The extraordinary has become the normal. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic has transformed the world overnight, leading us to confinement and revolutionizing our way of life in all areas, including education. “Technology has been a lifesaver for schools,” says Carlos Magro, president of the Asociación Educación Abierta. Its use has been essential. Today, innovations are here to stay, but adapting to this new reality is not easy.
The crisis has forced the educational systems to migrate to the online modality immediately and abruptly, which has given rise to remote emergency teaching, underlines an analysis by the Cotec Foundation. The challenge has been enormous. “It has been shown that most of the centers were not sufficiently gifted in technological terms, but neither in terms of teacher training,” explains Mayra Martínez, PhD in Communication Sciences and Sociology and professor of Technology and Media in the Classroom at the Camilo José Cela University.
In many cases the basic infrastructure and platforms existed but they have not worked effectively, the expert abounds. “They have not been enough to support the traffic of the entire educational community, nor were they managed by the majority of teachers and students,” he highlights. As the pandemic spread in March, and schools sent home more than eight million students in the general (non-university) regime and 700,000 teachers, the technological gap leapt to the fore. The lack of equipment, connectivity and training, or a poor knowledge of digital solutions (both for teachers and students), were evident. “We have seen ourselves in front of the mirror,” emphasizes Magro.
To display a button. Nine out of 10 Spanish schoolchildren have a computer, an internet connection and a quiet space to study at home, according to a study by the Cotec Foundation. But if you go into detail, there are still spaces to fill. In Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Extremadura, Murcia, Ceuta and Melilla, there are still 10% who do not have a computer at home, according to Cotec, which is based on the 2018 PISA study.
“The lack of resources in families is another factor for which this gap occurs”, highlights Alfonso Fernández, Director of Marketing, Corporate Communication and Institutional Relations at Samsung Spain. For example, for those students who only have a computer (such as 15% of families with less income) the situation is complicated, since they are obliged to share the technology with other family members.
Confinement, however, has been an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of digital tools and capabilities. “It has been done by leaps and bounds. What we have seen has been an emergency response, ”says Frederic Raurell, Education Secretary at Edutech, the benchmark cluster on educational innovation. “We must not forget that the situation has been an exception and investment in technologies and training must be reinforced,” emphasizes the expert. “It is also necessary to promote cooperation and alliances between Public Administrations and companies that mobilize and exchange knowledge, specialization and financial resources,” adds Fernández, from Samsung. The pairing is absolutely necessary. “It allows us to be competitive and for the economy to improve, and in this case specifically education as the fundamental basis for the development of any society,” Fernández abounds.
An example of this is the Samsung Smart School program – which has the support of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, the autonomous communities and teaching staff – which seeks to promote learning through technology in public education centers. Primary located in rural areas, with a high dropout rate or risk of digital divide. The goal is for students and teachers to learn to use new innovations to accelerate the necessary methodological change in the 21st century.
Since the project started in 2014, Samsung Smart School has been implemented in 108 classrooms of 5th and 6th grade of primary education, some 700 teachers have been trained and it has benefited more than 4,000 students from 40 public centers throughout the country. In each school year, research and various meetings are carried out to articulate a successful program for the correct integration of technology in schools. “With the confinement we have seen how these centers have been able to adapt and better manage the way to follow the usual rhythm of their classes”, highlights Fernández.
“We are extremely proud and satisfied because we see that Samsung Smart School has an advantage in this situation. By using technology day to day in the classroom, teachers and students better face the continuity of online training during the quarantine stage. It allows us to be competitive and for the economy to improve, and in this case, specifically, education as the fundamental basis for the development of any society, ”he says.
Help against the digital divide
In the case of educational centers, the situation is alarming. Only 52% of them have an effective digital platform to provide their students with online education, a percentage similar to the average of the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), although far from others like Finland (80%), the United States (77%) or the United Kingdom (66%). In addition to this, only 53% of school principals say that the teachers in their care have the technical and pedagogical skills necessary to integrate digital devices into teaching and 55% believe that they have effective professional resources to learn to using them. The OECD average rises, in both cases, to 65%.
But the return to school, which will start in September, is expected to have a more marked touch of technology. Even more, given the forecast of scientists who foresee a regrowth after de-escalation. The model to adopt, however, is still unclear. All the actors (teachers, schools and students) have made an effort to incorporate useful and innovative tools to continue with the course, say the experts consulted. “New digital methodologies will have to be corrected and complemented, but this has been an experience for us,” says Edutech’s Raurell. For example, teachers have realized that by bringing theoretical content to students’ homes, through videos and recordings, they free up class time for more practical activities, such as debates, presentations, cooperative projects and experiments, adds Martínez, from the Camilo José Cela University.
“In fact, given the advantages, it is very possible that the students themselves are demanding that teachers continue to hang the materials on the platforms,” says the academic. Likewise, many of the tools that teachers are discovering during this distance education process can improve collaboration among students, their ability to investigate, as well as their motivation and commitment to their own learning process. “This does not imply ending face-to-face,” he says.
Presence in compulsory education, explains Magro, from the Open Education Association, is essential for the human development of students. “It is important because it offers contact with peers and different experiences are learned,” he says.
Professionals of the future
Regardless of the model, young people are hungry for more technology. Above all, they seek innovations that contribute to their training and to compete in the labor market. This is revealed by a study carried out by IPSOS for Samsung, in which more than 1,000 students between 15 and 18 years old from all over Spain belonging to both public and private and concerted education have been interviewed.
71% of respondents say that current educational programs are not preparing them adequately in terms of technological knowledge. This panorama is alarming, since for 43% of those interviewed the main concern is whether they will find a job at the end of their studies. 34% of them are concerned that such employment will be too difficult and 31% doubt whether they will like what they will be working on.
Regarding the areas that students believe will be more important for the future, young people clearly opt for professions related to technology, highlighting robotics (60%), programming (57%) and biotechnology (32%). ). Despite this, one in three does not know if they are choosing the right studies.
The philosophy of the Samsung Smart School
Technology offers different benefits. “Although its simple use in learning is not the basis of quality teaching, it can produce positive effects,” say Samsung experts. For this, it must always be accompanied by an adequate integration in the learning process, an educational program and an involvement by teachers and management teams, highlight the specialists of the technology firm based on the analyzes they have made in the Samsung Smart School project.
The main conclusions of studies and research indicate that the adoption of innovations in the classroom improves student motivation, better integrates students with special needs (for example those with Autism Spectrum Disorder) and reduces absenteeism of children and girls and learn to work as a team. Furthermore, it has been shown that a more technological education increases the key skills of the 21st century such as digital competence, learning to learn, that is, the autonomy of the student to obtain, process and assimilate new knowledge, and improves linguistic communication.
In addition to this, students participate more in class and manage better on the Internet, at the same time that they learn to discern about real information and its main sources. “At Samsung we believe that technology is a means, not an end. Our mission continues to be to improve the lives of all people by breaking barriers through technology, “conclude the company’s experts.