"You can't spell teach without T-E-C-H"

"You can't spell teach without T-E-C-H" (Kevin Jarrett,2008)

Education was an easy establishment to define in the past. Today, we have to rethink and redefine what education, student, teacher are and we have to answer this question : What is it like to be a 21st century student?

Technology has always played an important role in education but the immense change in technology and the growing presence of the internet have changed our students more than ever for the last decade. Today's students grow up with developing technology, access to internet anytime, anywhere available. They have become familiar with mobile phones, computers, digital cameras, console games etc. as soon as they were born. As a result of all these innovations, our students are no longer thinking and getting the information as they may have had in the past. Technology has influenced our students the way they learn, get the information, think and interact.They have become collaborative, autonomous, exploratory and connected learners. Our education system, curriculum and the approaches we believe in are not effective anymore because 21st century students have already found new ways to learn and improve themselves. Marc Prensky coined this term "Digital Natives". They are today's learners and our students at schools. They are the native speakers of the digital age and developing technology. They are fluent in using computers, internet, mobile phones, messaging and console gaming. Connectivity means a lot to them. They are the ones who are always on and connected. As a result of their interaction with technology everyday, they are increasingly web-literate. the rest is the Digital Immigrants who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with technology that digital natives use. Being a digital native doesn't necessarily mean that you will always be. In my opinion, all teachers need to be more familiar with the growing technology because this is the only way to become a digital native. First we need to use and explore the technology personally; than we will find the best ways to integrate it into our teaching to communicate, create and collborate.

Using technology in our classes can help our students become better problem solvers, constant explorers, more autonomous learners, interactive and collaborative. Technology helps to collaborate in global projects, it provides authentic material and is a good way to improve writing and listening skills as well as communication abilities. It updates us. Our students are always eager to use tecnology at schools because it reflects their lives. They are already using it. They mail each other everyday, they send messages via mobile phones, they complete online information everyday, they chat and they spend most of their lives online.

Our curriculums and methodologies we use will always improve. New approaches will be popular and adopted, new goals will be added and our digital native students will always be evolving and changing rapidly as techies. Education, competition and skills are changing. "We are no longer teaching if what we teach is more important than who we teach or how we teach" (Carol Tomlinson,Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom) Our students have already surpassed the limits of our education systems. We should keep the traditional content that works and helps our learners in our curriculums but we should also include the future, the future is digital and it enhance learning. This takes time of course. For us, as teachers, not only using powerpoints as the only tool; and for our students learning to use technology in an effective way. Tecnology is a way of life and a necessity and we should be ready to handle this. It's a long journey and there are a lot to be done not to lose anything on the way.

I'm not a digital native because I was born in 80's and nor an immigrant. I'm somewhere in the middle but I strongly believe the importance of engaging ourselves as teachers and our students as much as we can in technology. What about you? Are you a native or an immigrant? I look forward to reading your comments.

You can read this article "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" from Marc Prensky for further reading. You can also watch this video. There are many versions of it but this is the latest one.

Regards and all the best;

Özge

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Comments

Maybe the biggest issue is the digital divide that we have now, between those that have access to the technology and those that don't have. I think that will become the real issue - it includes teachers as well as students.

Chris

Dear Chris;

Unfortunately, what you say is completely true, there is a big gap in the world between the people who have chances and who don't. I think until we solve this problem, people who have access to technology should benefit from it. What do you think?

Özge

Hi Özge and everyone

I strongly agree with most of the points you make in your article but I see exactly where ChrisE comes from in this matter.

It is a bit disturbing to read that 'our students' are making such and such use of technology. What students are we talking about? I think generalisations are a dangerous thing. Access to basic computer facilities is still a long way ahead in most public schools in developing countries. In many places around the world, we still have teachers with serious access problems and low level of digital literacy. I believe that as educators our discourse about technology should never ignore such diversity of contexts in which ELT takes place.

Looking forward to your comments.

Chris Lima

Dear Chris,

I live in one of the developing countries and unfortunately; "Education for all" is a big problem. We can't ignore the digital divide within the country and we should consider this divide both as an equipment and skills issue.

It would be wonderful to brigde this divide because it can accelerate everyone's ability to join in the collaboration age, let us learn, share and interact.

I think as we are all blogging and using the developing technology to reach a wider audience here, I hope everyone of us is using this opportunity to integrate and implement in our classrooms because as you mentioned; many of the teachers and the students don't have those chances.

I would also like to mention that closing the digital divide will not be a solution to reduce the poverty in developing countries.

I thank you and Chris to bring out this issue because this is the reality of many teachers.

Özge 

Dear Özge

I originally come from Brazil and, in spite of being a developing country, access to the internet in most parts of the south and south-east is really good. However, what applies to the society in general, not always apply to education, especially in the public sector. I mentioned the digital divide because I think that we are here addressing teachers from all over the world  and poor accessibility, as you have just said,  is still the reality in which many of them work.

Indeed, closing the digital gap will not reduce poverty, but maybe the other way round...

Chris Lima

I agree that the digital divide is a big issue. Another potentially big issue is the misuse of technology in the classroom. It may be true that technology "can help our students become better problem solvers" and that it "Our curriculums and methodologies we use will always improve", but such hopes are not guaranteed. We will almost certainly see more and more overwhelmed teachers struggle with "uncooperative" technology as well as both teachers and students who use technology as a way to avoid learning. 

I am not a techno-phobe. Actually, I am quite familiar with the use of technology in education. I built a 400-page website by myself and wrote my first computer program back in 1974.  Every class I currently teach is done with Power Point and I add You Tube videos (some that I produced and edited myself) for variety. My students spend many hours on the computer for each hour they spend in class.  Even with all that experience, effectively using technology is not always easy, and never automatic.

Among the specific dangers I see:

1. Lessons being labeled "excellent" just because a computer is involved, even if only the most mechanical learning is taking place.

2. Teachers spending more time trying to figure out how to use technology than in planning actual lessons or providing feedback to students.

3. Students avoiding English because they can do everything they need, or want, in their first language. (I have seen this a lot already.)

4. Directives coming from above, compelling teachers to use technology only because a lot of money was invested, rather than because it helps students.

And the solutions? I think the first thing is to be aware of the potential problem. Forewarned really is forearmed. The second thing may be collaboration among teachers so that the best approaches to teaching with technology can be discussed and brought to every teacher's attention.

Joe, Beijing

I believe technology does not change teaching but it can help us to introduce new methodologies and approaches and every approach and methodology has its own pros and cons. We, as teachers, should be there to guide our students because they need our guidance more than ever now.

We use or not, technology is a tool and when it's used effectively, we can benefit from it but for getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher's role will always be important.

Joe has mentioned about the collaboration among teachers. We have been using this wiki with my colleagues and we have learnt a lot from each other and it has helped us to collaborate and learn together.

Özge

Dear All, 

I had watched that video a long time ago. I want to share it with you. What if?

 

I live in Sudan which is a developing country. Our problem here is not the students but the teachers themselves. At our university the teachers are not interested in using technology in the classroom they prefer to teach the way they were taught with chalk. They do not like change. We have students coming from very poor regions in the country but still they are very much motivated in using technology in their learning. Our problem is that the digital divide is between the students/students and the students/teachers. 

Hala Salih

Hello from Mexico,

I do agree about the use of technologies is an excellent opportunity, but at the same time we need to start retraining teachers. Taking them step by step, convincing them, not forcing them to do so. Resources will be at schools at some point, if don't look for them, they won't be there only by magic. I started a network few years ago, first in my school, then around the state and now I am going National. It is possible!

We need to work really hard and together.

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