The tempo of change in modalities for learning is rapid. Few public schools can switch to these modalities – for obvious reasons: A school’s infrastructure has to be ready to receive the technologies, teachers and management teams have to be equipped with the skills they will need to use technologies effectively and young children have to be prepared, firstly, in the basics of literacy and numeracy. The entire public primary school system will need overhauling in many unexpected ways.
Even if all children can have access to the technologies and learn to use them competently, and even if all teachers have a solid knowledge and skills platform from which to operate, there is no research evidence that digital learning surpasses face to face learning. Although technologies will be helpful in many ways, and although non-human intelligence may augment human intelligence, there is no evidential warrant that 4IR technologies in themselves will be the remedy for education in the developing world. Primary schools can certainly benefit from a tech-savvy learner corps in the company of a teacher corps that is equally savvy.
However, in education, pragmatism rules. We know the antagonistic societal variables of an ideal scenario only too well. We hear, often enough, of the plans that are being made and the ameliorative actions that are going to be put into place. I honour all of these.
My own concern lies, rather, with how we can prepare not only the digital skills, but the skills of mind and of heart. I would argue that to use digital technology separate from overall cognitive skills, and of values of use, is contrary to the foundational principles of education. To become citizens of a constitutional democracy in which human rights are fundamental, the young must learn to handle the digital world for themselves and for the common good. The tools themselves can certainly benefit children to develop a mindset of self-efficacy and self-directed learning and personal behaviour regulation. But, if it is not a contribution to the common good, it can lead to what has been exhibited in the social media and in the echo chambers of the cyber reality – impacting our material reality at all levels.
In a next blogs I will share a couple of ideas about schools as we know them and about schools as we think they may evolve, realistically.
PS The writers of this blog will make some reference to young children and the need for them to grow a deep love for their home, earth throughout our blogging. EH