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Digital Education

Digital Education

The Past, the Present and the Future

To speak of education leads us immediately to an essential reflection: should we simply say “learning”, select “teaching” or retake the concept that the verb educate proposes to us? – In fact, the only act that we can control in an effective way is the learning, because we can measure it. As for the concept of teaching, it is a behavior that can hardly be rigorously evaluated, which leads many researchers to affirm that only learning can be truly measurable, so in this constellation of words only the latter justifies the choice.

However, it is recurrent that in the elementary and secondary education the term education can play a central role, the same happens in some professional areas, that medicine will be a good example. Here we do not talk about learning, not even in professional training, but only in Medical Education. There is a fundamental reason for this practice, since the medical act goes far beyond the acquisition of knowledge, techniques, methods and processes; there is a holistic situation where the function will cover everything that science has discovered and made available to these technicians; in which the doctor-patient relationship and the relationship are the key to success. All these components can only be achieved in a global system such as that proposed by the concept of Education.

When we talk about Digital Education we are adopting the same logic that used medicine, that is, to view learning as a comprehensive action, where the acquisition of knowledge and skills, training and the connection to daily practice are totally associated with the attitudes, emotions and values ​​that the learner grasps and integrates as a whole. To educate is to endow each person with a set of behaviors that are used in daily life in a global and aggregate way.

If in the past it was necessary to educate holistically in the present, it could be said that nothing has changed as a learning process, but the speed at which everything happens is dizzying, since they used to say that 98% of what was invented occurred in the last two hundred years, but now we can say, what we use today, although it may have been created in the twentieth century, the version we have used has been developed over the last 25 years. There is, therefore, an acceleration that has never occurred in 6,000 years of written history and will tend to become increasingly rapid, the very fruit of the Digital Revolution.

Thus, at present we have the digital natives, whom we have to teach to use virtual resources well: in education, in work and in leisure, because for them equipment, however diverse, does not represent any kind of barrier, which is to say, the generations Y, X and Z, from 1980 until today, although the true natives belong to Z, called: the post-millennium. There is, however, a huge paradox, because these three generations were born in the digital era, but it will be the analogue that dominates their lives. Schools and families that are educating them, in a global way, are out of step with the digital reality, and even those born in the 90’s, who today face the world of work, will see that the Industrial Revolution 4.0 is far from reaching most companies. In other words, computers, tablets and smartphones have no secrets for these digital natives, but the improvements they can bring in automation and job reduction, as well as other daily tasks where education and professional training are included, is almost done.

Nowadays, it is urgent to make a Digital Revolution in all sectors, where through the Senior Universities we educate those who were born in the first half of the twentieth century, because although the majority no longer works, entertainment and actions with society, such as taxes, social networks and other needs, of which culture is a prime example, require these skills. Then, those born in the third quarter of the twentieth century, in addition to the requirements already mentioned for seniors; these are in the active life, however, digital illiteracy ends up making them illiterate in the 21st century. Businesses and the State annually lose millions of euros due to the digital disability of the overwhelming majority of these people, so it is imperative to create continuous training plans in eLearning and bLearning to give these professionals the skills they so badly lack.

Once again we fight against a paradoxical situation; which incidentally occurred over and over again in previous historical periods, but are now more visible, for the acceleration to which societies are subject today is immeasurably greater. The struggle against prejudice, immobilism, and also the “doing that does not do”, must be fought in public and private organizations, for however “evangelizers” it has been to bring the “good news” in universities and in professional training, these continue to privilege the face-to-face methodology, because it is what they dominate, the one in which they believe and that gives them comfort, protection and tranquility, therefore, change will be something that is not in their plans. How can we generalize digital media if the processes for change are mostly analog?

This paradox is not a “national disease”, in all the countries of the more developed world we come across it. MIT, Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University, Maastricht University, McMaster University, INSEAD and the Portuguese Catholic University all use eLearning and bLearning, but for methodological and economistic reasons, what they do in these areas has a highly questionable quality, since the MOOC and the Open Course Ware are face-to-face classes, video lessons and little else, that is, there is no real methodological, pedagogical and technological commitment to give education products (courses / classes) a high efficiency and effectiveness, using research processes that demonstrate that multimedia, interactive and responsive digital education, in conjunction with the active face-to-face methodology, are a solution with much better qualitative and quantitative results, as demonstrated by the TRIAL System DUAL system in vocational training, in alternating education, as well as in higher education).

Lisbon, August 10, 2018

António Augusto Fernandes, Ph. D.