I was born into a family of teachers – both my parents are mathematicians. As they are still working within the education system, I decided to do a small interview with them about digital media and new technologies and ask them about their opinions. My questions are in bold and their collective answers are underneath.
How has education changed in the past 15 years? Do people study in a different way, do they have different values than before?
The way people communicate with each other has changed since new technologies entered our lives, in particular in education. Since we can now access a huge amount of information very quickly and at any time, the struggle for each person is not how to acquire information, but how to select and work with it. In this way, the education system does not focus on gathering and learning facts anymore, but rather on analysing and interpreting data – children are taught to seek connections, dependencies, come up with real-life applications of theories, extract principles. They now need to be able to evaluate figures – true or false, necessary or useless, beneficial or damaging, and not study them by heart without fully understanding.
So how do you think new technology and media help in education today?
New technology can be used to provide the facts quickly and easily. Team work can also be stimulated, as the necessary information will be retrieved faster and workload can be fairly split up between people. Also, social networks help students to connect with each other and discuss the tasks they are given without leaving their houses – which is very useful.
Every child has its own pace and way of studying that is most suitable for itself – if someone understands visually animated explanations of certain principles better than core book texts – this type of digital media can then also be of great benefit to students in their academic advance.
These are some very positive thoughts – however, does the Internet have a negative side as well when it comes to studying?
Yes, there can be a negative side – however, it is more related to the way people are using Internet, not as much its existence in its own. Unfortunately, some users do not make effort to distinguish unreliable sources from trustworthy ones and end up using incorrect information – only copy-pasting it, then learning wrong facts and illogical deductions by heart, not thinking them through at all. Such continuous practice can have a harmful impact on a person’s critical thinking ability and logical skills. That is why it is important that the Internet is only used as source of data – children also need to make sure it is correct, and the tasks in class are always more creative and require thought.
Have you heard of the Danish schools which allow students to use laptops and have access to the Internet during their final exams? What is your opinion on this matter?
We actually hadn’t heard of that. Very revolutionary! We haven’t used it in our classes, but maybe the pupils would be very happy to! (laughs) This is interesting. Well, an exam’s purpose is to test the knowledge and skills a person has acquired during the tuition. Depending on the type of skills a teacher is testing, various helping resources may be used. If the educator is assessing not children’s ability to memorise data, but to sift information through, to logically link facts and figures, to identify laws and principles – then yes, the Internet can be used as a tool during an exam. However, it is important that in such case the task is very specific and unique, so that students cannot find the solution online.
What do you think about distance e-Learning? (For example, websites which provide some university modules online – such as Coursera)
E-Learning is very useful, especially for people who are working or have other responsibilities and are unable to attend classes, as it is flexible. I like this type of websites as they provide alternatives and diversity. Anyone can study, no matter where they are. And I believe this is a good idea for disadvantaged people – with disabilities or difficulties moving, as it will raise their self-esteem and be helpful in a purely psychological way.
Do you believe technology and digital media are the future of education?
They will definitely integrate more and more into education. And as they are also increasingly becoming a bigger part of everyday life as well, it is important that children acquire the skills needed to use digital tools. However, in my opinion learning from real life around you is better and technology and media should only remain a relief tool – a database, and not overtake students’ lives.
Are students nowadays less knowledgeable than students 20 years ago? If so, is technology and media responsible for this?
I would say that students nowadays seem to know fewer facts than the ones 20 years ago. Perhaps new technology is distracting them far too much – because of the constant flow of information – which is also very overwhelming for them, they have a shorter attention span and cannot easily concentrate on deeply reading long texts. However, I must also say that many young people have developed their research skills to a high level, learn to think and link data from different sources and are very innovative and creative in finding practical solutions to a problem. As long as students are taught to correctly and efficiently use new media devices, they will advance.
Thank you very much!
Additionally, this is a video of a person, who has created a song by assigning each of the numbers from Pi a note – it is a great example of showing creativity and knowledge, and also providing facts about Pi: