Aldo Agostinelli

Over the long months of the lockdown, despite the high degree of inefficiency and issues, technology allowed lessons to carry on. However, digital instruments are not limited to those enabling video lessons: if classrooms finally managed to make room for technology it could be a great opportunity for everybody. Here are some figures about Italy and other countries.

Over the last months we have found out how crucial technology may be for school. Without Distance Learning, indeed, schools would have been forced to close down completely. Now with the new opening of school, it is about time we analyzed such experience and its pros and cons: can technology be integrated in our school system? And if so, how? Data collected both in Italy and abroad offer us a broader view on this topic.

Distance Learning

According to data provided by Altroconsumo, during the lockdown, 72% of primary school pupils attended some video lessons with their teachers. The others had to download some documents including homework and exercises (59%). Is everybody happy, then? Not really: according to the survey, only 27%of Italians are satisfied with distance learning. This innovative approach – at least in Italy – caused various problems both for pupils and parents. For instance 82% of parents claimed that their children needed help in managing their time during the day (58%), in clarifying exercises (52%) and in getting a deeper understanding of the topics addressed (44%).

Kami: when school and technology go together well

A good example of integration between traditional and technological methods comes from the USA, where Kami, an app designed to help teachers and students to digitalize booklets and notes,  managed to spread. Kami’s founder, Hengjie Wang, found out that school spend in the average 150 thousand dollars per year in printed materials. After some calculations, Wang claimed that Kami may help saving over 80 thousand dollars by avoiding printing: quite a relevant amount that convinced parents and teachers. (Edtech startups find demand from an unlikely customer: Public schools).

…and when they “fight”

Nevertheless, technology might be tricky sometimes. Like in a Norwegian school which stopped all video calls via Zoom after a naked man took part in a meeting among teachers and students, turning up on screen unexpectedly. Mishaps, as you may call them… (Norwegian school ditches video calls after naked man ‘guessed’ meeting link).

Albion College, in Michigan, had no better experience. Their school adopted an app to protect students from Covid19, but ended up putting their privacy at serious risk. Indeed, the app, tracks all the students’ moves, 24 hours a day, and cannot be turned off. And students were obliged to download it and keep it on, otherwise they would be suspended. (Michigan students are being forced to use a vile contact tracing app).

Google’s winning move in India

Let’s take as an interesting example the partnership between Google and the Indian state of Maharashtra, one of the biggest in the country and one of the most heavily hit by the pandemics. The web giant did it right: by supplying free digital learning services to tens of millions of students and teachers, it boosted education in the second biggest online market in the world. A win-win situation. (Collaborating with the Maharashtra government to bring our digital learning platform to crores of students and teachers).

Indonesia also had a really positive experience since technology there filled another gap: digital payments. Most kids pay school taxes in cash bringing money to school in an envelope. InfraDigital allowed parents to pay such taxes through the same digital systems they use to pay electricity bills or to make online purchases (InfraDigital helps Indonesian schools digitize tuition and enrollment).

School and  telemedicine

However, technology is not only linked to distance learning.  Hazel Health, for instance, provides telemedicine services to state schools. The app has grown a lot in the US, spreading in school districts counting over a million and a half young students. Such services turned out to be even more useful when kids were forced to stay at home and use distance learning. And in some cases Hazel Health represented the only way for them to access healthcare services. The software is fast and easy: you push a button on tablet and in just a few minutes you can talk to a doctor. (Now providing healthcare access to nearly 1.5 million kids, Hazel Health raises $33.5 million).

All in all, however, it seems obvious that, at the moment, computers cannot replace humans, yet, when it comes to dealing with the school system. The lockdown experience  in Italy, but not only in Italy, has reconfirmed it. Children and youngsters need guidance, interaction, communication. Still, we can make a good use of distance learning as a support – not as a replacement – for traditional lessons.

Do you think technology can improve our school system or do you see it as a threat? Tweet @agostinellialdo

If you liked this post, you may also read Blockchain, la tecnologia in grado di trasformare la sanità / Blockchain, the technology which can change the healthcare system

Aldo Agostinelli