Global Education & Skills Forum Blog

Is education technology in the classroom a waste of time and money?

Technology’s importance in education is increasing, with one report estimating global spend on EdTech will be more than $19 billion by 2019.

However, while many sing the praises of IT in the classroom, recent evidence suggests that tech’s impact in the classroom is limited: a report by the OECD found that investing heavily in classroom technology had no impact on pupil performance.

So is education technology a waste of time and money?

These were the arguments made during this Debate Chamber at the Global Education & Skills Forum 2017:

For: Education technology is a waste of time and money

  1. There are better uses of limited education budgets

Across the world, the money that schools have to spend is limited. This was highlighted by James Centenera, CEO, TULA Philippines, who cited UNESCO figures showing countries such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia spending as little as $91 per child per year on education.

“In many countries, typical classroom are hot, crammed, and with no potable water, and the curriculum is far behind where it should be,” said Centenera.

“Technology is only beneficial when other essentials are in place.”

Centenera was supported by former Barclays CEO and founder of 10x Future Technologies, Antony Jenkins. Despite running a fintech startup, Jenkins attacked the vast levels of money being spent on classroom technology to “line the pockets” of software and hardware companies. “Digital whiteboards, for example, are the biggest con of all time,” said Jenkins. “They don’t add any value, cost a lot of money and divert funds from what really matters.” What really matters, said Jenkins in his closing remarks, was spending money on teachers and children:

      Jenkins said that he spent one day per week “unplugged” from technology, as he views being “constantly distracted” by things like social media as harmful. This issue of technology being harmful, especially to children, was also emphasised by Centenera, who questioned the value of choosing technology as the go-to solution for children, be it at home or in the classroom. “Investing in technology can be wasteful when it distracts us from what is going on around us,” said Centenera. “Technology misuse is a problem, and technology belongs in certain places, and not others.” Against: Education technology is not a waste of time and money

    1. Technology improves learning 


Although studies such as the one by OECD have yet to find any meaningful improvement in learning outcomes through technology use, Munira Rajkotwalla, a student at the GEMS Wellington Intenational School in Dubai, said she had carried out her own research which showed a significant positive impact. Speaking to two groups of students at her school – one group who used technology heavily, and another that did not – she found that those using technology studied on average for 18 hours, while those who didn’t use technology studied for 55 hours. Despite the huge difference in study time, the group using technology on average achieved higher grades. She added that because technology allowed students to be more focused in their learning, it allowed students more time for extracurricular activities such as sport and debating societies:

Dr Zaki Khoury, regional manager for Microsoft International Organizations, argued that technology only enriched children’s education, pointing to games such as Minecraft boosting skills like collaboration, and wearable technologies that allowed children to go on virtual reality trips around the world.

“It’s education AND technology, not either-or,” said Khoury.

  1. It prepares students for the digital economy

Schools must reflect the fact that we live a world of rapid technological change, and they must do their best to prepare their students for that reality, said Khoury.

Citing the development of artificial intelligence, he said that teachers today can have no idea what the employment landscape will look like in the future, but they must do their best to prepare their children for it:

“Digital skills are a requirement right now, and adaptation [to technological change] will also become a core skill,” added Khoury.

“This is about creating the right environment for students to really excel, and to help teachers understand and maximise their students’ potential to deal with technology in their future careers.”

Join the debate by casting your vote on the GESF app – choose “Voting”.

You can watch this Debate Chamber in full here:

Is education technology in the classroom a waste of time and money? | GESF 2017 from Global Education & Skills Forum on Vimeo.

The Global Education and Skills Forum took place on 18th and 19th March 2017 in Dubai, UAE, with the theme of “How do we make ‘real’ global citizens?”