3 articles Articles posted in My Opinion

Technology In The Classroom And The Real World

I use a lot of technology in my everyday life. I could not live without Evernote. I use Wunderlist extensively. I read web articles using Pocket and share the ones I find interesting on Twitter. My days schedule would be a mess without my calendar app. I use Google Drive when I’m doing any word processing and What’s App to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues. I rely heavily on my laptop and when I’m out and about, I use my smartphone as a substitute. I really don’t know what I would do without technology, it helps to keep my life so organised, it stores the content I need to remember and allows me to easily access it when I need it. And I feel my students should be able to use the technology they have then same way I do. I explicitly teach them how to use almost all of these tools and I make sure I am a positive roll model for the use of technology inside and outside of the classroom. I believe restricting technology in the classroom is foolish, education and setting a good example is the best way for them to learn how to use the power of technology responsibly. And I look forward to the day I can teach my own children these same life skills.

The Paradigm Shift At The Turn Of The Century

I have a colleague at work, let’s call him Yoshi. Yoshi hates the terms 21st century learner and 21st century education. He does not believe in these terms and is open about his thoughts against them. And I can see where he is coming from, the world has changed so much in the last 15 years, children now are learning and living in a world that is just so different from anything we could have imagined last century. For example, the iPhone was not released until 2007. The iPad was not released until 2010. Theoretically, those born in 2001 and those born yesterday are both 21st century learners, but they way that they have learned and will learn will be very different. These are only changes within the last decade, imagine the world of the learning in 50 years time? The change will be outstanding.

I agree with Yoshi to some extent, but I also feel that there was a huge paradigm shift at the turn of the century. The introduction, acceptance and access to the internet really changed the world and along with it, education. Teaching and learning have not been the same since. In the article How Are Students’ Roles Changing in the New Economy of Information? Shawn McCusker argues,

“Where teachers once lectured about important ideas and events, or shared their acquired knowledge with their students, today’s classrooms can see every key primary source document, the actual notes of great scientists, and a limitless amount of literary criticism.”

This paradigm shift should have changed every first world classroom. It’s estimated that 91% of US middle school students say they can text and access the internet from their own cellphone, according to 2011 study by Stephanie Englander of Bridgewater University. The fact that almost every middle school students can access the internet at any moment, where ever they are, whenever they need to is completely different to the classrooms we were taught in. This easy access to information along with the ability to communicate and collaborate through space and time is what I believe sets a 21st century learner apart. So the term 21st century education is still relevant, no matter if we are discussing it now, or in 2099, because it differentiates between a traditional classroom approach and one where information is everywhere. It helps frame our approach to education and learning and helps us to remember that there was a huge shift in our lives, one we could not imagine living without.

Digital Natives Are Just Like You And Me

Palfrey and Gasser define Digital Natives as “children who were born into and raised in the digital world.” These children (or adults in some cases) have grown up in a world that is saturated with technology, ease of access to information and an exposure to media unlike any other generation before it. The wide spread use, simplicity and intuitive nature of digital devices now means children know how to control and interact with technology from a very early age. A great example is a popular YouTube video of a baby controlling an iPad, then opening up a magazine and thinking it’s broken because it doesn’t respond to touch:

However, we need to be careful that we do not assume our students know how to use technology proficiently simply because they were born into a world where they are exposed to it from a very early age. Yes, some children do know how to use technology to a very high level. But some can be anxious when using technology and are not comfortable using it. Just like some adults, we need to guided them through the process and set up learning opportunities so that they have exposure to technology in a range of settings. I believe that we still need to teach all children explicitly how to use technology safely, responsibly and efficiently. We have done this for generations with a range of analog tools that we use in education from dictionaries and atlases to pencils, pens and pain brushes. So we should also do this with the digital tools we use. We must explicitly teach students how best to use them so that they are safe and able to fully utilise their power.

The other aspect that should be taken into consideration when discussing Digital Natives in education is the amount of information that these children have grown up with access to. Cathy N. Davidson once wrote, “Wikipedia is an educator’s fantasy, all the world’s knowledge shared voluntarily and free in a format theoretically available to all, and which anyone can edit.” I believe this does not just apply to Wikipedia, but the internet in general. And when we are teaching our students, we should assume that they have access to this information, so asking them to memorise content is what our roll as educators should be. Unlike in times gone by, we are no longer the source of knowledge in our classrooms. Not to mention that our classroom walls are slowly but surely coming down and students are learning what interests them, when they want to and how they want to. As a result, our roll as teachers have change. we need to be teaching students how to access the knowledge that they are seeking, how to critically evaluate it and not just how to memorise it. We should be expecting them to draw connections between sources, teaching them to synthesise the information and apply it to the tasks they need it for.

But when you think about it, this is true for all people, not just those born this century. We all need to know how to access the vast troves of knowledge that has been created and shared on the internet and then use it for whatever our intended purpose is. This is also true for using technology, just because a person is a Digital Immigrant does not mean they useless on a laptop. The same way we should not assume our students know how to use a digital device. We need to keep an open mind and make sure we are teaching children the skills they need to function in a world that is changing so rapidly.