Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Educating students for the 21st century

Published:Wednesday | November 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Technology is dramatically altering education of students of all ages. When you watch a five-year-old manipulate the apps on an iPad, you see the identical skills at a higher level of thinking being applied by students who are ready to graduate from high school. Technology is preparing students for their future in the 21st century, and honing digital device expertise in the classroom is essential.

Gone are the days of the #2 pencil and rote memorisation. Marc Prensky ('Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants') coined the term 'digital native'.:

This implies that students are all 'native speakers' of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. Online learners in their purest form construct meaning in the online classroom nearly as well as in a face-to-face classroom setting, so the digital environment linked with the teacher plays an active role in learning - mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. Students learn while engaging electronically, and they learn not only at their grade level but also far beyond, since the plethora of information readily available is digested and retained at an individual's own capacity.

There are tech features that stand out, such as the extension of education that a digital device provides. If I am teaching cells to grade seven, within seconds students' hands are waving since they are pulling up 3D configurations that dance, flaunt flamboyant colours, demonstrate body processes while cells are in motion, etc. Instant collaboration between teacher and student, and student and student, enhances engagement, requiring students to not only learn, but also to process what's learned, think critically, and formulate more complex thoughts.

Realise that for students of all ages, the context of collaboration in reality is the meeting of students in a medium that is not radically different to their digital recreational environment.

Technology costs are no longer prohibitive, so life is changing around the devices that support learning anytime and anywhere in a virtual classroom where teachers upload topics, grades, assignments and marked assignments. The students are motivated as they receive instant feedback and know they have an opportunity to improve.

schoology

At AISK, the teachers, students and parents use Schoology as a learning management system that works as a virtual classroom and engages students, increases communication, and shares resources with peers. The software stores and makes content available in the online learning environment 24/7.

Schoology allows learning to continue after the regular school day ends. The programme immerses our global community in a collaboration-based learning environment where engagement, collaboration, and sharing are natural and intuitive. With Schoology, educators and administrators become a more agile network where everyone is on the same page and improving together.

Educating for the 21st century is a formidable task, and technology is revolutionising thinking, processing and the analysis of content. We must stay abreast of the current media, discussion forums and learn from our own students who are mobile learners. It is the lifelong learning of digital devices that will place individuals on par with their contemporaries.

n Shirley Davis is head of school at the American International School Kingston. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.