4.1.1. Technology: a friend or foe?

The use of digital technologies for learning purposes has been a subject of interest in research and political agendas for quite a while. Despite the increasing awareness regarding its potential benefits and the exponential growth of online learning apps and platforms, until recently, digital technologies were often depicted as foes. Therefore, its use was limited or even banned from the classroom. There were common discursive elements that supported this perception and concomitant restraining procedures: first and foremost, allowing the use of digital devices and tools fostered learners’ distraction; second, it encouraged cheating both in class and assignments; third, distance and limited contact amongst practitioners and learners, resulted in reduced social interaction and demotivation of learners and, thus, to jeopardize the learning process; fourth, the digital divide prevented a wider use of digital technology. Finally, more recently, data protection and ethical issues made their way into this set of claims, as it increasingly became apparent that education cannot depend upon digital platforms and learning resources controlled by private companies.

One can argue that COVID-19 pandemic crisis somehow outdated the debate on the potential benefits and risks of resorting to digital technology in education and training. It is key to keep in mind – as asserted in the European Commission Digital Education Action Plan (2020-2027) – that the pandemic crisis concurred to accelerate the digital transition in education and training, but it also generated several challenges and raised further questions to fuel this complex discussion (European Commission, 2020). On the other hand, according to the European Commission report, Educational and Training Monitor 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic crisis not only disrupted education and training, but it also unveiled the key role of practitioners’ digital readiness (European Commission, 2020).

Though, not always willing and prepared to use (and allow the use of) digital technologies in the classroom, practitioners proved to be resourceful and creative, as well as dedicated and resilient.  In fact, they ensured a prompt shift to online learning, as social distancing and lockdown became mandatory (Vourikari et al., 2020). Furthermore, the pandemic uncovered the centrality of adult education and lifelong learning, as the reorganisation of crucial aspects of daily life were structured around digital technologies (UNESCO, 2020). With this assertion being valid for both adult learners and practitioners, who were compelled to engage in a continuous effort to quickly update their digital skills.

It is impossible to foresee the future, but we can surely learn from the past. Recent events unveiled that digital technologies are not only indispensable for our societies but can also be powerful and engaging tools for learning and teaching purposes. However, to explore the full potential of digital technology in education is necessary to further develop digital competence and digital literacy skills of all citizens, ensuring that no one is left behind.