CHANGE! Everything around us changes. Days end, nights creep in. Seasons change. We change physically with the passing of years. Our thoughts change and we embrace new insights and ideas. Today, to cope with the changing needs of the 21st century learner, the technology tools available, and the info-explosion around, sweeping changes are happening in schools. If not beware – such schools will get extinct and fossilized!
Given that nothing is static, we need to come to terms with change. Yet, CHANGE is a very difficult thing for most people. It impacts people in their personal and professional lives. Why does change affect people so much? More so in schools and this could be because our teacher education is still outdated – at least decades behind. Mark Prensky in his paper “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” says, “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”
We had teacher directed learning in our classrooms. There was no internet, mobile phone, telephone or even TVs. The only technology we grew up with was the good ol’ Radio and a good measure of books – remember, print was technology then!. Therefore, we had to depend on the teacher and look up to her as the repertoire of information. This had a bearing on the assessment system too – it tested knowledge and understanding than application and skill. Each test was a test of how much a student can retain.
Today’s children have enormous information available at the click of the mouse. In fact there is so much that what we need to teach them in schools is how to sift useful information from the overload. The role of the teacher in today’s Nitendo savvy-Instant Messenger addicted-Digital Kids’ classroom has thus moved away from what it used to be. Look at Thomas Suarez, the amazingly confident twelve year old who loves playing video games and has taught himself how to create them. After developing iPhone apps like “Bustin Jeiber,” a whack-a-mole game, he is now using his skills to help other kids become developers. He says proudly that he has set up an Apps Club at his school and that his teachers and school give him support and encouragement.
Thomas’ Ted Talk on the apps that he has been making has gone viral. In this interesting video http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_suarez_a_12_year_old_app_developer.html Thomas very prudently says, “These days students know … usually know, a little more than teachers with the technology… so…sorry”, (don’t miss the mischief in his sheepish grin when he says that!) and that succinctly captures the existing digital divide between the teacher and the taught – and oh boy, did it touch a raw nerve!
Hargreaves (2010) wrote, “Twenty-first century skills require 21st century schools” (p. 340). For this teachers must be lifelong learners. They must learn to teach the “wired” and “wireless” generation by using the same technology of their digitally savvy pupils. There is no doubt that the best teachers of the 21st century will be those who have bridged the digital divide and those who make use of high quality instructional methods – those that are interactive, collaborative and learner centred. So teachers, catch up or get extinct or even worse still, literally and figuratively you will be dismissed from the minds of the very same students whom you wanted to impact!
Hargreaves, A. (2010). Leadership, change, and beyond the 21st century skills agenda.
In Belanca, L., & Brandt, R., (Eds.), 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.