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Earlier ICT learning is neither better, nor useful

It is wishful thinking that surrounding children with gadgets and technology would improve their understanding of curriculum content (language, maths, etc.). Where technological gadgets have been introduced, they tend to cause a rather lazy attitude to learning, which is often confirmed by pupils’ lowering of literacy and numeracy skills. Using a calculator tends to stop pupils’ connection to a mathematical problem – they punch in some numbers and jot down the answer without being mathematically active. Grammar and spelling skills go down the drain as soon as pupils expect the spelling checker to alert them of their mistakes.

And while the learning of the regular curriculum content is more likely to suffer than to benefit from a technological approach, there is equally little reason to stand behind the other aim for pushing ICT skills into the early years of education: those who say that children had better be prepared early for becoming users of technology forget that in the years it takes for a primary school child to become a school leaver, the technology has already rushed ahead to such an extent, that the exposure during primary education is then hardly relevant any longer.

Those of us who spent high school time on coding in its early stages really wasted our time in those days, as none of those skills appeared to be relevant for becoming computer literate at the time we became professionals. It takes adolescents or young adults very little time to learn everything they need, so there is no rush to do this early in their education.

The thought that early coding and robotics are necessary to prepare future citizens is as illogical as training piano tuners to get more pianists. Everyone uses computers, as they are a very useful tool for an enormous range of modern-life applications. However, the particular skill of programming does not contribute significantly to people’s abilities as future users of computers in their field of expertise, as all such areas (e.g. graphic design, architecture, video editing, etc.) have different modes of working.