The role of digital technology in schools before, during and after the crisis

Following on-line teaching in Nordic Connected Classrooms due to pandemic restrictions.

homeschooling, teeanger in front of a laptop

There is a need to understand more about just how digitalisation changes the learning space and affects teaching quality. Illustration photo: Colourbox.

In the current situation of the Corona-crisis, Nordic lower secondary schools for a short time were forced to shift to on-line teaching with extremely short notice. In international comparison, Nordic classrooms in general are well equipped with digital resources and there is a strong pressure on teachers and schools to digitalise everyday teaching practices. Even if according to recent research lower secondary teaching was shown to utilise quite a limited and narrow uptake of technology (Blikstad-Balas & Klette, 2020), digitalisation has been shown to change the classroom as a learning space in many ways, for example in increased individualisation of teaching at the cost of collective formats (Selwyn, 2016). There is a general need to understand more about just how digitalisation changes the learning space and how it affects teaching quality, which now during the pandemic situation has become obvious.

In the video ethnographic project Connected Classrooms Nordic, QUINT researchers from all Nordic countries follow teaching in digitally rich classrooms during three years through both video recordings and focus group discussions, and the current situation has made the study even more relevant.

– The longitudinal design in the Connected Classroom Nordic-project gives us as researchers a unique position to study the role of digital technology before, during and after the crisis, Marie Nilsberth and Anna Slotte, Principal Investigators of the Connected Classrooms Nordic project, say.

– We will be able to compare recordings from before as well as after the crisis, to see if and how some of the solutions during the crisis will have a lasting impact on teaching.

As part of the project, they have now also initiated an interview study with the teachers in four of the participating schools about how they have experienced the current situation. 

Capturing teacher perspectives

The current rapid shift into online-teaching has been described as a “great on-line learning experiment” (Zimmerman, 2020) that could advance understandings of digitalisation in education. However, Hodges and colleagues (2020) argue that there are reasons to be cautious about jumping to conclusions about the potential for development of on-line learning from this unique situation, since it must be understood as a response to a very specific crisis or disaster and should rather be described as a kind of “Emergency Remote Teaching”. A crucial question for the CCN researchers is therefore how to understand the consequences of the emergency solutions during the spring semester in the long run.

– We felt that it was important to listen to the voices of teachers in close relation to this special period of time, to be able to capture important questions about teaching quality and digitalisation that could inform further research and practice.

– The interviews not only help us understand digital technology and on-line teaching during the crisis, but also show us a lot about the normal situation that schools now have to deviate from and what lasting consequences this might have for the future, Nilsberth says. 

In a series of articles on the QUINT website, we will follow the reflections emerging from these teacher interviews from lower secondary schools in the Nordic countries. The focus will be especially on aspects such as the effects of online schooling on student participation and classroom interaction, equity and teaching content, as well as looking at the technical challenges faced by the teachers.


Blikstad-Balas, M. & Klette, K. (2020). Still a long way to go. Narrow and transmissive use of technology in the classroom. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 15(1), 5660

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T. & Bond, A. (2020). The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. Educause Review, Friday, March 27, 2020.

Selwyn, N. (2016). Is Technology Good for Education? Chichester: Wiley

Zimmerman, J. (2020). Coronavirus and the Great Online-Learning Experiment. Chronicle of Higher Education, March 10, 2020.

By Larissa Lily, QUINT/UiO
Published June 15, 2020 2:31 PM - Last modified Oct. 20, 2020 11:15 AM