The adoption of digital technology has resulted in many changes in education and learning, yet it is debatable whether technology has transformed education as many claim. The application of digital technology varies by community and socioeconomic level, by teacher willingness and preparedness, by education level and by country income. Except in the most technologically advanced countries, computers and devices are not used in classrooms on a large scale. Moreover, evidence is mixed on its impact. The short- and long-term costs of using digital technology appear to be significantly underestimated. The most disadvantaged are typically denied the opportunity to benefit.
In asking ‘A tool on whose terms?’, the Report shows that regulations for technology set outside of the education sector will not necessarily address education’s needs. It is released along with a #TechOnOurTerms campaign, calling for decisions about technology in education to prioritize learner needs after assessment of whether its application would be appropriate, equitable, evidence-based and sustainable.
It provides a compass for policy makers to use when making these decisions. Those in decision-making positions are asked to look down at where they are, to see if technology is appropriate for their context, and learning needs. They are asked to look back at those left behind, to make sure they are focusing on the marginalized. They are reminded to look up at whether they have evidence on impact and enough information on the full cost needed to make informed decisions. And, finally they are asked to look forwards, to make sure their plans fit their vision for sustainable development.
The report underscores the importance of learning to live both with and without digital technology; to take what is needed from an abundance of information but ignore what is not necessary; to let technology support, but never supplant, the human connection on which teaching and learning are based. The focus should be on learning outcomes, not digital inputs. To help improve learning, digital technology should be not a substitute for but a complement to face-to-face interaction with teachers.