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Digital learning and the wider scope of educational technology are popular buzzwords with schools embracing the digital demands of the 21st Century. Whereas classroom instructions based on digital tools is taking shape in many pre-college schools around the world, it is receiving lukewarm adoption in other regions, because of lack of resources, and procrastination. The pessimists are still looking for reasons to hold it off for a few more years.
Understanding Digital Learning
Digital learning describes all instructional practices which make use of technology to enhance the learning process inside and outside the classroom. The purpose is to upgrade the learning environment to the modern realities in order to meet the evolved goals relevant in the tech-driven world of 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, to expound on the findings. Both learners and teachers integrate technology in all forms with non-digital forms of learning.
The following are tech strategies and tools used to enhance digital learning inside and outside the classroom:
- Mobile computers
- Classroom tech tools
- Interactive and smart learning tools
- Online & offline assessment
- Youtube Channels
- Online digital communities
- File sharing sites
- Online apps
- Virtual reality
- Augmented reality
- Blended learning
The schools adopting digital learning want to stay ahead of the game by embracing the full potential of digital technology. They concentrate on finding better instructional and collaboration practices to wrap education around the current digital native generations.
Fortunately, a good number of Millennial parents and teachers today are quickly figuring out ways to digitalize education at home and at school.
Below are just a few valid reasons why digital learning is a necessary component of education in the 21st Century:
1. The Ready Alpha Market
Alpha children, who form the bulk of the digital natives do not have to go to school to learn the basics of computing. They acquire these skills at home through exposure they acquire from very early on. They practically start using the technology devices a few months later and eventually weave their way around the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) devices in the house.
It is absurd when they enter classrooms that are yet to embrace technology. They easily become distracted, confused and go through learning with little or no interest.
Parents, educators and learning institutions need to get ahead of themselves and maximize digital learning in order to make learning interesting for these kids.
2. The Spirit of Engagement
By the time Alpha children and other digital natives start formal education their brains are stimulated and wired towards digital acquisitions. This is due to preschool exposure to smartphones and tablets, which prepares them to study in similar settings.
After playing computer games and learning to solve multiple interactive tasks with pleasure at home, they are to explore further in the explore more of these 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.
To tap into these brains, parents, and teachers need to re-evaluate and equip themselves with relevant digitalization knowledge in order to flow with the needs of these kids.
3. Staying Ahead of the Game
Just like newspaper articles become outdated the minute they hit the streets, so are textbooks used in traditional educational setup. The internet is awash with old and new information that can be sourced with relative ease. This is available as digital textbooks, audio references, and podcasts. These can be sourced by downloading as 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.
4. Online and Offline Collaboration
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. The New Possibilities
The evolutionary nature of digital trends today means that digital learners are preparing themselves 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.
6. Embracing Higher-order-thinking Skills (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 them 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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