Our experts highlight the harmful consequences of technology overuse in the classroom. Instead, a balance of low-tech learning supports skills development and increases student exposure to diverse ways of thinking.
The issue of bias and inequality in technology access requires careful consideration when using technology in the classroom
Coaches can encourage critical thinking skills that help teachers and students use technology wisely
Ethics-based classrooms are able to identify how technology supports and hinders learning to equalize access
Overreliance on technology can worsen digital inequalities
As a tool, technology in the classroom can democratize knowledge, facilitate connection, and prepare students for a tech-driven workplace. Even so, Wisdom Weavers explore the dark side of technological expansion in education. They highlight inequalities in digital resourcing and access while calling for leaders to establish ethical guidelines for tech adoption.
“Given the inequity today in technology access, that can’t really be the area where we will solve many of the challenges in education. Instead, it is really the curriculum.”
Throughout the 2022 Manifesting the Future of Education Convening, Wisdom Weavers emphasized the benefits and challenges of using technology to aid learning. Among these challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how many students lack basic access to computers, internet connection, or reliable study spaces. Students in rural and impoverished communities around the globe experience a digital divide where they cannot build technological skills that are increasingly dominating high-earning careers. Even in high-income countries, classrooms that make lesson plans around technology exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities because some students may not be able to complete homework that is dependent on having computers and internet in the home.
“Digital technologies cannot and should not be allowed to replace schools. Learning cannot be fully displaced into virtual spaces.”
Outside of computer access, the shift to digital and hybrid learning programs can contribute to educational disparities. A review of online learning in higher education outlined how students in remote programs struggled with concentration, received lower grades than their in-person counterparts, and missed out on peer connection and learning opportunities. Students who have never experienced remote learning, have low digital literacy, or have learning disabilities may face more significant challenges with hybrid or asynchronous lesson plans.
Low-tech learning promotes the critical thinking and social skills needed to guide ethical technology use
While technology offers tremendous benefits in long-distance social connection and knowledge access, it should not replace the human qualities of classroom learning. A low-tech learning emphasis focuses on facilitating relationships between students and the world around them. Low-tech learning often involves hands-on experimentation, group work, and critical thinking. These strategies can also help teachers pivot when technology is broken or resources such as internet connection or electricity are unpredictable.
“Fully remote online schooling is a poor substitute for the positive learning environments that schools can provide. We really need to work on leveraging digital connectivity around enhancing access to knowledge.”
Classrooms that support low-tech strategies teach students to learn by interacting with the world around them. This approach helps students develop valuable soft skills, including identifying connections, communicating, and working in teams. Wisdom Weaver Lalo Ávalos Méndez believes that classrooms are irreplaceable because of the interactions they inspire. He affirms, “we should keep the space, the physical connection with others. I think that’s one of the most important things of education, the opportunity to learn from others.” In contrast, students miss opportunities to learn from their peers and explore diverse perspectives when internet searches and online resources drive their learning. The algorithms that power search engines funnel students to narrow, one-sided information that removes diversity of thought.
A coaching approach develops critical thinking by:
- Reframing questions and problems to help students consider other possibilities
- Promoting curiosity to understand the values and norms behind a decision
- Using active, non-judgmental listening to understand different opinions
A technology-forward environment often undermines other kinds of knowledge
To effectively use technology in support of education, students need the skills to critically examine the information they are receiving and identify which voices are being represented or excluded. Wisdom Weaver Dr. Noah Sobe cautions that tech reliance in the classroom can reduce diversity of thought because artificial intelligence and search engines are subject to bias. He emphasizes that these tools often “sideline other ways of knowing, for example: indigenous or low-tech, the ephemeral, the spiritual, non-commoditized forms of knowledge.” Understanding how technology might contribute to inequality and potentially alienate minority, traditional, or disenfranchised voices can inform classroom tech use.
“The task [of education] is not to respond but to shape. And I feel that it is in the curriculum, how we design a different kind of learning experience that’s more transdisciplinary, that’s more, you know, drawing into the ethical side, the human side, etc.”
The same tools that exclude minority voices can also be used to promote diversity. Indigenous researchers and Native Rights Advocates have used the internet to archive cultural knowledge and practice, including art, music, language, and history. Indigenous academics, like Dr. Kabini Sanga, use their platform to research history while mentoring others to participate in cultural preservation. Low-tech learning foundations help facilitate a thoughtful and ethical relationship between students and technology by nurturing students’ investigative skills to critically examine and explore the internet.
Coaching Empowers People
Coaching is a collaborative relationship where coaches help their clients discover strengths, resources, and opportunities that align with the client’s values and goals. In the classroom, coaching is a low-tech strategy that reveals how students can connect their personal ambitions and interests to their coursework and life. Students might reflect on how their skills and relationships can help them to achieve goals in school and in the community. Plus, identifying relationships as a type of resource helps students recognize the value of partnering with their peers to overcome challenges. When adapting education to students with different abilities or access to technology, coaches can help teachers apply low-tech learning tools such as storytelling. Soft skills like critical thinking, identifying connections, and asking engaging questions can all be strengthened by using a coaching approach in the classroom. Students who possess these skills will also have the foundational resources to explore technology in their careers as access changes.
Manifesto for the Future of Education
34 Wisdom Weavers from 15 different countries gathered to reimagine the future of education, using the lenses of coaching, pedagogy, sustainability, technology, social transformation, and collaboration. These discussions inspired us to craft a call to action — a Manifesto for the Future of Education — that establishes a vision for transforming education around the world while integrating the practice of coaching as a catalyst for positive change.