Minutes before entering class, they told Bárbara Hernández that after 5 in the afternoon the doors of the concerted school where he works in Barcelona closed. There were few days left for decree the alarm state and start quarantine due to the coronavirus crisis. The Primary Education teacher did not have time to prepare anything, she could only tell her students to take their notebooks, their cases and a book from the library to take home. From overnight, everything would be done online. Many of Hernández’s students, who are around 10 years old, are part of the call Alpha Generation, the first fully digital. We could think that it would not be a complicated task for them to keep track of classes online. However, in some respects it is.
Since the education system was digitized in a hurry and running, many teachers changed their routine from one day to the next and many complained that the tools to facilitate online classes were not available to everyone. In other cases, the challenge has been to maintain contact with the students and ensure that they adapt to the new digital routines, despite the fact that technology has been present in their lives since birth. “Most of the children I have in class play with the computer, with the PlayStation, with the apps and with WhatsApp. Not with their own phone, perhaps, but with their parents’ and they know how to create groups, upload images and memes. Even in some Power Point presentation, they were able to find me a GIF and put it in the presentation, “explained Hernández.
“These tools motivate them and they see the way to make them their own, they investigate on their own, groping, as if they were feeling little by little and finding their way. The problem is when you ask them to use them in a school context and to make a job, not to play. This doesn’t motivate them as much, they don’t like it, and since they want everything to come out immediately, they say directly that they don’t know how to do it. “
In many ways, the teacher recognizes that many children can perform tasks that some adults consider to be of a higher level in the technological field. However, simpler things like creating a document and putting a focused title costs more. For example, he adds, they can search YouTube for a video that explains how to pass me a Fornite screen, but they don’t know how to find another one that explains how to understand a mathematical equation, they don’t know how to do it.
Generation is not everything
Children are considered digital natives because they were born in a historical context in which new information and communication technologies set the pattern for the functioning of the social world, being one of the features that define our society. This is how he describes it Mariano Urraco, PhD in Sociology, Bachelor of Social and Cultural Anthropology and professor at the Distance University of Madrid (UDIMA), and added that the idea of generation must be very nuanced because not all individuals have had the same contact with technology even if they were born in the same year.
“Generation is one of those notions that must be handled with caution, because we tend to imagine that they act as a kind of horoscope, in such a way that all those born in certain years automatically become part of the same generation, when reality is much more complex, “he explained. For example, some people may have different uses of technology, do not use them for the same purposes, or are victims of the digital divide.
Therefore, many of us believe that children know a lot about technology and with this, according to Urraco, the means are confused with the end. The sociologist indicated for Hypertextual that the collective imaginary is full of scenes from films in which “beardless and self-taught hackers are able to circumvent the security of large corporations and governments”, although the reality is different. It is true that many digital natives know how to operate technological devices, although most of the time the use is focused on leisure and it is not usual for them to be interested or understand the real functioning of these devices beyond their most immediate need, as pointed out by Bárbara Hernández.
Likewise, Urraco pointed out that it should be borne in mind that developers try to make their devices as simple as possible. “It is not, therefore, so much‘ look how clever, who with two years knows how to use such a thing, ’but,‘ look how clever those who have designed it, that even a two-year-old can use it. “
To get the knowledge gap to narrow, first you have to combat another gap: the digital. Subsequently, it is necessary that the education is reoriented towards an integration, continued the sociologist, of these elements that are basic in this century.
“This necessarily implies a change in the educational paradigm, which will lead us to a redefinition of the role of the teacher, who is no longer the sole” repository “of knowledge found on the internet today, but must be the guide that teaches to citizens in training how to get to knowledge and, above all, how to handle it in a critical and productive way “.
Form or recycle
National Cancer Institute / Unsplash
For Silvia Prieto, director of R + D + i of Udima and expert in E-Learning, education has undergone a change since the coronavirus crisis and there is no going back. However, this change has been made in an abrupt manner and has not been neither planned nor structured. E-Learning, explained in an interview with Hipertextual, has its own characteristics that many teachers do not know. The expert compared it to teleworking, which has caused many companies and workers who were not ready for this step to carry out dynamics that are not adequate.
“In E-Learning, the design of the courses is specific to doing it online, it is not that a classroom course I pass directly to videoconference and I send them homework remotely. The materials are usually adapted,” he said.
‘There are students in Spain who do not have a computer. It is surprising but it is so ‘
In Spain, many schools are beginning to implement a digital strategy. We have all seen the electronic whiteboards in some educational centers, as well as tablets and computers available to students. But it’s not enough. According to Prieto, the emphasis should be placed on rethinking the educational system and on how students process information, because not everything is focused on the ICT tool or the technological resource. However, before measures are taken in the educational system, it would be necessary, as Mariano Urraco pointed out, that the digital ecosystem put all facilities.
“There are students in Spain who do not have a computer. It is surprising but it is so. The EU Digital Economy Index says that in Spain we are below the European average in terms of the use that citizens make of technology and connectivity in households. It is a sociodemographic problem. “
These challenges are not easy to solve if we also take into account the technological knowledge of children and young people as a consequence. Prieto agrees that many have a superficial understanding of technology and use it only for specific purposes. Social networks like TikTok or games like Fortnite. Furthermore, ignorance can also become a danger to them because they are not aware of the dangers to privacy or data security. “They also do not know how to select and critically evaluate the information and they viralize certain news that is fake news because they do not contrast it,” warned the expert.
In the next, de-escalation will begin and classes are scheduled to resume in September. However, several experts and epidemiologists point out that it is very possible that there is a outbreak of coronavirus and that it is necessary to establish another quarantine, even if it is of shorter duration. Therefore, the centers must reflect, according to Prieto, on the things that technology has provided them during these weeks and know how they would address the situation if it happened again to correct errors they may have committed.
For Bárbara Hernández, if this happened again, things would be very different. In these weeks of confinement, the challenge was to teach students how to use tools such as Google Classroom or Meets. “But the only way I have to do it is through these channels.” The challenge is to achieve it, without having them face to face or seeing what they are seeing through their screen, to avoid losing contact with the student. “But we have been three weeks now and everything flows much better. There are no more 20 students asking, now there are 8 “.