FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – Due to the lockdown, schools are increasingly using digital tools, which according to some observers is a good sign of a change in our educational model. Nevertheless, Charlotte Fillol urges caution and reminds that education is above all a social experience and not virtual.
Charlotte Fillol is an education and edtech expert and administrator of the Sapiens Institute.
The time is conducive to augurs and other prophets of the world after. Everywhere, from crisis to containment, the pandemic is reshuffling the cards, as are its damaging effects. Nothing will ever be the same again, and education is no exception to this fortune-telling whirlwind. So the online education revolution would be underway and nothing could stop it. It is undeniable that the sudden closure of all educational institutions has sparked a massive movement towards online education that has led to the discovery or rediscovery of the virtues of the internet. However, while this recent trend will undoubtedly accelerate the adoption of new methods of distance learning, it seems premature to see this as the beginning of the great evening of online education.
Just because many patients are taking the same drug at once doesn’t mean drugs are infallible.
And for one simple reason: yes, all actors in the education value chain are now online, coerced and coerced and sometimes reluctantly; However, this sudden convergence does not mean that the multiple challenges that have previously hampered the emergence of truly effective online education models have been miraculously resolved. In short, and to keep up with the times, it’s not because many patients are suddenly taking the same drug that that drug magically becomes infallible.
It seems to me that one of the main reasons online education remains a problem to be solved rather than a cure is that the model chosen from the start was not the right one. After digital technology swept into all areas of human experience, the same pattern seemed to apply across a growing number of industries: identifying a mechanism at work in this and that industry, inserting a technological solution that would simplify operations and significantly can improve the mechanism; Once the technological solution’s validity has been tested and proven, rely on its effectiveness to increase its usage and scale quickly. This scheme has proven its worth, from transportation to computer applications of all kinds. But it is no less inappropriate when it comes to parenting.
Education is not a mechanism, a simple movement that just needs to be digitized for the miracle to happen.
The reason is simple: education is not a mechanism, not a simple movement that just needs to be digitized for the miracle to happen and education to exist. Education is not a product in the technological sense, a circumscribed and streamlined device that can be endlessly duplicated. Education is always an essentially imperfect process articulating a set of all complex mechanisms, from admission to graduation, passing through the essential but always complex student-teacher relationship. In short, the educational process goes beyond the technological product on all sides. Many educational technology (EdTech) companies are trying to solve this challenge by streamlining each of the mechanisms at work in a forced march to eventually scale. So far, none have succeeded.
Learning is above all a social act, the result of debate and exchange.
Another fundamental flaw that explains the relative failure of online education: The second pillar on which the exponential success of many digital applications is built is disintermediation – or more precisely the replacement of a heterogeneous multitude of intermediaries and actors by a single one, actually placed in the center of the industry. But this mechanism does not work either, because the transfer of knowledge or its modern avatar, the acquisition of skills, is essentially a transfer: learning is above all a social act, the result of a discussion and an exchange. The resounding failure of moocs, that disintermediated online content that we believed in the early 2000s to be the future of education, is relentless proof that for education to exist there must be a relationship, a connection between who teaches and who learns, as well as between those who learn – whatever the modalities of exchange, online or not, what matters is the exchange.
The ordeal of the pandemic presents us with a unique opportunity.
The current situation is exciting and strange at the same time. The pandemic obliges, education would be poised to finally complete its digital transformation, spurred by the enforced use of remote solutions. But even if more schools or colleges use more digital tools, that does not mean that these tools are suddenly effective – there is no magic potion in education. What is required today is a thorough rethinking of the links between digital and education, far from the “disruptive” models that experience has shown do not work, by placing at the center of reflection this intangible since Plato: education is a social experience , a longer and multiple exchange, a conversation. The ordeal of the pandemic presents us with a unique opportunity by disrupting traditional uses under duress: so let’s make sure we build sensible and effective online education, rather than a simple placebo.