“Let’s rethink the place of digital technology in education”

This column appears in “The World of Education”. If you are a subscriber to Le Monde, you can subscribe to this weekly letter by following this link.

Our Sustainable Digital Education collective brings together teachers and management staff from primary, secondary and higher education, wishing to rethink the place of digital technology in education. Today, schools are generalizing the use of digital education by increasing the screen time of students who are already overexposed. We must put an end to this digital enslavement in order to calmly consider their future and that of our institution.

Read Caroline Janvier’s column, in December 2021: Article reserved for our subscribers “Children’s overexposure to screens could be the evil of the century”

In this perspective, we propose some ideas to encourage constructive reflection. The age at which smartphones are acquired is increasingly younger, and the proliferation of mobile connected objects in homes contributes to increasing the exposure to screens of children and adolescents.

Our students come to cl tired and struggle to concentrate, particularly because they stay up late in front of their screens. Their language skills, but also their thinking, analysis, synthesis and imagination skills appear to us to be affected. Many students whose psychological suffering is increased by confronting unsuitable content, too often violent, and to cyberbullying that social networks promote.

In this context, our students do not have the same life as previous generations. We ourselves, their teachers, connected adults, exploit the possibilities offered by digital technology as a professional tool, and our practice differs from that of our predecessors. However, unlike our students, we had a childhood and adolescence protected from individual screens.

Digital loneliness

Where digital technology offers our students an infinite prospect of virtual and pive entertainment, stealing time that could otherwise be spent on reading, sports and real social interactions, we may, at their age, become bored and search for entertainment resources on our own. Thus, we consider that the school must play a key role in getting students out of the screens that confine them. The school must be part of a vast awareness and prevention campaign on screens and their uses to protect students from overexposure which threatens their intellectual development and their emotional balance.

Paradoxically, schools must take control of extracurricular matters: when our students spend more time on a screen than in a clroom, their education is essentially done through the digital solitude of social networks and the series that they are looking. This results in a systemic risk that endangers the mental health and critical thinking of future citizens, and the future of our democracy. More advantaged families offer their children extracurricular activities that open them up to the world.

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