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Do we have a true online education?

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  • Education must adapt to social and technological changes, leaving behind obsolete models and embracing new learning methods.
  • Students of the future must become unique beings, capable of providing added value and teachers can no longer decide whether to adapt and develop their skills; now they must evolve

 

ICT in the educational world

 

During the first months of confinement, the students were immersed in an unexpected turn that completely changed their habits. What used to be known as routine at their desks became a screen from home, many novelties, and unknown obstacles.

 

But is education globally in a positive phase of digitization?

Many say that COVID was the necessary catalyst to accelerate needs that were evident and had been noted on numerous occasions, but reality shows that there is still a long way to go. Part of the change is also produced by the possibilities offered by online education; in fact, some university centres have progressively started to implement the online learning and training system due to the advantages it brings. Some of them are: reduction of geographical distances, effective use of time, permanent and updated training quality, etc. But make no mistake, what was experienced during the first confinement at an educational level was not a true online education.

 

New paradigm, more flexible and personalized

 

Education, like other institutions, must adapt to social and technological changes, leaving behind obsolete models and embracing new methods of learning by applying the new tools available.

 

As part of the proposed transformation, it seems assumed that master classes will disappear and that learning will become more personalized by accepting different speeds for each student, as well as more specific methodologies and curricula. However, it is also assumed that this learning will be lifelong and will probably be more expensive.

 

Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD assumes that we should be educating students to face the present and future to integrate technology into lifelong learning, “the problem is that we have 21st century students, 20th Century Teachers and Schools Designed for the 19th Century “. Therefore, the first change is to prioritize personal skills and experience (practice) over academic knowledge or memory. Why? Easy. Knowledge in current times is here, in the cloud or, in other words; The Internet will be and de facto already is, the main source of knowledge.

 

For her part, Pam Fredman, president of the International Association of Swedish Universities, believes that “we need strong leadership from professionals who are as competent in technology as in the social sciences and humanities”. We must understand that students of the future (and today) must become unique beings, able to provide a value that differentiates them from machines such as Soft Skills (public speaking, teamwork, adaptability, empathy, etc.).

 

New roles for teachers

 

Precisely, there are some new attributes for student to come, therefore it is obvious that in order for them to grow as we describe, it is also necessary for their teachers to take on new roles and update themselves to the times and needs of today and tomorrow, leaving aside once and for all what was required in the past. Teachers will now have to understand their role as facilitators and counsellors, they will have to help students to be critical with information, and especially now that the internet is a meeting place for so much content; reliable, but also manipulated or under interests. Basically, they will have to help detect credible and reliable sources. Also, agreeing that methodologies such as the “flipped classroom” will probably grow, giving the student the task to work or research a topic that they then expose to the class in front of the rest of their classmates. And all this, counting on his teacher for the necessary accompaniment work.

 

That said, teachers can no longer decide whether to adapt and develop their digital skills; they now have an obligation to do so. Updating in this field is a must. And not only that, new teachers with more STEM-related knowledge should help to acquire these skills as well. As an example, at the Summit on Computer Science Education organized by the White House, a new initiative was announced that will give all American students, from kindergarten to high school, access to training in computer science. On the other hand, legislators from various countries such as the USA, Slovenia, Finland, Singapore, Japan, or Israel, opted to add a fundamental skill to the 3 most conventional (writing, reading and arithmetic), known as programming.

 

Utopia or reality?

 

Technology plays a key role in learning about the new times, as concluded by 645 experts from the world of education interviewed in a survey in 2015 that aimed to describe education for 2030. In addition, the World Summit of Education Innovation in Education (WISE) had 15,000 experts on the subject, including linguist Noam Chomsky, Australian Minister Julia Gillard and Professor Sugata Mitra, in all cases confirmed that a more flexible education was needed than contemplate a new role for teachers.

 

So the benefits of online education are an important topic of debate, especially at a time when, as Deborah Prentice, rector of Princeton University, says, it is necessary to think in terms of diversity, as today they demand global curricula with students from different backgrounds and cultural traditions. In addition, we must not forget a very important detail that has been accentuated during the pandemic and carries risks of exclusion of vulnerable groups like the digital divide. This is a complex social challenge that we must face as a society to not leave anyone behind in this process of digitization, children, or adults.

 

On the contrary, some clarify that the value in face-to-face training is unquestionable especially at lower levels of education, as the dependency and care it requires is much higher. Affirming that the student experience is not complete without physical contact with the teacher.

 

Although the need for real change and transformation in education is undeniable, many questions remain open as to how this education should be in order to adapt to a rapidly changing future conditioned by new technologies.