The Swedish Minister of Schools Lotta Edholm criticized, in an interview with DCMthe announcements by the governments of Paraná and São Paulo to digitize school teaching methods. “I believe that from the Swedish experience this would be a big mistake. The computer cannot replace a paper book”, he says.
She was responsible for the new right-wing coalition government’s return last December to the use of paper-based learning materials after Sweden opted to digitize school learning methods over 15 years.
“A growing scientific literature shows that reading comprehension from a tablet or a screen is lower than that from a paper book”, he points out.
“It was thought that the more digital books, or teaching methods, the rules of the game would be equalized. Instead, there are signs that it has fueled inequality in education outcomes,” he says.
If in Brazil it is known that the Secretary of Education of São Paulo Renato Feder was a partner in a technology company, Minister Lotta Edholm points to signs of greater benefit for companies than for children. “Some big companies have made a lot of money selling tablets without much scientific support for these methods,” she says.
DCM: Why did Swedish schools replace paper books with digital books over 15 years?
Lotta Edholm: It is often said that hell is paved with good intentions. I believe this is the case with the digitization of schools in Sweden. It was thought that the more digital books, or teaching methods, the rules of the game would be equalized. Instead, there are signs that it has fueled inequality in educational outcomes.
DCM: Why, last year, did you decide to change this policy?
Lotta Edholm: A growing scientific literature shows that reading comprehension from a tablet or screen is lower than that from a paper book.
DCM: Have these generations of kids become less intelligent?
Lotta Edholm: This has not been studied, as far as I know. What has been studied is that children who had personal computers had lower results than children who did not.
DCM: Considering this experience, what are the risks of artificial intelligence for education and society?
Lotta Edholm: Just because artificial intelligence will be important in the future job market shouldn’t mean we should throw away physical textbooks or pen and paper writing in schools.
DCM: Was there a risk that the old policy benefited digital companies more than children?
Lotta Edholm: There are signs of that. I know that some big companies have made a lot of money selling tablets without much scientific support for these methods.
DCM: What has been the reception of society, and specifically of children, to the return of paper books?
Lotta Edholm: Everywhere I go, teachers, parents and children are happy to have paper books.
DCM: The governments of the Brazilian states of São Paulo and Paraná want to abolish the use of paper books in schools in favor of digital ones. Do you believe this is going in the right direction?
Lotta Edholm: I believe that, from the Swedish experience, that would be a big mistake. The computer cannot replace a paper book.