Fast lines at Digital High

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.


Computers have transformed work. They could also transform education.

The McKinsey Quarterly, 2001 Number 1
Ten years ago, a school lesson on drought in sub-Saharan Africa might have required students to read a textbook and, perhaps, to watch a film. Today, with the help of computers and the Internet, that lesson could be transformed from a one-way flow of information into an interactive process. Students could go on-line to search for the latest thinking on the causes of drought. They could use e-mail to interview African-studies specialists on the cultural impact of the problem. And they could apply digital geography and weather tools to simulate the effects of drought on local crops and the environment.But to achieve this new dimension in learning and, above all, to enhance the performance of students schools must do more than just wire up classrooms. Although 95 percent of US public schools and 72 percent of classrooms have access to the Internet, and the student-to-computer ratio is currently approaching 10:1 (Exhibit 1), only 33 percent of primary- and secondary-school teachers say that they feel “very well prepared” or even “well prepared” to integrate high-quality digital content into their lessons (Exhibit 2).1



To prepare students for the world of tomorrow, schools must therefore take the next step by helping teachers integrate digital tools and content into the curriculum. Technology is no panacea for educational problems, but experience shows that when it is linked to clear educational objectives, it can help students master traditional skills such as math and reading and prepare students for work in an increasingly technological age (seesidebar ”

The CEO Forum“).

The CEO Forum

This article is based on research conducted by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, of which the author is a board member. Founded in 1996, the forum is a four-year partnership between leaders in business and education. It was created to help ensure that every child in the United States has the essential technological, critical-thinking, and communications skills necessary for success in the 21st century. Each year, the forum has released a report highlighting the importance of educational technology and monitored its deployment in schools. McKinsey, a founding board member, continues to support the work of the organization. For more information, see its Web site (

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1“Teacher use of computers and the Internet in public schools,”Stats in Brief, Washington, DC: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000.


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