Science & Techology
Technology in Schools – a Habit to Take in Belgium

Technology in Schools – a Habit to Take in Belgium

During the first edition of an annual international symposium dedicated to digital education and research, Educode brings up to date the importance of integrating digital technology in schools.

How can we face the digital revolution”, asks Nicolas Pettiaux, at the origin of this international gathering that will take place on 27, 28 and 29 August. Educode is the starting point for further reflection on the integration of digital tools in classrooms. The objective: “To make the teaching world at all levels aware of the need to develop a code culture to better prepare young people for the new digital challenges”.

Today, digital technology has taken an important place in modern society. Smartphones, tablets, computers, all these tools bring changes that are necessary for everyone. And according to Educode,“[they] inevitably go through the transformation of the school.”

The idea of the creation of this Educode conference is to demystify digital technology. “Teachers are afraid of digital and programming. The idea would therefore be to give them a reassuring framework”, explains Françoise Bols, mathematician and teacher. The colloquium is indeed animated by citizens, and not companies that are experts in the field. Another way to approach the audience without intimidating them: “There is a militant aspect to get ahead of politicians who are helpless in the face of digital technology”, adds Vincent Englebert, computer scientist and member of educode’s scientific committee.

The digital situation in Belgium

In Belgium, the establishment of an education system that would use digital tools is taking place very (too) slowly. According to Julie Henry, a computer scientist at UNamur, the statistics are rather disappointing: “In 2013, 28% of teachers said they used technology in the classroom. And according to the latest results, only 40% of them use it in 2018”. Although the situation has improved somewhat, the trend remains weak and is therefore not very encouraging.

Especially since the uses of digital technology among these teachers are often limited to office tools, such as PowerPoint or Excel, and very little to coding software. “In Belgium, we have a lack of diversity because of the lack of training. Nothing is imposed at the level of mastery of digital tools”, explains Julie Henry. However, teachers can take training courses to fill certain gaps. But that’s far from enough, the researcher adds. “Teachers know how to resume an exercise on the net and apply it in class, but they are often unable to reflect on it.”

Three important obstacles – Technology in Schools

Far from being unique to Belgium, “the problems we are talking about are international”, says Colin de la Higuera, a member of UNESCO. The integration of digital technology into education would face three major obstacles: the difficulty of defining what “digital” is, the cost and teacher training.

If educode’s objective is to “develop digital and digital education”, these words remain rather vague according to Colin de la Higuera. “Many schools refuse to modernize because of the cost of equipment, a major issue in education. “When we see modern tools, we imagine that it costs a lot of money and yet, we could just as well train with recovery computers,” explains the UNESCO member.

Finally, it is the lack of teacher training that remains the most important problem to date. In addition to this need to introduce courses into the learning of future teachers, their willingness to educate themselves in digital tools is essential: “the teacher must want to create resources”.

Learning to teach digitally

Françoise Bols is closely interested in this issue. During the training she gives to future primary and secondary school teachers, she emphasizes the use of digital tools. Françoise Bols invites her students to think about activities to do in the classroom that integrate digital technology, in any field.

In French, for example, a teacher could ask students to build a comic book on a tablet, adding photos taken with a smartphone. In this case, it is necessary to teach teachers to use the language specific to tablets. Another possible exercise is to teach the creation of video editing from primary school. At this time, knowing the right software is essential.

During its symposium, Educode hopes to organize an active daycare for children to allow young parents to come and attend conferences, while giving children the opportunity to discover digital technology during various activities.