by Becky Ranks
We are living in a Digital World. As teachers we are constantly being told that we need to change the way that we prepare students for the 21st Century. The American classroom looks much the same as it did almost 100 years ago...desks in rows, content separated into blocks with bells ruling the day.....Teachers standing at the front of the class delivering much of the content through lectures. We continue to ban all forms of digital devices from the clssroom including cell phones and ipods, even though experts in the field continue to promote their use in schools. Students are immersed in technology before and after school, and we continue to act as though that has nothing to do with their learning experiences. I think that most teachers realize the implications of this continually expanding digital world, but its up to us to convince the decision-makers that change is necessary. Students also can be part of this conversation and should be. Mistakes will be made, but that's how we learn. Until we trust in teachers to be part of the decision-making process, we may remain stuck right where we are teaching our 21st Century students with 20th Century tools and methods.
In my role as an Instructional Specialist, I am always promoting the use of new digital tools in the classroom. The Web 2.0 tools and the Open Educational Resources available are so exciting that it's difficult to find enough time in the day to explore them all. I also think it leads us to a cautionary tale. As much as we enjoy learning and exploring we also need to put everything into perspective. Are we constantly connected, texting, Skyping, Tweeting, e-mailing? If the answer is yes, then we need to take stock in the importance of these digital tools in our lives and the lives of our students. A national report recently stated that young people are now at threat of a Vitamin D deficiency. This has come about because of our fascination with television, video games, music, and all things digital. A simple 15 minutes per day in the sunlight is the cure.Another threat is what author Richard Louv calls Nature Deficiency Disorder. He explains that new condition in his best-selling book...The Last Child in the Woods, a highly recommended read for all educators.
It's all about balance. The world of our students is changing and we as educated people have to be part of that change and do what's best for our greatest resource, our children, the citizens of tomorrow. When you walk into that classroom in September, think about how teaching and learning has changed in the last few years and think about how we can all be part of positive decision-making in our schools and help those young digital natives become responsible decision-makers themselves with strong bones and a healthy appreciation of the natural world.