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Article: Technology and school: beyond voluntarism. By Francesc Pedró

LLECE up-to-date. Issue 6. March-April, 2012

Article: Technology and school: beyond voluntarism.  By Francesc Pedró

* Francesc Pedró is an expert collaborator in the development of items for the Third Regional Comparative and Explicative Study (TERCE for its Spanish acronym) of the Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE). Pedró is developing items to evaluate the contributions of ICTs in education, which will be included in the TERCE. This article is an invitation to reflect on the use of ICTs in education.

Too frequently, we can hear that, unlike surgeons, a XIX century teacher that would be transported to an actual school would feel perfectly comfortable and would instantly know what to do. This trickster talking must be condemned: the furniture might have not changed radically, but the learning objectives have, as well as the context of the pupils and, of course, their profiles, expectancies and needs. And the technologies have changed too, or did individualized curricular adaptations exist in the XIX century?

Moreover, it cannot be discussed that digital technologies have become an undissociated part of the school panorama.

When data about the school uses of technology are examined a completely different panorama emerges. Concerning 15 years old students in the OECD countries, more than 90% attend a school where access to computers is available, but less than 5% uses these computers for more than 1 hour per week. On the other hand, more than 75% of the teachers use a computer almost every day for work outside the classroom and in private uses, but they hardly use it inside the classroom.

Though, the complexity of these figures request realism to be correctly understood: what works in education and technology is what allows school work to be more efficient. This is why, for example, learners massively use technology for their homework even if, as digital illiterate as they are, they confuse efficiency with plagiarism or they give up any effort of critical information processing. The same search for efficiency explains as well why teachers use technological solutions to prepare lessons or to better present contents in the classroom, but they do not change their way of teaching. The technological solutions suggested are not convincing enough for most of the teachers, surely because the efforts they demand are not rewarded enough, nor by the career incentives system, nor by the achieved results, because the form and the contents of what is assessed do not match yet with the expectative and the needs of society and the knowledge economy.

Information about the use variety and intensity of the technology uses in the classroom don´t show the picture that we should expect of the school in the knowledge society. Analyzing good practices in school and technology show that one of the most important factors is the combination between the teaching professional engagement, that some would call voluntarism, with a favorable institutional framework and a supportive school leadership. If we really want good practices to be disseminated, the school system in whole must count with tools allowing examining in a realist way what tasks or problems can technological solutions solve or whether these solutions can make school work more efficient. The revolution in the school education paradigm might be long to come, but school and many teachers, along with pupils, are moving: they have placed their confidence in technological solutions that solve their problems. And concerning teachers, the point is to find ways that make learners learn more, better and, probably, in a different way.

  • 31-03-2012