Digital media is a ubiquitous reality for 21st century students. Are teachers preparing themselves to acknowledge this reality? Preschoolers who are competent in handling iPods, iPhones, iPads, computers and video games are preparing to enter our classrooms. Will we be ready? It is imperative that we must be ready to welcome these children into our learning environments.
At nearly two years old Amelia confidently demonstrates her favourite iPhone app to her 2 month old brother Flynn. What kind of education will these ‘digital natives’ (aptly named by Mark Prensky in 2006) expect when they enter 2015 and 2017?
Many teachers acknowledge that they have difficulties in keeping up with their tech-savvy students in primary and secondary schools. With new ways of connecting and communicating, students are leaping ahead into the frontiers of 21st century technology and leaving some of their teachers behind grappling with the bare minimum skill set of sending and receiving emails and sourcing information on the Internet.
McKinsey research identified four critical approaches that high performing schools utilised to assist teachers to improve their skills:
1. building practical skills during the initial training
2. placing coaches in schools to support teachers
3. selecting and developing effective instructional leaders
4. enabling teachers to learn from each other
School administrators are seeking new ways to build teacher confidence and expertise in ICT. Varied approaches are offered to teachers – online moodle courses in digital citizenship and digital literacy, Web 2.0 workshops and inservices, teachers are invited to develop a mentoring role within their schools, staff meetings agendas incorporate in-school professional development and after school groups often evolve where teachers mentor each other. Teachers must readily avail themselves to learn about new technologies so they can do more than utilise technology but help students to become responsible digital citizens.
Failing to keep up with our students will only encourage a new community of digital orphans who are left unsupervised in their technological world. It is understandable that experienced teachers are initially confronted with the notion of using Web 2.0 tools in their classroom environment, however excellent teachers change their pedagogical style to embrace these new technologies. By continually tweaking our pedagogy we can ensure that our classrooms are innovative and energised in order to support a creative, collaborative, connected environment where students engage in critical thinking and problem solving.
Are we ready or not?
‘iPhone Kids’ image: Elyse (Glover) Wilson. With thanks.
‘Classroom’ image: pics.tech4learning
‘Running’ image: flickrcc.bluemountains