Technology does widen the education divide. But not always in the way you expect

The pandemic has turned children away from tech, says early-years teacher Maria


Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you – the reader – choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.

It's up to our writers to convince you to vote for their side.

This week's motion is: Technology widens the education divide. And now today, arguing FOR the motion is MARIA RUSSELL, an early-years teacher in North London.

I teach at a school whose intake includes children from some very privileged areas, but which also covers some very poor pockets. Up until the pandemic, screen time grew and grew for children. Parents were clearly hiding their guilt about this. I remember a parent with a babe in arms holding an iPhone in front of the child’s face to calm them down during a parent-teacher meeting.

Pre-pandemic, once you turned a smart board on in the classroom, the children would be magnetically drawn to it. If you tried to turn it off or ration it there would be lots of moans. In the early-years classes, kids were traditionally allowed 15 minutes of screen time, and some would try and steal the iPad to stretch this out. We had to think very carefully about policies around technology.

When children started returning to school after lockdown, it was clear something had changed. They had been inside a lot. Some had been forced to work in cramped conditions, sometimes with multiple children all doing home learning and parents struggling to supervise them. You could tell many had experienced real chaos. Some had struggled with limited devices, and inadequate broadband, using Google Classroom on tiny screens, for example.

Now they craved completely different things – to climb and be physical. They really fell in love with real books again. They wanted to be read to, to role play, and do drama. That’s what they’d been starved of during lockdown.

It was clear some found technology quite intimidating, having been under pressure to use it for months. This was particularly true of children from English-as-an-alternative-language families. One said, “please don’t force me to speak to someone else on Zoom.”

Even in the older years, children were constantly asking, “when can I go outside again?” Technology had lost its association with “fun” and was less compelling.

I know from friends in the independent education sector that during lockdown their children were expected to get up, put a uniform on, and sit in front of the computer all day. This has often had a negative effect and, to be fair, the results aren’t better. But because parents were paying for it, that’s what parents expected.

The fact is children have to be independent learners. While we worked hard to ensure children had the technology to access school remotely, we also worked hard to ensure that this was complemented with printouts and other material. None of our early-years children were asked to be online all day. Those who attended online lessons have progressed academically, but there are clear gaps in terms of social and personal development.

So, I think the experience shows that children really need a broad curriculum and a range of experiences to thrive. An over-reliance on technology and remote learning can widen the education divide, even within the same institution, because children do not receive the full education experience they deserve. ®

Cast your vote below. We'll close the poll on Thursday night and publish the final result on Friday. You can track the debate's progress here.

JavaScript Disabled

Please Enable JavaScript to use this feature.

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Minimal, systemd-free Alpine Linux releases version 3.16
    A widespread distro that many of its users don't even know they have

    Version 3.16.0 of Alpine Linux is out – one of the most significant of the many lightweight distros.

    Version 3.16.0 is worth a look, especially if you want to broaden your skills.

    Alpine is interesting because it's not just another me-too distro. It bucks a lot of the trends in modern Linux, and while it's not the easiest to set up, it's a great deal easier to get it working than it was a few releases ago.

    Continue reading
  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Slack-for-engineers Mattermost on open source and data sovereignty
    Control and access are becoming a hot button for orgs

    Interview "It's our data, it's our intellectual property. Being able to migrate it out those systems is near impossible... It was a real frustration for us."

    These were the words of communication and collaboration platform Mattermost's founder and CTO, Corey Hulen, speaking to The Register about open source, sovereignty and audio bridges.

    "Some of the history of Mattermost is exactly that problem," says Hulen of the issue of closed source software. "We were using proprietary tools – we were not a collaboration platform before, we were a games company before – [and] we were extremely frustrated because we couldn't get our intellectual property out of those systems..."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022