Given the rapid changes in our world over the past 20 years with the explosion of social media etc, have schools adapted adequately to the new challenges? Is the answer to this rapid explosion in technology satisfied by simply providing every student with an iPad or does that create a new set of problems which are only just starting to emerge?
Technology and social media have changed the way we live, work and learn, but schools still operate very much as they did in the past. If you consider the statistics – 73% of 12 to 14-year-olds own a mobile phone and 90% of children 5 to 14 years accessed the internet in the last 12 months – you can see the enormous impact technology has on the day-to-day lives of our children. Yet, today’s classrooms don’t generally reflect what is happening in the modern world.
The answer, of course, is not to just give each student a laptop or say they can BYOD (bring your own device). Doing the same thing you did 10 or 20 years ago on an App instead of on a piece of paper or a PowerPoint won’t lead to effective learning. Technology is a powerful tool, but it’s just a tool. The real change needs to be in the learning and teaching. We need to ensure teaching is not a one size fits all exercise. We have to personalise learning to the abilities and needs of each learner and ensure it is relevant to the world in which they live. Students need to be able to make a direct connection between their learning and its application to their lives now, and in the future. And we want our learners not to just gain knowledge but to create it.
This presents some challenges for the role of the teacher, allowing students to contribute to ‘what’ and ‘how’ they learn, and to the learning spaces which need to be much more agile to accommodate different styles of learning and teaching.
Greg Whitby is the executive director of 78 schools in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta and author of Educating Gen Wi-fi: How to make schools relevant for 21st century learners.
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All the questions from Ask an Expert Week 2013