Friday, May 25, 2012

Digital Natives & 21st Century Learning

As relatively young teacher (26) and one whose formative years included widespread use of computers and the internet, I would be considered what many today term a "digital native."  Although I have only been a classroom teacher for five years, I have already seen a wide variety of educators who fit every mold.  For instance, I have worked with “digital immigrants” who speak of rizzo graphs? (whatever that is) yet work extremely hard to learn every new technology out there.  I have also worked with those who scoff at the idea of abandoning their dusty overhead projector that has worked “perfectly fine” for all these decades.  Most digital native teachers that I have worked with are fluent in most modern technologies, but sometimes you would not know it by seeing their classroom in action.  Even the most tech-savvy young educators can be seen applying the same chalk-and-talk strategies that have been around since blackboards were invented. 

These observations tell me that as educators, we truly are all over the map.   The district I am working in is working hard to get everyone on the same page regarding technology use in the classroom and its role instruction.  However, there is one major issue that I am sure plagues many districts:  there needs to be a clear framework or set of guidelines regarding what technology to use, how to use it, or why it should be used in the first place.  At the end of the day, very few would be able to clearly articulate how these new technologies improve student learning. 

Beyond this, the very nature of how students think and learn is fundamentally different from how they used to.   I suppose I am part of this group who have actually acquired this changing set of skills.  However, I was, for the most part, trained to teach students of a different era, one that no longer exists.   I am only now taking a clearly divergent path by applying what is increasingly termed the “flipped classroom” model.  

Is flipping the class the answer to bridging this gap between the old factory-model of education with 21st century learners?  If not entirely, it is at least a start.  Hopefully we as educators, both digital native and immigrant alike, can address this issue in a productive, creative, and innovative way.   In reality, we do not have a choice in the matter, we just have to do it.