It is obvious that the students of today are vastly different from their predecessors. They have not just simply changed their look, language, clothes, or body adornments; students of today represent the first generation to grow up in the age of digital technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, mobile phones, digital games and music players.
Marc Prensky refers to these students as Digital Natives meaning that they are ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, digital games and the Internet. Those who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in their lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are referred to as the Digital Immigrants.
Not everyone agrees with the concept of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants with some writers dismissing Prensky’s views as simplistic. It implies that all children not only have access to the technology but are also confident users of it. Using the term Digital Immigrant to describe those born prior to the digital age, disregards the fact that many of these people were the visionaries, inventors, developers and early adopters of digital technology, in other words – the ‘original’ natives.
Since his first writing about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants in 2001, Prensky has moved on and currently believes that it is time for a new goal, that of Digital Wisdom. He argues that the fields of education and pedagogy today over-complicate and ignore our students’ (and our world’s) real needs. He believes that it is time to reassess what good and effective teaching means in a digital age, combining what is important from the past with the tools of the future.
So how do we define ‘good’ and ‘effective’ teaching in the 21st century? According to a federal government report the average age of teachers in Australia in 2008 was 43. From this statistic, it is fairly safe to conclude that the majority of our teachers completed their teacher training in the 20th century.
An internet search on the topic of teaching in the 21st century will reveal a vast number of web articles that examine the skills required of both the teacher and the student. In one such article Mohamed Kharbach recommends that in order for the 21st century teachers to adequately prepare today’s students for their future, they need to:
- Share and model the use of current internet tools
- Participate in professional networks
- Assist students as they build their learning networks
- Provide sufficient learning opportunities for students to become digitally literate
- Inspire every child to be quality digital global citizens.
Kharbach expands on each of these in his free ebook The 21st century skills Teachers and Student Need to Have. He also writes about the ‘three eras of education’, skills for the 21st century student, and skills for the 21st century teacher. You might like to add Kharbach’s ebook to your resource collection!