Opinion: Digital learning

POSTED: 08/9/13 1:40 PM

The perception that digital learning will help students improve their results is gaining support. In the Netherlands, the term iPad-schools has become part of current lingo, and in Aruba politicians are now pushing for more digital education – something that is now suddenly called Mastery Learning. In St. Maarten, MP Johan Leonard had to travel all the way to a Parlatino meeting somewhere far away to come back with the rather outdated idea of a laptop for every student.

Aruban politicians suggest that students would be better motivated if classrooms became more digital. But what do smartphones, iPads and tablets (nobody talks about the good old laptop anymore) have to do with motivation?

Sure, where these gadgets are useful, they ought to be part of learning. We just wonder: are pocket calculators now allowed in schools or do kids still have to use their brains to discover that 2 plus 2 is actually 4?

We read a quote in an article about digital learning in Aruba that went like this: “Pupils don’t want to write in notebooks or on the blackboard. They’d rather receive assignments for which they have to look up information online.”

We figure that in this quote, notebooks should not be mistaken for computers.

Educating kids however without real pen and paper and exclusively on electronic equipment has its downsides. We’re not saying students should not familiarize themselves with technology but like medication – this is not a solution to anything, it is just a tool.

Suppose schools dropped math because everybody had a pocket calculator anyway – or access to software that performs the same tasks. People would lose the ability to think for themselves and they would have no clue how to multiply 69 by 13, to name just a random example.

Back in the sixties of last century, you could encounter a mobile grocer offering a pack of biscuits for 38 cents and then say with a smile on his face: “I have a special offer: two packs for just 79 cents.”

Once calculators have made people brain dead, nobody would discover that the special offer actually favors the mobile grocer, not the consumer.

The same is true for classrooms where the internet has become the ultimate source of information. It will make students lazy and certainly less critical. They may also feel completely lost in the tropical forest of information that is out there. How will they be able to distinguish reliable information from utter nonsense?

Do we think that technology ought to be kept out of the classroom? Absolutely not, but the way some politicians present it now creates the impression that computers make better students. That is so much nonsense, that the word to describe it still has to be invented.

Giving students internet-access for their assignments may sound cool, but who is going to monitor what they actually do once they are online? Will they engage in serious study-activities or will they wander off to chat-boxes and what have you to waste their school time away?

Quality teachers are still the most essential key to quality learning. They must be able to make their subjects interesting for students; otherwise chaos in the classroom follows with failing grades not far behind.

Before we embrace technology as the new Holy Grail we ought to take care of our teachers and create the conditions that enable them to perform at the top of their abilities. That will really help our students.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Digital learning by

Comments are closed.