Final assignment

Well I have finally finished my final assignment and created my digital artefact for the edcmooc. I based it on how much education has changed and how technology has played a huge role in this.

It raised interesting questions for me. You would assume that technology is helping children (and adults) to learn and make education more relevant to them, thus engaging them more effectively. I read somewhere that 78% of children felt that technology helped them in their studies.

I know for some this is dystopia and that children aren’t learning properly or in the way “it used to be”. But is that a bad thing? I read Marc Prensky’s digital natives digital immigrants and is Google making us stupid? by Nicholas Carr. Both articles are essentially saying that our brains and the way we learn and take in information has changed. You can see this vividly when you consider how children learnt in schools in the past (if they were lucky enough to be able to attend school at all) using repetition and memorisation.

Now compare it to the way children learn today. A whole raft of strategies are used to engage students and technology appears to be the future of education. On the surface this is great as technology is the “first language” of children and it is relevant to them. They are digital natives. I was fascinated by this article which shows how children are not afraid of technology and simply embrace it. This does seem to support the view that technology will eventually ensure that all children will have access to education regardless of their background.

However, is it really that simple? This BBC article highlights one of the problems as does this one also from the BBC.

But the biggest problem, here and abroad, is not just down to the actual lack of money in terms of poverty but all the other things that go with it. The ATL teachers union, did a study in 2011 which showed that more than 85% of the teachers who responded to the survey said they believed that poverty had a negative impact on the well-being of pupils they taught.

80% said students came to school tired
73% said they arrived hungry
67% said they wore worn-out clothes or lacked the proper uniform.
71% said pupils living in poverty lacked confidence
65% said they missed out on activities outside school such as music, sports or going to the cinema.
80% of teachers surveyed said they believed poverty had a negative impact on pupils’ attainment – with problems including under-achievement, not having a quiet place to study at home, inability to concentrate and lack of access to computers and the internet.

I find these statistics even more scary as this survey was conducted in a so called “developed” country (UK).

Even if these students had a laptop and broadband connection at home would they have the motivation and concentration to study if they are hungry, cold or perhaps living in a climate of domestic violence? What about children who live abroad? If you are in a war zone or refugee camp education may not be a priority. What about children who are the sole wage earners and are working 16 hours a day? Or girls who have to study in secret or not at all because educating them is considered wrong?

You can throw as much technology and money at it as you like but if circumstances and attitudes aren’t changed it is basically pointless.

I am not saying don’t invest in it but look at the bigger picture and don’t assume technology alone will solve a problem. Things will change, as they already have done, but it will take time and, as always, it will move quicker for some. This made me think of the first part of this post which mentioned how our brains are changing as we use them differently. It will be interesting to see how this affects people in the future if some have ready access to technology, and use it daily, and those that don’t. Will we evolve differently? How will this affect humanity? Hopefully for the better of just differently.


  1. Louise Taylor says:

    I just finished my final assignment today too. I have also included the one laptop for one child campaign :). There is also ‘room to read’ which aims to give books but maybe that is outdated now? I still prefer books.
    One of my observations about MOOCs being benevolent was that they are only available to people who can read – and mainly in English. You also need an internet connection and some basic education as there is nothing for low level learning — -yet.

    • Nat Nelson says:

      I like the sound of ‘room to read’. I love books too and I always said that I would never use an iPad to read but I am afraid I have succumbed! I agree re assuming that children can read and in English. I think we still retain a little of our colonies attitude and think that countries should be grateful for what we give them and not worry about what they actually need.

      • Louise Taylor says:

        Ah well that is a whole other question and might involve politics. I have done the politics course yet so I can’t comment.

    • Nat Nelson says:

      Oh and well done on completing your assignment by the way. Feels good doesn’t it.

      • Louise Taylor says:

        Yes it does. I tried to comment yours by the way but you have to log in to comment and I don’t have an account. I liked it very much specially the video.

  2. Ilzele says:

    I just realized that I watched your presentation days ago but forgot to comment 🙂 I really enjoyed it and you’re making a really good point: technology can only do so much.
    It reminded me of what we read in the article by Daniel (if I’m not mistaken): for some women in Africa the technology needed to help learning would be a washing machine to free up some time for learning.
    P.S. I like the new look of your blog!

    • Nat Nelson says:

      Thank you! I spent all weekend changing colours, pictures, themes etc. nearly drove myself up the wall! I have decided to keep the blog on after we finish edm as I find it quite enjoyable. Still getting used to it but that’s part of the fun. Do you have any more MOOCs planned?

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