The naked king in the classrooms

More books and fewer screens.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
10 June 2023 Saturday 04:35
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The naked king in the classrooms

More books and fewer screens. The conservative Swedish government has stepped on the brakes on digitization in education. It adheres to the theses defended until recently by a multitude of solvent but silent voices - also silenced - that warned of the uncritical enthusiasm with which politics and pedagogy had succumbed to the fascination for screens and for everything that brings the digital last name The promised land was not like that, so it's better to rectify. This is what the Nordic country's education minister, Lotta Edholm, says, after coming to the conclusion that her country faces a serious risk of turning today's schoolchildren into tomorrow's functional illiterates. The recipe for avoiding it: more reading by flipping pages of paper with your fingers instead of using a mouse.

The decision of the Swedes is as disruptive as the warning of the young man who, in the story The Emperor's New Clothes, expressed in the middle of the crowd what everyone pretended to ignore: that the monarch was walking naked in the street. Sweden nuances a minor text of the European Union, but followed as a revelation by the educational community, amending by way of facts some of the pompous and predictable literature that accompanies the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027).

Pressing the stop button also distances Sweden from the bet that countries like Spain are currently making. In the shadow of European funds, the Spanish Government and the autonomous communities are injecting one billion euros into digital classrooms, computers, tablets and training so that students and teachers improve their skills in these matters, according to information from the Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training.

To this amount, of course, must be added the ordinary resources that each administration previously dedicated to these issues, in addition to the effort coming from private pockets. Compared to the non-refundable 60,000 million from the EU to avoid the risk of post-covid structural crisis – the other 80,000 million are credits – it does not seem like a barbarity. But the question that the Swedes put on the table is whether this substantial amount of money should not be spent in another way, if what is intended is to improve the performance and the level of education of our students and also that of teachers

At the moment, as far as teachers are concerned, the enthusiasm for the courses paid for with these funds that they are carrying out to improve and accredit their digital competence is, let's put it this way, limited. Those consulted to write these lines consider them between a waste of time and a hair-puller. Although this could also be caused, no hypothesis should be ruled out, by an excess of iconoclastic professors in my agenda.

Beyond what each government decides, what has happened in Sweden has an indisputable virtue: the breakdown of formal unanimity so that schools continue to run like hares after the digital carrot. We already knew that tech magnates decided long ago that their children study with conventional books instead of screens – excellent company for other people's children, but not their own! – and that in Silicon Valley the top schools they run away from tablets and computers. But the warning was not enough for our head teachers and governors. Eccentricities of millionaires!

That is why it is important that it is a government that now gets up from the table. Not because others must necessarily follow him, but so that they at least stop acting in the way that the famous Vicente, the master of the Spanish proverb, who, when asked where he is going, always answers "donde va la people".

In the book La fábrica de cretinos digitales (Ed. Península, 2020) - read it, parents and teachers, if you haven't already -, the doctor in neuroscience Michel Desmurget produces an excellent work to reach the general public all the existing scientific literature, not interested opinions, which warns about the dangers of screens, including those in educational centers. In the text, the author confesses that he cannot explain how so much proven evidence warning of the risks of digitization could be nullified. sided by the bar chatter that hides, in many cases, particular interests. Perhaps the Swedish Government has read Desmurget. Or maybe he's simply looked up from the screen and realized he doesn't like the tangible reality behind it.