a chance that technologists are getting ahead of themselves- both politically and ethically. More so, there’s little evidence to suggest this increased digitalisation in schools is actually doing any good.
There have been multiple sketchy cases of corporations, somewhat innocently providing technology for schools, only for it to backfire. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are prime examples. Just last year, the Ugandan government ordered the closure of 60 schools, who had been part of a network, giving heavily scripted, low-cost education in Africa. Here, they faced allegations of ‘teaching pornography’ in sex ed classes. A case like this could easily take place here if we expand digitalisation beyond the compulsory subjects (e.g. Maths and English) where it is so far been concentrated.

Beyond that, there are legitimate reasons to be worried about letting tech companies wield so much influence in the classroom. They tend to offer “free services” in return for access to data, a deal that raises some serious privacy concerns- particularly if you consider that it can involve tracking kids’ every click, keystroke and backspace from nursery onwards.

Discrimination could become an issue e.g. someone attending a job interview who was well qualified, and a great fit for the job might have data on them, revealing that they struggled during the earlier years of school- which could unfairly disadvantage that person.
These situations are not so far-fetched, Technology can clearly make lessons more diverse and entertaining, although it’s important that we keep the influences of the sources of this technology to a minimum, so we’re able to reap the benefits, whilst keeping a teacher-pupil relationships at the heart of our schooling.

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