Technology Must Become Part of Education
“If schools don’t become digital, they will have no future. That is why students must be accompanied in the conscious use of technologies: the development of citizens who know how to live digital must start at school so that they can use the technologies of the information society with familiarity and critical spirit.” Luca Attias, an extraordinary commissioner for the implementation of the Digital Agenda, is convinced of that and has chosen the digital school as a topic for his first public appearance.
The digital world is increasingly becoming “the” reality in which children are immersed from an early age. This high;y addictive domain is influencing their relationship with others and the learning process. We can witness a reality that adults, parents, and teachers are struggling to understand and from which they are often excluded.
“Digitalization is the most pervasive and innovative phenomenon of all time,” stated Attias during the States General of the digital school, organized in Bergamo by the Centro Studi ImparaDigitale, an Italian association founded in 2012 with one aim – promote the development teaching methods using innovative technologies. During his speech in front of an audience of over a thousand school teachers from all over Italy, he also said: “Digital competence is one of the eight competencies identified by Europe as a key for lifelong learning.”
He also added: “It is clear that we must all be involved, each with its own role. We must make strong choices not to be unprepared and out of the game. First of all, it is necessary to invest in training for teachers, but at the same time, it is necessary to make a wider cultural transformation.”
The teachers themselves are the ones who lead the transformation of the school. They are those who are today more in difficulty – and isolated – in dealing with the process of adapting to the new reality of the students.
The research, presented by the CNIS and the University of Padua, under the guidance of Daniela Lucangeli and ImparaDigitale was introduced to the General States of the digital school. The research, conducted on over 1,300 parents of 32 primary schools from all over Italy and 1,390 teachers from 45 schools, shows how children find themselves immersed in a digitalized world. Children spend an average of seven hours a day online and already have a smartphone or tablet when they are two and or two a half years old. Some of them get to use such a device even in the first year of life.
It is digital!
The school certainly cannot close its eyes to this new reality, continuing to remain anchored to traditional educational models: “Digital education is becoming fundamental not only for children but also adults, who are involved in this change of learning and communication as well. The school must learn to educate and find solutions it does not have today because there are no precise guidelines,” comments Dianora Bardi, president of ImparaDigitale.
“The school must certainly use its advantages as a didactic, motivational, and inclusive engine,” concludes the research after analyzing the potential benefits and risks of using digital technology since the age of primary school, both from a cognitive and a learning point of view.
The key role of teachers
It is therefore essential that teachers grasp the urgency of recovering in their students’ eyes and regaining the role of mentor, which is fading more and more as many decide to buy custom paper online instead of writing it. “We ask for the support of teachers to reach a shared awareness in order to help young people to discern between the enormous potential of digital technology and its capacity to replace reality,” said Daniela Lucangeli, professor of Developmental Psychology and Education University of Padua.
With 70% of adolescents who claim to experience schooltime with discomfort, in which they encountered “cognitive ripping, with the brain tending to strongly reject the violent processes of imposing contents,” the role of adults, who can be heard and draw enough attention, becomes crucial. But, with the potential benefits also comes enormous risks that digitalization can have during the education, starting from dopaminergic dependence on a device that becomes “the extension of the self that accompanies us in every moment.”
For his part, Ernesto Burgio, a member of the European Cancer and Environment Research Institute, emphasizes the need for education about different uses of the smartphone, which can cause increasing dependence and expose us to electromagnetic fields, whose effects start to become more evident, especially in the developmental age.
“We do not want to be against technology, which offers enormous potential for young people in terms of motivation, empathy, emotional self-regulation, and hope,” underlines Lucangeli. “We have reached full awareness that emotions drive learning, and we have to make sure that the increase of human intervention in the school does not reduce the paces of digitalization.”