When I was 12, we rode in the backseat of the car, without a seat belt (gasp), drank from a garden hose, played in the woods until dark, walked and rode our bikes everywhere we needed to go. Our technology options? Pfft! If we wanted to talk on the phone to our friends, it was in the kitchen in front of the entire family- ugh! No privacy! We recorded our favorite songs by waiting until they played it on the radio and recorded it on a cassette tape. It was really hard getting the beginning of the song, because the DJ was always talking over the intro. We took pictures using instant Poloroid cameras. Shaking the picture and waiting for it to develop was a thrill. We did not have computers at my middle school, but the high school did have them. Education and learning was a slow and arduous process. Much of our efforts were directed towards gathering and obtaining information. If we wanted answers to difficult questions, we had to conduct research at the library. It required time and energy.
My daughter is 12, her world is very different. She drinks filtered or bottled water and most of her time is scheduled for sports or activities. She does not go out and hang in the woods all day, instead, she makes Vine videos and plays Minecraft with her friends. They play the same game, on different devices, while they all sit in the same room. Technology is a part of almost every waking second in her life. She wakes up and checks her phone. She is connected through Instagram, Facetime, and mobile texting, this week anyway. She can download any song in less than 20 seconds. She can mix music as well as any DJ. If she has a question and wants to learn something, she will “search it up”. Her iPhone allows her to stay connected to take photos, videos and communicate instantaneously, anywhere, anytime! Yikes! That’s a lot of responsibility to place on a kid. It’s also empowering!
You see, learners today don’t need to expend energy on finding or gathering information. They don’t need to even waste time on developing images or videos to curate their experiences. It is all in the palm of their hands! That is power, and with power comes great responsibility. Today’s learners, our children and students, can access pretty much any information they want. Good or bad! They can learn anything they put their minds to. However, are they ready for that task? Heck, are some adults ready for that task? As teachers, facilitators of learners, parents and role models, we need to foster and develop a sense of accountability to society; to use our knowledge to improve our world.
There is a paradigm shift that is happening. Educators are no longer the great holders of knowledge, (we really never were). As educators, we are going to need to help our learners manage the information that they gather and help them figure out the best way they can learn and apply that new knowledge. We will need to guide them in learning how to share, collaborate and express their views, opinions and beliefs, based upon that knowledge. This will not happen in rows. It will not happen in a class where the educator is the only leader. It will not happen in a learning environment free of technology either. It will not happen in a classroom where students are learning and expressing themselves independent of other learners. We have to change our mindset about education. Yes there are some things that students must learn to function in a literate society, but many of the things that we require them to do, are learning skills that were needed in the 20th century.
Check out this graphic! I think it really demonstrates what today’s learners will need to be successful in the 21st century.