The educational tinkerers (part 2)


By May 30, 2024

The Mazes of Innovation

Therefore, we must innovate to educate better, longer, and everywhere. Education is first and foremost a public good, and states have taken on the mission of ensuring broad and equal access to knowledge for all. Most states have shown the difficulties in fulfilling this mission. Innovation and adaptation seem antithetical to the very functioning of educational systems. Significant resources are allocated in a massive network of pipes leading after many twists and turns to classrooms. Managing such infrastructure has become increasingly complex; management and evaluation needs have gradually encroached on educational time, imposing administrative burdens deemed necessary to account for the enormous investment made on behalf of taxpayers. The teaching profession has gradually been devalued in many countries, with training, salaries, and status that no longer attract the best for the fundamental task of educating.

Yet new educational models are emerging in some countries in Europe and Asia, promoting school and teacher autonomy, less central administrative pressure, finding pedagogical solutions closest to each student’s needs, greater imposed social diversity, recognition of teachers through salary and status, and “intelligent” use of digital solutions.

Technology and Education

What about technology, often presented as the key to an educational revolution? How can digital technologies help solve the structural problems of educational systems in countries experiencing a progressive degradation of learning and teaching conditions and assist those suffering from accessibility issues to resources and pedagogical support?

There may be a positive correlation between integrating digital technologies in learning techniques and student performance, depending on the time spent on these digital solutions. PISA tests show that using digital resources and supports for one hour in learning mathematics positively influences performance. Meanwhile, prolonged use of these technologies beyond two hours for leisure negatively affects student performance, and the addictive nature of smartphone use causes increased anxiety and distraction.

Should We Embrace More Digital Technology?

This is where edtech (educational technology) comes into play, offering new digital solutions addressing a wide range of educational needs, improving pedagogical resources, facilitating school management, better assessing skills, and ultimately promoting lifelong learning. Edtech entrepreneurs form a diverse community of teachers, parents, programmers, and others, expressing diverse interests in education and driven by a desire for innovation.

Focusing on compulsory education, often referred to as K12 in Anglo-Saxon countries, edtech entrepreneurs often depict the need for innovation in education with an image: a child asleep on a desk or yawning while waiting for the class to end. Education would thus be boring or even off-putting, explaining students’ lack of interest, school dropout, and ultimately the mismatch between acquired skills and those demanded in the job market. This image is not new. The French photographer Robert Doisneau captured one of his most famous photos in the 1950s.

Innovating in education would therefore mean making it “stimulating,” “entertaining,” “participative,” “personalized.” Teachers would have more time for direct interaction with their students, be equipped with more engaging and easy-to-create pedagogical resources, use personalized real-time assessment data to better meet each student’s needs, communicate easily with families and students outside school hours, and respond with one click to administrative requirements. Digital technology could thus revolutionize education and fulfill the dual promise of social and economic impact.

(to be followed)

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