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“Let’s rethink the place of digital technologies in education”

This column will appear “World of Education”. If you are a Le Monde subscriber, you can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

Our Sustainable Digital Education Collective brings together teachers and management staff in primary, secondary and higher education who want to rethink the place of digital technologies in education. Schools today are mainstreaming the use of digital education by increasing screen time for students who are already over-exposed. We must end this digital slavery so that we can calmly discuss the future of their institution and ours.

In this perspective, we offer some ideas for encouraging constructive reflection. The age of purchasing smartphones is getting younger and the proliferation of mobile connected devices in the home is helping to increase children’s and teenagers’ exposure to screens.

Our students come to class tired and have trouble concentrating, especially because they stay up late in front of their screens. Their language skills seem to be affected, but so are their thinking, analysis, synthesis and imagination skills. There are many students whose psychological suffering is compounded by exposure to inappropriate content, often violent, cyberbullying encouraged by social networks.

In this context, our students do not have the same life as previous generations. We ourselves, their teachers, connected adults, use the possibilities offered by digital technologies as a professional tool and our practice differs from our predecessors. However, unlike our students, we had a childhood and adolescence protected from individual screens.

Digital loneliness

Where digital technology offers our students an endless prospect of virtual and passive entertainment, stealing time that could otherwise be spent on reading, sports, and real social interactions, we at their age can become bored and search for entertainment resources on our own. Therefore, we believe that the school should play a crucial role in getting students away from the screens that limit them. The school should be part of a big awareness and prevention campaign on screens and their use to protect students from excessive exposure that threatens their intellectual development and their emotional balance.

Paradoxically, schools need to take control of extracurriculars: when our students spend more time on screens than in the classroom, their education is essentially done through the digital solitude of social networks and the series they seek. This poses a systemic risk that threatens the mental health and critical thinking of future citizens and the future of our democracy. More advantaged families offer their children extracurricular activities that open them up to the world.

Source: Le Monde

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