Digital technology and the future of education

17 Mar 2014

After a recent report on the BBC News website on the increasing use of technology in education, it got me thinking: having been through a school system where, the majority of the time, we used textbooks and exercise books, could methods of learning be evolving? Could history books be consigned to the history books? In the ever evolving and interacting world of technology and education, it is hard to work out what will come next, especially with modern opportunities for students to programme their own aids for learning.

 

As much as I am all for any technology that will help students learn and achieve to a higher standard, I cannot imagine a fully digital world of education however. Even on courses where the majority of work is done on a computer, I can’t see myself learning without a pen and paper, whether that be to make notes or to do actual work. We may be behind other countries that rely completely on technology, but whether you like it or not, education cannot be all practical. Therefore, there must still be an element of theory which involves learning from face to face lessons and at the minimum, some form of book. 

I also see a problem in the feasibility of such a method. It may be a delight for technology companies such as Apple and Microsoft; however, there are still risks in taking the entire education system into the digital world. For a start, the safety of work is not at all guaranteed. Moreover, young people need skills that come with textbook learning, skills that are likely to be lost if the education system were to radically change. The problem with learning from a computer is that it has no personality, which, although you may say the same about some teachers, I think helps when it comes to engaging young people in a subject that they may otherwise, not enjoy.

The next thing you will be telling me is that we have replaced Michael Gove with a robot. God help us if that would happen. On the other hand, perhaps the robot might do a better job.

Nevertheless, whether I approve of fully digital education or not, I see that there are certain advantages of this form of education. For one, there is an urgent need for young people to be trained to deal with cyber-threats. There is an increasing chance that, in the coming years, battles will not be won on the ground but in the ether. To add to that, young people are the innovators of the future and we need to recognise that the internet and online technology will be their tools.

Overall, I accept the advantages of a moderate amount of learning being done on computers or other devices. However, traditional forms of education still supersede computers in many areas. Therefore I will not be lobbying to turn my teachers into robots, not yet anyway.

Backbench Minister for Education

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