Children have the right to the best education. For that it is key that decision-making in education matters takes into account the latest findings and consensus from scientific research. One of the elements that is increasingly more present in educational settings is digital technology. Schools have incorporated such forms of technology in their learning activities, both as a means for students to develop a set of skills that society will demand from them, and as facilitators of the learning process. This is progressively transforming the traditional ways in which people learn.
Nevertheless, such progress has also risen some concerns about the ways in which the integration of digital technology ion the classroom may affect children. While the effects on learning and achievement have more widely been studied, others factors, such as attention or the empathy capacity have remained understudied. To cover this gap, the Network of Experts working on the Social dimension of Education and Training (NESET), has recently published a report on the effects of the use of digital technology (in the form of digital tools and software/applications) in relation to children’s empathy (social competence) and their capacity to concentrate (attention) at school. Both, the report and a one-pager are fully accessible on NESET’s website.
The report puts forward evidence on how the effects depend on the use of digital technology, the teaching approach and students agency, and it provides useful recommendations to parents, professionals and other members of the educational community. Its main recommendations on the effects of digital technology on empathy, point out that the latter can have the effect of increasing the former through the promotion of interactive learning environments, of coherence throughout all learning activities, and through the development of media literacy skills. As well, it also remarks that uses that are in detriment of interactions that allow learning empathy from others should be avoided, and alerts that all risks associated to its use, such as cyberbullying, should not be neglected. As for the attention capacity, the main findings in this report suggest that the implementation of attention training programs should be based on evidence of their success, and that digital technology should be well integrated in-class activities. As well, it points out the strategies to limit the distracting effects of digital technology should be collaboratively elaborated between students and their peers to increase their success and that non-educational time spent using digital technology should be controlled.
Relying on scientific evidence and bringing its outcomes to schools and learning facilities will not only improve the quality of the education children receive, but also their well-being. Let’s make sure they have access to such rights.