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"Over-reliance on the importance of computer-based technology in the school"

News: Nov 16, 2015

There is an inexplicable and excessive optimism regarding what digital tools should be able to accomplish in terms of learning in Swedish schools. That is the opinion of Catarina Player-Koro, associate professor at the Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies (IDPP), whose research examines the expectations of digital tools in relation to what is actually happening in the schools.

In a lecture at the Research in Progress conference in November, Catarina Player- Koro presented a historical overview of what the discussion surrounding the introduction of computers and other digital tools looks like in Sweden.
It is a journey that has about 45 years of history and ends up in various places, including today’s municipal initiatives to provide a digital tool for each and every student, the so-called 1:1 initiatives.
“The digital technology has been accepted, but it has not
changed the school at all as many believed it would. It is still
all about traditional teaching in traditional classrooms, only
now the students communicate and seek information with their
computers. If we want to change the school, we must do it in
ways other than just by buying technology,” says Catarina
“There is good reason to examine who controls the rhetoric
and for what purpose, and the teachers and school leaders are
now taking back the initiative on the issue of the purpose and
goals of digitisation.”

Few positive changes

In an overview of the available research, Catarina Player-Koro
has examined some 600 scientific articles that touch on the
relationship between IT and learning.
“95 per cent of the articles start out from the premise that technology
affects learning, which is based on an optimistic stance
where the view is that the possibilities are inherent and built-in
in the technology.”
In the larger studies that have been performed concerning what
digital technology is all about, major positive changes for the
schools are rarely seen.
“Strangely enough, the positive rhetoric continues. Arguments
such as ‘the benefits will arrive when the technology is used
more often,’ or ‘the schools are not using the technology as intended,’
are prevalent. The technological determinism, a reductionist
theory that presumes that technology drives development
and solves problems, and does things by itself, is strong and
deeply rooted, but this is something that must be questioned.
If not, we will not be able to find out what it is actually possible
to do in a digital learning environment,” stresses Catarina

National IT strategies

In September 2015, the national Government gave the National
Agency for Education the mandate of proposing national IT
strategies for the school system.
“It is stated there that the proposals inter alia contain changes
in both the curricula and syllabi in order to clarify the inclusion
of computer programming as an element in the teaching. An
interesting observation in relation to this is that powerful forces
from various directions, including the business community,
have put forward arguments promoting the need for programming
in the schools using the same rhetoric that was used in
the 1980s when computer science became part of the Swedish
school system,” Catarina Player-Koro reminds us.
Her view is that the argument that programming promotes
participation in society and democracy, and that knowledge of
programming promotes structured thinking, once again involves
a belief in digital technology that is as strong as it was some
40 years ago.
“The problem is quite simply that this was never achieved
during the period when programming was taught in the
schools. One should take into account to a greater extent the
lessons learned from past experience and the results from previous
IT investments targeted at schools.”
Catarina Player-Koro believes that the huge profits for IT companies
should be looked at and discussed.
“The companies anchor themselves in a real school problem
that they are very good at presenting an overly simplistic solution
to. The schools then feel that ‘they have to get on the
bandwagon’, and the governing politicians are not professionally
versed or knowledgeable enough to see through this. This
is a really serious problem.”


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