BY NANCY SCHRINER FEBRUARY 2013
How the digital age is changing the way our children learn.
All over the United States, more and more examples of technology are being utilized. Computers, IPods and IPads, Smart Boards, and high-speed internet capabilities appear to dominate teaching and learning today. Many schools boast of the technology they offer students. Stephanie English, Marketing Director of Tattnall Square Academy states, “One of the most substantial changes we have experienced is the learning shift that has occurred in classrooms.
Educators have moved from a teacher-centered style of instruction to a student-centered environment. Most of our classrooms have slate tablets allowing the instruction to be more interactive and technology driven,” she adds.
From rural settings to urban centers a digital revolution is transforming the educational landscape. The result should be a drastic improvement in the way our children learn, right? Three educators in Middle Georgia weigh in:
“For decades it’s been important for classroom instruction to capture the attention of all students. It is important that teachers vary their presentations, including using technology as often as possible.”
—Kaye Hlavaty, Principal, St. Joseph’s Catholic School
“Though today’s students have instant access to a wealth of information, the digital age is changing the way our students learn by blurring the difference between knowledge and information. A student’s access to instant information is not a guarantee that they have actually increased their knowledge base. In fact, this current age does not encourage a student to research, contemplate, conclude, and apply knowledge—it simply repeats facts.”
—Catherine Sheats, Covenant Academy
“I think the digital age has changed learning in two ways. First, just as digital information is measured in bits, students learn in bits. They learn lots of discrete bits of information and can multitask quite effectively, but they have difficulty bringing together what they have learned to make sense of it and to see patterns. Secondly, and closely related to the first, they have a more difficult time focusing for long periods of time on one theme in one mode. They expect lots of differing types of stimulus—both in terms of the information and the manner in which it is delivered.”
—Mike Kelley, History Department Chair, Stratford Academy
What about the intrusion of technology into how children play? After all, play is an integral part of learning for young children. Are our children headed toward a world without imagination and creativity? A research study from the universities in London found that “modern children are, then, immersed in an enveloping mediascape, which is impossible for them to ignore. However, our research indicates that playground culture and children’s games are not overwhelmed, marginalized, or threatened by the quantity and plurality of available media. We have seen that children make use of the cultural and media resources that surround them, and creatively manipulate them to their own ends.”
We assume that children are being taught information—important information that they need to know. Although very true, our educational system must transcend the mere transmission of information and seek to transform information into knowledge. Beyond acquiring knowledge, our children need to know how to manipulate and manage knowledge in order to think and act creatively. Although modern digital technologies offer students easy and appealing access to a larger scope of information it does not guarantee an understanding of it.
We know that some progress has been made, and more and more schools are trying to catch up to the digital world that their students are already fully immersed in. Jean Piaget, famous for his theory of cognitive development, once said, “Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society . . . but for me, education means making creators . . . You have to make inventors, innovators—not conformists.”
It is easy to see how creative young children are. They have no pre-conceived ideas so they enjoy tremendous freedom and fun when they learn. That is what the digital age can and should do for our children—to carry that sense of fun and freedom to learn throughout their whole lives.