In an era of misguided technological innovation, teachers in Sweden are taking things back to basics. A movement in the country’s education system is emphasizing analog technology like actual books and handwriting in a bid to make education more effective.
The Guardian reports that Sweden’s minister of schools Lotta Edholm is behind the push. Politicians in the country are beginning to question whether or not a technologically focused approach to education is helping or hurting. Last month, the national education board in Sweden rolled out a plan to introduce tablets to students as early as nursery school. Edholm announced shortly thereafter that the Swedish government was interested in reversing the decision according to The Guardian.
“There’s clear scientific evidence that digital tools impair rather than enhance student learning,” said Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in a statement last month as quoted by the outlet. “We believe the focus should return to acquiring knowledge through printed textbooks and teacher expertise, rather than acquiring knowledge primarily from freely available digital sources that have not been vetted for accuracy.”
Sweden saw a drop in student performance on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study from 2016 to 2021. Swedish fourth graders saw an 11-point drop from a score of 555 in 2016 to 544 in 2021. Obstacles other than technology, like the covid-19 pandemic, obviously played a role in disrupting education during those five years, but when comparing those results to a country like England (which saw a drop from 559 to 558 in the same time frame) it does appear that Sweden has room for improvement.
The news comes as educators are continuously grappling with technology in the form of artificial intelligence. In January, New York Public Schools banned ChatGPT over fears of students using it to cheat, before reversing that ban just a few months later. Earlier this month, OpenAI more or less revealed that AI detectors, which teachers may use to gauge how much of an assignment is human-written, don’t work. This isn’t to say that Sweden opting to unplug its students will prevent them from using tools like ChatGPT at home or in the future, but it does emphasize the importance of manual problem-solving.