November 3, 2015

Technologies and human engagement

Economy

The recent publication of the 2012 report on education and digital skills carried out by the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) has highlighted a simple yet emblematic issue: despite new technology having become essential in classrooms, it does not necessarily lead to an improvement in student performance. In some Asian countries the time students spend on the internet is way lower than the rest of the world (11 minutes a day against an OECD average of 41.9 minutes) yet student test results on their ability to transfer their print-reading skills to an online environment were among the best, with Korea ranking second and Japan fourth.

A moderate use of new technologies can undoubtedly lead to improved results, however, the research has established that an intense and frequent use can instead cause a decrease in the quality of the performance. The overall scenario is still quite hazy and more time is needed before we can draw any conclusion on the matter. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the report, it is indeed interesting to acquire a critical point of view in regards to our kids’ education, avoiding useless and anachronistic restrictions, and to teach them how to use these tools responsibly, which has to be accompanied by a multi-layered education that does not exclude traditional pedagogical methods and the dedicated teaching of basic competences.

Therefore yes to computers in the classroom and access to other modern devices, but education has to be much else. To reach a deep understanding and a mindset capable of enabling this process, people need what researchers define as ‘human engagement’, which is the teacher-student relationship: that constructive empathy that could never be replaced by technology, but that could be used as a mean to support any dedicated teacher.

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