Schools in the digital age – what is to be done?

Any assessment of the ‘messy’ state of schools and digital technology is bound to be a frustrating exercise. The immediate reaction of many readers of our research is likely to be a combination of disappointment, dissatisfaction and demand for action. ‘So how might things be improved?’. ‘What needs to change?’. ‘What exactly would you do better?’. The only honest response we can offer to such questions is likely to exacerbate the situation. Put bluntly, ‘We don’t know’. Even more frustratingly, ‘We are unlikely to ever know’. This predicament is summed up neatly by Marc Augé:

It often happens that after giving a talk in which I have mentioned the more discouraging aspects of the present world (and we all know that these are not lacking), someone will summon the courage to ask me: ‘So what should be done?’ or even, with a hint of impatience or irritation, ‘So what’s your suggestion?’. I hear the question, but I know full well that it is not addressed to me, that it is not even a real question, and that if I made a considered reply the questioner would be dumbfounded or even incredulous.” (Augé 2014, p.73)


As Augé suggests, when it comes to technology and the future there are no clear-cut solutions, ‘ten step plans’ or silver bullets. Any recommendations that we might extract from a study such as ours will be modest and – at best – a means of better defining what we now understand as the main issues and challenges, and what we believe is at stake. This is not to say that attempts should never be made to develop alternate arrangements, different scenarios and possible ways of thinking otherwise. Yet this is to acknowledge that nothing we can suggest is likely to make a substantial difference. What we hope to achieve, however, is to highlight the complexity of technology and education, including the important dimensions that usually escape attention but might offer a way forward to, what Steve Fuller explains as, ‘some larger prospect’.



Augé, M.  (2014). ‘The Future’ [trans. Howe, J.].   London: Verso.

Fuller, S. (2014). ‘Sociology as the science of human uplift.’ Keynote speech to British Sociological Association Conference, April 2014. Retrieved from