Technology will not solve all education problems

While it is unthinkable to ignore the importance of technology in the lives of young people around the world, on the other hand the use of this technology in the classroom still generates great debates between educators and academics.

How to turn (often high) investments into technology into ideas that actually improve student performance and learning?

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The theme was discussed in São Paulo, in a recent seminar of the Santillana Foundation and Unesco (UN branch for education and culture).

There is no consensus on the subject, and many studies have yet to find direct correlations between use of technology and better learning.

But observers believe that if the Internet, tablets, computers, applications, and other platforms are used to stimulate students‘ imaginations and support the teacher’s work, with clear goals they can have a positive impact not only on grades, but on skill development and engagement of students.

“The successful use of technology is always accompanied by reforms in other aspects – such as curriculum (school), evaluation and professional development of teachers,” says the final document of the event in São Paulo.

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From the debate and opinion of experts, BBC Brazil raised ten trends related to the use of technology in the classroom and experiences of its use in practice.

Add value to the teacher’s work instead of replacing it
Instead of technological resources that try to replace the teacher or just digitize memorizing tasks (such as taboada) – initiatives that have little practical effect and can even hinder performance – it is far more productive to think about how technology can help the work of the teacher. teacher.

“One of the most caricatured images of technology in education is a computer that replaces the teacher, automatically offering information to students. But that has led to poor results, particularly when the emphasis of curricula is not only on knowledge but also on competence, “says the Unesco document.

“Instead of thinking ‘we have this technology and this application, how can we use it for education’, the ideal is to reflect the opposite: ask teachers what kind of problems and difficulties they face and think about how technology can help them, “says Francesc Pedró, Unesco’s representative for education, to BBC Brazil.

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In this context, the teacher ceases to be just a transmitter of knowledge, but a mediator – guiding students with instructions, feedback, context, examples and key questions within each project and identifying which technological device is best for each moment (even if be paper and pencil).

Studies also indicate that there is little point in using technology just to use: projects that do not have clear objectives and integration with the school curriculum will add little to learning.

Improve processes without radically changing them
Technology does not necessarily have to revolutionize class: it can be used to help teachers and students work more abstract content, for example, or to facilitate learning.

Science and accuracy education is where most of the successful experiences of advancing technology are, precisely because it makes it easier for students to visualize concepts, transform numbers and equations into digital graphs, and see the results of their experiments.

Applications such as the free Geogebra (www.geogebra.org) have also helped teachers teach geometry in high school.

A study of 125 students in grades 7 and 8 in Colombia found that technological resources in this type of activity increased students’ ability to interpret and use graphics by 81%.

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Tablets are gaining space on laptops and desktops
Cheaper and more portable, the tablet tends to gain space.

The traditional Bandeirantes college in São Paulo has a pilot project to use tablets equipped with AppleTV from the 6th year to replace the computer rooms (which drained resources for both the maintenance of the servers and the updating of the equipment) .

The Unesco document sees the individual tablet – whether purchased by parents or borrowed by the public authority – as a medium-term trend in education.

Pedrou, from Unesco, says desktops and laptops will continue to be useful for writing jobs and equipping needy students who do not have access to technology.

But there is a tendency for governments to take more advantage of mobile devices that are already owned by students themselves (smartphones and tablets) and focus their investments on powerful applications and networks.

Thinking about the internet beyond search and social networking sites
Many teachers have noted that traditional tasks are often solved by students with poorly crafted searches on the internet and the old “CtrlC + CtrlV” (the copy and paste computer commands).

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“There is no point in continuing to promote Internet use without adequate structure and guidance, which does not prevent most students from relying on the first information they find for their job, as well as helping them avoid distractions from the network itself” , says the Unesco document.

But the internet has a lot more potential beyond search and social networking sites.

A project called GLOBE (www.globe.gov), for example, connects more than 4,000 schools worldwide with scientists. In it, students collect environmental data from their regions and send it to specialists, who help analyze them and suggest solutions to local environmental problems.

Platforms such as Padlet (http://padlet.com/features), already used by students in the Brazilian public network, help students and teachers build online projects together. Experiences in which students create their own websites also stimulate diverse skills and the production of their own content.

And with regard to traditional searches, it’s up to schools to teach students to search more efficiently, filter and compare data, amidst the ever-increasing wealth of information on the internet.

Make connections to the real world
If it facilitates the connection of the classroom with the outside world, technology can play a crucial role in teaching. And there are more and more examples of this.

In the US, elementary school students have created their own digital school yearbook and a virtual tour of a local museum to show it to younger students at the same school. The result was more committed students to the studies.

In Ecuador, 55 students equipped with computers simulated the opening of a restaurant during classes. They used software like Excel to control their spending and platforms to develop a project website, draw pamphlets, and so on.

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In a rural school in Colombia last year, students were given tablets to develop a project to protect the local water basin and analyze soil samples. With the help of educational apps, they used the opportunity to learn the elements of the periodic table.

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According to the Unesco document, such initiatives provide “practical opportunities to exercise and apply skills” in which students “gain motivation and become much more involved in the learning process.”

Stimulate creation, cooperation and interaction
Students learn more when they use technology to create new content for themselves rather than being mere recipients, says the Unesco document.

In this area there are successful experiences of groups or schools that jointly create and debate databases on certain subjects on collective construction platforms such as the Knowledge Forum (www.knowledgeforum.org).

