The introduction of IT in Swedish schools in the 1990s yielded both success, though in a limited sense, and plain failures such as the Compis school computer flop.
Yet, in 1994, which marked the beginning of the IT bubble and the Internet explosion, a situation emerged where it became possible to let a transformed technology fully permeate the school system. As part of the general IT boom, politicians, the authorities and businesses alike considered schools to be an important arena. This was made evident in what the first Swedish IT Commission in 1994 formulated regarding ’renewal of the school environment’ at the same time as ‘the pedagogy is developed and learning is improved’ and creativity is released ‘among both teachers and students’.
’It was generally thought that the Swedish future would be determined in the schools,’ says Thomas Karlsohn, PhD in History of Ideas and Learning and one of the editors of the Swedish writing series Lärande och IT, which reports the results of the major research project LearnIT.
Karlsohn has studied how Swedish teachers were mobilised to take on the new technology from the spring of 1994 to the spring of 2000. As part of the task, he analysed the education trade press.
’There was a clear marginalisation of criticism during the period. It was never really questioned why the technology couldn’t be used for everything it was supposed to be used for. And nobody seriously addressed the possibility of pedagogical and social losses associated with computers in the classroom. Neither did the debate address why the schools had to accept a technology that really wasn’t designed to meet their needs,’ says Karlsohn.
The introduction of IT in schools did not result in the explosion of technology-driven curiosity, hunger for knowledge, creativity and joyful learning predicted by the Swedish IT Commission in the mid-1990s.
‘The new technology seems to have been absorbed into the system, and is now an integrated and not very visible part of school activities. There is no doubt that the magic faded after the IT bubble burst,’ says Karlsohn.
LearnIT is one of the Knowledge Foundation’s largest projects. Over the last ten years, the research programme has, in 46 research projects, studied the relationship between learning and information and communication technology. The 145 million SEK grant has resulted in 885 books and articles, of which 57 percent have been published internationally.
The six final reports have now been published in the writing series Lärande och IT (Carlssons förlag), which reports the results of LearnIT.
The University of Gothenburg is the project principal of LearnIT. Roger Säljö, Professor of Psychology of Learning at the Department of Education, is the scientific director of LearnIT, tel: +46 (0)31 78 62 457, +46 (0)706 73 91 76, firstname.lastname@example.org