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The desire by schools to remain relevant in the 21st Century is dependent on them embracing relevant digital learning solutions in and outside the classroom.

Schools are challenged to embrace innovative instructional tools and learning practices to wrap education around the new digital generations.

If they do not do so, they will have denied the 21st century learners the necessary opportunities and skillsets to become relevant when they grow up.

The bottlenecks…

Whereas classroom instruction based on relevant digital tools is showing a glimpse of hope in many pre-college schools around the world, it is receiving lukewarm adoption in others, because of a lack of resources, and procrastination.

The pessimists are still looking for reasons to hold it off for a few more years, and hope they can get away with it!

Hopefully, the negativity will only last a while as the greater good for the children of tomorrow takes precedence.

Fortunately, today’s Millennial parents and teachers are quickly figuring out ways to digitalize education at home and at school.

Millennials are known to encourage their children to adopt technology faster than the older generations, and the new breed of educators is working around the clock to master new teaching methodologies to become relevant teachers.

A bid to understand digital learning solutions today

Digital learning describes all instructional practices, solutions, and tools which make use of technology to enhance the learning process inside and outside the classroom.

The purpose is to upgrade the learning environment to modern technological realities in order to meet the evolving goals in the 21st Century.

In what is known as flipped learning/classroom, the teacher and learners collaborate indoors and outdoors and explore the vast digital and non-digital resources.

The classical teaching model usually comes into play at the end of the day – where necessary, to expound on the findings. Both learners and teachers integrate digital forms with non-digital forms of learning: all these while keeping tabs on smart evolutions in productivity and new technology.

Here are the strategies, areas, and tools for enhancing digital learning inside and outside the classroom:

  • Rich media & electronic book forms
  • Mobile computers
  • Classroom tools
  • Interactive and smart learning tools
  • Online & offline assessment
  • Youtube channels
  • Online digital communities
  • File sharing sites
  • Online apps
  • Virtual reality
  • Augmented reality
  • Gaming
  • Blended learning
  • Chatbots

The reasons why digital learning solutions are critical today

(Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels)

1. The ready alpha market

Alpha children, who form the bulk of digital generations do not have to go to school to learn the basics of computing.

They acquire these skills at home through exposure right from birth. They practically start using technology devices a few months later and eventually weave their way around the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) in the house. 

In a UNESDOC file regarding the Pursuit of Smart Learning Environments for the 21st Century,

Learners today utilize mobile gadgets and applications as their primary sources of information, knowledge, and social discourse. However, despite these advances in educational technologies and the way learners have adapted to their changing environments, many classrooms today still employ teaching methods of the past: lecture formats, unauthentic assessments, and rote learning.

It is absurd when they enter classrooms that are yet to embrace the digital ecosystem they already know. It is no wonder they easily become disoriented, confused, and go through learning with little or no interest.

Parents, educators, and learning institutions have to maximize digital learning solutions in order to make learning relevant in the 21st Century.

2. Digital learning & the spirit of engagement

By the time Alpha children start formal education their brains are stimulated enough towards the digital acquisition of skills and knowledge.

After playing computer games and learning to solve multiple interactive tasks with pleasure at home, they are fine-tuned to explore other possibilities in the classroom.

The eager mind in them yearns for challenging assignments beyond what traditional education offers. It is boring when they have to sit back and let the teacher talk endlessly, or have to scribble notes routinely.

For these generations, it is much more than content and skills being taught in the traditional setup. Even for kindergarten kids, it must be much more than drilling reading and mathematical skills, which they can master in the comfort of the sofa at home.

To tap into these brains, parents, and teachers have to re-evaluate and equip themselves with relevant knowledge in order to flow with the needs of the 21st Century.

3. Staying ahead of the pack

Just like newspaper articles become outdated the minute they hit the streets, so are textbooks used in the traditional setup of learning.

The internet is awash with old and new data that can be sourced with relative ease. Theses are available as digital textbooks, audio references, and podcasts, and can be sourced by downloading or through collaboration.

This then begs the question: Are textbooks dead? Of course not, but still, the Internet is fast becoming the preferred source of real-time information for learners, educators, and society at large. On the other hand, textbooks are becoming expensive by the day.

Nostalgia aside, it may come as a relief to many, then, that textbooks are becoming anachronistic. Digital in-class learning materials, like software that adapts to the ways in which individual students acquire information, and other forms of virtual education content are becoming more effective and intelligent. 

The Death of Textbooks?

4. Online and offline collaborations

Learners and educators from one part of the globe can now engage with peers from other geographical locations and share valuable content online.

Time, path, space, and place do not limit this collaboration, as it encourages engagement beyond the classroom. In this learning environment, content and ideas are embraced from near and far.

The educators are thus challenged to keep up to speed with the explosive amount of resources available globally, and the curious mind of digital learners.

5. Emerging waves of digital transformation

The evolutionary nature of digital trends today means that digital learning tools and solutions can help prepare learners for new possibilities in the job sector in the coming years.

Parents and educators have to keep an open mind about what may or may not happen in the job industry, by getting their children to prepare themselves with multiple digital-oriented skills. Or else they ran the risk of producing redundant Alpha adults.

While many vocations will remain relevant in years to come, it is not entirely clear what kind of digital jobs will be available for digital natives in the next 20 years.

Just to illustrate, it was hard to predict, 20 years ago, that career descriptions listed below would even appear in job listings:

  • Mobile phone app developer
  • Technical evangelist
  • Social media influencer
  • Digital prophet
  • Data detective

It is interesting to imagine how advancement in Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will shape the job market in the next few decades.

In any case, the second wave of digital transformation is a harbinger of things to come. It is all built around excellence in service delivery, simplicity, and of course intelligence automation.

In contrast to traditional automation which relies on prescriptive instructions and structured data inputs, Intelligent Automation assists with each step of the automation cycle, and then continues to improve over time.

The IA cycle begins with process discovery, where AI-powered tools automatically observe the work activities people are doing, identify optimal workflows, and propose an automation path.

At the automation stage, intelligent automation applies AI to access unstructured information, including human chat conversation, audio, and video, which is crucial to making end-to-end automation possible—In today’s enterprise, unstructured information represents 80% of all business data.

Intelligent automation

6. Embracing higher-order-thinking kkills (HOTS)

Educators need to embrace higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). HOTS is about empowering learners to acquire knowledge for transfer purposes, unlike traditional rote learning which emphasizes learner ability to recall textbook notes.

Learners then replicate these during assessment tests as proof of learning.

The proliferation of internet data and computing devices means that information is available for free both for educators and learners. This is accessible through mobile phones and desk-based computers, anytime and anywhere.

Needless to say, educators need to embrace practices that are more than just acquiring information and passing it on to learners.

Gone are the days when teachers owned information and passed this to learners at regulated time frames. Today, smart learners can source for even better information online.

According to Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) teaching based on knowledge transfer, empowers learners to internalize what they have learned and use it in real life.

This is a concept centered approach aimed at fostering skill development, metacognition, critical thinking, and problem-solving strategies.

As far as technology goes, we do not use computing devices to only read and reproduce information. It is about understanding them and using them as target tools to better our lives in the 21st Century.

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