In the city of Puente Alto, Chile, students of the fourth year of elementary school participated in an interdisciplinary project of languages ​​and arts, whose objective was to understand and value native peoples. Students researched in groups, created a story about one of the people, recorded and edited their own project video.

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Assessments indicate that content comprehension is greater in such environments than if textbooks were used only.

Thinking about new ways of evaluating students

Before new ways of offering and producing content, we must also think of new ways to evaluate their production, experts say.

“It is best to pursue tasks that stimulate the relationship with content and reflection – give greater challenges to students who are armed with more technology,” says Pedró.

He further says that schools can not forget their responsibility to develop and evaluate students’ digital skills. “Although they use their cell phones all day, they use them for tasks that interest them, not necessarily for their intellectual development. Countries such as Chile already assess the students’ digital competence.”

Use games for learning
If well used, video games may require the student to analyze the situation, concentration and knowledge of the subjects studied, while making learning more experiential and fun.

“Games are important when dialoguing with local reality and history,” Manoel Dantas, general director of Clickideia, a provider of educational content for public and private schools, based in Campinas (SP), told the BBC.

The company developed, focusing on students from Rio Grande do Norte, an interactive game that addresses a massacre that occurred during the Dutch invasion of the state in 1645.

In Peru, students participated in the construction of a 3D game based on an episode of Peruvian independence (the rebellion of Cusco, 1814). It was used as a supplement to classes and improved class performance.

Customization and customization
Some online platforms allow content to be customized by region (activities linked to local history and custom, for example) and even to each student, according to their strengths and weaknesses.

It is adaptive teaching, “which draws a profile of the student and identifies how he best learns,” explains Dantas, from Clickideia.

Another platform that uses the method is the Brazilian software Geekie, that when interacting with the student, realizes its aptitudes and difficulties and traces a study plan adapted to them.

Planning is key
The use of technology will be most effective if it is not random but planned, with clear objectives of what impact it can have on teaching.

In a July study this year on technology efficiency in education, the Inter-American Development Bank suggests four items: 1) Focus on specific learning goals, which may be in basic areas such as math and language, or in skills such as critical thinking and collaboration; 2) Coordinate key components: technological infrastructure, content and human resources; 3) Develop a project evaluation and monitoring strategy, with the steps to be followed and the impact that it intends to generate; 4) Ensure that the initiative is not isolated, but part of a sustainable plan over time in the school or network.

Teachers have never been through such a difficult phase to practice their profession as today: inattentive, disinterested students who complain, yawn or talk during class. What can I do to reverse this picture? As we think about the daily life of these children and adolescents, we know that what they most enjoy is to make use of technology, whether through cell phones, tablets, PCs or video games. Through technology tools, we can make classes attractive, but not just that: effective! Learn why:

  1. Actor of learning
    When using the computer, the student becomes the actor of his own learning, and the role of the teacher is the mediator in the teaching-learning process. Thus, the student can explore new possibilities of learning having the teacher as a guide in his knowledge course.
  2. The contact with reality
    The internet is an inexhaustible source of real-life examples. Through the web, it becomes easier to interact between didactic content and reality, making learning useful for everyday life, establishing a link between real life and the concept learned. In this way, the student will understand the reason for learning certain concepts that might otherwise appear to be useless. It is important, however, to emphasize the role of the teacher who has fundamental importance to help evaluate the sources of information and even all the content available to the student. In this case, the teacher acts as a guide to the available content.
  3. Visual materials
    The visual materials that the web has make the absorption of the content by the students is given more accurately. The vast majority of people are visual, so the use of pictures will enable students to better memorize and assimilate the content.
  4. Respect for individuality
    When the student interacts with the computer, it is possible to adapt the materials according to the personal needs of each student. In this way, students with cognitive disabilities can do different exercises using the same topic, the other students can advance in activities according to their knowledge, and the gifted can move on, in search of new challenges.
  5. Stimulating interaction
    The use of technology favors interaction among students. Even shy students are able to interact through technological tools. By doing activities in pairs or groups, the internet allows everyone to express their knowledge and opinions, which brings to the fore previous students’ experience, which motivates them even more, since they feel an active and important part of the learning process .
  6. The use of games
    Students – and not only them – are motivated when a content involves some type of competition. Through gamification, learning becomes fun, and entertaining. Students who are competing with each other or with the machine get immersed in the activities, and even lament when the class time ends!
  7. Homework? How nice!
    Nothing like a game, a wanted or some other challenge to get students to enjoy doing homework, and even thank you for it: throw interesting questions on the air and let them think and search about the solution . Make them think, arousing in them the interest in reasoning.
  8. Attentive students
    Without technology, we hardly keep students attentive for forty, fifty minutes, talking about the same topic. Even we adults have trouble concentrating. Who has not caught up with tapping their fingers impatiently because a page takes … seconds to open? On the other hand, sometimes we spend hours watching things that interest us and we do not even realize time runs. Technology can keep any individual focused. When the activity no longer interests the student, it is always possible to move to another, and another, and another …
  9. Motivation on the rise
    Have you ever imagined students who can not wait to attend your class? This is not utopian, it is possible, through technology. Challenging, challenging, challenging, and challenging exercises, there is an infinite range of ready-to-use activities, just searching for good sources and accessing them, leaving students free to explore new resources.