Marrakech - Whenever I attend a meeting, conference or a workshop about promoting teaching and learning in Morocco, participants never miss to demonstrate the paramount importance of ICT and the necessity to implement it in our schools.
Marrakech – Whenever I attend a meeting, conference or a workshop about promoting teaching and learning in Morocco, participants never miss to demonstrate the paramount importance of ICT and the necessity to implement it in our schools.
Some may even look at these tools as a crucial vehicle that will shift our education from the bottom of the ranking of the world educational systems. One may say that it is inconceivable to teach 21st century students using primitive tools and equipment while they are submerged with high-tech tools at every instance of their daily life, except in class. Bearing in mind that Morocco still fights to afford useful blackboards, this is not an issue that will be solved overnight.. But this is not the topic I am about to evoke in this article; the issue is that we overestimate the role of technology in education.
The dream of revolutionising education reached the peak at the golden age of technology, with the development of modern computers after the 1980s. This new and improved device that encompassed all the features of previous devices made them null and void. A computer is audio-visual, interactive and can be programmed to do almost anything, and this is the reason why this tool was entrusted with the mission of revolutionising education and distancing itself from old methods.
In previous years, there has been debate among psychologists, computer scientists and educators concerning the ability of computer programming to enhance thinking and develop problem-solving skills in humans.
I still remember, back in 1990s, when a student in our school owned a computer at home, he/she was assumed to be smart and knowledgeable. That belief has been proven wrong over time. Today, almost everybody I know owns a computer, a tablet or a smartphone, but all these gadgets have no significant influence on our intelligence or knowledge. Worse than that, many of us admit that the chalkboard generation of the 1960s and 70s had demonstrated better education levels than this generation of tech-savvy millennials.
The question that should be raised here is to what extent the use of technology in our educational system will help improve teaching and learning?
In 1986, a group of scientists in Bank Street College of Education, led by D. Midian Kurland ,carried out a study about the development of programming ability and thinking skills in high school students. The outcome of the study showed that students developed programming skills but there was no significant impact on their reasoning skills.
Throughout this last century, technology has managed to revolutionize many areas of our life, but education has no significant part in this revolution. With all inventions, hopes and predications, students are still taught in packed classrooms by a single teacher, and to make things even worse, classroom sizes are getting larger each year.
We have to admit that ICT has undeniable advantages; it can enhance creativity, help students to learn at their own pace, and are cheaper and available to learners at any time and geographical setting, unlike teachers.
So, why did technology not make us or our children any smarter?
It goes without saying that learning through audio-visual, interactive programs makes learning easier and enjoyable; but therein lies the problem. Maintaining information is linked to the amount of effort we invest in learning. Doing little or no effort is surely going to result in less or no outcome. Our brains function like our bodies and muscles; the more we use them, the stronger they become to overcome tougher challenges.
If we still believe that the role of a teacher is to transfer information to students and fill their heads, then the internet is a platform that teachers absolutely cannot compete with. Youtube, for instance, offers millions of videos uploaded by experts in various fields: science, history, language learning and even how to make a necktie. With this myriad of videos at the disposal of everybody, I guess nobody should need a teacher. But, why do teachers still maintain their jobs? Furthermore, why is the number of students who take private tutoring and evening classes still growing despite the affordability of the internet today and the exponential increase of videos on YouTube and other educational channels?
The answer is simple; the teaching/learning process is not a mere transference of information from the teacher’s head to the student’s. It is rather a social process in which the teacher is a guide and a facilitator. His/her role is to inspire learners, motivate and challenge them; thus robots cannot replace them.
According to the social constructivism theories, learning is socially situated and knowledge is a holistic experience that is socially and culturally constructed; in other words, learning is influenced by the social, cultural and even emotional environments in which it takes place. For this to happen, it is necessary that the learner be surrounded by his peers and a teacher, who cares about his or her learning.
Technology is extremely fascinating and helpful, but it cannot be more than a tool for both teachers and learners. Therefore, it cannot surpass the human teacher. Obviously, we agree that ICT has managed to cause an evolution in the field of education, but it is still far from causing a revolution.
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